ADORNO: If I had said to my father that mass culture is untrue, he would have answered: but I enjoy it. Renunciation of utopia means somehow or other deciding in favour of a thing even though I know perfectly well that it is a swindle. That is the root of the trouble.
HORKHEIMER: Because the strength you need to do the right thing is kept on a leash. If we formulate the issues just as we speak, it all sounds too argumentative. People might say that our views are just all talk, our own perceptions. To whom shall we say these things?
Julia, lovely Julia, who is quieter and smarter and better than all of us, joins Lauren and me at Pappelreihe. Lauren leaves a few minutes later. Julia asks what we were talking about.
Me: Techno, again. Though I think maybe what’s actually interesting about it is the ways in which people defend their pleasures by accusing you of being incapable of appreciating them. That maybe the essay should be about that, and not about techno at all.
Julia asks what I mean. I try to explain. I fail. I wonder if it is my German, my thinking, her. Though the last seems unlikely.
Julia: Maybe you need to explain your theory about techno to me again.
I tell her that Lauren and I were talking about the Berghain, and states of surveillance, about illusory liberation, about critical versus intoxicated states of reception.
Julia: I think you need to differentiate between the Berghain and underground clubs. Smaller clubs don’t have security personnel in plainclothes.
Me: Sure. But there are still mechanisms of social control in clubs. It’s not like everyone gets everything they want there all the time. And it’s not as though they wouldn’t be stopped if they tried to take it.
Julia: But that’s an argument against everything, all the time.
I wanted to say: “Yes, exactly! But most of the time, we know that.” Cf. Freud, Rousseau, the Bible.
I am sitting in a dorm room at the Interlochen Arts Academy, in Interlochen, Michigan, United States with my friends Paul, Brian, and John. We are talking about a forthcoming party that Paul will DJ.
Me: “I want to DJ a party sometime.”
Paul: “Nobody wants to listen to Belle & Sebastian records all night, Peter.”
We have to start somewhere, so we might as well start here: In 1927, Theodor Adorno writes: “Only when gramophonic reproduction breaks down are its objects transformed. Or else one removes the records and lets the spring run out in the dark.” Or rather, a young Thomas Y. Levin writes that, translating Adorno’s essay Nadelkurven in the shadow of the fall of the Berlin Wall. We have to start somewhere, so we might as well start here, where I suspect that Tom, who would later become my dissertation advisor, would start in defending club culture, and the “music” it supports. The essay is Adorno, even if via Levin, and therefore as sophisticated in its argumentation as it is vicious in its denunciations. The précis of Tom’s reading of Adorno, to spare you both: The record player is only capable of being a musical instrument, as opposed to a piece of bourgeois furniture, when it reveals its own material conditions; the most beautiful music the phonograph can make is in the moments of its failure, when the conditions of reproduction become audible.
Not all of the faculties were present at the last meeting.
The devil I know has turned out to be a much bigger asshole than all subsequent devils I’ve met.
Recently I’ve been living beyond my meanness.