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Research Studies in Music Education

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The Pied Piper of Hamelin: Adorno on Music Education


Alexandra Kertz-Welzel
Research Studies in Music Education 2005; 25; 1
DOI: 10.1177/1321103X050250010301
The online version of this article can be found at:
http://rsm.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/25/1/1

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The Pied Piper of Hamelin: Adorno on Music


Education
Alexandra Kertz-Welzel
Abstract
Whilst the German philosopher Theodor W. Adorno (1903-1969) is widely known
for his innovative ideas on music, aesthetics and sociology, he was also one of the
most prominent critics of German music education before and after World War II.
He argued against humanistic and idealistic philosophies of music education,
which pursued a transformation of human beings through making music. For
Adorno, music education should be focused on the music itself and the education
of musically critical and self-determined students.
The main intent of this article is an examination of Adornos critique of music
education, specifically in terms of the misuse of music education for ideological
purposes. This article draws on examples of Adornos work not yet translated
into English, to question and challenge current practices of music education.

usic is a significant aspect of society in terms of building identities and serving


the needs of communities. In the hands of the politically powerful, music can
be used for the purposes of indoctrination and the dissemination of
ideologies. This phenomenon is encapsulated in the story of the Pied Piper of
Hamelin, a well-known story in the Germanic world:
Rats invade the town of Hamelin. The town officials want to get rid of the rats and hire a piper. The
piper is able to lure the rats out with his charming music. Although he is successful, the town officials
refuse to pay the piper for his services. Then, the piper takes revenge by entrancing and kidnapping the
children of Hamelin.

The story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin presents in mythic form one of
musics most essential features, its entrancing power. Here, music addresses the
emotional dimensions of human beings and leads to altered states of consciousness.
Importantly, here children are subject to indoctrination through music. The Pied
Piper did not try to kidnap the adults who refused to pay him, but their children. He
was successful because children are more vulnerable to the emotional power of
music.
If music is a means of manipulation, then music education may be even more
so. Music education is not only a way to educate students in music, but also an agent
for ideologies, whether they are obvious or not. The Pied Piper of Hamelin provides
a metaphor for a music education entranced by ideologies. One of the most
powerful temptations for music education is the claim to transform the world and
human beings through music and its educational power. Music education is weak
when touting claims of its significance for the building of a nation, a new society, or a
new world. German music education experienced all this during the Third Reich.
Whilst the German philosopher Theodor W. Adorno (1903-1969) is widely
known for his innovative ideas on music, aesthetics and sociology, he was also one
of the most prominent critics of German music education before and after the
Second World War. His critical analysis of the state of German music education not
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only described a specific problem in Germany, but also revealed some essential
aspects of music education in general. The main intent of this article is an
examination of Adornos critique of music education, specifically in terms of the
misuse of music education for ideological purposes. This article draws on examples
of Adornos work not yet translated into English, to question and challenge current
practices of music education.

Adorno on Education
Adorno never considered himself an expert in pedagogy. He was interested
in educational issues, although he never addressed them explicitly in a fully
developed manner. Rather, education and pedagogy have often been implicit issues
in his research and publications. Adornos analysis of culture and art opened up
interesting insights into the nature of society and human beings in general. In
Adornos monograph The Dialectic of Enlightenment (1947), coauthored with Max
Horkheimer (1895-1973), the authors reveal these problems in terms of an
Enlightenment that is thought to liberate human beings, but leads in actuality to new
imprisonment and alienation.
Adorno and Horkheimer are part of the Frankfurt School that has been
interested particularly in the origins of Fascism and ways to avoid such socio-political
movements in the future. The Frankfurt School persuasively underscored the
premise that National Socialism and the Holocaust are not an isolated German
phenomenon; rather, they reflect a failure of Western civilization and the
Enlightenment at large. This failure is also evidenced in the promotion of a
worldview where educated individuals do not question the current state of society
and culture.i
After his return to Germanyii in 1949, Adorno was involved in various
administrative and academic committees that were concerned with educational
issues.iii Besides this practical engagement, Adornos most important contributions
to the field of pedagogy were discussions on education with the German
educationalist Hellmut Becker, which were broadcast by the Radio Network of
Hessen from 1959 until 1969. Adorno and Becker discussed topics such as Education,
What For? (1966), Education after Auschwitz (1966), and Education for maturity and
responsibility (1969). Adornos main concern was maturity and the establishment of a
critical consciousness because democracy requires self-determined and responsible
human beings. Adorno criticized all attempts to educate loyal and obedient citizens.
Furthermore, he considered the focus on ideals in education as dangerous, because it
tries to implement an unquestioned value. The pursuit of social norms such as
economic success or constant happiness, as a main goal in life, norms which suppress
suffering, pain and insecurity, have, according to Adorno a negative impact on
education. Students are tranquillized through schooling in order to stop essential
questioning and the search for meaning in life. Because education often refers to
unquestioned and abstract authority, according to Adorno, it is a way of humiliating
students in terms of making them rely on the opinions of those in authority.
Furthermore, Adorno maintained that education oppresses opportunities to
intensely experience the world and oneself, thus leading to alienation.iv Adorno also
criticized idealistic theories of education that try to establish abstract and
metaphysical ideals such as freedom or humanity. These ideals are part of an
ideology that claims to be a universal remedy, but does not consider real human
beings and their lives. Such an ideology is dangerous because it seems to be
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unquestionable and refers to a kind of authority, which requires total obedience. For
Adorno, trusting idealistic ideologies that claimed to redeem the world, led to
National Socialism and the holocaust.
The scholar Herta Jogland convincingly argues that, Adornos entire
attempt toward an education for maturity is based upon his opposition to the
inherent barbarism of our civilization.v Adornos main concern was indeed the
alienation of culture and the liquidation of the individual, which led eventually to the
experience of the Third Reich in Germany. Adorno underlined this particularly well
in his speech, Education after Auschwitz. The only way to prevent the reappearance of
Auschwitz, he advised, was to examine how it was possible to manipulate people
and to turn normal citizens into mass murderers.vi Education played an important
role in this process because it eliminated individuality. As Adorno warned, people
who blindly adjust themselves to collectives already make themselves into
something like material and invalidate themselves as self-determined beings. The
readiness to treat others as an amorphous mass fits with this.vii Instead of
destroying the individual through social adjustment and personal alienation,
education should offer opportunities for self-determination and the development of
a critical consciousness. Consequently, Adorno argued for a transformation of
education, particularly in childhood, and also for a general enlightenment in
society.viii This would constitute an important step in the development of the mature
human being and the prevention of another Auschwitz.
Adornos main goal for education was the development of self-determined,
responsible and mature human beings capable of recognizing and overcoming the
repressive mechanisms of society. Art and music in particular were important
aspects in the development of people toward maturity. Therefore, Adorno was
interested in music education, especially because music education played an
important role in the Third Reich as a means of promoting Adolf Hitlers ideology.

German Music Education During the Third Reich


When Adolf Hitler rose to power in 1933, he did not have to fight against
strong opposition. The shameful defeat of Germany in World War I, the new
democracy of the Weimar Republic that was not really accepted by the people, and
the economic depression of the 1920s led people to dreaming of better times and a
strong leader. Hitler was able to convince people that he would restore the German
nation. Art and particularly music were important tools in this endeavor. Frederic
Spotts described Hitlers ideas of music and its significance for social life as follows:
Hitler wanted music to occupy the position in Germany that he imagined it had
held in ancient Greece. There it was not as an art valid in itself but an instrument of
social purpose and that purpose was to exalt the aesthetic feelings of the general
public.ix Hitler tried to use musics emotional power for political and social means in
order to convince people that his ideology was true. Conventions, party rallies and
feasts were carefully directed to provide intense musical experiences, which
supported the National Socialist ideology emotionally. The German culture and race
was thought to be superior. The German nation would redeem the whole world,
and the arts were a powerful political means of propaganda and manipulation.
Hitlers irrational and romantic ideas of music,x which were primarily focused on the
opera and particularly on the works of Richard Wagner, matched the main approach
of music education during this time, the Musische Erziehung (Artistic Aesthetic
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Education) that also pursued the redemption of the world and human beings
through music and the arts.
The Musische Erziehung (Artistic Aesthetic Education)xi refers basically to
ancient Greece and its idea of education through the arts as well as the significance of
art for the society.xii The German scholar Ernst Krieck, who published the
programmatic book, Musische Erziehung, in 1933, presented an idealized
interpretation of Plato in terms of music as a way to a new society. Social life,
community, strong leadership, simplicity of life, a natural life style and a new
national identity were considered the means to freeing the individual from all
cultural compulsions of the intellectual approach. A holistic way of education with its
main emphasis on music, the arts and physical education was thought to help human
beings to be whole, active and creative.
The fundamental principle of the Musische Erziehung was to transform the
society through the power of music in terms of making music, experiencing its
healing power, and experiencing the energy of a national musical community under
strong leadership. This was exactly what Hitler needed to support his ideology of
the superiority of the German people. To attain this Hitler used the schools and all
other educational settings and media. Changes in the curriculum and in teacher
education were developed to educate teachers and students according to the
National Socialist ideology. Community was now more important than the
individual and all Germans were expected to fit into new organizations such as the
Hitler Jugend (Hitler Youth). Music was an important tool in terms of singing
patriotic and National Socialistic songs and experiencing community. Marching,
hiking and singing patriotic songs were important activities of the Hitler Jugend.
Music education became the most important subject in German schools after
physical education, and two lessons of music were mandated each week. xiii Musische
Erziehung was the main educational philosophy, embracing the different arts and the
various dimensions of life. It was not so much an approach to music education as an
ideology and an approach to education in general. The goals of the Musische
Erziehung were not musical in terms of musical knowledge or abilities. Instead, the
aims directed toward a new, whole, and redeemed human being.
At the core of music education in the Third Reich was the singing of songs.
Even though this did not seem to be so different from what was happening in music
education in the decades and centuries before, in fact, it was: singing songs meant
singing patriotic songs and war songs which would establish a strong sense of
community and national identity. This would also serve as a preparation for war.
Songs were mostly about the superiority of the German race and the need for war to
redeem the world. Virtues such as obedience and faithfulness to leaders were also
important topics of songs. Singing was basically an education in the ideology of
National Socialism.
What did teachers think about music education as an ideological subject for
the promotion of National Socialism in music education? Mostly, they were happy
about the new significance of music education, which strengthened their own
position in the school community. xiv Some teachers criticized the misuse of music
education as a means of propaganda and manipulation, but most teachers were
pleased about the new significance of music in schools and society.
The misuse of music education during the Third Reich emphasizes how easy
it was to manipulate music educators of the time by assuring them that music is the
most important subject in schools. Music education as a means of transforming
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human beings and society is a compelling and seductive idea for music educators.
After the fall of the Third Reich, it should no longer have been possible to promote
such a nave, superficial and dangerous interpretation of Platos dreams. During the
1950s, however, some ideas of the Musische Erziehung were still popular and
continued to underpin the main approach in German music education. This was the
starting point for Adornos critique.

Adorno on Music Education


Although after World War II, the Allies tried to de-nazify German society
and to reeducate German citizens in terms of democratic ideals, they were not
successful on all levels of society. Even in music education, the ideals of the Musische
Erziehung were still alive after the Third Reich. Otto Haase, who published his
influential book, Musisches Leben (Musical and Holistic Life), in 1951, described the
goals of post-war German music education as follows: Not the patriotic, not the
logical and not the democratic education is really at the core of education, but the
artistic aesthetic education. This offers opportunities for a moral renewal.xv It
seems, that even after World War II, the transformation of human beings was still at
the core of German music education.
When Adorno returned to Germany from the United States of America in
1949, he realized that the main approach of German music education had not really
changed after the Third Reich. Therefore, after 1952, Adorno criticized the
Jugendmusikbewegung and the Musische Erziehung explicitly, referring to his earlier
papers of the 1930s.xvi Adornos involvement in debates concerning German music
education became more virulent when he was invited to present his ideas on
pedagogical music at a meeting of the Institut fr Neue Musik und Musikerziehung
(Institute for Modern Music and Music Education) in Darmstadt in 1954. Adorno
criticized particularly humanistic and idealistic philosophies of music education such
as the Musische Erziehung or the Jugendmusikbewegung because of their attempt to
transform human beings through making music. These philosophies were, according
to Adorno, not focused on the music itself, but on a holistic approach and therefore
were ideological and even fascistic. Adornos ideas created a furore in Darmstadt,
initiating many replies and heated accusations against Adorno himself. He seemed
to touch an important and vulnerable aspect of German music education in the 1950s
that still pursued the transformation of human beings through music and music
making.
Adorno published his ideas later in his book, Dissonanzen: Musik in der
verwalteten Welt (Dissonances: Music in the Administrated World, 1956).xvii In this
book, Adornos main intent was to investigate what happens to music in the
administrated world when the powers of domination corrupt creative freedom and
spontaneity.xviii He discussed attempts to control the arts and human life, musics
social significance, modern music, fetishization, regressive hearing, and the role
which music education plays in this process. Adorno did not try to solve problems
and was not so much concerned with developing alternative concepts. Instead, he
analyzed and critiqued current musical practices of society and music education.
Adorno criticized particularly the overemphasis on making music in music
education and society. His critique concerned specifically the Jugendmusikbewegung
in Germany, but also all kinds of blind musical activism. According to Adorno, it is
wrong to believe that the power of music can heal the individual and society because
social problems are based in economic and political structures. Adorno considered it
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to be an illusion that music can be a universal remedy to overcome alienation and to
cure society from all problems, especially through amateur music making. People do
not become morally better, more creative or completely healed persons if they play
an instrument in an ensemble. Being a musical amateur and a Musikant was not
enough to transform the world although the Jugendmusikbewegung promised this.
The Musikant (musical amateur) was the ultimate goal and ideal of the
Musische Erziehung and the Jugendmusikbewegung. Its original meaning refers to the
kind of traveling musician and minstrel in the 16th century, who went from town to
town, playing at different festivities in order to entertain people. The Musikant was
originally part of an itinerant and socially excluded class of people who played
entertaining music instead of true sacred music. Since the 16th century, however,
the meaning of the word Musikant has changed. In the 19th and 20th century, it
became a sentimental term to describe a not very sophisticated or skilled musician,
who enjoyed playing simple and easy music. This meaning of Musikant was
important for the Jugendmusikbewegung and the Musische Erziehung movements that
evolved in Germany from the 1920s. In this sense, a Musikant was an amateur
musician, who just enjoyed playing music for his own entertainment, without
worrying about musical theory or the quality of music being played. His only
concern was having fun, enjoying community, and being in a perfect and consonant
world, far away from the pressures of everyday life and the dissonances of modern
music.
Adorno described the Musikants approach as a blind way of making music
just for the sake of playing and being part of a community, but not for the sake of
the music itself: The word Musikant implies already that it is more important that
somebody actually makes music than what one plays.xix The main issue, which
Adorno criticized, was not the fact that people enjoyed making music, but that they
did so in order to escape their real life, to find a realm of activity far away from all
problems including the social and economic pressures of everyday life. Adorno was
concerned about this utilitarian use of music and its social consequences for German
music education during the 20th century. Adorno said, when the administered
world is growing, there are also more and more cultural and musical events which
try to convince people that life is not so bad.xx Music became a sort of drug or
opium that helped calm down the alienated citizens so that they might be satisfied
with their way of life. This idea of escaping into a world of dreams through music
and the hope of redemption and healing is undeniably part of the ideology of the
Jugendmusikbewegung and the Musische Erziehung. Organizations, in which the
typical Musikant participated, included large ensembles such as choirs, amateur
orchestras, youth orchestras, and wind bands, and chamber groups such as recorder
ensembles, string quartets or accordion orchestras.xxi
For Adorno, these
organizations aroused suspicion in their emphasis on making music and their lack of
critical consciousness. Being part of a community and enjoying playing easy music
was at the core of this activity. For Adorno, this represented a liquidation of the
individual: The liquidation of the individual is the real signature of the new musical
situation.xxii Individuals were being reduced to becoming part of a community,
which had to fit into different organizations without expressing their own opinions
and free will. Based on the fact that the collective was more important than the
individual, Adorno stated that the attitude of adjusting to the demands of
organizations and the promotion of ideals were significant reasons for fascism.
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The hope that making music would redeem human beings and ultimately
lead to a better society also has religious implications. As a result, the vocabulary
being used by the Musische Erziehung and the Jugendmusikbewegung was often
similar to that employed in religious idioms. Specifically, the idiom presented a view
of a mission, of healing and redemption through music.xxiii Such use of music and
music education was not only functional, but also a replacement for religion, similar
to the use of art as religion in romanticism. Adorno criticized particularly this
pseudo-religious approach of music education. Music education was not focused on
music and a deeper understanding of its structure and message, but on the
unrealistic ideal of changing the world through the educational power of music.
Adorno also criticized the quality of music and the musical instruments
preferred by the Jugendmusikbewegung and the Musische Erziehung, because this
already characterized their goals and mission. The favoured instruments of these
movements were the recorder and the fiddle,xxiv instruments that were
comparatively inexpensive and simple to master. Adorno suspected that the use of
these instruments was influential for the use of conservative and inferior music.
The Jugendmusikbewegung preferred pedagogical music, simple music, either written
by unknown composers of the 16th, 17th, or 18th century, or by contemporary
composers such as Cesar Bresgen (1913-1988), Carl Orff (1895-1982), or Paul
Hindemith (1895-1963). Pedagogical music is a somewhat instant music, specifically
fitting the practical skills and emotional needs of musical amateurs and students in
schools. This music is not too demanding, and sounds nice and consonant.
According to Adorno, the preference for this conservative music proves that music
education too often seeks the lost musical paradise of the past. It also illustrates for
Adorno the deep divide between music education and contemporary music. The
music of composers such as Arnold Schnberg signifies the isolation of the
individual. For Adorno, art has to be true and music should be a mirror for the real
conditions of society. According to Adorno, there is no way back, no escaping into a
consonant past where the state of music and society was completely different.
For Adorno, the critical social function of music and the significance of the
individual are important concerns, and they motivate him to think about music
education. According to Adorno, modern music has to be true and must resist the
temptation of easy communicability. Music as social agent has to awaken people,
has to raise consciousness concerning the alienation of human beings. Art has to
challenge society and human beings in order to break through the power of
suppression, alienation, and deification. The individual has to find his own voice
again, against all kinds of pressure for assimilation and against the manipulations of
the music industry. xxv For Adorno, music is not able to redeem society, but it can
portray within its own structure the social antinomies which are also responsible for
its own isolation.xxvi In a dialectic manner, music is both a mirror of society and, at
the same time, an alternative to the current state of society.xxvii
For Adorno, making pedagogical music is not the ultimate goal of music
education, because music is not only a sensuous and sensorial experience, but also an
intellectual endeavor. Music demands more than just activity. In its intellectual
challenge for both listeners and musicians, modern music in particular illustrates this
true nature of music. Adorno states, it is not true, that making music is the most
important activity in music education, because music addresses both mind and
intellect. In fact, the imagination drives the making of sound.xxviii Music education
and even making music are not simply sensorial activities of hands, lungs and feet,
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but also an intellectual, imaginative and mindful action. According to Adorno, it is
wrong to reduce music and music education to a mere sensual activity, which helps
to escape into a world of dreams. This mindless approach of music education was
for Adorno the beginning of fascism.
Although Adorno excelled in criticizing existing concepts rather than in
designing improved concepts, he developed some alternative approaches in his
paper Zur Musikpdagogik (On Music Education). For Adorno, the ultimate goal of
music education is to facilitate the understanding of music.xxix This concerns both
understanding the language of music in general and the meaning of specific pieces.
Students should not only experience music, Adorno noted, but they should also be
able to demonstrate their understanding of music in terms of analyzing, describing
or performing music (not blind music making, but performing with
understanding). They should understand both the sensual and the intellectual
dimensions of a work. According to Adorno, understanding musics deeper
aesthetic and intellectual message is only possible through sensorial perception. He
argued that aesthetic experiences are at the core of understanding music. The goal of
music education is not the redemption of the world, but the understanding of music
itself.
Adorno provided a clear outline of what he calls understanding music. He
states that students should:
know the language of music in general and comprehend the structure and
message of specific pieces;
be able to play and describe these works as far as it is necessary for realizing
the meaning of these works;
be able to distinguish different quality levels of music; and,
be able to realize the intellectual message and true meaning of musical works
through aesthetic experience.
According to Adorno, understanding music means for students to realize
and identify musics structure and aesthetic message. Aesthetic experience as a
sensorial and an intellectual understanding of music is important for Adornos
concept of music education. Musical works are ambivalent, functioning as both
manifestations of an intellectual messagexxx and manuals which advise one what to
do.xxxi The task of music education is the translation of the intellectual message (or
the idea) of a musical work into sound through making music. The precondition of
making music is to understand music, its meaning, message and structure. For
Adorno, at the core of music education is an understanding of music in order to
perform it correctly, to express its meaning and message. This is significantly
different from an approach, which is just interested in blind music making in terms
of holistic education and transforming the individual and the society. Music
education should definitely not be concerned with realizing the ideal of transforming
human beings, but with understanding music.xxxii
Although Adorno was not experienced in teaching music, he suggested a
method for his approach to music education. He believed that a gradual
development of musical abilitiesxxxiii through score reading exercises as well as
making music (particularly playing piano reductions in versions for four hands)xxxiv
might be the most appropriate way. For Adorno, the musical imagination plays an
important role for reading and understanding music, because students should be
able to imagine how music they study, would sound.xxxv Adorno considered reading
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music and having an idea of how it sounds as essential as reading and understanding
language.xxxvi In Adornos concept of music education, the power of imagination is
an important factor towards an understanding of music. The imagination is the key
to unlocking the message of music, a means of understanding its deeper
meaning.xxxvii This significance of the imagination implies already the main task for
music education, which should mediate between the music and the student in terms
of facilitating and opening up opportunities for a deeper understanding of music.
Adornos emphasis on musical imagination and reading music is different from
many child-centered and playful approaches of music education such as Carl Orffs
Schulwerk.
According to Adorno, music educators should avoid either a completely
child-centered approach, or an approach that would be too challenging. Students are
often victims of a confused ideology or philosophy of teaching. Adorno emphasizes
that an approach to music education has to be adequate for the students age and
stage of intellectual development. However, teachers should be careful not to
demand too little or to think that their students are not interested in music. Students
are indeed interested and curious about music, particularly concerning an
understanding of music. Most interestingly, Adorno says that many children who
start making music would like to understand the language and meaning of music as
did the mythological hero Siegfried, who was able to understand the language of
birds.xxxviii For Adorno, one of music educations mistakes is to demand too little
from students. He argues that children are truly curious about the language of
music, and suggests that they are capable of responding to demanding and more
directed approaches to learning music, rather than an exclusive focus on a childcentered and facile approach. Adorno suggests that the child should be accepted as a
musician in her own right: It is more appropriate for music education to treat a
child as a musician, even to demand musically too much (compared to child-centered
approaches) than to treat her like a toddler.xxxix For Adorno, it was important to
use the natural curiosity of children before they loose it. It was also necessary to
include contemporary music because this is the aesthetic language of the current
society.xl Playing, listening and analyzing new music are opportunities to get in
touch with the true message of music concerning the most recent state of society, the
consciousness of human beings, and alternatives to the current society. This goal
makes music education really relevant for society.
Adornos ideas on music education are certainly challenging for those
systems of music education that emphasize performing and making music. Adorno
argues passionately against all kinds of blind music activism that serves humanistic
and idealistic ideologies in terms of making the world a better place through the
musical engagement of children and adolescents in music education. Instead,
Adorno argues for performing with understanding, and for a critical examination of
current music education practices to reveal their hidden ideologies.
Adornos criticism of music education refers to his ideas on music sociology
as evidenced in his critique of pedagogical music and the Jugendmusikbewegung. Tia
DeNora describes a new approach to music sociology after Adorno in terms of
paying equal attention to musical materials and to the circumstances in which these
materials are heard and integrated into social experience in real time.xli How could
music education after Adorno be described? It would most certainly be a critical
music education, which would be focused on the music itself, denying all attempts to
transform the world through music and music making. Crucially, the education of
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10
self-determined students would be important as a means to avoiding such misuses of
political power as fascism.

The Pied Piper Revisited


Adorno was driven by the attempt to avoid a repetition of Auschwitz. This
motivated him to analyze the failures of the educational system in Germany, and
particularly music education. Because the Musische Erziehung was concerned with
the ideal of transforming the world and healing human beings through the power of
music, Adorno argued for an approach, which focuses on the music itself in terms of
understanding its structure and its message. Abstract and vague ideals such as
transforming the world through the power of music are not necessary.
However, one must take into account that Adorno was not a music educator.
Whilst he was a philosopher, a composer and a musician, he was not trained in
pedagogy or approaches to music education. Adorno was not experienced in
teaching music and did not believe in most of the common pedagogical concepts and
approaches. Nevertheless, Adorno was a passionate teacher, and he knew about
musics social and educational power and its significance for society. Therefore,
Adorno argued for a critical music education that is careful in following ideals and
that questions permanently its own goals. The main goal for schools and music
education practice is the education of self-determined and conscious students.
Because it is not possible to transform the world through positive ideals, it is
necessary for Adorno to show the alienation of the world and human beings
through the mirror of music, especially modern music. These works tell the truth
about the society. Adornos philosophy and his ideas on music education attempted
to make the world a better place, but in a different way than that advocated through
Musische Erziehung. Adorno argued against the old Platonic dream of transforming
the world through the power of music. This dream was revitalized by the Musische
Erziehung and by Hitler. Adorno was passionate in proving that this dream is
wrong, that music does not change human beings by making them morally better
persons. Adorno referred particularly to the key figures of the Third Reich
(including Adolf Hitler), who were great aficionados of music.xlii Even though they
loved music and made music, they still murdered millions of people. Music did not
help them to become morally better persons.
The Platonic myth of the transforming power of music resonates with that of
the Pied Piper. People, particularly music educators, follow this myth without
considering the consequences. Students who were trained in Adornos approach to
music education would certainly have resisted the smooth melodies of the Pied Piper
and immediately realized the musical structure and the emotional message of his
music. The pipers melodies would not at all be a temptation for them, rather they
would be recognized as a bad product of the culture industry. Nevertheless, Pied
Pipers are still playing their tunes in many places and trying to entrance people
through the transforming power of music. Perhaps Adornos most powerful advice
is: To resist the myth of the entrancing power of music is to make the world a better
place.
Music does have power, but in a different and dialectical way.

Research Studies in Music Education

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The Institute of Social Research, whose members were Adorno and Horkheimer first in Los Angeles and later
in Frankfurt, conducted research projects, which investigated the reasons for National Socialism. One important
project was The Authoritarian Personality (1950), which tried to find ways to avoid the development of hatred,
prejudices and discrimination against minorities in societies. Even though this was a sociological study, it was
also dealing with pedagogical and educational issues.
ii
Adorno and Horkheimer also applied their knowledge and experiences as refugees in the United States within
the German educational system. They were particularly interested in the education for democracy and the
American school system, which was not as authoritarian and repressive as the German school system at this
time. Therefore, Horkheimer organized study trips for teachers to the United States. This was part of his
engagement for the Office of Political Education in Frankfurt (F. Hartmuth Paffrath, Die Wendung aufs Subjekt:
Pdagogische Perspektiven im Werk Th. W. Adornos (Weinheim: Deutscher Studien Verlag, 1992): 95). Adorno
reflects his ideas on the American school system in his paper, Kultur und Culture. (Theodor W. Adorno, Kultur
und Culture, in Vortrge Hessische Hochschulwoche 1958 (Bad Homburg: Verlag Dr. Max Gehlen, 1959):
246-259).
iii
Hartmuth Paffrath, op. cit., 22.
iv
Ibid., 133.
v
Herta H. Jogland, Theodor W. Adorno: Education, What For?, The Journal of West Virginia Philosophical
Society (Fall 1975): 4.
vi
One must recognize the mechanisms that make people capable of such acts, must actually show them these
mechanisms, and must try to prevent them becoming like this again in that one awakens a general consciousness
of what these mechanisms are. (Theodor W. Adorno, Education after Auschwitz, in Never Again! The
Holocausts Challenge for Educators, ed. Helmut Schreier and Matthis Heyl (Hamburg: Krmer, 1997): 12).
vii
Ibid., 16.
viii
Ibid., 13.
ix
Frederic Spotts, Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics (New York: The Overlook Press, 2002): 270.
x
One striking example of Hitlers philosophy of music, which refers basically to ideas of romanticism, is an
excerpt from a speech he gave at the party rally 1938 in Nuremberg: Music as an absolute art follows laws that
are unknown to us today. What produces beautiful sound and what causes dissonance we do not exactly know at
present. Clearly music can claim to be the greatest animator of feelings and sensibilities that move the mind; yet
it seems to be the least able to satisfy the intellect A world of feelings and moods that is difficult to describe
in words is revealed in music (Frederic Spotts, 278).
xi
Alexandra Kertz-Welzel, The Singing Muse: Three Centuries of Music Education in Germany, Journal of
Historical Research in Music Education XXVI (2004), no. 1: 23.
xii
Some ideas of the Musische Erziehung referred to the educational reformation movement around 1900, when
movements such as the Wandervogel and the Jugendmusikbewegung tried to renew German society and culture
through the power of the arts and music.
xiii
Ulrich Gnther, Musikerziehung im Dritten Reich, in Handbuch der Musikpdagogik, vol. 1, ed. HansChristian Schmidt (Kassel: Brenreiter, 1986): 103.
xiv
Ibid., 124.
xv
Ibid., 151.
xvi
Criticizing German music education was not a new endeavor for Adorno, because he already did this in the
1930s. Papers such as Kritik des Musikanten (Criticizing the Musical Amateur, 1932) or Musikpdagogische
Musik (Pedagogical Music, 1936) had already been attempts to raise consciousness concerning the dangerous
situation of music education in Germany. Adorno also criticized American music education, particularly Walter
Damroschs music appreciation hour, in his paper, Die gewrdigte Musik (1940) (Theodor W. Adorno, Die
gewrdigte Musik, in Theodor W. Adorno: Gesammelte Schriften, vol. 15, ed. Rolf Tiedemann (Frankfurt:
Suhrkamp, 1976): 163-188).
xvii
The first edition was published in 1956, the forth edition in 1969. The second and the third edition presented
additional papers.
xviii
Theodor W. Adorno, Dissonanzen, in Theodor W. Adorno: Gesammelte Schriften, vol. 14, ed. Rolf
Tiedemann (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1973): 9.
xix
Ibid., 75.
xx
Ibid., 68.
xxi
Theodor W. Adorno, Kritik des Musikanten, in Theodor W. Adorno: Gesammelte Schriften, vol. 14, ed.
Rolf Tiedemann (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1973): 69.
xxii
Theodor W. Adorno, On the Fetish-Character in Music and the Regression of Listening, in Th. W. Adorno:
Essays on Music, ed. Richard Leppert (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002): 293.
xxiii
Theodor W. Adorno, Kritik des Musikanten, in Theodor W. Adorno: Gesammelte Schriften, vol. 14, ed.

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Rolf Tiedemann (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1973): 76.


xxiv
Ibid., 78.
xxv
Adornos famous types of listeners are an example of this kind of analysis. His critiques of popular music
and Jazz as degenerative culture are well known. They are part of his philosophical system, and Adorno never
requires the reader to agree with his analysis. His main mission is the critique of society and music.
xxvi
Theodor W. Adorno, On the Social Situation of Music, in Th. W. Adorno: Essays on Music, ed. Richard
Leppert (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002): 393.
xxvii
Music is under the same obligation as theory to reach out beyond the current consciousness of the masses
(Ibid., 394).
xxviii
Theodor W. Adorno, "Kritik des Musikanten, in Theodor W. Adorno: Gesammelte Schriften, vol. 14, ed.
Rolf Tiedemann (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1973): 82.
xxix
Theodor W. Adorno, Zur Musikpdagogik, in Gesammelte Schriften, vol. 14, ed. Rolf Tiedemann
(Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1973): 108.
xxx
Manifestationen eines Geistigen (Theodor W. Adorno, op. cit., 115).
xxxi
als Notentexte Anweisung auf ein Tun (Ibid.).
xxxii
Ibid., 114.
xxxiii
Ibid.
xxxiv
For Adorno, the piano is the most important instrument in music education, because it is the best means to
realize complex musical ideas and works in terms of harmony and melody ( Ibid., 111-112).
xxxv
Ibid., 109.
xxxvi
Ibid., 100.
xxxvii
Ibid., 111.
xxxviii
Ibid., 116.
xxxix
Ibid., 111.
xl
The most important goal of music education is nurturing an understanding of contemporary music (Ibid.,
126).
xli
Tia DeNora, After Adorno. Rethinking Music Sociology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003): 155.
xlii
Theodor W. Adorno, Zur Musikpdagogik, in Gesammelte Schriften, vol. 14, ed. Rolf Tiedemann
(Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1973): 119.

About the Author


Dr. Alexandra Kertz-Welzel is a Lecturer in Music Education and Philosophy of
Music Education in the Faculty of Music at Saarland University, Saarbruecken
(Germany). From 2002 2005, she was visiting scholar at the University of
Washington in Seattle (United States). She earned a Ph.D. Degree in musicology
from Saarland University and Master of Arts Degrees in music education, piano
performance and philosophy from Saarland University, Saarbruecken (Germany).
Her research interests include: curriculum studies; comparative music education;
philosophy of music education; and, piano pedagogy. She has presented her
research at national and international conferences and has published articles in the
International Journal of Music Education, Journal of Historical Research in Music Education,
Philosophy of Music Education Review, Journal of Aesthetic Education, Diskussion
Musikpdagogik, Orff Echo, and General Music Today. As an active concert pianist, she
frequently performs as a duo partner with her husband, organist Martin Welzel,
D.M.A.

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