In his notes for a theory of musical reproduction, Theodor W. Adorno made several references to the writings of Walter Benjamin. At one point, as a suggestion for further
investigation, Adorno wrote: "Benjamins Sprachtheorie behandeln" ("deal with Benjamin's theory of language«). In spite of these references, Adorno's notes do not contain a
fully developed discussion of Benjamin's "Sprachtheorie" in its relation to his own theory of musical performance. This article explores this relationship by examining two central
concepts of Adorno's theory of musical reproduction, "language" and "mimesis". First of all, the linguistic character of music manifests itself in the musical text as the point of departure of musical performance. In Adorno's description of the musical text as
"intentionslos" (non-intentional), music reminds language of its original, paradisal state of "unmittelbare Mitteilbarkeit", as described in Benjamin's early essay 'Über Sprache überhaupt und über die Sprache des Menschen' (1916). At a second level, musical notation is
"not simply a sign system, but rather a model for imitation". The imitative quality of musical reproduction (with its gestural connotations) finds its expression in Adorno's concept of "mimesis" and bears close resemblance to Benjamin's definition of mimesis as
"unsinnliche Ähnlichkeit" (nonsensuous similarity) in 'Über das mimetische Vermögen' (1933). In its resistance to conceptuality, the mimetic dimension of musical reproduction
tries to escape the inexorable process of rationalization and to bring to life the immediate quality of the original experience. Music, in this way, is always "ein Abhören", an echo or remembrance of something that is no longer present.