Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.

Login with username, password and session length

 
Advanced search

1088268 Posts in 71901 Topics- by 19302 Members - Latest Member: Westport281
Jump to:  
The Trombone ForumCreation and PerformanceMusical Miscellany(Moderators: JP, BGuttman) Cold War music in historical context
Pages: 1 2 [All]   Go Down
Print
Author Topic: Cold War music in historical context  (Read 6503 times)
0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.
bickle
Formerly titled by the Walt

*
Offline Offline

Location: winsvilletown, baby!
Joined: Mar 22, 2002
Posts: 8451
"Horn cues are good!"


View Profile
« on: Apr 17, 2006, 12:08PM »

Warning and disclaimer: this is going to be one of my patented semi-delirious rantings out of which I am hoping some semblance of intelligent conversation may arise. Those who think I am an idiot or are otherwise offput by this sort of stupidity may wish to exit the thread at the end of the disclaimer.

I'll wait.

Ok. So I had an interesting conversation with my mom last night. This doesn't happen often; we usually drive each other nuts. My mom's the musician in the family; she plays and teaches viola, and has for (obviously, maybe) a long time. We actually started talking about the musicians union, and when and why she's been in and out of it, but I don't think I want to jump back into that pool just yet.

One of the things she said that was interesting was that growing up in the 50s in Utah, she developed a fondness for Shostakovich from hearing some of his chamber compositions played by some local groups, especially Eastern European immigrants. This apparently got her into some trouble later on, with Shostakovich being "one of them commies" or whatever, and people thinking she was one or more of nuts, leftist, musically illiterate, or other unflattering things. Just because she was willing to say she liked Shostakovich in the US in the 50s. (I still kind of think she's nuts, but she for sure ain't leftist, nor musically illiterate.)

So one of the other things (other than music, that is) that I've got an abiding interest in is history. It seems, though, that the two occupy completely different portions of my brain: it's easy to realize Mozart composed from about 1770-1791ish, but a little bit of a shock to realize that the American and French revolutions and a bunch of other stuff was going on while he was doing it. It's a little different with somebody like Shostakovich, since several of his symphonies were written during and about World War II, and even used as propaganda to an extent. For him to then fall into disfavor due to politics seems rather sad.

There's also the case of people like Richard Strauss, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Herbert von Karajan, Germans who stayed in Germany during the war years, joined the Nazi party, and who were to one extent or another blacklisted for it. And it brings to mind works like Benjamin Britten's War Requiem, which was conceived for German, English, and Russian soloists.

It brings up a lot of questions in my mind- things that should probably be fairly easy to answer, but for which I can't find answers. Like, what did Samuel Barber think of Shostakovich, or what did Prokofiev think of Aaron Copeland? I'm sure there were diverse personalities among the musicians of the mid 20th century, but did any of them look over the great political divide and see a talented opposite in the Soviet Union? I've read (although I don't remember where, and I know some biographies are suspect) that Britten and Shostakovich admired each other's works, and had a mutual admiration for Mahler. Leonard Bernstein didn't seem to have any compunciton about playing Shostakovich- did Bernstein get performed in Kiev or Odessa? Was there some teenage viola player in Moscow being ridiculed by her peers for admitting to liking West Side Story? (well.... probably, one way or another...)

I grew up in the tail end of the whole Cold War thing, with the idea that Russians were weird and scary, and have since been decisively disabused of the notion. I'm trying to be very aware of the possibility that my kids my grow up with, say, the idea that Arabs are weird and scary. There are some obvious moments of popular music being informed by the era; Sting's "Russians" pops to mind immediately. But it's easier to be cloaked or revisionist in terms of classical music, especially since the possibility often remains that a particular piece was meant to be absolute. And since music and history so often occupy different parts of my brain, I'm fairly sure that a lot of connectivity has escaped my notice.

So... er.... anybody got any thoughts?
Logged
Dennis K.
« Reply #1 on: Apr 17, 2006, 12:20PM »

Good stuff, Bick.
Historical context can really bring music to life.  Kurt Weil had a children's opera Der Ja Sager.  It's about the dangers of blindly saying "Yes" to a cause.  Not a particularly profound work, until you realize that he wrote it in Berlin in the 30's, and in oppostion to the Nazi's.

I think music can reflect the history.  It also reflects the intellectual climate of the time.  Right now, most westerners have a shopping cart mentality - a little o' this, a little o' that.  No wonder 4 hour operas aren't popular.  

More later, as I should actually do some work today, here in my cubicle....
Logged
BGuttman
Mad Chemist

*
*
Offline Offline

Location: Londonderry, NH, USA
Joined: Dec 12, 2000
Posts: 51246
"Almost Professional"


View Profile
« Reply #2 on: Apr 17, 2006, 04:00PM »

Some interesting tidbits:

1.  In the 1930's there was a movement to make our National Anthem "God Bless America", but it was turned down because it was written by a Jew with leftist leanings.  It certainly is a lot easier to sing than the "Star Spangled Banner"!

2.  Prokofiev and Copeland met several times.  Prokofiev spent a fair amount of time in California during the war years because he was out of favor with Stalin at the time and was also in danger from the Germans just because he was Russian.  I believe they got along pretty well.  Prokofiev eventually got homesick and went back to Russia where Stalin persecuted him until the both died on the same day.

3.  Shostakovich was in and out of favor with Stalin.  Some of the music he wrote was directly critical of Stalin's practices ("Lady MacBeth of Mtensk" for example).  He wrote the 5th Symphony to try to make up to Papa Joe.  But he still wound up in and out of favor.  Such is the life of living under a dictator.

4.  Mozart didn't write about the French Revolution; it happened too close to his death.  Beethoven wrote a symphony that he initially dedicated to Napoleon as the Savior of his Nation, then rededicated when Napoleon crowned himself Emperor (No. 3, "Eroica").  Mozart did adapt a play by Beaumarchais that was very much anti-Royalty: "The Marriage of Figaro" (part of a trilogy that also included "The Barber of Seville").

5.  Chopin wrote revolutionary music dedicated to his native Poland.

6.  Verdi wrote revolutionary music dedicated to unification of his native Italy.  One of his tunes from the opera "Nabucco" was adopted as the Italian national anthem.  Verdi's name was also adopted as an acronym for "Vittorio Emmanuel, Rey D'Italia" (Victor Emanual, King of Italy).   Crowds shouting "Viva Verdi" could be cheering the composer or fomenting rebellion.
Logged

Bruce Guttman
Solo Trombone, Hollis Town Band
Merrimack Valley Philharmonic Orch. President 2017-2018
bickle
Formerly titled by the Walt

*
Offline Offline

Location: winsvilletown, baby!
Joined: Mar 22, 2002
Posts: 8451
"Horn cues are good!"


View Profile
« Reply #3 on: Apr 17, 2006, 04:19PM »

Interesting about Prokofiev and Copeland. I knew Prokofiev had lived in the US for a while and then went back to Russia- the whole story about turning his back on the committee when he was being charged with being Formalist and Anti-Soviet. But I didn't know he had met Copeland. Especially interesting because Prokofiev is known for being "Russian" in his compositional style, and Copeland is known for being "American". (Side note: if I wanted to pick one piece of music to stand for America in the rest of the world, it would be "Appalachian Spring".)

I knew about Shostakovich, too, and his whole thing with Stalin, and the many many interpretations of it. All the questions about whether he was a good communist, an anti-Stalinist, a secret dissident... yikes. Who's zoomin' who? I find it interesting that he got so much play and attention in the US during the war, and then seemed to become a "commie" after. Makes you wonder how much we lost, or how much we are losing, to attitudes like that.
Logged
JohnL
Edge Monster

*
Offline Offline

Location: Anaheim, CA, USA
Joined: Aug 1, 2004
Posts: 7224

View Profile WWW
« Reply #4 on: Apr 17, 2006, 08:39PM »

A side-note - Shostakovich's son Maxim and grandson Dimitri defected to the west in the early/mid 1980's.
Logged

Question change.
Embrace progress.
Take the time to learn the difference.
bickle
Formerly titled by the Walt

*
Offline Offline

Location: winsvilletown, baby!
Joined: Mar 22, 2002
Posts: 8451
"Horn cues are good!"


View Profile
« Reply #5 on: Apr 19, 2006, 08:44AM »

There was just an interesting bit on Karl Hoss about Aaron Copeland playing something for Koussevitsky while Prokofiev listened, and critiqued. He also said that Appalachian Spring had nothing initially to do with the Appalachians, and the title was added by the ballet that first performed it.

Interesting.
Logged
virtualhaggis

*
Offline Offline

Location: ...adrift in a sea of relativism...
Joined: Mar 30, 2003
Posts: 1910

View Profile
« Reply #6 on: Apr 19, 2006, 08:57AM »

Quote from: "bickle"

I grew up in the tail end of the whole Cold War thing, with the idea that Russians were weird and scary


I'm married to a Russian. She's very nice really, and only a little bit scary

<looks furtively over shoulder>

It is very narrow minded to equate liking music to political beliefs. But these were narrow-minded times on both side of the iron curtain. Artists in Russia at those times either "agreed" with the system or ended up in Siberia. You should read "The Children of the Arbat" by Anatoliy Rybakov. It is about families living in the Arbat - an intellectual and artistic street of Moscow - during Stalin's time. It was banned during communist times, but is now a classic. It shows just how scary it was to live in Moscow in the 50s.
Logged

Life... is like a grapefruit. It's orange and squishy, and has a few pips in it, and some folks have half a one for breakfast.
Douglas Adams
Dennis K.
« Reply #7 on: Apr 19, 2006, 09:16AM »

It seems interesting that some really great composers (Beethoven, Mozart, Copland, Shosty, Prok, Bartok, the Beatles, John Adams) were actively attempting to reflect the culture and climate.  Their works are still very popular in many, many circles.  But, the composers of more absolut-type (Eliot Carter, for one) music, seem to be very popular with theorists...

Maybe that leads into the "what's the purpose of music" discussion.
Logged
bickle
Formerly titled by the Walt

*
Offline Offline

Location: winsvilletown, baby!
Joined: Mar 22, 2002
Posts: 8451
"Horn cues are good!"


View Profile
« Reply #8 on: Apr 19, 2006, 10:09AM »

That's a really interesting point. I think I have to think about it a little more before I can say something intelligent about it.

Quote from: "virtualhaggis"
I'm married to a Russian. She's very nice really, and only a little bit scary


My wife's family is Scottish. They can be pretty scary.  Horrors!  Grin  Don't know

Quote
Artists in Russia at those times either "agreed" with the system or ended up in Siberia. You should read "The Children of the Arbat" by Anatoliy Rybakov. It is about families living in the Arbat - an intellectual and artistic street of Moscow - during Stalin's time. It was banned during communist times, but is now a classic. It shows just how scary it was to live in Moscow in the 50s.


I'll look for that. I had an interesting conversation last summer at my other internet home with a guy from Estonia, because I made an offhand remark about Stalin being unpopular with the Soviet intelligensia. I'll admit that was based on a few scraps, folks like Shostakovich and Prokofiev, but this guy was adamant that everybody loved Stalin, and anybody claiming that anybody didn't like Stalin was a victim of Western propaganda. He also refused to believe that the Great Purge was anything worse than the jailing of several tens of thousands of dissidents who deserved it- that the rumors of millions of murders were rumors started by dissident elements in the Communist Party to either discredit Stalin or scare the citizenry into obedience, or inflated by Western agitators to portray the Soviet Union as a bunch of uncivilized... um, people. It was interesting, in that I've never met anybody who thought that way before, or represented his views as the views of his entire nation. I've talked to several Russians- both folks who emigrated, and a few who still live in Russia- who are much closer to the "normal" history of the USSR, with some allowance made for Western propaganda. I guess it could be different, I don't think I know anybody else from Estonia. I've also found the saw about Soviets not believing their own propaganda to be true in most cases- this guy seemed to have taken the whole thing another step farther, to believing that everything was propaganda. He also seemed to think that speaking in English required cursing for emphasis- it made him sound perpetually angry, until I figure out that he just didn't understand the way the words were used conversationally. It's like he learned to speak English watching the Sopranos or something. He eventually got banned for it.

Anyhow. It's an interesting world.

Estonia- Arvo Part. That could be hugely interesting, especially since Dennis brings up one of his musical compatriots in Adams. I hadn't thought of his being part of this conversation, but now it's obvious. His wiki article says he got in trouble with the "Soviet Establishment" for his 12-tone writing after the style of Schoenberg. It also says there were "few influences from outside the Soviet Union at this time, just a few illegal tapes and scores." This would have been in the mid 50s, I guess, assuming that his musical education was similar to what one would get in the US et al.

It seems that in the last, say, 10ish years, I've become more aware of people like Part, or Gidon Kremer, Vadim Sakharov, people from Eastern Europe. Kremer has been very vocal along those lines, from what I've seen: he started out with a bunch of cds of the warhorses, the stuff that violinists have to play for people to care, but lately has been putting out things like Arvo Part and Georg Pelecis and a bunch of people whose name I couldn't remember, or pronounce.  Embarrassed!  His albums "From My Home" and "Kremerland" are fantastic, among my favorites ever, and exclusively from Baltic composers. I wonder if that would have been possible 20 years ago. I wonder if that's my age catching up to me, the amount of time I've spent listening to music and searching for new, different ideas, or if guys like this were ignored then. I imagine it's some of all of that.
Logged
BGuttman
Mad Chemist

*
*
Offline Offline

Location: Londonderry, NH, USA
Joined: Dec 12, 2000
Posts: 51246
"Almost Professional"


View Profile
« Reply #9 on: Apr 19, 2006, 12:00PM »

I had the good fortune to visit Estonia in 1992, a few days after they declared formal independance.  We were in Talinn, and bounced into this music store.

I asked the guy in the store about Estonian composers and whether he had any music by them.  All he could offer was a wind quintet by Arvo Part.  He apologized for how expensive it was (about US$8.00: score and parts).  We then looked around where there were huge stacks of music.  He asked us to help him clear out all of the music published in Russia.  For another US$8.00 we got a stack of Russian music about 6 inches (15 cm) thick!  And he was delighted to see it leave.  The Estonians hold no love for the Russians.

I have some Estonian currency that was introduced shortly after we arrived.  They called them Crowns, and at the time they were pegged to the Deutchmark.  They were about 12 to the US$.

Btw, the original title of the ballet was "Ballet for Martha [Graham]".  It was titled Appalachian Spring much later.  And the tune everybody knows from it is not Appalachian at all, but a very famous Shaker hymn, "Simple Gifts".
Logged

Bruce Guttman
Solo Trombone, Hollis Town Band
Merrimack Valley Philharmonic Orch. President 2017-2018
poozer

*
Offline Offline

Location:
Joined: Feb 20, 2005
Posts: 480

View Profile
« Reply #10 on: Apr 19, 2006, 03:52PM »

Notwithstanding personal tastes, I'm sure that composers from ideologically opposed nations recognised the skills and talents of their "enemy" colleagues, even if they could not acknowledge this publicly at the time. However, their level of awareness of their counterparts may well have been very variable. Much Western music was banned and thus little- or un-known in the Eastern Bloc for being degenerate or bourgeois. Likewise, opportunities in the West for Communist musicians were undoubtedly limited either by domestic suppression or oppression, or by Western political climates being unreceptive to anything from a Communist background. I'm thinking mainly of the McArthy era and, to a lesser extent, the Reagan years.

A continuing situation that's quite similar is the taboo of performing the music of Wagner in Israel. Apparently the jews feel that Wagner's music is unacceptable because it was a favourite of Adolf Hitler's. Wagner himself held antisemitic views, but he lived in a period in history when this particular prejudice was widely accepted. To my mind, it's hard to make a case against the music itself, which is certainly marvellous, even if it has subsequently acquired negative associations, and even if the composer could be argued to have negative personal qualities.

I think the moral here is that judging music according to a political system is quintessentially invalid. Only those closely aligned to the political critera used will agree with the proposed assessment of this or that composer's work. Anyone with different views or from a different background will find the "enemy" or "ideologically opposed" judgement daft.

Yours,
Chris
Logged

In tune, in time, with an appropriate sense of sound and style...
Dennis K.
« Reply #11 on: Apr 20, 2006, 06:21AM »

Poozer,
The Israeli Philharmonic does not play Wagner because he was a blatant anti-semite.  In addition to his opera compositions, he was also a prolific writer and has such interesting publications as an entire book called "Jewishness in Music."

I have heard that when the Berlin Wall came down, Leonard Bernstein took the Israel Phil to Berlin to play the music of Wagner as a final thumbing of the nose at that blasted wall.  I don't know about the authenticity of this, however.
Logged
bickle
Formerly titled by the Walt

*
Offline Offline

Location: winsvilletown, baby!
Joined: Mar 22, 2002
Posts: 8451
"Horn cues are good!"


View Profile
« Reply #12 on: Apr 20, 2006, 06:47AM »

That's certainly a similar topic. Shostakovich got in some hot water over his Symphony #13, "Babi Yar", since it was written about an incident of mass execution of Jews during WWII in the Ukraine, I believe. (I could totally look it up, or run out to the car and get liner notes...) The libretto was revised to include Ukranians and Russians who were involved to a much lesser extent. When I performed the Bach St. Matthew Passion a couple of years ago, I was surprised to run into people who considered the work to be anti-Semitic. I thought it was one of the marvelous pillars of western art music, arguable the greatest work ever written: other folks focused on a few bible verses, maybe 30 measures of music, when I think that a consideration of the whole piece would (or at least could) lead to a different conclusion. Who's right? I dunno, but I've never had even polite protest at one of my performances before or since.

It's an interesting question. What if Bach or Mozart, having lived in countries and times when anti Semitism was downright commonplace, were overtly similar in outlook to Wagner? It's also similar to the question, knowing that Lassus Trombone was a racist charicature, should we perform it? Knowing that Shostakovich gave some of his symphonies subtitles dedicating them to victories of Bolshevik Communism, could someone in America in the 50s or 60s perform them as music with a clear conscience? With or without the influence of the McCarthy hearings?

I think in general it's possible to take Wagner or Fillmore at face value, and just play the music. Nobody plays Lassus trombone the way it was meant to be played anyway- it's no longer slow as molassus, everybody plays it as kind of a jaunty rag. I think even if you take away the revolutionary aspects of Shostakovich 12, it still does an excellent job of presenting a tumultuous time. Either 1917 or 1961, whichever works. Make your own statement with it, while being aware of its origins and moving deliberately away from them if you choose. But I can't fault the people who say we shouldn't do Lassus, and I don't think I would fault the Israeli Phil for not playing Wagner or Strauss. There is certainly plenty of other material out there.
Logged
poozer

*
Offline Offline

Location:
Joined: Feb 20, 2005
Posts: 480

View Profile
« Reply #13 on: Apr 20, 2006, 07:14AM »

Quote from: "Dennis K."
Poozer,
The Israeli Philharmonic does not play Wagner because he was a blatant anti-semite.  In addition to his opera compositions, he was also a prolific writer and has such interesting publications as an entire book called "Jewishness in Music."



There have been plenty of composers with objectionable views or questionable characters and their works are performed widely. I'm unaware of any anti-semitic themes in Wagner's MUSIC, so I don't understand why jews can't enjoy the output and dislike the outputter.

Are you saying that exploring Jewishness in Music is wrong? If so, I don't see why. It seems a valid area of ethnomusicology to me.

Yours,
Chris
Logged

In tune, in time, with an appropriate sense of sound and style...
Brisko

*
Offline Offline

Location: Minneapolis, MN
Joined: Oct 28, 2004
Posts: 1873

View Profile WWW
« Reply #14 on: Apr 20, 2006, 07:27AM »

Quote from: "poozer"

Are you saying that exploring Jewishness in Music is wrong? If so, I don't see why. It seems a valid area of ethnomusicology to me.

Yours,
Chris

Chris: Wagner's essay makes no attempt to be a valid ethnomusical treatise.  It is blatantly racist and demeaning toward Jewish people in general, and is utterly without merit.  You can read it here and draw your own conclusions.
Logged

"Even a blind hog finds a kernel of corn now and again."
Dennis K.
« Reply #15 on: Apr 20, 2006, 07:40AM »

Wagner's text was not about ethnomusicology.  I only read excerpts, but it was about the business being taken over by money-grubbing jews(paraphrased), their plot to steal control of art, etc.
It was complete, racist tripe and paranoid conspiracy theory.
You want to explore Jewishness in Music from an ethnomusicology standpoint?  I'm all for it.  Let's start with some of the great Klezmer bands - Itzhaak Perlman has 2 CD's - In the Fiddler's House, and In the Fiddler's House, Live.  Amazing!

Wagner went beyond culturally accepted norms or anti-semitism.  He embraced those ideas, enforced them on others (including his family), wrote about them - in short - he was an activist.  His music did attract the admiration of the 3rd Reich - It was publicly praised as what real German music should sound like.  Hitler claimed Wagner as exemplary of the German master race.  The political affiliation was VERY strong.

Quote
I'm unaware of any anti-semitic themes in Wagner's MUSIC, so I don't understand why jews can't enjoy the output and dislike the outputter.


This line of reasoning has been used by many.  For example, many of the medical "experiments" (and I use that term very loosely) from the 3rd Riech yielded a lot of clinical data that could never be obtained in humane ways. - So a scientist would say, "Lets use the data, even though those who gathered it were sub-human degenerates.  That way, the suffering will not have been wasted. "  Use the results, hate the method.

The problem is, that this to puts a silver lining on the systematic destruction, extermination, and maiming of 6 million+ innocent lives (not counting 12 million russians, 8 million pols and slovaks, gays, disabled, blacks, and dissidents).  Saying that something good came out of such atrocity is the first step toward saying "well, hey, that wasn't so bad."

Also, from a philosophical point, I think it is a disservice to the art to separate the art from the artist.
Logged
Brisko

*
Offline Offline

Location: Minneapolis, MN
Joined: Oct 28, 2004
Posts: 1873

View Profile WWW
« Reply #16 on: Apr 20, 2006, 07:52AM »

Actually there are anti-Semitic undertones throughout much of Wagner's work.

Marc Weiner's Richard Wagner and the Anti-Semitic Imagination is a well-written exlploration of the subject.  You can read reviews of it here and here.
Logged

"Even a blind hog finds a kernel of corn now and again."
poozer

*
Offline Offline

Location:
Joined: Feb 20, 2005
Posts: 480

View Profile
« Reply #17 on: Apr 20, 2006, 01:36PM »

Quote from: "Dennis K."


This line of reasoning has been used by many.  For example, many of the medical "experiments" (and I use that term very loosely) from the 3rd Riech yielded a lot of clinical data that could never be obtained in humane ways. - So a scientist would say, "Lets use the data, even though those who gathered it were sub-human degenerates.  That way, the suffering will not have been wasted. "  Use the results, hate the method.

The problem is, that this to puts a silver lining on the systematic destruction, extermination, and maiming of 6 million+ innocent lives (not counting 12 million russians, 8 million pols and slovaks, gays, disabled, blacks, and dissidents).  Saying that something good came out of such atrocity is the first step toward saying "well, hey, that wasn't so bad."



It's too much of a stretch to suggest that Wagner or his music contributed to the atrocities commited by Nazi Germany. If we accept that Wagner was an anti-semitic activist, surely his actions fall far, far short of Hitler's, Eichmann's and the rest.

I still think it's unwise to ostracise an artist's work because of his personal or political aspects. Firstly, that's exactly what the Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, Maoist China et al did. Secondly, where do we stop? If we don't listen to Wagner's music because he was an anti-semite, perhaps there are those who would prohibit Mozart's works because he was a gambler, or Britten's because he was a homosexual.

Yours,
Chris
Logged

In tune, in time, with an appropriate sense of sound and style...
Brisko

*
Offline Offline

Location: Minneapolis, MN
Joined: Oct 28, 2004
Posts: 1873

View Profile WWW
« Reply #18 on: Apr 20, 2006, 02:03PM »

Chris:
This writer seems to disagree with your assessment.  I've included a few snippets but it would behoove any musical scholar to read the entire review, which I've linked above, and again below, as well as Weiner's book.  The emphasis in the quotes is mine.
It should be noted that Shafer is an Austrian who grew up in a very pro-Wagner household.
Quote from: "Ingrid H. Shafer, reviewing Marc Weiner's book"
Weiner argues that "both Wagner and his contemporaries perceived his works through associations--linking a given set of values and beliefs to specific bodily imagery--that may no longer be automatically evoked in performance today; it will be my task to reconstruct hypothetically these associations within which Wagner's essays and music dramas could have, and indeed may have, resonated for the composer and his nineteenth century audience" (p. 13).  He specifically addresses those scholars who  (1) minimize Wagner's anti-Semitism, (2) refuse to link the private lives of artists with their work, (3) want to separate Wagner's essays from his operas, and (4) "refused to acknowledge any 'evidence' of racism 'in' Wagner's music" and limit the discussion of anti-Semitism to the libretti (p. 14).  
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Weiner reminds us that Wagner makes sure that his audience becomes aware of the foul stench, the foetor judäicus, emanating from the Jewish parasite. "The associative connection between scent, sex, anti-Semitism, and patriotism pervades his work in much the way such dramatic concerns as redemption and constancy recur with only slight variation throughout his artistic development" (p. 196).  The association of putrid rotten egg fetor with such Jewish stereotypes as the avaricious "sulfurous dwarf" Alberich (p. 211) further supports my argument that Wagner contributed to an already culturally prefigured medical model of the Jew as pathogen that would be fully developed in the twentieth century. In fact, the dual theme of corruption/redemption can be restated as pestilence/healing. The smell of sulfur had long been linked to Satan's horde along with the plague--and the Jews who were routinely suspected of spreading the Black Death.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
At this point I see a clear chain that leads from Wagner to the cattle cars of the Final Solution, the shearing of body hair, the mass showers and delousing of naked bodies, the branding of fore-arms, the electric fences, the whips, the gassings, the medical experiments, the disposal of bodies in pits and in ovens: The "Aryan masters" justified their actions by considering the Jews not merely below the beasts, to be used, abused, and discarded like garbage, but as staphylococci in human disguise. In that perspective, quarantine and efficient extermination became a sacred duty, as sacred in the world understood in terms of the modern medical body paradigm as the battle against demons and witches had been in the medieval world of the theological paradigm of the mystical body of Christ.  


Full text of review
Logged

"Even a blind hog finds a kernel of corn now and again."
Dennis K.
« Reply #19 on: Apr 20, 2006, 02:09PM »

I don't ostracize Wagner.  Nor am I a big fan of his music.  I do believe that culture and ideology influence the music.  I'm a little more removed from the Holocaust, although a dear friend's grandparents were executed.  

There is really no dispute though, that in an age where anti-semitism was acceptable, Wagner stood out as exceptional.  Given that Israel is much closer to the Holocaust, I can't say I blame them.
Logged
bickle
Formerly titled by the Walt

*
Offline Offline

Location: winsvilletown, baby!
Joined: Mar 22, 2002
Posts: 8451
"Horn cues are good!"


View Profile
« Reply #20 on: Apr 25, 2006, 09:30AM »

Is anybody familiar with John Adams' "Nixon in China"? Is it as relevant to this discussion as it would appear to be?

Or does anybody know what's going on in Russian "classical" music right now? We've talked a little bit about the Baltics already. I know of some performers coming out of Russia, Valeri Gergiev and the Kirov orchestra being prominent in my CD collection. Some folks like that. Are there any contemporary Russian composers of note?

It appears that "Children of the Arbat" is not in print in English right now. I'm checking my vast network of used bookstores and libraries.
Logged
Dennis K.
« Reply #21 on: Apr 25, 2006, 09:38AM »

I'm not very familiar w. Nixon in China, out ide of the Chairman Dances.  But I would bet it will hold true to form and suddenly become relevant.

Shostakovich wrote an opera (can't remember the Title.. maybe The Nose?) with underlying themes about sectarian rivalries and civil wars and ethnic violence.  It was located in Chechnya.... Hmmmm...... nothing new under the sun.
Logged
Brisko

*
Offline Offline

Location: Minneapolis, MN
Joined: Oct 28, 2004
Posts: 1873

View Profile WWW
« Reply #22 on: Apr 25, 2006, 10:00AM »

Dennis, it's not The Nose, that's set in St Petersburg and the plot is far different.

Are you thinking of Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District? Not exactly Chechnya, but near there.

I don't know enough about his other works, maybe you could elaborate on this one? Cuz now I'm curious.
Logged

"Even a blind hog finds a kernel of corn now and again."
Dennis K.
« Reply #23 on: Apr 25, 2006, 10:53AM »

Yes, I think it is Lady Macbeth.  I should have said Chechnya region - borders have changed a lot, but the people groups in that area have been fighting for centuries.  Muslims, Christians, a dozen or so ethnic groups, throw in some politicians, and hey, war becomes good business.

I'm just learning more about Shosty's theatre works myself, so I'm not a reliable source for info on him.

Politics has been influencing music since, well, forever.  Gilbert & Sullivan were censored by the Crown for The Mikado because England was involved in trade talks with Japan.  Turns out they staged it anyway, the Japanese diplomats saw it, loved it, thought it was funny.

It almost seems as if many of the works that last stem from a thorough immersion in the culture/ current events/ politics.
Logged
Todd Jonz
Department of Redundancy Department

*
Offline Offline

Location: Vermont
Joined: Sep 13, 2003
Posts: 3659
"Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball."


View Profile
« Reply #24 on: Apr 27, 2006, 10:50PM »

Dennis writes:

> It almost seems as if many of the works that last stem from a
> thorough immersion in the culture/ current events/ politics.

This is something I was thinking when you mentioned Kurt Weill early in the thread, Dennis.

Weill is my favorite composer.  While I enjoy all of his work, I have a strong preference for works from his European period -- avante garde music written by the son of a canter in the years preceding Hitler's rise to power.  When he came to the U.S. he was kind of assimilated into Broadway.  That's not to say that some of his American works aren't interesting and unique.  Works like Street Scene and Lost in the Stars were hardly mainstream for the period, but they still lack a certain spark for me that was present in almost all of his European work.  Many of the European works brought the "vulgar" music of the cabaret and the speakeasy into the concert hall (and sometimes even caused riots in the theatres and concert halls in which they were performed), just as early Milhaud was influenced by Harlem speakeasies and Gershwin by traditional negro spirituals.  Works like Lady in the Dark and One Touch of Venus, on the other hand, in many ways defined the relatively tame popular music of Broadway at the time.

The small handful of his American works that seem to me to retain some of the flavor of his European works were, like most of the European works, politically inspired.  Amongst these I would include lieder like Und was bekam des Soldaten Weib? and the some of the wartime propaganda songs like Schickelgruber and Buddy on the Nightshift.  It almost seems as though Weill could only bring himself to return to his avante garde roots when he was making a political statement.

I'm not prepared to make any sweeping generalizations here, but I think that at least in the case of Weill the social and political strife of his personal life were reflected in his earlier works and made them far more compelling as a result.
Logged

Have you registered at TromboneChat.com yet?
Pages: 1 2 [All]   Go Up
Print
Jump to: