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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 Lilijana's Avatar
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    Default I am a communist, very much on the left, but he's still a favourite composer of mine

    Without wishing to open a can of worms (although, it seems inevitable that anything regarding this composer will be...) I want to share an article I really like that quite accurately introduces aspects of Richard Wagner's works that I find particularly interesting:

    Ride of the Red Valkyries: Wagner, Marxism and ‘The Ring’

    Hope you enjoy reading it!

    In sharing this article I am curious to know a few things....

    I am not well aware of what the public perception of Wagner is these days so I don't know exactly how much of what is mentioned in the article is part of common discourse. Amongst many other people I know who are both self-described communists and fans of classical music, there's still varying opinion regarding how much of his stuff is proto-fascist, but the majority seem to hold the view that there are far more relevant concerns to have in terms of reclaiming his work for the left, inclusivity, and such things.

    Also, what do people here think of Adorno and what he has to say about Wagner? And by extension, what do people here think other philosophers of the Frankfurt School regarding music and the culture industry as a whole?


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    Senior Member Bwv 1080's Avatar
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    So tankies get to claim Wagner now?

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    Senior Member Lilijana's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bwv 1080 View Post
    So tankies get to claim Wagner now?
    Those damn tankies!

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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Thank you for this thread.

    It's been Wagner's burden, and the burden of any of us who have more than a superficial appreciation of his works, to live in the seemingly permanent dark shadow cast over them and their composer by Hitler and Nazism. The assumption that Wagner's well-known antisemitism and Hitler's passion for his operas make those operas antisemitic prologues to the Third Reich has become a popular meme that people who know absoluetely nothing of the operas themselves are amazingly eager to perpetuate. The article you're offering - I've just read it with pleasure - seems to me accurate, insightful, and succinct, and could be a terrific introduction to a different and truer way of understanding Wagner's works from the standpoint of their political overtones and implications.

    I see no intellectual obstacle to claiming Wagner for the left. The composer was never easy to categorize politically, but in his younger years, the years when his Ring cycle was being born, he could be characterized as an anarchistic democratic socialist, and at the very least an anti-authoritarian. He wished above all for the freedom of the individual to express his true nature, unconstrained by false and oppressive moral and legal codes, political systems, and traditions, and regardless of the changes in his specific political positions throughout his life, the struggle of the individual against the world's oppressive powers - social, political, or religious - remained a basic theme in his operas. The author of the article explains very succinctly, if necessarily summarily, that this is a fundamental theme of the Ring, which is ultimately as anti-fascistic as a dramatic work could be (Shaw saw it as strictly a socialist allegory, which I think is too limited a view). Most interesting to me is the author's mention of Wagner's interest in Feuerbach, whose philosophy of religion posits that the gods are the projections of human qualities and values onto the natural universe. With this in mind we can see the Gotterdammerung - the end of the gods - as the advent of a stage in human cultural evolution which we might identify with the Enlightenment, the end of mythic consciousness and man's confrontation of the existential reality of a mortal existence for which he, unaided by divine intervention and unencumbered by authoritarian codes, must take full responsibility. (It may seem contradictory that after the final cataclysm of the Ring, in which the gods are destroyed, Wagner's final work would appear to be an embrace of religion - Nietzsche had a real problem with that! - but an exploration of the paradoxical magic show of Parsifal would be way too much to go into here.)

    I hope that when you see further discussions of Wagner on the forum, and discover how easily they slide into the familiar tired cliches about Hitler and Nazism, you'll cite this particular article again. It could at least provide a springboard for a more objective discussion of what Wagner's works are all about.

    (When it isn't so late at night and I'm more awake, I will reread the article and consider some of its ideas more thoroughly.)
    Last edited by Woodduck; Jan-11-2020 at 08:20.

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    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    As someone from a working class background I get sick of middle-class lefties spouting their middle-class leftie views which generally have nothing to do with the people they claim to represent. Wagner enjoyed luxury, he enjoyed a fetish for silks, he enjoyed the sponsorship of a mad king and had no scruples about taking his money. He wrote operas, the attendance of which is the domain of the middle class rich. You cannot get a more elitist art entertainment than opera. Lefties who go on about claiming Wagner just delude themselves. Opera by nature is the domain of the middle classes.
    Last edited by DavidA; Jan-11-2020 at 08:21.

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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    As someone from a working class background I get sick of middle-class lefties spouting their middle-class leftie views which generally have nothing to do with the people they claim to represent. Wagner enjoyed luxury, he enjoyed a fetish for silks, he enjoyed the sponsorship of a mad king and had no scruples about taking his money. He wrote operas, the attendance of which is the domain of the middle class rich. You cannot get a more elitist art entertainment than opera. Lefties who go on about claiming Wagner just delude themselves. Opera by nature is the domain of the middle classes.


    I'm thinking someone got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning.

    If opera is the domain of the middle classes, should a working-class boy like yourself be telling us what to think of it? (I'm in the working class, by the way - just a poor old Wagner lover, collecting my meager social security and surviving on oatmeal and beans, and no silk fetishes or any of that lefty sissy stuff! Maybe I'm a working class elitist, then?)

    Try getting up on the "left" side next time.

    Last edited by Woodduck; Jan-11-2020 at 08:40.

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    Senior Member MacLeod's Avatar
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    Was it necessary to distract David with another Wagner thread? He was just about to explain how music changes society...
    "I left TC for a hiatus, but since no-one noticed my absence, I came back again."

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    Senior Member CnC Bartok's Avatar
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    Claiming allegiance to Communism is just as reprehensible as doing the same for Fascism. No difference whatsoever.

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    Senior Member MacLeod's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by composer jess View Post
    Without wishing to open a can of worms (although, it seems inevitable that anything regarding this composer will be...) I want to share an article I really like that quite accurately introduces aspects of Richard Wagner's works that I find particularly interesting:

    Ride of the Red Valkyries: Wagner, Marxism and ‘The Ring’

    Hope you enjoy reading it!

    In sharing this article I am curious to know a few things....

    I am not well aware of what the public perception of Wagner is these days so I don't know exactly how much of what is mentioned in the article is part of common discourse. Amongst many other people I know who are both self-described communists and fans of classical music, there's still varying opinion regarding how much of his stuff is proto-fascist, but the majority seem to hold the view that there are far more relevant concerns to have in terms of reclaiming his work for the left, inclusivity, and such things.

    Also, what do people here think of Adorno and what he has to say about Wagner? And by extension, what do people here think other philosophers of the Frankfurt School regarding music and the culture industry as a whole?

    An interesting article. Thanks.

    I am not a fan of Wagner's music, or, more accurately, I have yet to hear any that would prompt me to investigate his work further. (I'm not a fan of opera more generally, so Wagner starts with a disadvantage. Nor could I bring myself to listen to Wagner Without Words, or the ghastly entitled 'bleeding chunks' - ugh.)

    I am nevertheless interested in his role in the evolution of CM and in the controversy (surely not worth still lingering over?) about his beliefs. As I'm not one who made any assumptions about his politics (or any knowledge, come to that, beyond his anti-semitism), I'm not altogether surprised to read of his early revolutionary instincts and the potential for "leftist" interpretations of his works.

    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    As someone from a working class background I get sick of middle-class lefties spouting their middle-class leftie views which generally have nothing to do with the people they claim to represent. [...]
    Quote Originally Posted by CnC Bartok View Post
    Claiming allegiance to Communism is just as reprehensible as doing the same for Fascism. No difference whatsoever.
    Neither of these comments are essential contributions to the subject of the OP. Can't we keep personal attitudes to politics out of this, please?
    Last edited by MacLeod; Jan-11-2020 at 09:40.
    "I left TC for a hiatus, but since no-one noticed my absence, I came back again."

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    Commies also enjoy being anti-semites. They're all in the same opera house, Nazis use one door and reds use the other. They are welcome to keep their Wager opinions to themselves

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    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MacLeod View Post
    Was it necessary to distract David with another Wagner thread? He was just about to explain how music changes society...
    Just stating facts. Anything wrong with that? Sorry!

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    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MacLeod View Post
    An interesting article. Thanks.

    I am not a fan of Wagner's music, or, more accurately, I have yet to hear any that would prompt me to investigate his work further. (I'm not a fan of opera more generally, so Wagner starts with a disadvantage. Nor could I bring myself to listen to Wagner Without Words, or the ghastly entitled 'bleeding chunks' - ugh.)

    I am nevertheless interested in his role in the evolution of CM and in the controversy (surely not worth still lingering over?) about his beliefs. As I'm not one who made any assumptions about his politics (or any knowledge, come to that, beyond his anti-semitism), I'm not altogether surprised to read of his early revolutionary instincts and the potential for "leftist" interpretations of his works.





    Neither of these comments are essential contributions to the subject of the OP. Can't we keep personal attitudes to politics out of this, please?
    And your opinions and those of the article quoted by the OP are not personal opinions I suppose? And your opinions are not personal opinions either? We are being asked for opinion. Please!
    Last edited by DavidA; Jan-11-2020 at 11:03.

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    Senior Member Lilijana's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    Thank you for this thread.

    (When it isn't so late at night and I'm more awake, I will reread the article and consider some of its ideas more thoroughly.)
    And thank you for taking the time to respond! I didn't quote your full post, but I enjoyed reading it and have come to similar conclusions regarding Wagner's political allegiances, particularly around 1848.

    I look forward to delving more into this aspect of Wagner's life and works.

    Mind you, I haven't yet read Adorno's In Search of Wagner, but it's on the list! And I do believe also that Shaw's reading of the Ring has it's limitations, but has positively been expanded upon by others who took a similar angle to him.

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    Senior Member MacLeod's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    And your opinions and those of the article quoted by the OP are not personal opinions I suppose? And your opinions are not personal opinions either? We are being asked for opinion. Please!
    Who said anything about 'personal' opinions? I was referring to your post reflecting your political opinions, which are not germane to the OP. What you think about "middle class lefties" is not relevant to a post asking our opinions on an article about Wagner.
    "I left TC for a hiatus, but since no-one noticed my absence, I came back again."

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    Senior Member CnC Bartok's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MacLeod View Post

    Neither of these comments are essential contributions to the subject of the OP. Can't we keep personal attitudes to politics out of this, please?
    Really? I would have thought that with starting a thread which effectively states "I am an adherent to a discredited and toxic political philosophy responsible for the deaths of countless millions across the world, and yet I admire a composer whose perceived political sympathies are also toxic and responsible for the deaths of countless millions across the world" , this is a perfectly valid point/opinion to bring up.

    Wagner is an unfortunate victim of having his music poached by the Nazi big wigs. He didn't ask for it, and was well dead by the time his music got hijacked. True, he may have brought this upon himself with his (today) hideous opinions....... powerful stuff his music, a prime candidate for being adopted and twisted to suit whoever wishes him as their standard bearer.
    Last edited by CnC Bartok; Jan-11-2020 at 14:46.

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