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Theodor Wiesengrund Adorno was a German musician, sociologist, and philosopher who sought multiple ways to explain and criticize 20th century capitalism. Though he began his career as a musician and musicologist, his work soon broadened to include musical and social critique, eventually combining the two into a broader narrative of modern culture.
Adorno was born in 1903 in Frankfurt to a Jewish father who practiced as a Protestant and a Catholic mother. He was an excellent student from the start, and also quite passionate about his study of the piano. Completing secondary school at an early age, Adorno went to Vienna to continue his higher education. While there he pursued a career as a music critic. Unfortunately however, his writings were not well-received. He returned to Frankfurt to complete his doctorate. It wasn't until 1931, however that he finally earned his Ph.D.
As the Nazi's rose to power, Adorno's Jewish heritage caused him trouble, and his teaching credential was revoked. Fleeing in 1934, Adorno attempted to re-settle in England, and continued his studies at Oxford University. It was during this time that he returned to writing about music and published On Jazz (1936). It discussed the emergence of a culture industry through the example of popular music ("Jazz") and predicted a narrowing of culture paired with the increased commercialization of art. Finally, an offer of employment came from the U.S. in 1937, and Adorno settled in New York to teach at Columbia University. His work with colleague Max Horkheimer also led him to Los Angeles, where he taught at UCLA.
But Adorno was always heartsick for his beloved Germany, and eventually returned to Frankfurt in 1949 after receiving a teaching position. There he remained, a very vocal member of the German intellectual community, until his death in 1969.