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Thread: I am a communist, very much on the left, but he's still a favourite composer of mine

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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jacck View Post
    4% of the world's population are psychopaths, and some 20-30% of the population are susceptible to come under the sway of the psychopaths. The psychopaths have only once motivation in life - to gain power and keep that power. And this basic structure exists in every society, being it capitalist, socialist, communist and whatever. So you can have nice ideas about a communist utopia and start a revolution, but every revolution needs leaders, and here the psychopaths come in to play and become the leaders (because of their drive to power). The actual truth of the matter is that the world is governed by psychopaths. I am not saying that all politicians are psychopaths, but a very disproportionate number of them are, not to mention the fact that the politicians are often times not the people with the actual power in the country.

    This post (a description of the world with which I must largely, and sadly, agree) might seem at first peripheral to Wagner's Ring. But it raises a question: does it make sense to ask whether Wagner, in representing the desire for power as the "original sin" (Alberich's theft of the primeval gold to make the ring, paralleling Wotan's destruction of the World Ash Tree to make his spear), is presenting a form of psychopathology?

    The interestingly motivated and sometimes even strangely sympathetic villains we find throughout Wagner's works do at least suggest that evil is a product of a psychological distortion and not merely some incomprehensible primary force of nature (as it seems to be, more or less, in Lady Macbeth or Iago). Wagner doesn't traffic in angels and devils. In the Ring, by means of an origin myth akin to the Judeo-Christian myth of the Fall, we're led to look beyond political notions, moral platitudes, and even psychoanalytic explanations to understand the will to power as a necessary stage in the growth of consciousness itself.

    The Ring begins with what is essentially a portrait of the primeval state of nature, showing us first the innocence of pre-human life and then the loss of innocence that comes with the awakening of human consciousness in the experience of pain and the act of rebellion. The prelude to Das Rheingold situates us in primeval darkness, and over the music's hypnotic course we feel the rising energy which climaxes in the emergence of the living forms and voices of the Rhine daughters, spirits of water who guard the mysterious Rhinegold, their "father." The gold, like some great glowing eye, cycles between sleeping and waking, is apparently eternal, and will remain unperturbed and untouchable until and unless some being capable of performing the most unthinkable act - renouncing love - gains by that evil resolve the power to steal the gold and forge it into a ring which will make him master of the world. It's noteworthy that when this rebellious being makes his appearance he comes not as someone large and threatening, but as a gnarled dwarf seeking not power but love, and love in the basest form. Alberich clambers up out of the depths below the waters; he is born like an infant out of the earth's womb, and his interests and behavior are entirely infantile. He wants the feminine spirits of the water to "love" him, knowing nothing more about what love is than an infant knows: love as the embrace of a woman, the mother, nature herself. But when woman refuses him and mocks him, forcing him to know the pain of rejection and separateness, he feels rage and throws the first tantrum: he curses love - curses nature herself - and so gains the strength to wrest the gold from its rocky niche. Laughing in triumph, he carries his treasure back down into the depths of Nibelheim, the womb of earth whose inhabitants never grow up, remaining stunted in body and spirit. There he will force his fellow Nibelungs to forge the all-powerful ring and fill his grim vaults with glittering treasures, substitutes for the love he cannot hope to have.

    Looking at this story from a political standpoint, it's possible to see Alberich, lording it over his horde of Nibelung slaves and compelling them to produce for him limitless wealth, as a symbol of capitalism (Shaw was of this persuasion). It's also possible, for those with a taste for it, to tie in the stereotype of the Jew who rules the world through money and is therefore the quintessential capitalist, thus making Alberich not merely a capitalist but a Jewish capitalist. Wagner himself, conceiving the Ring when his ideology of socialist anarchism was at its highest pitch, certainly saw the first connection, and it's possible that at some point he saw the second, although he left us no evidence of that. But I find that such ideological interpretations miss the point, and are perhaps more likely to lead us away than to lead us toward an understanding of the universal messages about human nature that rose from the deeper, even the subconscious, layers of Wagner's creative imagination. The cruel capitalist overlord is a reality of life, but it's also a cultural cliche and a temptation to ideogical narrowness. Alberich is no cliche, and in his precise and vividly drawn humanity he can inspire our affection in a way that no caricature of the heartless businessman ever could. Alberich is us, frozen at that never-quite-forgotten stage in life when we realized that we were separate beings, that we couldn't remain at the breast forever, and that we could either accept the responsibilty of moral agency or rebel in hatred of the parent who set us adrift in a world that doesn't exist for our sakes.

    From the moment Alberich chooses rebellion and hate, the Ring traces through its characters and events mankind's tragic struggle to achieve the redemption of its moral nature. This struggle isn't a class struggle, but the essential struggle of civilization and of every individual who wants to achieve it. It's the struggle, not to become gods, who like all illusory ideals are doomed, but to become, in a phrase Wagner used to describe his artistic aims, "fully human."
    Last edited by Woodduck; Jan-14-2020 at 07:12.

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  3. #77
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by composer jess View Post
    So if Gold becomes a symbol for money and power in the Ring, I guess one would be making parallels with the idea that corruption is far more likely to happen when the majority of the power is concentrated in just a few people. There is a greater likelihood for these few people to make decisions that help them to retain their own influential position, to own and invest in media that will publicly praise them for doing something like spending a small percentage of their money on rebuilding the Notre Dame, there is greater likelihood for them to invest in think tanks and lobby groups that influence policies to help retain the status quo, to help fund education systems that have a curriculum based on this status quo, advertising on products that keep us workers entertained and docile so that we don't demand changes to the status quo. The questions I begin to ask are: which characters can we meaningfully say wish to hold and retain this kind of power? In what ways do we see these characters corrupted? What characters or concepts are a threat to their power and status quo, and how are they a threat to that? Who immediately comes to mind for me is our bourgeois dwarf: Alberich. Marx, in Das Kapital praises the ingenuity and technological progress made possible from those who became the bourgeoisie, and we can almost see the same kind of determination from Alberich in the very first scene in how he [very sleazily] wishes to get his way with the Rhinemaidens, ultimately is rejected by them but grabs hold of the ring and by scene three we even get to see his little private enterprise of Nibelung workers.

    I'm quite sure Chéreau's famous production makes use of a similar reading anyway. It's far from utopian, but is certainly rooted in the same kind of class analysis that Marx was going for.
    My last post is essentially my response to this way of looking at Alberich. Much more could be said about the depiction of power as the story of the Ring unfolds. The other primary locus of power is Wotan, a character much more complex than Alberich and ultimately its tragic hero, or antihero.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    From the moment Alberich chooses rebellion and hate, the Ring traces through its characters and events mankind's tragic struggle to achieve the redemption of its moral nature. This struggle isn't a class struggle, but the essential struggle of civilization and of every individual who wants to achieve it. It's the struggle, not to become gods, who like all illusory ideals are doomed, but to become, in a phrase Wagner used to describe his artistic aims, "fully human."
    Wagner failed in every way if that was his intention.

    The subject of The Ring is indeed capitalism, but Wagner never reaches the correct resolution, he just points out the flaws. Anyway, now it's different, we have learned from the past, the world is connected and synchronized like never before, and the proper conclusion will be made this time.

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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1996D View Post
    Wagner failed in every way if that was his intention.

    The subject of The Ring is indeed capitalism, but Wagner never reaches the correct resolution, he just points out the flaws. Anyway, now it's different, we have learned from the past, the world is connected and synchronized like never before, and the proper conclusion will be made this time.
    Another naysayer. How delightful.

    The Ring is not about capitalism, or any other ism. There is no "correct resolution," and Wagner was under no obligation to "resolve" anything, particularly not anything that you may have in mind. The work is a tragedy, in the classical sense. That genre is not concerned with "resolving" things. I said that Wagner depicts the struggle to be fully human. I didn't say that he succeeded in showing all that humanity could be, or that it was even his purpose to do that.

    If you want to discuss this, you'll need to be a little humble and take Wagner on his terms, not yours. And do your homework. Listen. Study. Read. Think.

    The rest of your post is gobbledegook.
    Last edited by Woodduck; Jan-14-2020 at 07:20.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    Another naysayer. How delightful.

    The Ring is not about capitalism, or any other ism. There is no "correct resolution," and Wagner was under no obligation to "resolve" anything, particularly not anything that you may have in mind. The work is a tragedy, in the classical sense. That genre is not concerned with "resolving" things. I said that Wagner depicts the struggle to be fully human. I didn't say that he succeeded in showing all that humanity could be, or that it was even his purpose to do that.

    If you want to discuss this, you'll need to be a little humble and take Wagner on his terms, not yours. And do your homework. Listen. Study. Read. Think.

    The rest of your post is gobbledegook.
    Because he didn't resolve it he let the door open for Hitler to make his own conclusion, but you're in love with Wagner, you won't listen to reason on the matter.

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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1996D View Post
    Because he didn't resolve it he let the door open for Hitler to make his own conclusion, but you're in love with Wagner, you won't listen to reason on the matter.
    Hitler's "conclusion" didn't depend on any "door left open" by anyone.

    I'd listen to reason if you offered any.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    Hitler's "conclusion" didn't depend on any "door left open" by anyone.

    I'd listen to reason if you offered any.
    You think a man like Hitler built everything on his own? Wagner was what constructed his understanding of the world, he did only what Wagner opened his mind to do. He wasn't creative, he couldn't have constructed the grand future that awaited him without the inspiration, he would've never even dreamed of it.

    Ideas open locks to do tangible things, everything is mental, the roadblock to accomplishing anything is mental, not physical, and Hitler did not have any ability to open locks on his own. Wagner decimated German culture, corrupted the past, and made himself so big as to make anything else, any other philosophy, insignificant at the time. The impact he had on Hitler was beyond profound.

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    Senior Member Bourdon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1996D View Post
    You think a man like Hitler built everything on his own? Wagner was what constructed his understanding of the world, he did only what Wagner opened his mind to do. He wasn't creative, he couldn't have constructed the grand future that awaited him without the inspiration, he would've never even dreamed of it.

    Ideas open locks to do tangible things, everything is mental, the roadblock to accomplishing anything is mental, not physical, and Hitler did not have any ability to open locks on his own. Wagner decimated German culture, corrupted the past, and made himself so big as to make anything else, any other philosophy, insignificant at the time. The impact he had on Hitler was beyond profound.
    I think that you are mistaking ,it is not Wagner but Léhar's " Lustige Witwe"

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bourdon View Post
    I think that you are mistaking ,it is not Wagner but Léhar's " Lustige Witwe"
    Come on... Hitler's entire rise to leadership is as if he acquired the ring of power, the Ring cycle is the ring in this very world, or was at that time, it acted as it.

    Wagner's problem is that he began the revolution, or gave the tools for it to happen, but never correctly instructed on what to do with power, his music has only the rage it takes to rise, but never the balance and reason it takes to rule. It's a maker of tyrants if taken seriously and Hitler certainly did.
    Last edited by 1996D; Jan-14-2020 at 20:13.

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    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1996D View Post
    Come on... Hitler's entire rise to leadership is as if he acquired the ring of power, the Ring cycle is the ring in this very world, or was at that time, it acted as it.

    Wagner's problem is that he began the revolution, or gave the tools for it to happen, but never correctly instructed on what to do with power, his music has only the rage it takes to rise, but never the balance and reason it takes to rule. It's a maker of tyrants if taken seriously and Hitler certainly did.
    I think this is an extreme view and we must ask the question where the Hitler would’ve risen to power had not Wagner been there. The answer if yes as Fascism and it’s ideas were alive and well. The question as to whether Wagner was one factor that influenced Hitler is thinking must surely be answered in the positive as Hitler was a great admirer and Wagner’s works are philosophical. Whether of course Hitler misread them is a matter of debate. Whether he was influenced by them is not. As he said his philosophy was found in Parsifal.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    I think this is an extreme view and we must ask the question where the Hitler would’ve risen to power had not Wagner been there. The answer if yes as Fascism and it’s ideas were alive and well. The question as to whether Wagner was one factor that influenced Hitler is thinking must surely be answered in the positive as Hitler was a great admirer and Wagner’s works are philosophical. Whether of course Hitler misread them is a matter of debate. Whether he was influenced by them is not. As he said his philosophy was found in Parsifal.
    He would not have, again, he wasn't creative, you can't do anything you can't imagine first and Wagner facilitates that considerably, even more so than a book or pure philosophy, the music incites powerful emotions as well as the philosophy.

    No man has ever done anything without a creative philosopher behind him.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 1996D View Post
    He would not have, again, he wasn't creative, you can't do anything you can't imagine first and Wagner facilitates that considerably, even more so than a book or pure philosophy, the music incites powerful emotions as well as the philosophy.

    No man has ever done anything without a creative philosopher behind him.
    For goodness sake there was a lot of 'creative' fascist philosophy around

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    Quote Originally Posted by 1996D View Post
    He would not have, again, he wasn't creative, you can't do anything you can't imagine first and Wagner facilitates that considerably, even more so than a book or pure philosophy, the music incites powerful emotions as well as the philosophy.

    No man has ever done anything without a creative philosopher behind him.
    For goodness sake there was a lot of 'creative' fascist philosophy around. Musso in Italy? Franco in Spain? It didn't need Wagner
    Last edited by DavidA; Jan-14-2020 at 20:25.

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    A form of psychopathology?

    I think so; especially after hearing Eckhart Tolle espouse this very thing. He says that 99% of all humans are "insane" or completely removed from reality, and are acting more like automatons than humans.

    From a Jungian standpoint, the "true self" is at the center of a mandala wheel which, on the periphery, contains all the usual archetypes of human persona: the villain, the hero, etc.

    The insistence that there be a "correct" identification of the characters in Wagner renders it inflexible.

    If we want to discuss this, we'll need to be a little humble and take the human psyche as presented by Wagner on more open-ended terms, perhaps referring back to Jung.
    Last edited by millionrainbows; Jan-14-2020 at 20:35.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    For goodness sake there was a lot of 'creative' fascist philosophy around. Musso in Italy? Franco in Spain? It didn't need Wagner
    They didn't take over Europe did they? Wagner gave Hitler the ring of power, it was more, it arose the most extreme in Hitler's ambition.

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