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Thread: Okay, like the mod said, let's continue our discussion about Wagner and nazis...

  1. #481
    Senior Member AbsolutelyBaching's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    I don't see anyone here disagreeing with that. Some, while not disagreeing, may disagree with the need to pronounce moral judgment over and over and to interpret an emphasis on understanding rather than moralizing as equivalent to excusing. After all, we're not being called for jury duty, and nature has already seen to Wagner's death sentence.
    Hmm. I would say "fair enough", but you've just posted (and I paraphrase) "he had moods of a Summer storm, which passed without incident".

    So long as you're not excusing his antisemitism as a Summer storm brain fritz, then I will walk with you.

  2. #482
    Senior Member fluteman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AbsolutelyBaching View Post
    I'm going to quibble only with your use of the passive sense. You make it sound as if Wagner was sort-of impelled to produce his essay because of the force of *something*.

    Can we agree that he had control over whether or not he gave pen to paper on any given topic of the day, and that if he penned an antisemitic diatribe, it's because he was feeling antisemitic that day?

    I do feel as if a lot of your posts tend to seem to want to minimise any criticism of Wagner for his antisemitism. I think we should at least try to pin the tail on that particular donkey before moving on to discuss interesting other stuff.
    You misunderstand me, then. I don't excuse Wagner for his @#$% essays, of which Judaism in Music might not be the worst from a purely analytical standpoint, but surely is the most offensive. To the extent he had legitimate points to make in contrasting his own music to that of Mendelssohn and Meyerbeer, he could have made those points while leaving Judaism entirely out of it. Whether he actually believed his inane anti-Semitic theories, or merely sought to take advantage of the general trend of anti-Semitism around him to gain popularity at the expense of two popular rival composers who happened to be Jewish (though Mendelssohn's father converted the family and they were very Christian from then on), the entire essay is repugnant.

    I don't "excuse" Wagner, I just have little interest in his essays. He should have stayed with writing music and avoided prose, if impressing people with his character was his goal. Other famous composers are similarly unimpressive when they express their opinions on various political, social or cultural issues, but most wisely don't write lengthy essays.

    Edit: I must admit, a rare exception to the above is Aaron Copland. Even if you don't like his music, it is hard to deny that as a musical / cultural critic his comments are sensible, level-headed, and modestly stated.
    Last edited by fluteman; Sep-18-2020 at 04:13.

  3. #483
    MacLeod
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    Quote Originally Posted by AbsolutelyBaching View Post
    But another argument is coherently made in this article: since racism is predominantly considered a form of white domination of non-white people, and Jews are (often) powerful and part of the 'white power structures', then Jews cannot be discriminated against by "racism". And that would means antisemitism isn't really a thing, if antisemitism is the same thing as racism.

    [etc]
    But the article you cite rejects the analysis that it explains, (for the obvious reason that it downplays the significance of anti-semitism). It closes with

    “There is still a lot of work to be done to dismantle racism, sexism, antisemitism and other isms within our society,” the rabbi told JTA. “We should focus on doing that work rather than argue about hierarchies of privilege and power.”
    The arcane arguments the article refers to exemplify the point that I made earlier, which is that while 'academics' (or political groups of a particular persuasion) want to argue about angels on the head of a pin, most of us have a simpler understanding of racism.

  4. #484
    Senior Member annaw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fluteman View Post
    You misunderstand me, then. I don't excuse Wagner for his @#$% essays, of which Judaism in Music might not be the worst from a purely analytical standpoint, but surely is the most offensive. To the extent he had legitimate points to make in contrasting his own music to that of Mendelssohn and Meyerbeer, he could have made those points while leaving Judaism entirely out of it. Whether he actually believed his inane anti-Semitic theories, or merely sought to take advantage of the general trend of anti-Semitism around him to gain popularity at the expense of two popular rival composers who happened to be Jewish (though Mendelssohn's father converted the family and they were very Christian from then on), the entire essay is repugnant.

    I don't "excuse" Wagner, I just have little interest in his essays. He should have stayed with writing music and avoided prose, if impressing people with his character was his goal. Other famous composers are similarly unimpressive when they express their opinions on various political, social or cultural issues, but most wisely don't write lengthy essays.
    A few of your arguments are like Nietzsche’s who criticised Wagner for writing on topics of which he was not knowledgeable enough and for not trusting his music enough so that he had to use literature in addition (either to make his operas easier to understand or appear more difficult than they really are - Nietzsche’s opinion). Of course, some of this criticism is justified and Wagner wasn’t a writer like Nietzsche himself but he also wasn’t analytically or logically defective. When we understand what Wagner wanted to express in his musicological essays (Music of the Future for example) we understand why it would have required an immense literary talent to do so understandably. Despite not being a particularly genius writer and his use of German not being constantly spot-on, his essays (exclude the infamous one) have had a huge cultural impact and I doubt his influence would have been as big had he not put his ideas, Gesamtkunstwerk for example, into writing. Our interpretations of his works would be much more susceptible for our own misunderstandings without his writings.

    Wagner was an intellectually talented man. As far as I recall, Nietzsche and Wagner had many discussions together, which Nietzsche enjoyed, and I doubt that fellow would have been interested in them if Wagner had been significantly below him. Thus it’s not so surprising that Wagner wanted to undertake writing those essays. I’m not saying that all his essays were good but most of which I’ve read are very insightful and useful for understanding his musical works. Of course, I don’t like that he decided to write the Judaism essay but what can I do? Wagner has been dead for over 100 years and cares little about what some youngster in the 21st century thinks of his essay and views. I can only say that I don’t agree with them.
    Last edited by annaw; Sep-18-2020 at 07:20.

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  6. #485
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AbsolutelyBaching View Post
    Hmm. I would say "fair enough", but you've just posted (and I paraphrase) "he had moods of a Summer storm, which passed without incident".

    So long as you're not excusing his antisemitism as a Summer storm brain fritz, then I will walk with you.
    My actual words were, "Wagner's dislikes were like summer thunderstorms. They could be quite intensely expressed, and then subside till the weather conditions were right for the next storm."

    Not even wretched poetry should be paraphrased.

  7. #486
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by annaw View Post
    A few of your arguments are like Nietzsche’s who criticised Wagner for writing on topics of which he was not knowledgeable enough and for not trusting his music enough so that he had to use literature in addition (either to make his operas easier to understand or appear more difficult than they really are - Nietzsche’s opinion). Of course, some of this criticism is justified and Wagner wasn’t a writer like Nietzsche himself but he also wasn’t analytically or logically defective. When we understand what Wagner wanted to express in his musicological essays (Music of the Future for example) we understand why it would have required an immense literary talent to do so understandably. Despite not being a particularly genius writer and his use of German not being constantly spot-on, his essays (exclude the infamous one) have had a huge cultural impact and I doubt his influence would have been as big had he not put his ideas, Gesamtkunstwerk for example, into writing. Our interpretations of his works would be much more susceptible for our own misunderstandings without his writings.

    Wagner was an intellectually talented man. As far as I recall, Nietzsche and Wagner had many discussions together, which Nietzsche enjoyed, and I doubt that fellow would have been interested in them if Wagner had been significantly below him. Thus it’s not so surprising that Wagner wanted to undertake writing those essays. I’m not saying that all his essays were good but most of which I’ve read are very insightful and useful for understanding his musical works. Of course, I don’t like that he decided to write the Judaism essay but what can I do? Wagner has been dead for over 100 years and cares little about what some youngster in the 21st century thinks of his essay and views. I can only say that I don’t agree with them.
    This assessment rings true to me. Wagner's prose was dense, verbose and hardly elegant (some would say the same about his music, though I wouldn't), but it fills nine substantial volumes and there's worthwhile stuff to be found if you have the interest and the endurance. His theories of music and drama are immensely interesting, and his essay on conducting is definitely worth a read. There's also plenty of correspondence, which is easier on the brain than his formal prose and full of fascinating glimpses of his inner life. Add to that all of his conversation and stray remarks as recorded in Cosima's diaries and we have a composer's portrait without a parallel. I'm very far from having read all of it, but it's all there to tackle in my next life.

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  9. #487
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    I would add to the above, though, that I'd happily sacrifice all the prose for one more mature opera, or those symphonies he wanted to write after Parsifal. What subject should he have tackled for that nonexistent opera, I wonder?
    Last edited by Woodduck; Sep-18-2020 at 07:58.

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  11. #488
    Senior Member annaw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    I would add to the above, though, that I'd happily sacrifice all the prose for one more mature opera, or those symphonies he wanted to write after Parsifal. What subject should he have tackled for that nonexistent opera, I wonder?
    Imagine his mature opera which is even better than Parsifal. He set his bar very high with it. Something like Kullervo might have turned out particularly tragic and psychological if Wagner had worked with it. But better than Parsifal? Hmm...
    Last edited by annaw; Sep-18-2020 at 08:51.

  12. #489
    Senior Member AbsolutelyBaching's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    My actual words were, "Wagner's dislikes were like summer thunderstorms. They could be quite intensely expressed, and then subside till the weather conditions were right for the next storm."
    Fair enough, and my bad for not going back to check.
    So you're not excusing his antisemitism itself as a passing summer thunderstorm, but merely his occasional expression of it?
    Last edited by AbsolutelyBaching; Sep-18-2020 at 12:02.

  13. #490
    Senior Member AbsolutelyBaching's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MacLeod View Post
    But the article you cite rejects the analysis that it explains, (for the obvious reason that it downplays the significance of anti-semitism).
    I cited the article because it laid out an argument coherently that appealed to me.

    And I don't think it rejects that analysis at all. It puts it up against opposing ideas, for sure. But I don't think it particularly comes down on one side or another. What "it closes with" is less important than what it has discussed on the way to its closing!

    Quote Originally Posted by MacLeod View Post
    The arcane arguments the article refers to exemplify the point that I made earlier, which is that while 'academics' (or political groups of a particular persuasion) want to argue about angels on the head of a pin, most of us have a simpler understanding of racism.
    Well, we must agree to disagree as to whether this counts as mere academic angel-counting or is simply trying to understand the nature of a subject so that we don't inadvertently conflate it with a related, but entirely separate, subject.
    Last edited by AbsolutelyBaching; Sep-18-2020 at 11:59.

  14. #491
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AbsolutelyBaching View Post
    Fair enough, and my bad for not going back to check.
    So you're not excusing his antisemitism itself as a passing summer thunderstorm, but merely his occasional expression of it?
    Holy crap, AB! Relax! Wagner is dead! Move on!

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  16. #492
    Senior Member JAS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    Holy crap, AB! Relax! Wagner is dead! Move on!
    He just wants you to think that he is dead. He is probably leading one of the groups of zombies on The Walking Dead. (Obviously a group of Anti-Semitic zombies.)
    Last edited by JAS; Sep-18-2020 at 15:44.

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  18. #493
    Senior Member fluteman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by annaw View Post
    A few of your arguments are like Nietzsche’s who criticised Wagner for writing on topics of which he was not knowledgeable enough and for not trusting his music enough so that he had to use literature in addition (either to make his operas easier to understand or appear more difficult than they really are - Nietzsche’s opinion). Of course, some of this criticism is justified and Wagner wasn’t a writer like Nietzsche himself but he also wasn’t analytically or logically defective. When we understand what Wagner wanted to express in his musicological essays (Music of the Future for example) we understand why it would have required an immense literary talent to do so understandably. Despite not being a particularly genius writer and his use of German not being constantly spot-on, his essays (exclude the infamous one) have had a huge cultural impact and I doubt his influence would have been as big had he not put his ideas, Gesamtkunstwerk for example, into writing. Our interpretations of his works would be much more susceptible for our own misunderstandings without his writings.

    Wagner was an intellectually talented man. As far as I recall, Nietzsche and Wagner had many discussions together, which Nietzsche enjoyed, and I doubt that fellow would have been interested in them if Wagner had been significantly below him. Thus it’s not so surprising that Wagner wanted to undertake writing those essays. I’m not saying that all his essays were good but most of which I’ve read are very insightful and useful for understanding his musical works. Of course, I don’t like that he decided to write the Judaism essay but what can I do? Wagner has been dead for over 100 years and cares little about what some youngster in the 21st century thinks of his essay and views. I can only say that I don’t agree with them.
    To each his or her own. I'll take the experience of sitting in an orchestra playing Wagner's music over the experience of reading his essays. As for Nietzsche, you probably know he composed music, and the story goes that at a public performance of one of his works, Wagner had to excuse himself midway and go to another room so he could burst out laughing without interrupting the performance. I've heard the piece in question, and the story is believable.

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  20. #494
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fluteman View Post
    To each his or her own. I'll take the experience of sitting in an orchestra playing Wagner's music over the experience of reading his essays. As for Nietzsche, you probably know he composed music, and the story goes that at a public performance of one of his works, Wagner had to excuse himself midway and go to another room so he could burst out laughing without interrupting the performance. I've heard the piece in question, and the story is believable.
    I heard something by Nietzsche once. I knew immediately that he chose the right profession.

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    Senior Member JAS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    I heard something by Nietzsche once. I knew immediately that he chose the right profession.
    Until you also read or heard some of his philosophy . . .

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