22 Feb 2003 All day King s College, Cambridge


Keynes Hall, King's College, Cambridge
An interdisciplinary Study Day Conference jointly sponsored by The Society for Music Analysis (SMA) and CRASSH (University of Cambridge)

In 1928 Adorno published a remarkable essay called 'Schubert' which this interdisciplinary Study Day, bringing together scholars from philosophy, European literary studies, psychoanalytic theory as well as musicology, takes as its central focus. First published in Die Musik, 21 (1928), and subsequently reprinted in Moments musicaux (Frankfurt, 1964), now three-quarters of a century old and yet virtually without mention in the vast secondary literature on this composer, these twenty-five pages are yet to be discovered by most. Adorno's 'Schubert' is calling for a full response, for it may well be the single most interesting statement on Schubert that there is.

Why is that so? Broadly speaking, because Adorno's essay tells us something essential about Schubert's music while sending us back to it, to listen to it once more, and more receptively this time – the surest sign of the best kind of criticism. Specifically, the essay's exceptional value has to do with its style, with its metaphorical language in particular, and with the very issues Adorno raises about Schubert's music, both explicitly and implicitly, via his chosen style. Style itself becomes content, and becomes part of the very truths it states.

Many years later Adorno judged that 'Schubert', his 'first comprehensive . . . study of the meaning of music' (Moments Musicaux, Frankfurt, Suhrkamp, 1964, 8) was necessarily abstract. Such arguably 'abstract' philosophical insight gained by what is also a fascinating literary achievement will, however, as this Study Day aims to show, sustain close critical exploration both into the substance of Schubert's music as well as beyond, to show the seminal relevance of Adorno's text.

On the occasion of the first English translation of Adorno's essay 'Schubert' by Jonathan Dunsby and Beate Perrey, the speakers at this Study Day will explore, from different disciplinary angles, the potentially explosive expansion and inevitable proliferation locked within Adorno's metaphors, works and concepts mentioned in his essay as well as its markedly literary style standing in sharp contrast to what is generally encountered as professional musicological prose.


Dr Nick Marston, University of Cambridge and Vice-President of Society for Music Analysis
Dr Beate Perrey, University College London and co-director of New Languages for Criticism: Cross-currents and Resistances


Tel: +44 1223 766886
Email enquiries@crassh.cam.ac.uk