Saturday, October 10, 2020

links for the weekend, the Mbird series on ATLA continues; Get Religion on Ravi Zacharias, Rust Belt Catholics & the Nones in 2020; John Ahern on neo-Platonic and Pythagorean background to Pauline instruction on music

First off, a new installment in the Mbird series on Avatar: The Last Airbender went up this last week.

by way of Ethan Iverson, Steve Reich's Tehilim; Kyle Gann on the history of minimalism; some thoughts on a style that had any interaction with the pop of its era and the post-war Pax American context that made that possible

A week late but ... Steve Reich had a birthday recently ...

Ethan Iverson rightly points out that it would be hard to find someone more eloquent on the history of minimalism than Kyle Gann but I'm going to go so far as to point you to the chapter where Gann discusses the movement because, as I hope long-time readers know, I've referenced Gann's writings on a semi-regular basis here, at least when the blog is dealing with music.

Friday, October 09, 2020

Norman Lebrecht trolls Wagner fans by saying "remove Wagner and the rest of music continues ... " as though music history was all about composers and nobody else

Wagner brings out the worst in power-seekers. The German word for megalomania is Grossenwahn, or grand delusion. That’s what Wagner does, a reckless reordering of normality. He named his own house Wahnfried, which means peace after madness. He’s a menace.

Ross has an intriguing chapter on Wagner’s gay side. His patron, the homosexual and half-mad King Ludwig of Bavaria, was besotted in every way and Wagner only encouraged his arousal if their letters are anything to go by, forever trying to be all things to all men and women.

“Throughout his life,” writes Ross, “Wagner pursued an ideal of androgyny, a spiritual merger of the sexes.” Although a dominant male to his wives, he sought sexlessness in Parsifal, “androgyny elevated to the level of religion”, in which “the Saviour redeems the world by overcoming the duality of gender.”

His sexual ambiguity spoke powerfully to Oscar Wilde, Aubrey Beardsley and Thomas Mann, whose novella Death in Venice is both an evocation and a validation of Wagnerian themes, “pederasty made acceptable for the cultural middle classes”, as the Berlin critic Alfred Kerr acridly put it.

My impression is that minorities, be they sexual or religious, are drawn to Wagner by a perception of permissiveness and transgression. His operas breach Biblical taboos of adultery and incest. He wants to destroy the world that prejudices those who differ from the norm. He speaks for those who have no voice, hurling their missiles in the face of a worshipful establishment, making the elites at grand opera houses humbly submissive to his art.

While Alex Ross enumerates his conquests among the creative classes, I am not sure he has fully grasped his appeal to our subversive unconscious. He is not alone in this reluctance. Freud, who knew the Wagner operas, was strangely muted in his analysis.

At the risk of undermining his own thesis, Ross quotes Nietzsche in advocating that no statement should ever be made about Wagner without the word “perhaps”. I am well past 600 pages before I see the flaw in his case. Ross states that Wagner is — perhaps — the most influential figure in the history of music. He isn’t. Remove Bach and there is no history. Take out Beethoven and everything grinds to a halt. Eliminate Verdi and there is no Italian opera. Without Stravinsky, no twentieth century.

Remove Wagner, however, and the rest of music continues regardless. Wagner is a one-off, an ego, a restless provocateur. To Wagnerites, he’s the fusion of all arts. To Wagner-sceptics like me, he’s a genetic anomaly, a genius without anxiety.

Norman Lebrecht's piece that is sort of about Alex Ross' book Wagnerism and more about Lebrecht's dislike of Wagner is ... fairly typical for a piece about Wagner.

Sunday, October 04, 2020

links for the weekend: an Mbird series started on Avatar: The Last Airbender; the pending end of Internet Monk; assorted music/musicology and gender-y stuff

Being the animation fan that I am, I've considered writing about The Last Airbender for years.  For the US-made adventure animated series I'd say the three touchstones of the last thirty some years in American cartoons for me would be: Batman: the animated series (fold the rest of the DCAU in if you want); Samurai Jack, and Avatar: The Last Airbender.  Skip Legend of Korra, though. Legend of Korra is to The Last Airbender what Star Wars Episodes I-III are to the original trilogy.  Pass it by in favor of Miraculous (aka Ladybug and Cat Noir) which is a blast if you watch it with the original French voice ensemble.  I haven't seen Spider-man stories capture the old Lee/Ditko vibe of the original run as well as the French language superhero cartoon has.  Still have to get to seeing season 3, though.  

Annette Kruisbrink: Etude et fugue (style baroque) for solo guitar, with video score

Here's a lovely etude and fugue by Annette Kruisbrink for solo guitar.  I love how the etude theme transforms from duple to triple meter and shifts across registers throughout the etude.  The fugue is beautifully made and the etude idea returns in a couple of chorale forms to wonderful effect in the coda of the fugue.  So I wanted to share the music this weekend and hope you enjoy it as much as I have.