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“Leopold!”: Conductor, Orchestra, & Audience

A discussion of the role of the Conductor in both music and society, beginning with my casual impressions (complimented with satirical examples); and followed by critical insights from a socio-musicologist, as well from conductors and composers themselves.

The Conductor (“Leopold!”)

Although I have yet to acquaint myself with orchestral performance, which does interest me; the passive familiarity I have with it has nevertheless left me with a particular impression—specifically, regarding the role of the Conductor, which appears to be strikingly suspect. Upon casual contemplation, I had formed some substantial thoughts about it, from which I felt the subject would be would worthwhile to investigate one day. And due to this question of the Conductor being brought up by someone in a group conversation, that day eventually arrived.

Recalling two particular books in my library which I thought may directly addresses the role of the Conductor, I had a look at the contents to find chapters in each which are even more relevant and revealing than I had hoped. But before I share these findings, I will first describe the impression and thoughts I had prior to investigation.

The Conductor: An Uninformed Impression

The essence of my impression of the conducting of orchestras is that, both visually and logically, there is a great disparity between conducting technique and orchestral performance, in so far as the former is accredited with the quality of the latter. Also, something of potential relevance occurred to me when thinking of the Conductor, which is that my mind first associated the word ‘conductor’ with its meaning as something that allows the flow of electricity to pass through it efficiently;—which to my mind is in harmony [pun intended] with the role of the Conductor as it actually seems to be: to allow the ‘flow’ of the written piece to ‘pass through’ the Orchestra efficiently. In other words, his role is a passive one relative to the musician’s (and the composer, for that matter), for his performance is not a creative act, but one of guidance;—and yet he seems to be treated not only as a creative artist, but the most revered one.
  Corollary to this is that the prestige generally awarded to conductors is entirely unwarranted by the legitimate aspects of the role; and is generated by institutionally contrived aspects which superimpose a fictional role upon the actual one.

Additionally, an immediate thought I had on this impression concerns the context of its provisional assertions—which is that the cultural transition from promoting communal-oriented values (attitudes) to individual-oriented ones; and from praising the performance of the Team to glorifying the performance of the Individual within it; is largely if not entirely responsible for inventing the purely symbolic role of the Conductor, so as to make him the equivalent of the ‘star’ that has come to dominate attention in the various other entertainments. Indeed, the Conductor may have served as a kind of proto-stardom to that developed by Hollywood’s ‘Star System’. Furthermore, the stardom of other entertainers is generally formed from an exaggeration of their role;—whereas the Conductor’s role seems more fabricated than exaggerated.

Memorable Satires of the Conductor

“Leopold!”: Bugs poses as the revered conductor Leopold Stokowski

Long-Haired Hare (Warner Bros., 1949)

This cartoon features a scene I remember from having watched the cartoon many times during my childhood. When contemplating my impressions of the Conductor, this scene came to mind as one which satirizes not only the prestige of the Conductor, but also his apparent basis for it.
  It shows Bugs Bunny taking over an orchestra by posing as the revered conductor Leopold Stokowski, with all the members of the musicians and the audience exclaiming “Leopold!” as Bugs strolls through to the front, with a matter-of-fact expression of superiority etched on his face. He then proceeds to conduct the orchestra and opera singer, but with an exaggerated depiction (i.e. cartoonish) of control: they respond to his every gesture instantly—each of which he makes with deliberate abruptness, so as to display both his control and authority. After establishing to the audience that Bugs (as Leopold) has total control over the orchestra – that they are compelled by his supreme authority to respond exactingly to his every conducting gesture and cessation thereof – we then see him maintain a pose that instructs the singer to hold a high note—to the point that the singer increasingly wrestles with himself to endure the strain of this feat, which he apparently cannot cease until Bugs lowers his hand.
  To me, this caricature of real life conducting actually serves to highlight the questionable basis of it: for the elements it exaggerates – the Conductor’s control of the Orchestra; and the prestige bestowed upon him for this role – are suspect not in degree, but in essence.

“The Maestro” commences his conduction

The Fix Up (Seinfeld, 1992)

Of all the professions involving the expression of thoughts, the Comedian is the one who has the most license to tell things the way they are – to ‘call a spade a spade’ – for the reason that it is expressed in the form of humour. By questioning and indicting familiar things within this context of unseriousness allows – and indeed encourages – Society to acknowledge the significant incongruence’s of ordinary life, but without feeling obligated to address them—whether or not they consider the observation as being accurate.

The opening monologue of this Seinfeld episode highlights the suspect impression I had of the role of the Conductor, as Jerry (doing his stand-up bit) explains his bafflement regarding this role:

I tell ya, I never really understood the importance of the conductor. I mean between you and me, what the hell is this guy doing? Do you really need somebody waving a stick in your face to play the violin? Does that really help you out? I could see how we need him at the beginning. Okay, tap-tap-tap, start. Okay, I can see how you need that. But once we’re going, okay, once it’s all happening, what do we need him for then? I don’t see the cellist looking up, go, “I’m confused. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do.” And the conductor goes, “Do this. Like this” “Oh, okay, thank you very much.”

The Fix Up (Seinfeld – Season 3, Episode 17, 1992)

The relevance of Jerry’s observation should not be to say that there is no need at all for a person to conduct the Orchestra. However, the role of the Conductor as it is presented to the Audience does not seem to be legitimate, in that the ostensible dependency of the Orchestra on the Conductor’s gestures doesn’t seem practical: to me, it seems theatrical and symbolic.

The Maestro (Seinfeld, 1995)

This episode also comes to mind as a relevant satire, in its comic depiction of a run-of-the-mill conductor who becomes visibly offended whenever referred to by his first name, insisting that he being called “Maestro” even in social situations; and whose other particularities and general pretentiousness in ordinary life is portrayed as being derived directly from his profession as a conductor.

The Maestro setting things straight with Elaine

MAESTRO: You know, I’m sorry but, I didn’t mention it earlier but actually I preferred to be called Maestro.
ELAINE: Excuse me?
MAESTRO: Well, ya know I am a conductor.
ELAINE: Yeah, so?
MAESTRO: Oh I suppose it’s O.K. for Leonard Burnstein to be called Maestro because he conducted the New York Philharmonic. So he gets to be called Maestro and I don’t.
ELAINE: Well, I mean don’t you think that he was probably called Maestro while he was conducting, not in social situations. I mean his friends probably just called him Lenny.
MAESTRO: I happen to know for a fact, that he was called Maestro in social situations. I once saw him at a bar and someone came up to him and said “Hello Maestro, how about a beer”. O.K. So that’s a fact.

The Maestro (Seinfeld – Season 7, Episode 3, 1995)

Critical Insight

Introduction to the Sociology of Music, by Theodor W. Adorno (1962/76)

Conductor and Orchestra: Aspects of Social Psychology

This essay is a chapter from the book: Introduction to the Sociology of Music, by Theodor W. Adorno, originally published in 1962 and translated into English in 1976. Born in 1903, Adorno was a German philosopher, sociologist, psychologist, musicologist, and composer known for his critical theory of society. This particular book is one I had in my library but had not yet read; and it came immediately to mind when I considered investigation the role of the Conductor. Finding not only that it contained a whole chapter on the Conductor, but that Adorno immediately begins by refuting his ostensible role; and that he proceeds to analyse the relationship between the Conductor and the Orchestra, as well as the effect on the Audience—I then realized that this may now be a premise worth writing an article on.

Contents page to Adorno’s Introduction to the Sociology of Music

What follows is a series of sub-themes I identified from the essay, which discuss the subject using quotes I have made from it.

The Conductor’s Relationship to the Orchestra

Adorno begins his sociological analysis by first establishing the premise: that “…the conductor and orchestra in themselves constitute a kind of microcosm in which social tensions recur…” At the beginning of the second paragraph, I was struck by how directly my casual and uninformed impression was confirmed:

Among musicians it is hardly in dispute that the public prestige of conductors far exceeds the contributions which most of them make to the reproduction of music. At the least, their prestige and their actual artistic work point in different directions. A conductor does not owe his fame to his ability to interpret scores, or certainly not to this ability alone. He is an imago [an idealized representation], the imago of power, visibly embodied in his prominent figure and striking gestures.

Theodor W. Adorno, 1962

After mentioning that, in the world of music, there are indeed other instances of such artificial elements in a performer’s role, such as in the case of virtuoso pianists; Adorno states that the Conductor allows for a particular kind of identification — which he calls a “Nero Complex” — in which the vagueness of his source of authority engenders the fantasizing of “power acted-out with impunity because [it] cannot be nailed down as such.” For despite this vagueness, the Conductor demonstrates his leadership role visibly.

Furthermore, the Orchestra must respond to the Conductor’s tyrannical manner; thereby making the effect of the imago contagious, despite its artistically trivial nature. And the coercion he exercises over the Orchestra, Adorno explains, must rest upon an agreement between them.

Audience Perception of the Conductor

The Conductor is in large part, an actor: he acts as if he is creating the work here and now—which, as Adorno also points out, poisons his factual achievements. In overshadowing the legitimate aspects of his role by the preponderant display of “medicine-man gestures”, the Conductor impresses the listener—such that he will be led to believe that the conductor’s attitude is requisite to generating artistic excellence from the performers. Thus is the orchestral performance taken to be (subconsciously) as akin to a sporting performance.

From the Orchestra’s perspective, the aspect of conducting which actually concerns them – i.e. from which is derived the quality of the performance – “is largely separate from the one that beguiles the audience.” For in relation to the Audience, the Conductor is inherently of a propagandist and demagogical nature. And so, Adorno continues, in terms of comprehension and appreciation, social ratings of things musical differ greatly from the actual structure of them. Hence, the “delight in fascination” credits the Conductor with feats he does not perform at all.

Adorno provides an illustrative example of a highly delusional young boy who believed himself to be a great conductor. In order to cure him, his family hired the best orchestra to allow the boy to play out his delusion—a scenario which created an unusual and noteworthy result: that the orchestra’s performance was on par with that of any other contemporary one, despite that a “miserable layman” conducted their performance; for they “simply ignored the dilettante’s false entrances”. This of course meant that the ‘cure’ for the boy actually backfired, because “Thus he found his delusion confirmed.”

Adorno also mentions another noteworthy anecdote; this time of an actual sociological experiment. By mislabelling records to display “Toscanini” on the recording of a “backwards conductor”; and vice versa on another record—it was found that listener reactions corresponded to the labels. The conclusion of this experiment is therefore either that there is a difference in quality of the two performances, but the listeners cannot distinguish this difference; or that “the differences were incomparably less than the official ideology would have it.”

The Conductor’s Act

More so than any other role in musicianship, the ‘performance’ of the Conductor is better understood as being so in the theatrical sense, rather than in the artistic one. For the real target of his performance, Adorno explains, is the audience, for which he displays an act as though he were taming the orchestra.
  The sociological significance of this act, he elaborates, is that the audience – as a microcosm of the wider population – has a sadomasochistic need to look up to a leader: someone who they can see as dominating those above them—which in this case is the Orchestra, whose extraordinary abilities produce feelings of awe and pleasure in the listener. But as a dominating leader is not actually necessary for an orchestra to play well, the role of the Conductor has been tailored for this figure to serve as a pseudo-leader, thus satisfying the psychological needs of the audience.
  In furthering this claim, Adorno points out that that Conductor symbolizes dominance even in his attire, which is that of a ringmaster; and at the same time, it has connotations of a waiter, which serves to flatter the audience, who subconsciously register the conductor as a gentleman.

Returning to his “medicine-man” aspect, the Conductor’s “lordiness” is distanced from the Audience by means of placing it within the confines of “esthetic space”; meaning that there can be no direct inference of the artistic basis for the Conductor’s visible dominance; and thus “permitting the bandmaster to be equipped with magical qualities that could never stand the test of reality.”
  An essential feature of this act is the connotative implications of his basic stance: the conductor stands with his back facing the audience, which simultaneously suggests an unconcern with them and a sole commitment to the cause.

In one of his deepest observations, Adorno states that “The segregation of the esthetic is turned back into the ritual that spawned it.” Upon contemplation, my understanding of this sentence is that Music (and perhaps the other timeless arts too) has gone full circle: from Primitive Ritualism… to Civilized Aestheticism… to Primitivised Civilism (in Ritualized Aestheticism). In other words, the development of Music from ritual into art has had its course reversed; and therefore, indicating that Progress is becoming Regress.
  Continuing his analysis of the degradation of the esthetic, Adorno describes the exaggerated mannerisms of the Conductor: “the fanaticism that bursts forth as needed, the exhibition of an allegedly purely introverted passion”, which “recalls the demeanour of leaders trumpeting their own unselfishness.” This “histrionics at the podium” Adorno relates to “the dictatorial capacity for frothing at the mouth at will.”

The Legitimate Basis for a Conductor

Having identified and described the mythical dimension of the Conductor, Adorno now seeks to clarify the artistic justification and necessity of conducting. The main point in this regard is that the integration of diversity is prerequisite to Modern Music: there must be a “unified consciousness” to guide its production and performance; to realize and supervise it.
  In addition to the need for the mental integration of a work, there is also the need for the social integration of its performance. Practically speaking, a proper ensemble performance requires an authority to decide controversies; as well as to differentiate and coordinate the individual acts of various players—all of which must be channelled into an accordance with an ideal of the whole.
  Such an act of esthetic and practical synthesis can only be undertaken by one individual, in whom the ideal performance in its totality is mentally held; and whose abilities are such that he can effectively oversee the whole, which is his sole concern.

In contrast to the Conductor, the Players are called upon for autonomous activity—but within the heteronymous subordination to an individual will. This inherent situation is identified by Adorno as a ‘purely intramusical conflict’, within which ‘social conflicts appear’. “The principle of unity”, in this case, is derived from a “trait of authoritarian rule”—meaning that this principle has migrated from society and “conferred its stringency on music”; and further, that it exerts a repression on music as an art form.
  The true need for unity is in the “social void” inherent to the Orchestra: each performer – of which in modern music, there are many – cannot see or hear the performance as a whole;—and therefore, it is the scale of modern orchestras that necessitates unification by one individual: the Conductor.

The Mythical Dimension of the Conductor

What Adorno refers to as “the conductor’s sins”, he attributes to the result of his very situation: the role of the conductor is inherently a symbolic one—that of ‘the outstanding individual’. Therefore, the conductor must develop “qualities alien to his work”—and “which easily degenerate into charlatanism.” In other words, the role of the Conductor supplies the “irrational surplus of personal authority”, without which an image of unity could not be formed: for the music experienced by the audience represents “a body of sound segregated from its immediate musical conception.” This irrationality, Adorno continues, occurs in a pre-established harmony with such social ‘needs’—primarily that of personalisation: “the ideological compounding of objective functions in a visible individual.”

Ultimately, therefore, the Conductor must be considered as “an actor who plays a musician”: for “the conductor’s figure comes to be the one that acts directly on the audience; at the same time his own music-making too is necessarily estranged from the audience, since he himself is not playing.” Thus is his role inherently in conflict with proper performance, for it requires the production of affect by way of theatricality and histrionics.
  The Conductor has, in effect, become ‘merchandised’, in the sense that his pure and simple role as musical mediator has been moved to the focal point of interest—and yet, without the true possession of decision-making power that he is obliged to convey. This “deceptive admixture” is contextualized by the point that there is a perceptible affinity of the histrionics found in the profession of music with the profession of acting: as Adorno observes, acting and musical talents often coincide amongst families; and also, that the word ‘play’ is used both for the work of the mime, and that of the instrumentalist.

The Perspective of the Orchestra (The Players)

According to Adorno, the orchestra has respect for the conductor as an expert; however his competence in his field is not enough on its own: it must be complimented by his qualities external to it. Such qualities, by necessity, amount to a “surplus of imagination”—which practically amounts to the proclivity for charlatanism.
  In contrast to the leader, the players of the orchestra are conventionally averse to talking—particularly with regard to things rational; things which explain. This is a trait Adorno identifies as being “inherited from manual labourers.” The “anti-intellectualism of orchestras” originates from the “subject’s masochism” which resists modes of conduct “that would impair the superior’s traditional role.”
  Hence, the Orchestra’s attitude towards the Conductor is one of ambivalence: they want him to hold a tight rein on them, so as to ensure an order that enables a brilliant orchestral performance; but at the same time, they view the conductor as a “parasite”, in that he “gives himself airs at the expense of those who do play.” This scenario Adorno describes as being “the Hegelian dialectic of master and servant… repeated in miniature.”

It is also common, Adorno says, for orchestra musicians to be ignorant of the structure of music: for they “are averse to all things musical that are not tangible or controllable.” This he attributes to the conventions of the social background from which musicians are enlisted, in that the education they are given lacks the premise for self-understanding of their own work. And this, in turn, reinforces the psychological ambivalence to their own profession; which however is also engendered by the objective situation: the latent conflict between artistic aspiration and social acceptance, in which the latter takes psychological precedence—the result of which being the “unconditional adjustment to the spirit of the orchestra.” Ultimately, then, “the price has to be paid by music.”

Regarding the description of the (resulting) conduct of orchestras, Adorno claims that it “would amount to a phenomenology of recalcitrance.” For the nature of the player’s role in relation to the conductor is conducive to an unwillingness to submit—especially for those who feel a strong sense of artistry, which can thrive (or indeed subsist) only to the degree that it is free to express itself. And yet, submit they must: for “submission is a technological demand of the matter, since in the conductor personal and material authority are murkily intertwined.” From this irreconcilable inner-conflict, Adorno psychoanalyses, “the original resistance [of the players] must fabricate justifications [for recalcitrance]”.
  Following this, Adorno discusses the various mechanisms of rebellious behaviour that are conventional amongst orchestra players. Ultimately, then, they are fated to vacillate between willingly submitting to a power—when they can feel it; and resisting an authority they consider not authoritarian enough—when the inauthenticities inherent to his role are felt more prominently.

Adorno concludes his essay by stating that the economics of production restrict the possibility of music being determined by its own quality; that “The musical result of the relation between the conductor and orchestra is an anti-musical compromise”. And should the musician revolt against the “sterile art” of his professional, he would only “be in revolt against the activities of self-preservation”—i.e. he would be ‘biting the hand that feeds him’: “Musicians who had striven for an absolute, however dimly, are all but inevitably broken in punishment, by a society that will add up their insufficiencies.”

Words of the Professionals

Words About Music: An Anthology, by John Amis and Michael Rose (1989)

Words About Music: An Anthology, by John Amis and Michael Rose (1989)

This is another book which I thought might have something informative on this subject, being an anthology of excerpts (taken from the writings of musicians and industry professionals, past and present) relating  to various aspects of music, each of which is dedicated its own chapter.

Contents page for Amis & Rose’ Words About Music

Finding it contained a chapter entitled Conductors, I read the chapter whilst noting anything of relevance to the premise of this article; and which I now present below.

The Classical Record Producer

Walter Legge

An excerpt from Legge’s book On and Off the Record (1982) seems appropriate to start with, because it begins with a useful clarification concerning the essence of conducting:

What is conducting technique? It is the means by which any man gifted with authority and strong powers of communication conveys his musical intentions unmistakably to a body of musical executants by movements of a baton, his fingers, hands, arms, facial expressions, and glances. Mutual understanding and detailed preparation must be achieved in rehearsals.

Walter Legge, 1982

The Composer

Franz Lizst

In a letter of 1853, Liszt contests the implied advantage of the “the conductor’s functioning like a windmill, sweating profusely, the better to communicate warmth to his personnel.” This is especially so in works

where it is a question of understanding and feeling, a question of addressing the intelligence and of firing hearts in a communion with the beautiful, the great and the true in art and in poetry, the capacity and the ancient routine of the maître de chapelle  are no longer adequate, indeed are contrary to the dignity and sublime freedom of art.

Franz Lizst, 1853

“The real task of the conductor consists”, says Liszt,

in making himself ostensibly quasi-useless. We are pilots, not drillmasters.

Franz Lizst, 1853
Richard Strauss

As described by Amis/Rose,

[Strauss] was more pilot that drillmaster; his gestures were minimal… yet [even at age 83] when he raised his arm (as opposed to simply moving his hand and wrist) the roof nearly fell in with the strength of the sound.

John Amis and Michael Rose, 1989


In his book Betrachtungen und Erinnerungen, published in 1949, Strauss included the “Ten Golden Rules” he originally wrote for a young conductor, most of which are quite specific and technical. One of the non-technical rules is: “You should not perspire when conducting: only the audience should get warm.”
  Elsewhere in his book is a piece of conducting advice which offers more insight here:

The left hand has nothing to do with conducting. Its proper place is the waistcoat pocket from which it should only emerge to retrain or to make some minor gesture for which in any case a scarcely perceptible glance would suffice.
  It is better to conduct with the ear that with the arm: the rest follows automatically.

Richard Strauss, 1949

In connecting their next excerpt, Amis/Rose state that “In many cases, however, it is the drillmaster who predominates”…

The Conductor

Frederick Goldbeck

In his book The Perfect Conductor ( 1960), Goldbeck makes an observation that I imagine few outside his profession (or era) would have perceived; which is that

…’conductor’ means Duce, means Führer, Caudillo – there is no getting away from that. And worse: these connotations are not merely the dictionary’s. A historian or sociologist comparing music and politics could without malevolence or paradox reason [that…] the modern orchestra, like modern society, is a pseudo-community in need of dictatorial forces to hold together scattered individualisms; and […] in both cases, the musical and political, the dictators do their bit by using the same sort of methods: a good deal of brutality and a good deal of ‘pin-up glamour’. And worst of all; not a few conductors – some most remarkable – let themselves be tempted to see their calling in this light. To them conducting is primarily and essentially an exercise of will-power.

Frederick Goldbeck, 1960

Goldbeck then makes the analogy of the conductor as sculptor “hammering stone, never kneading clay”—the significance of which is that such work is negative, in that its purpose is to remove and prepare, not to create:

Orchestras can be hammered into discipline but have to be moulded into unanimity and enthusiasm…

Frederick Goldbeck, 1960

In another paragraph, Goldbeck again touches upon the dynamic of dictatorship within the orchestra:

To the conductor of the dictatorial type an orchestra’s assumed superiority is red rag to a bull. At once he calls up the drill sergeant that never sleeps in the dictator’s soul, and begins to rehearse the Egmont overture as if it had to be a Schoenberg first performance, uprooting every stone, bowing down where others bowed up, and contrariwise, declaring openly or making felt (according to tact) that the ‘grand tradition’ is lousy routine. Orchestras infuriated by such challenges often play exceedingly well, and sparkling performances, hard as nails, are the result. In other cases the coup d’état fails, and the dictator is unlikely to come back very soon.

Frederick Goldbeck, 1960

One sentence highlights the necessity of a conductor:

No orchestral player plays the whole of the music. Every single one hears himself and his immediate neighbours (and even himself not always, if he happens to be a cellist and the trombone’s neighbour); for him the rest is fragmentary and blurred.

Frederick Goldbeck, 1960

In the following paragraph, Goldbeck contrasts the pressures involved in the performance of the players with that of the conductor:

Further: among all possible performers of music the conductor is the least tight-rope-walking and acrobatic. A quarter of a line’s lapse means for a pianist a wrong note which will spoil, for a moment, the most perfect reading. A singer’s velvety notes are at the mercy of a draught. Such petty dangers our hero is spared: nothing much will happen if one of his beats comes down an inch or two higher or lower than intended. And even if in the heat of the fight he omits to look at the second violins when playing the tenth bar of the Scherzo (as he had good reasons for intending to do) he will more often than not be the only one to notice the difference.

Frederick Goldbeck, 1960

In Closing

Sensing that there are those for whom the premise of this article would resonate instantly upon reading it, I am reminded of an aspect of Society which I have observed: that ‘laypersons’ automatically discard incongruences they perceive in anything that is institutionalized—a predisposition they are obligated (and trained) to absorb from the milieu of Society in its very structure. Hence, we tend only to question conventional behaviour if some kind of authority — formal or informal — prompts us to do so.
  A subsidiary facet of this societal aspect is that it is often comedians who serve as the authority on observations which supply this prompt; and further, that amongst the various other types of authorities, comedians have more license to express discordant observations to the public en masse—for their trade provides them a context of inconsequence, thereby defusing the problematic implications of the uncomfortable observations they skilfully trivialize.
  To put my point another way: the frequency with which we spontaneously respond with laughter to a comedian’s observation indicates not that we agree with what he has asserted, but that we already knew it to be true because we had subconsciously perceived it for ourselves. Rarely, however, do we raise these perceptions to the level of our conscious awareness—for Society, in its essential structure, compels the majority of the populace to internalize an intellectual dependency on Authority. This amounts to an unspoken rule such as:

Feel free to question anything that doesn’t conflict with social conventions—unless you hear someone pose this question on the public stage, i.e. via The Media, in which case he/she is coded as an authority of some kind; and therefore, his opinion is implicitly authorized as cultural currency—be it a popular, a marginal, or a radical opinion.

Another theme this article has raised is how aspects of entertainment can symbolize those of society—as in the case of Adorno’s sociological analysis of the Conductor-Orchestra relationship, which he determines to be a microcosm of authoritarian aspects latent in modern society. The most obvious form of entertainment that comes to mind in this context is Sports, about which I have read scholarly mention of particular sports – and particular aspects within them – as conveying certain attitudes symbolically, which the spectators subconsciously perceive and internalize.
  In this way, entertainments that are conventionally publicized – that are institutionalized – are composed of a hidden dimension of social influence, which we ignore simply by following the arch-convention: let the authorities decide the questions—and then you are free to ‘question’.

“Well, he’s still a conductor”

KRAMER: You know you hurt the Maestro’s feelings.
JERRY: Oh what, because I didn’t call him Maestro?
KRAMER: That’s right.
JERRY: Ya know I feel a little funny calling somebody Maestro.
KRAMER: Why?
JERRY: Because it’s a stupid thing to be called.
KRAMER: Jerry he’s a conductor.
JERRY: Oh conductor. He conducts the Policeman’s Benevolent Association Orchestra.
KRAMER: Well, he’s still a conductor.
JERRY: Well he sure worked pretty fast with Elaine.
KRAMER: Oh, you should see him do ‘Flight of the Bumble Bee’.
(Kramer makes like a conductor and makes a classic Kramer sound)

The Maestro (Seinfeld – Season 7, Episode 3, 1995)

Author: Simon Kanzen

I value reading substantial literature, enjoy thought-provoking entertainment, and above all, I think every day. With Stepping Stones, I develop my thoughts in writing and share references to relevant media, intending for other readers and thinkers to find these writings useful.

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