Being Aware of Idleness: Die Adorno-Sonate

Die Adorno-Sonate (in German only)
The self-consciousness of nothingness

The 25th anniversary of Theodor W. Adorno's death was on 6 August 1994. It was an occasion, on the one hand, to question the thinking and work of this philosopher from today's perspective and world experience historically, and on the other hand - and this is the case in the Adorno Sonata - a productive approach would be called for. In his search for new, hitherto unpublished texts, which at the same time encourage a self-creative approach, the Berlin author Uli Aumüller came across Adorno's fragments and notes on Ludwig van Beethoven, which were only published in 1994 in the Adorno Complete Edition of the Suhrkamp Verlag. For Aumüller, these texts were like material that, as editor Rolf Tiedemann puts it in the preface to the edition, virtually urges and provokes him to complete a form of mediation. Aumüller - an experimental radio playwright - read all these thoughts, notations and splinters as scenes, he rearranged some of them, composed them quasi in the Beethovenian sense, and set them in today's acoustic realities.
Adorno himself, his editor, his widow, a young student and, as a doubting commentator, the author himself have their say. In an acoustic scenery working its way deeper round by round, which traces both the philosopher and the musician, and both their claim to humanity, in a startling way. The audio piece, which is very compressed in the introductory section, is conceived in many layers. Its rough sections refer to the parts of a Beethoven symphony; at times the gesture of speaking is more important than the sounding word content. People listen in the pauses. To the silence in the park at night. To the steps of the speakers, to the S-Bahn, which sounds like music at Berlin's Hackischer Markt and is used.



Kritik Süddeutsche Zeitung

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Das Selbstbewusstsein von der Nichtigkeit (in German only)
Radio play by Uli Aumüller / DLF 43 min.

Throughout his life, T.W. Adorno had the idea of writing a book about Beethoven - for which he made numerous sketches, diary entries and the like, but he never carried it out.

Diligent Adornians have collected these scattered entries by the German grand master of music philosophy and arranged them according to thematic headings, which might later have become chapters if the Beethoven book had existed.

Of course, these entries can also be sorted differently and related to each other, and this is what I have tried to do with this Adorno Sonata, strictly following the very musical form on which Beethoven, and consequently Adorno, worked until the end of their lives (Abandoned, yet never overcome! The negation of the negation catches up with the negated, and so on).

So I discovered masculine and feminine themes in the Adornian Sketches, amusing secondary themes that can be merged with the main ideas to form new thematic fields or dance jokingly with each other. Of course, there is also a development, as in every real sonata, which I have enriched with sounds of the S-Bahn arches in front of Berlin's Museum Island, a system of under-, over- and through-performances, so to speak. This is followed by a small fugue and finally a coda, how could it be otherwise.

The Adorno Sonata "Das Selbstbewußtsein von der Nichtigkeit" (Self-consciousness of nothingness) is a little chamber music for speaker quintet, together with a pianist who had to play an F sharp, in all variations, especially since this F sharp Adorno felt able to work out as THE turning point in the history of music, with good reasons which he put forward for this.

In the sonata, of course, Adorno himself and his somewhat drooling wife appear (perhaps unjustly, for we have not researched whether she was actually as sketched here), then there is a rapturous student (who certainly existed, but whether Adorno jumped at it, is also beyond our knowledge), along with an editor who is always in doubt, who gets confused in Adorno-like trains of thought, and last but not least, myself, the author, who also adds his two cents and, to top it all off, reveals that he was not really comfortable with this whole enterprise. After all, it is always said that all fun stops with Adorno at the latest.

The first broadcast was on 31.8.94 on Deutschlandfunk - and then this monstrosity haunted the ARD programmes.


The speakers were Marietta Bürger, Frank Hessenland, Kristin Maria Derfler, Ulrich Ritter and the author.
Technical realisation:
Monika Brummund and Bernd Friebl at the Nalepastrasse radio play complex.
Frank Schweizer and Uli Aumüller at the ZKM

Recording supervisor: Holger Beythien

Text and direction: Uli Aumüller

Editing: Frank Kämpfer

Cast & Crew

Uli Aumüller (Text)
Theodor W. Adorno
Main Cast
Ulrich Ritter, Marietta Bürger, Frank Hessenland, Kristin Maria Derfler
First unit manager
Holger Beythien
Bernd Friebl
Sound Design
Monika Brummund
Original Score
Frank Schweizer