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American Literature's Aesthetic Dimensions$
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Cindy Weinstein and Christopher Looby

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780231156172

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231156172.001.0001

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Perfect Is Dead

Perfect Is Dead

Karen Carpenter, Theodor Adorno, and the Radio; or, If Hooks Could Kill

Chapter:
(p.349) [16] Perfect Is Dead
Source:
American Literature's Aesthetic Dimensions
Author(s):

Eric Lott

Publisher:
Columbia University Press
DOI:10.7312/columbia/9780231156172.003.0016

This chapter attempts to bring to bear one of the most severely unforgiving instruments of twentieth-century aesthetic judgment (the critique of culture-industry commodification articulated by Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno) upon one of the most snobbishly reviled bodies of American popular music, the “Caucasian blues” of Richard and Karen Carpenter. It shows that, in the sonic forms of their music, the Carpenters “produced the concept of turn-of-the-seventies Southern California unfreedom” and that they encode, in the very textures of their songs, a powerful negation of the “spurious harmony” they might at a first glance seem to embody.

Keywords:   American music, Caucasian blues, Richard Carpenter, Karen Carpenter, aesthetics, spurious harmony, Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer

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