Online class discussion #4 is open for comments October 2-8. Refer to the grading rubric for requirements on commenting:


 

This week, I want to encourage you to think about composers not just as faceless, amorphous names attached to some set of musical sounds, but actually as living, breathing people. Already, we’ve been discussing the ways in which we can think about music as product of the society or culture around it (this idea comes from Pierre Bourdieu, and he calls this concept habitus in his 1972 book, Outline of a Theory of Practice), we’ve talked about musicking as an activity that many people engage in together (see Discussion #2 and the work of Christopher Small), and we’ve considered music in the context of the effects it has on our bodies (physiology in Discussion #1). What we really haven’t discussed yet in any kind of depth is the fact that, fundamentally, music is made by people, and people are complicated.

A person is made up of all their experiences, their desires, their memories, their bodies, and the vast array of their interactions with other people in their world: talking to people, of course, but also observing people, reading their books and articles, listening to their music, watching their dancing, studying their paintings and sculptures, and living and working in the buildings they created. Each person is a multi-faceted, multi-layered, ever-changing array of all these factors.

We’ve used isolated aspects composer’s biographies (the stories of their lives) and personalities already in class this semester to understand why their music sounds the way it does in the cases of Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven. We’ve noted how the uniqueness of the individual–in addition to the larger social and political forces that shape their worlds–affects how their music sounds. In the case of Richard Wagner, we’ll delve into his thoughts about things other than music and consider how a composer’s biography may be problematic for how we listen to them as an artist.

Richard Wagner and his music

wagner-1862Richard Wagner (1813-83)’s biography is a sordid, soap opera-worthy tale: He held a couple of unsatisfying Kapellmeister positions at small courts, overspent his earnings and had to flee from creditors in the middle of the night on multiple occasions, tried to make it big in the city of Paris and failed, and when the Revolutions if 1848 swept across Europe (inspired by Karl Marx’s The Communist Manifesto), Wagner saw an opportunity. He incited revolution and anarchy, hoping when society crumbled that he, the forward-thinking composer, could be the cultural leader to help rebuild Europe from the wreckage–a new society needs music, right? When the revolutions failed, he fled to Switzerland with his wife and dog, beginning a 9-year period of exile (1849-58). He was not the most gracious of guests; he spent the entire stay sleeping with his host’s wife. In the remaining hours of the day, he wrote extensively, penning his ideas about society, music, opera, and composition.

  • 1849 Die Kunst und die Revolution (Art and Revolution) — Commercialism hurts artistic production
  • 1849 Das Kunstwerk der Zukunft (The  Artwork of the Future) — All the arts should be united and theaters should be redesigned
  • 1850-51 Oper und Drama (Opera and Drama) — Music-dramas should be about folk-oriented ancient tales

Some of these he published, and when he finally returned to Germany, he did so as a modest rock star with a small but significant cadre of admirers. At this point, he purchased an apartment for his wife in Vienna, parked her there, and never saw her again, preferring instead to surround himself with (younger) admiring women. Wagner secured for himself the support of King Ludwig II of Bavaria and found a composer to champion his works, Hans von Bülow. Together, with King Ludwig’s money, Bülow’s conducting, and Wagner’s ideas, they staged Wagner’s operas and his career finally took off. Along the way, Wagner stole Bülow’s wife, Cosima, married her, and named the children they had after characters in his operas.

untitled
Richard Wagner (center), with Cosima (left), her father, the pianist Franz Liszt (white hair), and Hans von Wolzogen, a writer and publisher. Painting by W. Beckmann (1881)

Wagner strongly admired the music of Beethoven; a good portion of Wagner’s formative musical training was spent copying Beethoven’s scores by hand so that he could absorb every technique and stylistic trait that he admired. Wagner regarded Beethoven as a validation of being German and thought of himself the true direct successor to Beethoven’s legacy, carrying German music to its apex (highest point):

What inimitable art did Beethoven employ in his “C-minor Symphony,” [No. 5], in order to steer his ship from the ocean of infinite yearning to the haven of fulfillment! He was able to raise the utterance of his music almost to a moral resolve, but not speak aloud that final world; and after every onset of the will, without a moral handhold, we feel tormented by the equal possibility of falling back again to suffering, as of being led to lasting victory. Nay, this falling-back must almost seem to us more “necessary” than the morally ungrounded triumph, which therefore—not being a necessary consummation, but a mere arbitrary gift of grace—has not the power to lift us up and yield to us that “ethical” satisfaction which we demand as outcome of the yearning of the heart… (Richard Wagner, The Art of Tone, 1849)

Much of Wagner’s music is emotionally thrilling: loud, sweeping gestures, beautiful melodies, and a generally high level of intensity. Here is an excerpt from one of his operas Die Walküre (composed 1851-56, premiered 1870); it is an orchestral prelude to the third act of the opera. This piece is likely familiar to you already (one of those, “Oh yeah, THAT piece!” moments) because it has appeared in several movies and commercials.

 

Wagner’s music is also impressive because of its scope, its power, and its sense of profundity (whether it’s actually profound or not is another issue, but it’s definitely music that presents itself as wanting to be profound). Here is another orchestral prelude from Das Rheingold (composed 1851-54, premiered 1869), and this work shows Wagner’s sense of scale (BIG!), his ability to build up an enormous amount of intensity and triumph over a long period of time, an extreme range of dynamics (much of the beginning is practically inaudible), and his refusal to write a short melody (all very typical Romantic features!).

 

 

Both of these pieces come from a set of four operas all about the same characters and a single, long storyline: Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung). The works take approximately 20 hours to perform in their entirety!

Wagner’s music has been a prominent feature of Western culture since the 1870s, so much so that there is an entire Bugs Bunny cartoon devoted to his music. In this cartoon, all of the melodies played by the orchestra, sung by Bugs, and sung by Elmer come directly from several of Wagner’s operas.

What’s Opera, Doc? (1957):

 

Wagner and “greatness”

Despite the beauty of Wagner’s music, the impressiveness of its sounds, and the joy that “Kill the Wabbit” brings me, I have several misgivings about Wagner, and they all stem from his biography.

Oftentimes when we proclaim how great we are (as individuals, as a country, as a culture), it comes at the expense of someone else–greatness is relative, so in order to show how great we are, someone else’s status needs to be diminished or maligned. In the case of Wagner, his elevation of his great Teutonic roots comes at the expense of people he considered to be the lowest rungs of German society: the Jews. Wagner’s attitude isn’t only curious or odd; it’s decidedly hateful and vengeful, and he expounded upon it thoroughly in an essay titled Das Judentum in der Musik (Jewishness in Music(1860, publ. 1894; the entire text is available here), also written during his exile in Zürich. In it, he begins by describing a feeling that he is sure everyone shares:

…that involuntary feeling of ours which utters itself as an instinctive repugnance against the Jew’s prime essence. (Wagner, Das Judentum in der Musik)

He goes on to describe all the reasons he looks down upon this entire group of people, beginning with their appearance, which he finds unpleasant, and which he believes all non-Jews naturally think of as unattractive and un-heroic. More than this, he argues that the un-attractiveness of this entire group of people proves how unfit they are to make art–Wagner’s logic is that if it’s impossible to look upon a person with respect, it is impossible to value anything that they create.

The Jew — who, as everyone knows, has a God all to himself — in ordinary life strikes us primarily by his outward appearance, which, no matter to what European nationality we belong, has something disagreeably foreign to that nationality: instinctively we wish to have nothing in common with a man who looks like that… Passing over the moral side, in the effect of this in itself unpleasant freak of Nature, and coming to its bearings upon Art, we here will merely observe that to us this exterior can never be thinkable as a subject for the art of re-presentment… We can conceive no representation of an antique or modern stage-character by a Jew, be it as hero or lover, without feeling instinctively the incongruity of such a notion. This is of great weight: a man whose appearance we must hold unfitted for artistic treatment — not merely in this or that personality, but according to his kind in general — neither can we hold him capable of any sort of artistic utterance of his [inner] essence. (Ibid.)

Wagner makes similar arguments about the Hebrew and Yiddish languages, the economic position of Jews in Europe, and music made by Jewish musicians. His description of music played as part of religious services in a synagogue is entirely disparaging:

Who has not been seized with a feeling of the greatest revulsion, of horror mingled with the absurd, at hearing that sense-and-sound-confounding gurgle, yodel and cackle, which no intentional caricature can make more repugnant than as offered here in full, in naive seriousness? (Ibid.)

For Wagner, Jews are an impurity that taints the German Volk (the cultural identity shared by all people who are “real” members of German culture).

The true poet, no matter in what branch of art, still gains his stimulus from nothing but a faithful, loving contemplation of instinctive Life, of that life which only greets his sight amid the Folk… If [a Jewish artist] has any connection at all with this Society [Volk], it is merely with that offshoot of it, entirely loosened from the real, the healthy stem; but this connection is an entirely loveless one… The Jew has never had an Art of his own, hence never a Life of art-enabling import: an import, a universally applicable, a human import, not even to-day does it offer to the searcher, but merely a peculiar method of expression — and that, the method we have characterized above.  (Ibid.)

Throughout his writing, the features which he describes Jewish musicians as lacking are exactly those that he believes himself to possess. The implicit argument is that if audiences judged music correctly (by using Wagner’s criteria and looking for exactly the features he himself possesses), then no one would ever think music by Jewish musicians is good.

Inner agitation, genuine passion, each finds its own peculiar language at the instant when, struggling for an understanding, it girds itself for utterance: the Jew, already characterized by us in this regard, has no true passion, and least of all a passion that might thrust him on to art-creation. But where this passion is not forthcoming, there neither is any calm: true, noble Calm is nothing else than Passion mollified through Resignation. Where the calm has not been ushered in by passion, we perceive naught but sluggishness: the opposite of sluggishness, however, is nothing but that prickling unrest which we observe in Jewish music-works from one end to the other, saving where it makes place for that soulless, feelingless inertia. What issues from the Jews’ attempts at making Art, must necessarily therefore bear the attributes of coldness and indifference, even to triviality and absurdity; and in the history of Modern Music we can but class the Judaic period as that of final unproductivity, of stability gone to ruin. (Ibid.)

The rest of his essay focuses on a Jewish musician whom Wagner especially loathes (and whose success he envies): Felix Mendelssohn.

Wagner’s attitude seeps into this music, as well. There are several Jewish caricatures in his operas, and they are all unlikable figures, unattractive, and possessing a single-minded obsession with money or gold: Mime in Siegfried (1852-71), a dwarf obsessed with mining for gold; Klingsor in  Parsifal (1882), a magician who schemes to steal the Holy Grail for himself but who is ultimately stopped by Parsifal’s Christian faith; and Sixtus Beckmesser in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (1845-68), a Jewish singer who is unable to sing the correct words or sing beautifully in a singing contest and loses to a handsome German singer.

wagner-1861
Wagner, in a photograph from 1861

If Wagner were only a hateful author who also composed music that included narrow-minded stereotypes, this conversation might not be worth having. However, the ideas which Wagner touted, as well as his music, became part of the justification for German cultural and ethnic superiority in the 20th century, providing a sense of vindication and pride. The notion of celebrating Volk identity (begun in the early 19th century) helps fuel German nationalism; the logic goes along the lines of, “The best music was created by men who are German, which makes me proud to be German, and it means that my culture is the best.” In addition, the emerging historical music narrative of cultural progress in the hands of admirable German men (Bach to Mozart to Beethoven to Wagner) helps create a sense of arriving at some kind of peak (a kind of misapplication of Darwinism to society); people in the 20th century are primed to regard themselves as the end result of the inexorable march of progress. Even though Wagner himself was not a Nazi and did not have any contact with Adolf Hitler, his music and his ideas are part of the cultural landscape that makes Nazism not only possible but also powerful.

Broader context for Wagner’s ideas

The source of my discomfort with Wagner’s music lies not only in his hateful opinions or use of his music for nationalistic propaganda that directly caused enormous suffering and long-standing repercussions that continue to shape the world in which we live. It’s also the itchy disconnect between, on one side, the joy the musical sounds cause me and, on the other, the nausea caused by the historical reality of his music. If his music were not interesting, well-written, inspiring, or beautiful, I doubt that I would give it a second thought–Wagner would just be that hack composer on the outskirts of musical society, writing his crazy-man manifestos in isolation.

But Wagner isn’t some crazy man in the woods shouting his ideas where no one can hear them. His music was incredibly influential, as were his ideas about the concert going experience. In the 1870s, Wagner built a new opera theater in Bayreuth, Germany, especially to stage his works. Many of the things that we take for granted as being part of the concert-going experience (such as a darkened theater, seats all facing the stage, no talking during the performance, and the orchestra hidden out-of-sight in a pit below the stage) are all new features of Wagner’s own design. His music was also influential because of its intensity and scope: as with Beethoven, composers in his wake had to reckon with how they were supposed to make music and do anything unique with Wagner’s shadow looming over them. He was intensely admired by many of his fellow musicians:

bruno-walter

“So there I sat in the topmost gallery of the Berlin Opera House, and from the first sound of the cellos my heart contracted spasmodically… Never before has my soul been deluged with such floods of sound and passion, never had my heart been consumed by such yearning and sublime bliss… A new epoch had begun: Wagner was my god, and I wanted to become his prophet.” (Bruno Walter, conductor, 1889)

 

 

mahler

“There was only Beethoven and Richard [Wagner]  – and after them, nobody.” (Gustav Mahler, composer, 1904)

Moreover, Wagner was most assuredly not alone in his views. Confronting Wagner means to confront the ugly reality that underlies all the music composed in Western Europe during the time periods we’ve covered in class. Antisemitism was wide-spread and largely acceptable. Martin Luther published a lengthy (65,000 words) essay in 1543 titled “On the Jews and their Lies,” which called for the destruction of synagogues, the burning of Jewish prayer books, and forced labor positions for young Jewish men. There exist several essays and pamphlets in the 19th century that disparage all members of the Jewish faith or other groups considered to be not “real” Europeans: Antoine de Gobineau, An Essay on the Inequality of hte Human Races (1853-55; Gobineau and Wagner were friends, and Wagner admired this work); Wilhelm Marr, The Way to Victory of Germanism over Judaism (1879); and Heinrich von Treitschke, A Word About Our Jews (1881). Other musicians also espouse similar lines of reasoning, generally championing the “advanced” culture of Europe over the barbarism, coarseness, and ugliness of non-European music and using these differences in musical taste as proof of the inferiority of an entire group of people, as in Johann Nikolaus Forkel’s A General History of Music (two volumes, 1788 and 1801).

No musician is an isolated figure–their ideas have sources that predate them, and their influence outlasts them. The world in which we currently live would not exist, either musically or socially, without Wagner’s contributions. More than that, our ability to grapple with his legacy sets a precedent for how we handle other historical, artistic, and influential figures. I look forward to reading about how you balance the weight of knowledge against the experience of listening to music.

-Dr. J.

 

Some questions to get the conversation started:

  • What aspects of a musician’s biography are relevant when we interpret the musical sounds he or she makes? How seriously should we consider a musician’s biography when we interpret the musical sounds he or she makes? Is it only the composer’s biography that matters, or do the biographies, attitudes, and beliefs of performers matter, too?
  • How do you reconcile listening to music that is produced by a person who doesn’t share your views or whose views make you uncomfortable? Do we condone an artist’s views by listening to their music, enjoying their music, performing their music, or paying for their music?
  • Do you hear or interpret Wagner’s music differently after learning about his views?

 

109 thoughts on “Composers as people (Online Class Discussion #4)

  1. A musician’s biography can be researched to further our understanding of their art, as art is a reflection of self. However, an artists moral character, rhetoric, or politics should not have an effect on how we regard the quality of their work. Their biography shouldn’t impact the way we view the objective merit of their art. Subjectively however, one may enjoy someone like Wagner’s art less upon discovering his antisemitism, but it doesn’t take away from the greatness of his compositions. Wagner’s music certainly has a different effect on me now that I know more about him, but it doesn’t change that he was a genius. Are The Beatles no longer the greatest band of all time because John Lennon was a wife-beater? http://www.mirror.co.uk/3am/celebrity-news/john-lennons-dark-side-domestic-6481985

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree, Musicians can be highly influential as is, because of their scope, popularity or how “incredibly liked” their music is to society. Their background should not influence their music but should rather show how hard they have strive to come this far.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. We should be listening to music not base on the musician ideological and social views but instead on their traits as an artist who plays music either for themselves or for an audience. By listening and playing their music this doesn’t mean that people accept their views on political or social nature but instead we accept them as a musician which is especially true to Richard Wagner who although happens to be nationalistic on his cultural roots and dislike of the Jewish culture shouldn’t impact his talent as a great musician of his time. Wagner was a musician that was influence by the social upheaval of his time such as the Revolution of 1848 which saw social and cultural changes and the beginning of the early modern age that eliminated Feudalism that had a large influences his work. Instead of rejecting Wagner music due to his personal views and his dislike of the Jews but instead should celebrate his musical accomplishment and his aim for greatness.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I completely agree with you! How an artist is behind the scenes USUALLY shouldn’t determine if you listen to they’re music or not.

      Like

      1. I agree with your statement I think when musicians focus on the talent and skill set they bring greater beauty to the art. I think it’s truly distasteful when musicians incorporate policies views etc it just throws off the listeners overall

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I agree with you that a musician background should not influence there music but rather show or far they are coming from to be what they are and who they have become.this kind of explain any other people on a whole too whether a student,dancer etc. where your coming from and how you reach there is what determine who you are as a whole and how you have reached there.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. I disagree, because with people like Wagner, put their misguided beliefs into their work. Such as portraying the Jews in his operas as generally undesirable and sometimes just plain bad. Plus, as you’ve pointed out, it’s good to know where an artist is coming from when truly enjoying their art. It doesn’t have to mean you agree with their ideals.

      Liked by 1 person

    4. I disagree because their background plays a role in their music making so eventually they will make a statement on their political views. They have a fans is going to listening to him or she point of view that could influence them.

      Like

  3. Wagner’s influence, as a musical dramatist and as a composer, was a powerful one. In the purely musical field, Wagner’s influence was even more far-reaching. He developed such a wide expressive range that he was able to make each of his works inhabit a unique emotional world of its own, and, in doing so, he raised the melodic and harmonic style of German music to what many regard as its highest emotional and sensuous intensity.
    On the other hand, many have contended that Wagner’s anti-Semitism was no more significant to his musical creation than was any other peculiarity of his personality. Indeed, the composer regularly looked down on the Jewish population—to account for his personal and musical misfortunes. Moreover, because Wagner lived during an era of widespread resentment toward Jews in Europe, it is not unusual that his dramatic works would contain anti-Semitic nuances. Such elements, some have argued, are superficial and should not be read as signs of a deeper ideology of anti-Semitism that permeates the composer’s work. Hence, his personal impressions of the era he lived in and the life he portrayed prior to his success should not have anything to do with the way we perceive his musical pieces because of how successful and influential his musical pieces were….right?
    Therefore, in today’s musically world, would you judge/support/not support or even support a ban on any artist that would be racist or Anti-Semitism (prejudice against Jews) no matter how popular or successful they are?

    Like

    1. Tyler the Creator was banned from Australia for accused homophobia. It seems musicians are more celebrities now than they are artists so their success is contingent on their image.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Whenever i listen to an artist song that expresses different views from what i believe in i am usually able to brush it off especially if the song is actually good. If i dont enjoy the song then i will most definitely stop listening to it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. this exactly what happens to me all the times. i can’t listen to a song that i am going to enjoy because it would be hard for me to figured out the meaning

      Like

    2. I agree with your statementson artists having different views. Theres been times where musicians brought different ideas or messages that was outside society’s norm that brought forth positive outcomes. When you really think about it sometimes change and being different can be a good thing .

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Do yo believe that the musician private life will tell you the type of music that they mostly play or do you think their private life won’t have any effect on their musical career and are mostly seperated. How do you think society will play a major on the influences in the way musician create their musics?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think that there private life would definitely effect there musical career and there song writing process. Musician’s are known for expressing themselves through there music whether it be lyrically or instrumentally. Everybody knows Eminem. Look at the songs he created based around growing poor in a trailer park in Detroit. Songs like “Lose yourself” and “Mockingbird” were made based around his early life. “Lose Yourself” is about his failure to perform on stage in front of others and not being able to support the right life for his family. “Mockingbird” is about him apologizing to his daughter for not being around when she was young and the failed relationship he had with his mother. So yes, I do feel like a musician’s private life effects the music they make/play.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. i dont believe the private life of the musician affect the type of music they play or create. This may be a cliche example, Justin bieber for example, a lot of people dont see him as a good kind of guy, but in his music he portrays himself as an idol. For him i dont think society really affects how he makes his music

        Like

        1. I disagree . There’s been many artists that come up with songs that pretty much talks about there personal life. For instance Toni Braxton and Baby face came out with a whole album that talks about marriage, love and divorce. I truly think to some degree that some artists use these personal experiences in their music so listeners like you and I can relate.

          Liked by 1 person

    2. I do believe that sometimes a musicians private life will have an affect on the certain music they play because I think some musicians reflect their music on their life and that may influence them. But at the same time I think listeners will be more interested in their music because it tells you things that the musician went through to get to where they are.

      Like

    3. A musicians private life can be important towards the type of music they will play. i think the musical career and life are mostly the same thing, the life of an artist can depict their music. Sometimes, people will make music depending on what they like instead of feel. It depends on how the artist would rather do things

      Like

  6. Wagner states that “If it’s impossible to look upon a person with respect, its impossible to value anything they create”
    I feel like this wouldn’t correspond to the way everyone looks at this situation. Wagner had a natural hatred for the Jews. He looked down on the entire group of people, starting off with their appearance. He thought of it as unpleasant; which made him believe that all non-Jews naturally think of the group as un-heroic. This is one of those views that isn’t going to change in terms of Wagner’s status. Ultimately this resulted in him not acknowledging/ignoring any sort of art created by Jews. I don’t really agree with what Wagner has to say. I feel like even if I don’t respect someone, there is still value in things that they create. Just because I don’t respect them or there ideas doesn’t means others wont.

    Like

    1. i agree. He let his own personal feelings toward an entire group of people cloud his judgement. exactly what you said ” just because i don’t respect them or there ideas doesn’t mean others wont” i think this is a valid point. After reading about Wagner, i don’t respect him but i do respect and appreciate his art and his contribution to the opera world.

      Like

  7. If someone you don’t respect creates a type of art whether it be music, sculpting, painting, etc…
    Do you feel like you should look past your negative feelings for them? Do you feel like what they created has any value even if you don’t respect them in moderation?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. You shouldn’t past any negative judgement onto them since what they created whether it’s a type of music, art, or sculpture are separated from their personal life and as such it’s what they created as a fellow artist. Every artisan have an private life and public life which have an positive and negative experience with their private life being one that shouldn’t be seen in public because their lives as an artist have value due to what they will create in the community.

      Like

      1. I agree it shouldn’t be about the negative aspects of the artists life. Even if you do view there views as “bad”.

        Like

      2. i believe they looking past your feelings toward them is a great, because you can see the art for how wonderful it is and have no bias against it. beethoven for example wasnt really a friendly guy, but people were able to look past that and see how wonderful his music was.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I would still respect their work although i don’t like the person. Simply hating their work because of your hate towards them seems very childish. However, just because i like their work, I wouldn’t contribute to buy it. So i would agree and disagree.

      Liked by 2 people

    3. I think you should put your negative feeling past them. You may not like a person or respect a person but that has noting to do with the type of art they create. It may not have value to you because you don’t like them but others may respect and like the art he or she hay have created. Everyone has their own judgement on respecting someones work. Respecting and liking someones work are two different things.

      Like

  8. I am kind of conflicted between thinking that the musician/composer/artists biography’s contributing to there work yet I also do not necessarily agree that they should degrade ones opinion about the music itself. I think that the artists biography should compel the listener to see them preform. Over the weekend I saw Laboheme at the Metropolitan Opera with my parents. What compeled my dad to get tickets was a story that my dad read in the New York Times about one of the opera singers amazing life story. I don’t think that artists biography’s negatively impact everyone because some artists are complete assholes and some still really like them. I guess it all depends on the listener.

    Like

    1. I agree with you some artists its a complete assholes,but they still got a lot of listeners. Different types of people have different hobbies. this is how human is.

      Like

  9. Wagner He is a master of German opera history. In front of Mozart’s opera tradition, followed by the opening of the post-romantic opera composer trend, followed by Richard Strauss. At the same time, because of his political, religious aspects of the complexity of thinking, become the most controversial figure in European music history. It is worth mentioning that Wagner in his music shown in the worship of women. Over the years, Wagner has always believed that women who have two characteristics of salvation and destruction. This contradiction makes the images of women he creates are usually complex, with the great pain of the hero soprano. Wagner is the
    Musical genius. Music is a wide range of art that can make people very close.

    Like

  10. If a person does not respect the creative music, are you guy still will be interested on him? Do you still write books or biographies about him? Music important or character important?

    Like

    1. if someone does not respect the creative of music, then noone should respect that person because they did not respect someone else tallent.

      Like

  11. Hey professor I didn’t get a chance to do the draft essay and I know you’re not excepting the final essay with out it so I’m not sure what I should do

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Like

  12. For person who doesn’t share my views or the views I want to hear I first try to understand the views they issued and if I can’t seem to understand or connect to it ,I rather not listen to it ,or I might ask someone else to listen to the music and hear there views based on what they have listen.but this might not help me because everyone have a different point of view.i condone an artist views by listening to their music and figure how it makes me feel,the reaction I have toward it,how much I can connect to it and be able to even have a feedback that’s how I accept an artist views.even though he might view the music different than me. I also accept their music by enjoying it too if it makes me move,nod my head,sing out loud makes me happy etc ,another reason is if I had paid for it I am going to get my money worth

    Like

  13. In the beginning, when I watched the first clip, I didn’t think anything of it but think it was a great music. I’ve heard many movies play this song as one of their sound tracks. However, when I read up on today’s blog, I was surprised and relistened to it. This kind of made me think that Wagner made this song powerful on purpose because he wanted Germany to be a powerful country and all the sounds of trumpets made me think of Hitler coming down the street in his car waving at the Germans during a parade. However, I don’t this changes anything. I still think he was a great composer, musician. Just because his views are different, I’m not going to start hating on his music. I don’t think it’s okay to not earn the respect just because he was an anti-Semitist. Of course we are going to view Wagner as someone different after learning about him, but that will not change how we view his intellectuality towards his music.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I can listen to admittedly great music and appreciate its artistic merit, and in Wagner’s case the emotion and excitement it engenders, but I have trouble separating that from revulsion at his – and other artists’ – extreme moral failings. There is a tipping point beyond which I can’t support – or listen to – such work, and I’m not always sure exactly where that is, but I am reminded of the existence of that point whenever the music is played or even discussed.

    Individuals who behave in a socially psychopathic manner or who egregiously violate cultural norms often suffer from poor self-image and use their behavior as a means of overcoming their sense of inferiority. Some artistically talented people thus diminish their art in the eyes of many people. The art remains, but its emotional potential is compromised.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I really love this music you can really appreciate the effort and raw talent put Into these pieces. That’s what makes listening to music so great you gain experience on the matter.

    Like

    1. A composer is someone who creates or writes music. So they are basically writers. I believe composers do get inspiration like writers. Everyone finds inspiration in what they love to do and grow from it. An example would be underground musicians they might not receive a lot of fame but they love doing what they do. Everyone has an inspiration and an image of themselves they would like to reach. Yes, composers do get inspired like writers.

      Like

  16. It’s so wonderfully interesting to have those juxtaposing emotions for an artist’s work and their beliefs. I actuallu learned about Wagner’s anti-Semitism from an episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm”, where Larry David is whistling one of his tunes and another Jewish man asks him to stop, because of Wagner’s popularity with Hitler. I find it extremely difficult to separate an artist from their work. Names that come to mind are Mel Gibson, Bill Cosby, and Michael Jackson. It is difficult to not think about the terrible things attributed to them while trying to appreciate their respective bodies of work. I feel that a separation in time helps appreciate the art more from the artist. I can listen to Flights of Valkyrie and not immediately think about Wagner’s biography, because I had never had any disposition about him other than what history tells. With someone like Mel Gibson, you watch the event unfold in real-time. You go from enjoying a “Mad Max” movie to hearing him scream terrible things about women. I find it difficult to watch those movies, now, without thinking about Mel Gibson acting like a raving lunatic simply because it wasn’t all laid out on front street like with Wagner.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Personally I find it difficult to most of the time, but given your Mel Gibson/Mad Max example, I can still enjoy those films because they are more a product of George Miller’s art than Mel Gibson, who just starred in it. However, Mel Gibson-directed movies are definitely hard to separate.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Should a person hate someones art or music because they dislike the composer on a personal level not associated with the art or music they create?

    Like

    1. In todays society, I truly think that it is difficult not to judge someone after knowing about their personal views or opinions. I do believe it affects the way in which we percieve their music and how much we pay attention to it.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Do you hear or interpret Wagner’s music differently after learning about his views? I do interpret Wagner’s music differently after hearing about his views. One point being “He goes on to describe all the reasons he looks down upon this entire group of people, beginning with their appearance, which he finds unpleasant, and which he believes all non-Jews naturally think of as unattractive and un-heroic. More than this, he argues that the un-attractiveness of this entire group of people proves how unfit they are to make art–Wagner’s logic is that if it’s impossible to look upon a person with respect, it is impossible to value anything that they create.” Although I hear and interpret Wagner’s music differently after learning about his views I should not be hateful towards him. You could always judge someone off their views as a person but that shouldn’t have a great effect on if you like their music or not. He was a composer that brought great change to the Jews and Germans.

    Like

    1. yes i do. i dont think one persons greatness has anything to do with someone else’s. “Blowing out someone else’s candle, doesn’t make yours shine brighter” is an applicable quote.

      Like

      1. nice quote, but i agree with you everyone thinks there are great in there own thought, not what other people think about them.

        Like

    2. I think that depends on ones thoughts, because generally I think all artists are good, because they’re expressing their emotions through music, but only a few in my eyes are really great musicians.

      Like

      1. for me i respcet all artist, although i don’t listen to there music, but if have other people who do listen to there music and thinks it’s the best

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yeah me too, I also respect other artist although I dont listen to their music but i have my preferences.

          Like

    1. I think there is something special about the Looney Tunes cartoons that could interpret Wagner’s work in a very interesting way. The animation in nearly all of the Looney Tunes cartoons is very dynamic and stylish. They can show a range of expressions and movements in interesting ways between both human and animal characters. I believe that a number of different cartoons could have been chosen to interpret Wagner’s work, but Bugs Bunny has a certain wit to his character that would make for a smart parody of opera. It parody’s the style and tropes of opera in a smart and respectful way, joking about it without making the genre seem any less important or relevant. The music also syncs up perfectly between the high energy and fast paced chase scenes, to the more subtle conversations, and the quiet, low tones of the ending. The inherently dynamic and varied expressions, styles and movements of the Looney Tunes characters gave a unique perspective on the music.

      Like

    2. Bugs bunny is the leader of the tunes. In a way bugs interpreted Wagner’s personality. This is the perfect cartoon that can give life wagner’s work. The music plus the cartoon make Wagner ‘s work so dynamic and unique.

      Like

  19. Music and the context it is created in are inherently inseparable. While the music can be enjoyed without knowing the background or intentions behind its composition, a responsible listener looks deeper into the meaning and intention behind a piece in order to get the full picture. The same idea goes for Wagner’s music. I, for one, had no idea of his despicable ideologies, actions and attitudes towards other people. Wagner, by all means, was a self-serving, narcissistic person who, by no means, should have been looked up to. Yet, it is hard to argue that his music is, indeed, very well composed and well written. His music shows an incredible dynamic range and sense of scale, and is very enjoyable to listen to. Does enjoying his music then admit that the listener is condoning his ideologies and beliefs? No, of course not. The responsible listener, as stated before, should be aware and informed about the piece they are listening to, the context surrounding it, and the intention with which the piece was written. All of these are not necessary for enjoying a piece in a superficial way, but to get a clear picture of why the piece was written the way that it was, they must look beyond the music itself and reflect on its history, intention, reception and impact. Only then can the listener gain a true sense of the meaning behind a musical work.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Could anyone have considered the Bugs Bunny cartoon “offensive” due to the disrespectful ideas of the composer, even though the cartoon itself does not claim to support Wagner’s ideas?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Definitely, those musician who stand for a cause and translated it into their music have garnered a lot of attention. Musicians like Sinead O Conner, Tupac Shakur and Public Enemy were very vocal in how they perceive society. They put those frustration and radical thoughts into their music.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree with your statement because musician have the power to influence their audience though with their music and the listener that like to the music will feel the influence of the song and may share the views of their favorite artist. Music is not just a form of entertainment but can be use as a tool to spread a particular message, some that the artist will try to target the audience with and to make changes in society,

        Like

  21. As we discussed in class and based on my own opinions, once you learn the life and biography of a musician and its the opposite of what you believe, you begin to listen to their music thinking about their life and the type of person they was. For most people its an unshakeable thought once you learn if they were positive or negative to the world. In the case of Richard Wagner and what we now know about his prejudice beliefs its hard to play one of his pieces and admire him only because that energy, that vibe, these thoughts are components in how you make music. The music you make is based off emotions, your characters and the events that happen around you more times than none. For Wagner to be one of those people who was big on discrimination, its puts a taint on his music because it could’ve been a driving force in his songs.

    Like

    1. Honestly I don’t know. But the song is appealing to you for reasons that could have nothing to do with the background information. It’s like if a painter produced a abstract painting because of some *enter negative reason here*. Even if you did know the reason she/he made the painting, the piece most likely appeals for a personal reason.

      Like

  22. i think the saying an evil and hatred spirit can turn the most beautiful person ugly definitely applies to Wagner. His behavior and attitude toward an entire group of people is disgusting to me. I try not to let my personal feelings about a person come from other people’s opinions or thoughts on them but right not its a little bit difficult for me. I think had i been familiar with his opera first then i could have ignored his behavior more. I think he was jealous of the Jews. Jealousy often times comes from our own insecurities when we identify qualities in other people we wish we ourselves possessed. Maybe he should have instead of being so mean and hateful and spreading his hatred to others, he could have tried to understand the contributions the Jews were making and used that as inspiration to better himself and a human being.

    Like

  23. I think its only the composers biography that matters because the composers biography tells you about their life and tells you who inspired them musically. I feel like it doesn’t matter about their beliefs because their beliefs doesnt justify their music and it wont have any affect on the listeners attitude towards the composers music.

    Like

  24. Wagner’s says that if it’s impossible to look upon a person with respect, it is impossible to value anything that they create. Do we think respecting a artist and respecting their music go hand and hand or just because you dont respect the artist does that have anything to do with the music they create?

    Like

  25. The aspect of a musician biography are relevant when interpreting pieces he/she make because it influence the musicians work in a physiological and sociological manner. These aspect make all musicians unique because they are inspired by several different concepts that formulate personal meaning towards their lives. Richard Wagner developed some failures throughout his life, however he believed in his pieces and ideas. The reading also reveals that he admired Beethoven, Richard Wagner a huge of time attempting to copy Beethoven technique therefore he was influenced by Beethoven musical art.

    Like

  26. While I think you can separate the musician from the music, you have to take into account what the composers intentions were. People’s personal lives and beliefs are reflected in their music (or other art) whether consciously or not, and for Wagner it certainly seemed conscious considering the nature of the Jewish characters in his operas. So to me, it certainly leaves the music with a sinister (even evil) effect. At the same time, the brain likes what it likes, so nobody can really choose whether they like the sounds of Wagner’s music or not, but I think after learning about his personal life, it’s bound to change your perception of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. For me, knowing a musicians ideology may change the way I interpret their songs– in some cases a deciding factor as to if I want to listen to them or not. Some songs may exhibit generalized feelings about love, or friends, or having a fun time– and sometimes its difficult to see the musician’s obvious ideologies. However, being aware of them makes one reevaluate the intent or meaning of a musical piece.

      Like

  27. Wagner’s idea we’re one listener may not even know or ever will know as a listener you don’t really understand the music background until you read about his life and what he’s been through.

    Like

  28. I believe o Ripken tend to think of composers as musical robots rather than actually people. Wagner was able to incorporate his life moments into his music without anyone really knowing but himself. That is a musical genius

    Liked by 1 person

  29. I think to a certain degree the biography of a musician is relevant because it’s what makes them unique. Understanding their story their struggle can make a difference. When it comes to placing political views in music it’s very touchy now because most artists are scared to get sued etc. I think also when we understand the musician on a personal level the way you interpret the music might be different if you didn’t know anything about them. It’s crazy how fans are able to know the inner details on whatever celebrity they idolize. When I listen to music outside my norm or even with different message I am a bit uncomfortable, honestly as long as it’s not something unethical or outrageous I try to be open minded. When it came to Wagner and his views about the Jews totally threw me off and although he had amazing talent I felt as though I couldn’t listen to his music with a clear mind it was almost as if I felt wrong for listening to it.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. I think the biography of a musician is relevant because it’s what makes them unique. Understanding their story their struggle can make a difference. When it comes to placing political views in music it’s very touchy now because most artists are scared to get sued etc. I think also when we understand the musician on a personal level the way you interpret the music might be different if you didn’t know anything about them. It’s crazy how fans are able to know the inner details on whatever celebrity they idolize. When I listen to music outside my norm or even with different message I am a bit uncomfortable, honestly as long as it’s not something unethical or outrageous I try to be open minded. When it came to Wagner and his views about the Jews totally threw me off and although he had amazing talent I felt as though I couldn’t listen to his music with a clear mind it was almost as if I felt wrong for listening to it.

    Like

  31. Everyone apart of a music biography matters. They matter because you want to get an idea of where it’s all coming from and get a picture of the things your reading about the musicians. Biogrpahies should be taken seriously according to how much you like the persons music. Some people may just not care about a persons personal life or how they got there but love their music. In my personal opinion that’s how I am with Kanye west. I don’t like the things that comes out of his mouth when spoken to. But I do enjoy some of his music and disregard how he can be and what I do not like about his character. If you don’t like a persons views it’s up to you if you feel the need to still support them in their music because it’s either you like the music or don’t. Or you judge them by what they support or what they’re about. I don’t interpret Wagners music any different he made a huge impact on music. Became very famous on his music. I enjoy his music just the same way.

    Like

  32. How about if you enjoy the music first … and fall in love with a musician. Then you find out something’s you don’t agree about them. Then what ?! Do you now hate all the songs you LOVED ?

    Like

  33. Ride of the Valkyries. The first listen through, I felt like there was a powerful cavalry charging into battle. Sadly after reading everything about Wagner; I could still picture that same cavalry, feeling that same powerful emotion. Wagner may be anti-Semitic, but the emotions that he puts into his pieces aren’t. When we listen to Ride of the Valkyries and feel that same emotion, It’s not because we agree with Wagner. Although an artist’s background becomes very important when they commercialize their idea’s. Like Wagner’s opera house, his visual representation of antisemitism, or his multiple written works. In this new era lets take a K-West. He is able to commercialize, just about everything he does though visual media. This brings varying opinion toward Kanye and his beliefs. But even with knowing his reputation, the music stands on its own.

    Like

  34. The aspects that are important/relevant of a musicians biography is, what they went through in life, how they felt towards their life, and how it changed them. These are important because you can tell what the musician feels and why through what they write. An artist I can use an an example would be, Biggie Smalls. Biggie is known as a notorious rapper who had a bad childhood, with drugs, drug dealers, addicts, and violence.If you listen closely to Biggie Smalls raps, you can tell that hes been through a lot. In the song suicidal though, every verse that is in the rap, can tells us and gives us a peak of from all the suffering that hes been through.
    “All my life I been considered as the worst, Lying to my mother, even stealing out her purse, Crime after crime, from drugs to extortion
    I know my mother wish she got a f****ng abortion”. The lyrics of this song, really gives us a powerful impact that hes been through alot of bad scenarios in his life, including the drugs and crimes, the lies that he has been saying around, how he was considered the worst person at one point. The musical sounds are effected when certain situations are being sung through in songs, like in suicidal thoughts he was talking to his friend, speaking his feelings about his suicidal thoughts, and there was really not a happy melody in the background, more like a concerning musical background. A musicians biography should always be serious, because sometimes you can discover new music and it would sound a certain way, not knowing what has caused this person to make the music the way he does. When I first listened to Biggie, the first song I listened to is Suicidal Thoughts, although I was sure why he would write such things, i searched him up and his biography helped me understand why he would write this song and why he felt this way. From a classical point of view, i think that the composers biography is the only thing that actually matters, although the composers music is sad, the performers that are preforming the opera can be acting and they could be really great actors. there is no connection between the composer and the performers unless the performers went through the same thing that the composers went through. Its only the composer who feels the way he does, and composed the music and the sounds on his feelings and not the performers. The way I coexist in harmony with the music that doesn’t share my views is I try to find a way for me to actually connect with the song, I try to understand what the musician is trying to tell me. With the views that make me uncomfortable I try to listen to comprehend why its the way it is. We accept the artist views by listening and becoming one with the music, not paying, because if you think about it, we could pay for something and not want it. I am guilty of buying something im not gonna wear or buying something I will never need; In my thoughts I think their are people in the world who go to concerts just to go, I know people who go to a concert just to follow the trend and not really be about it. I think that we will accept an artist views of music by getting to know the artist musical history, and why the sounds are a certain way, and enjoying the artist music.Honestly from hearing Wagner music and learning about his history, it doesnt make me think differently, it makes me think how it all makes sense. I think that the way Wagner composed his music was a depiction of what he thought of himself like the passage above tells us. Wager thought he was the greatest person out there, he was always around multiple young women, always doing big stuff, so he thought he was this greater really popular cool person he had this cool. In the Opera the first video you can tell the intensity thats in the song, was a mirror relflection of what he thought about himself. The song and him are a connection not a difference. Would he be one of the known artist today without his attitude of himself, or would his music drastically change?

    Like

  35. Would Wagner be one of the known composers today without his attitude of himself, or would his music drastically change? Based on his views of himself. I think he sounds kind of cocky, in a way lol

    Like

  36. After learning of Wagner’s hateful, antisemitic beliefs, I find it harder to appreciate his music. Facing a musicians biography and deciding whether or not to displace it from their musical works is a very arduous notion. While its obvious Wagner’s work is of value and quality, contributing to musical world and all its development– the knowledge of his past and how his anti jewish-sentiments were a huge part of our disastrous history is a problem. When sending along pieces of his, and letting them continuously be apart of our culture, are we letting his artistry live on with support? Of course listening to his music does not mean that one is justifying his beliefs, or agreeing with them, but its definitely complex. Its hard to celebrate someone, when there is such a checkered, hateful history. Along with this, when revisiting the works with a more broadened knowledge of his biography– what I heard before as exciting, I now hear as dark, hateful, and nationalistic. It makes me wonder what he was thinking when the music was created.

    Like

  37. i think people listen to music because they like it, they think it’s familiar to something they saw or think of or maybe something that is happening in there life. so if someone heard a song that is out of the way i don’t think they will go buy it because it doesnt make sense to listen to it. thats my thought of what i think people listen to artist because they know what the artist is trying to say.

    Like

    1. I believe to some extent there is some fault. Today it may not matter because I would assume people choose to ignore Wagner’s ideology and rather focus on the beauty of his compositions but back in the day when it mattered yes.

      Like

  38. A musician past plays an important part in their life and how they played or composed their music to help benefit others. For example Richard Wagner saw the effects of the French Revolution and used his music to help rebuild Europe.

    Like

  39. Wagner’s views on a specific religious groups made me uncomfortable because of how he talking about the them. I also believe that knowing this makes it even more uncomfortable listen to his music because of his views.

    Like

  40. As great a composer as Wagner may have been, I as a compassionate human being who sympathizes with the horrible events that came as a result of a society who shared his views, can’t possible listen to his music and feel the same way. I think one can give credit where credit is due without praising someone is such a way that makes them believe you both share the same morals.

    Like

    1. yes, I believe you can. Just because you and the person may not see eye to eye, you can still make the acknowledgement of their achievement and give respect to that at least.

      Liked by 1 person

  41. When I was young I remember watching a lot of Looney Toon cartoons, and hearing “Kill the Wabbit” brings back fun and warm feelings. I never knew at the time that they put their own entertaining spin on old age melodies from opera music. After reading this article and finding out that the composer of the melodies I enjoyed as a child was a arrogant, racist, and pompous individual, makes me think differently about the tunes I use to listen to. However, the type of person he is no matter how loathsome he may be, there is no doubt that he was a pioneer composer. Majority of Wagner’s music was loud, powerful n epic; most likely reflecting his pride as a German.

    Like

  42. I may not admire Wagner’s personality, based on this reading, especially during his exile; but I can recognize him as a brilliant composer.

    Like

    1. I will agree with you. He was one of the best composer at that time, but his personality make me think that he hated people so much.

      Like

  43. do you think using the revolution to his advantage automatically outs him in the wrong? you gotta do what you gotta do to make it sometimes

    Like

Comments are closed.