Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Mario is Dead

Wagner and English Descendents

7 Week syllabus for Wagner's Children

  1. Wagner – Part 1
  2. Wagner – Part 2
  3. Rackham and Shaw
  4. Joyce
  5. Pound
  6. Tolkien
  7. The three authors in retrospect.

Wagner was an awful man, and there is no way of denying this. But what is also true, though many attempts at making a stab at this, is that he is a great artist, even if you don't think so - there is no denying that he was important. This was recognized even as he stormed - an idea man stormed ,
the earth.

One good talk about music, where his arch rival was Brahms, about Opera, where is arch rival was Verdi, about nationalism, where his arch rival was Tchaikovsky, and we haven't even begun his hold on cinema, which was not even started. In other words, one could talk about, in a very literal sense, Wagner and the future. Which is what many people did not want him to be, and which Wagner set hi self up as the artist of the future. It even continues to this day, such as Nicholas Spice ruminating in the London review of books (Vol. 35 No. 7, 11 April 2013)

In the first part of this story, we are going to take the ring, and talk about it in its past, because Wagner knew, in a very deep way, that there were echoes of the past. That means Rheingold and Walkure, however strained they are, as music of the early romantic period. Then he stops and composes Tristan and Isolde, which was based on the 3rd, not the 5th. It was shocking, most of all because they could not play it.

Which then begins the tale of the second part of his tetrad of operas, Siegfried and Gotterdammerung which supporter Richard Stauss called a fairytale, and which in the 1950s was parodied by Bugs Bunny, as a disastrous conclusion of events.

What were interested here, is how the fanatics of Wagner through themselves in two getting this work performed. At the time it was the largest work to be so. Now of course in this post modern age, we have television shows which are much longer, but for 100 years, the ring held the mark. Even some of your grandparents remember a time when the ring was the quintessential moment of art, though of course many of them did not actually partake of it.

Rackham and Shaw are  the disciples of Wagner,  Rackham in the area of artwork,  Shaw in the area of words. Rackham particular makes a point of displaying bodies and shapes which are different from Wagners conception,  its figures are lean and bright,  as opposed to the Wagnerian conception of rotund.  Shaw delivered the " perfect Wagnerite" as a form of religion.  Shaw was also liberal,  as opposed to Wagner,  who grew increasingly conservative as time went on.  but they were both vegetarians.


Then rather than looking at the music, we are going to look at the literary dimensions, starting with the generation that came of age in the 1890s. Particularly those who were spellbound by the works enormous power. We are then going to look at three authors who took this work and formed it as the great response, and not always positively.

First, we will look at the modernist author, James Joyce, and in particular his book Ulysses, which many people in the older generation, have heard of, but haven't actually read. If Wagner was public, Joyce was private, between the covering sheets. The book Ulysses contained a welder of styles, each one of them as different as the others, and in totality a new kind of artwork. If Wagner was beckoning people to the future, as the late romantic envisioned it, Ulysses was beckoning people to the future as the modern understood it. Realize that modern, in this way of thinking, had been over for about 50 years, to be crowded out what may have been called the contemporary era, which we are still living in now.

We will then look at a poet Ezra Pound and his Cantos. Pound in many ways agreed with Wagner on many of the details of his art, but Pound disagreed with virtually everyone, and in many cases would take time to point it out. He was venturing in to a world of poetry, as Joyce was interested in the realm of prose. It was an irascible kind of poetry, and very few people would truly understand it. We look at Ezra pounds uncompleted masterpiece The Cantor, and its challenge to be the Homer, or Dante, of his time.

Finally the tale lands on Tolkien, which is not the person that your parents would have expected. But Tolkien was engaged in a project which had its generations endowed by Wagner. And don't think Tolkien didn't realize this, because he wanted no part of it. He also didn't want to speak of Hitler, and on the same terms. In his prose masterpiece, also entitled the ring, he details how his world was put together. And the details are, in Tolkien's mind, a generative frequency all his own. We will look at this in immense detail, because the breath of his conception is the reason that anyone would look at him.

We will then look at these authors as producing their own changes as profound as the changes which they inherited from Wagner, including many forms which would be unrecognizable to their parents, including role-playing games.