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Professor Max Paddison

Emeritus Professor

PhD (Exeter), MA (Exeter), GRSM (Manchester), ARMCM

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Emeritus Professor in the Department of Music  
Member of the Centre for Visual Arts and Culture  


Max Paddison is Professor of Music Aesthetics at Durham University. He studied piano and composition at the Royal Manchester College of Music (where he was awarded the Royal Philharmonic Society Prize), musicology at Exeter University, and philosophy and sociology at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main (on a DAAD Scholarship). Before coming to Durham he taught at Dartington College of Arts and Exeter University, and had previously worked with performance art groups in London, with tours in Germany, Italy and the Netherlands. He teaches courses in aesthetics, nineteenth- and twentieth-century music, contemporary music and popular music.

Well known for his work on critical theory and Adorno, Max Paddison has written two books in this area: Adorno's Aesthetics of Music (Cambridge, 1993,1997), and Adorno, Modernism and Mass Culture (London, 1996, rev. ed. 2004). He is joint editor of a volume of essays with Irène Deliège, Contemporary Music: Theoretical and Philosophical Perspectives (Ashgate, 2010), which has also appeared in French, and has contributed to a multi-authored volume, Order and Disorder: Music-Theoretical Strategies in Twentieth-Century Music, with Jonathan Dunsby, Joseph N. Straus, et al. (Leuven, 2004). Other recent publications include essays in Adorno: A Critical Reader (Oxford, 2002); The Cambridge History of Nineteenth-Century Music (Cambridge, 2002); The Cambridge Companion to Stravinsky (Cambridge, 2003); The Cambridge Companion to Adorno, (Cambridge, 2004); and articles in the journals Musicae Scientiae (Liège, 2004), Cultura Tedesca (Rome, 2005), and Filigrane (Paris, 2006).

In the period since 2001 Max Paddison has supervised over twenty research postgraduates in the following areas: Adorno's Aesthetic Theory; Boulez’s aesthetics of music; Messiaen and early Darmstadt; Deleuze, Lyotard, Adorno, Ferneyhough and Francis Bacon; Helmut Lachenmann, Adorno, Deleuze, Lyotard; American Minimalism and the Concept of Time; Professionalisation of Music Therapy; Music Festivals and National Identity; National Identity and Tradition in Chinese Music; Folk Music in the North East; Wittgenstein’s Philosophy of Culture (with the Philosophy Department); Scriabin and the Erotic; The Aesthetics of Improvisation; Adorno, Beckett and Feldman; Adorno, Translation and Marginality.

Research interests

  • Contemporary music
  • Nineteenth- and twentieth-century music
  • Marxism and music
  • Concepts of the avant-garde, modernism and postmodernism
  • Theories of musical performance and reproduction
  • Interdisciplinary interests in philosophy, cultural studies, popular music studies, film music, music and theatre (especially Brecht)
  • Aesthetics and sociology of music
  • Adorno and Critical Theory

Media Contacts

Available for media contact about:

  • Art: Marxism and Music
  • Art: Adorno's philosophy and sociology of music
  • Political thought & theory: Frankfurt School Critical Theory


Authored book

  • Paddison, Max. (1996). Adorno, Modernism and Mass Culture: Essays on Critical Theory and Music. London: Kahn & Averill.
  • Paddison, Max. (1993). Adorno's Aesthetics of Music. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Chapter in book

  • Paddison, Max (2011). Art and the Ideology of Nature: Sibelius, Hamsun, Adorno. In Jean Sibelius and his World. Grimley, Daniel M. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 173-185.
  • Paddison, Max (2010). Adorno and Exile: Some Thoughts on Displacement and What it Means to be German. In Music and Displacement: Diasporas, Mobilities, and Dislocations in Europe and Beyond. Levi, Erik & Scheding, Florian Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press. 10: 135-153.
  • Paddison, Max (2009). Reading History in the Ruins of Nature: Images of Truth, Mortality and Reconciliation in Adorno's Schubert Interpretation. In Expression, truth and authenticity on Adorno's theory of music and musical performance. de Carvalho, Mario Vieira, Duarte, Rodrigo, Paddison, Max, Kolleritsch, Otto, Dierks, Sonja, Boleo, Pedro, Lopes, Jose Julio, Vargas, António Pinho, Olive, Jean-Paul, Riberiro, Paula, Wesche, Tilo, de Castro, Paulo Ferreira, Martingo, Ângelo & Hullot-Kentor. Robert Calibri. 41-58.
  • Paddison, Max (2008). 'Centres and Margins: Shifting Grounds in the Conceptualization of Modernism'. In Rethinking Musical Modernism. Despic, Dejan & Milin, Melita Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts (SANU). 65-81.
  • Paddison, Max. (2007). ‘Die vermittelte Unmittelbarkeit der Musik: Zum Vermittlungsbegriff in der Adornoschen Musikästhetik’. In Musikalischer Sinn: Beiträge zu einer Philosophie der Musik. Becker, Alexander. & Vogel, Matthias. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag. 175-236.
  • Paddison, Max (2007). 'Performance, Analysis, and the Silent Work: The Problem of Critical Self-Reflexion in Adorno's Theory of Musical Reproduction'. In Musikalische Analyse und Kritische Theorie: Zu Adornos Philosophie der Musik. Nowak, Adolf & Fahlbusch, Markus Tutzing: Verlag Schneider. 33: 221-245.
  • Paddison, Max. (2004). 'Authenticity and Failure in Adorno's Aesthetics of Music'. In The Cambridge Companion to Adorno. Huhn, Tom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 198-221.
  • Paddison, Max. (2004). ‘Nature and the Sublime: The Politics of Order and Disorder in Twentieth-Century Music’. In Order and Disorder: Music-Theoretical Strategies in Twentieth-Century Music. Leuven: Leuven University Press. (Collected Writings of the Orpheus Institute, Vol.4): 107-136.
  • Paddison, M. (2004). Nature and the Sublime: the Politics of Order and Disorder in Twentieth-Century Music. In Order and Disorder: Music-Theoretical Strategies in Twentieth-Century Music. Dunsby, J., Straus, Joseph N., Knockaert, Y., Paddison, Max. & Boehmer, K. Leuven: Leuven University Press. 107 - 136.
  • Paddison, Max. (2003). 'Stravinsky as devil: Adorno's three critiques'. In The Cambridge Companion to Stravinsky. Cross, Jonathan. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 192-202 + 305-306.
  • Paddison, Max. (2002). 'The sociology of music'. In The Oxford Companion to Music. Latham, Alison. London: Oxford University Press. 1167-1169.
  • Paddison, Max. (2002). 'Music as Ideal: the Aesthetics of Autonomy'. In The Cambridge History of Nineteenth-Century Music. Samson, Jim. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 318-342.
  • Paddison, Max. (2001). 'Postmodernisme et la survie de l'avant-garde'. In Musique contemporaine: perspectives theoriques et philosophiques. Deliege, Irene. & Paddison, Max. Sprimont: Mardaga. 249-266.
  • Paddison, Max. (2001). 'Immanent Critique or Musical Stocktaking? Adorno and the Problem of Musical Analysis'. In Adorno: A Critical Reader. Gibson, N. & Rubin, A. Oxford: Blackwell. 209-233.
  • Paddison, Max. (2001). 'Perspectives critiques sur la musique et les relations sociales: vers une theorie de la mediation'. In Musique contemporaine: perspectives theoriques et philosophiques. Deliege, Irene. & Paddison, Max. Sprimont: Mardaga. 293-301.
  • Paddison, Max. (2000). 'T.W. Adorno', 'Frank Zappa', 'Lou Reed', 'The Velvet Underground', 'Expression after 1800'. In The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Sadie, S. & Tyrrell, J. London: Macmillan.
  • Paddison, Max. (1998). 'The language-character of music: some motifs in Adorno' rev.ed. In Mit den Ohren denken: Adornos Philosophie der Musik. Klein, Richard. & Mahnkopf, Claus-Steffen. Frankfurt-am-Main: Suhrkamp Verlag. 71-91.
  • Paddison, Max. (1992). 'Adorno'. In The New Grove Dictionary of Opera. Sadie, S. London: Macmillan. 25.

Conference Paper

  • Paddison, Max (2010), Time, Tradition and Modernity in the Music of Ljubica Maric: A Bergsonian Interpretation, in Despic, Dejan & Milin, Melita eds, Odeljenje likovne i muzicke umetnosti, 7 CXXX: Spaces of Modernism: Ljubica Maric in Context. Belgrade, Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts (SANU), Belgrade, 51-63.

Conference Proceeding

  • Paddison, Max. (2000). 'The idea of an avant-garde in the context of postmodernity: some problems of definition in contemporary music'. Contemporary Music: Theories and Philosophy, Brussels, ESCOM Publications.

Edited book

  • Paddison, Max & Deliège, Irène (2010). Contemporary Music: Theoretical and Philosophical Perspectives. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate.
  • Deliege, Irene. & Paddison, Max. (2001). Musique contemporaine: perspectives theoriques et philosophiques. Sprimont: Mardaga.

Journal Article