TODAY'S the 200th anniversary of Richard Wagner. He's #3 in Charles Murray's list of classical composers compiled in Human Accomplisment. But he's probably #1 on the list of most-hated composers.
That would partly be due to his anti-semitism. And partly due to the fact that he wrecked the good old opera formula of recitative followed by beautiful songs.
But really, he upended music as a whole. The best way to understand this is to listen to a movie (while you watch it). It was Wagner that invented that kind of music, setting the tone of the movie, telling you in the feeling in sound of what is going on visually and what you should feel about it.
Wagner always lived the spirit of the age. He was a Romantic, then a lefty revolutionary, then a Schopenhauerian pessimist. And he did his best to bring all that out in his music.
This sort of thing infuriated the purists. He took the Nordic myths about power struggles between the gods and turned it into a drama about power, duty, and love. He took the Arthurian Tristan and made it all about sex. He took Eschenbach's Parzival and made him into a post-aristocratic post-Christian upper-class ascetic.
That points up the main thing to know about Wagner. He requires total surrender. Think the opera is too slow? Too long? Too chromatic? Too improbable? Too bad.
My own relationship with Wagner began in the 1970s. My wife had asked me to get tickets to the Flying Dutchman and Mr. Skinflint didn't do it. But I got an LP of the Dutchman from the library and was blown over. Not by the singing, but by the Prelude, which is an astonishing impressionistic piece that evokes wind and storm. The story is about Senta's sacrifice of love. All heroines in Wagner sacrifice themselves for love.
Wouldn't you know, by the time I actually got season tickets to the opera, Director Glynn Ross in Seattle was mobilizing for a full Ring cycle for the centenary Ring year of 1976. So I got to go to Der Ring des Nibelungen, the whole thing.
People ask: how can you sit through four nights of opera, and long operas at that. The answer, of course, is that going to the Ring is a ritual, and rituals are supposed to be boring; they are supposed to force you to get rid of your monkey mind and surrender to the experience. It is, if you like, a form of meditation.
At the end of the Ring, after the end of Götterdämmerung, you know you have experienced one of the great aesthetic experiences known to man. That is why the Ring is so popular, even though Wagner's music is so challenging.
What about the bad parts, the anti-semitism? Wagner was undoubtedly a minor monster. He aligned his life completely with the various spirits of the age. And one of them was anti-semitism. When the Jews were released from their ghettos in Germany in the 19th century they exploded into the economy and the culture with a power that frightened lots of people. Kinda like the way that liberals are terrified of conservatives and Christians. Where do these people come from?
But like it or not, Richard Wagner was a musical genius, and after Wagner music will never be the same.
IT'S lucky that liberals never have to look at themselves in a mirror, and never have to listen to their hate speech. Because what liberals do is an utter betrayal of what they say they believe. They say that everything they do is for the little people. But they don't have a problem siccing the IRS on the little people of the Tea Party. They say that dissent is the highest form of ...
ONE of the underappreciated facts about the Tea Party movement is that women have been in the vanguard. And they started organizing in the fall of 2008. We're supposed to believe that all women are Democrats. But Keli Carender (@LiberTBelle), who started the Tea Party here in the Seattle area, is a graduate of Oxford, a teacher and sometime actor. Doesn't fit the profile. And of course many...
IN a thumb-sucker about the managerial shortcomings of the Obama White House, John Fund surfaces the worries of Democrats, that "chaotic implementation" of Obamacare could "could become the biggest political liability Democrats will face in next year’s midterm elections." Don't set your sights too high, Mr. Fund. How about: the train wreck of Obamacare implementation could result in the ...
I dare say that, after a month of two of denial, liberal pundits will start asking: How could this happen to good people like us? Let me help. The answer is simple. Racists, sexists, bigots and homophobes. No, I don't mean that racists, sexists, bigots and homophobes did this to you. I mean that liberal politics, which marginalizes anyone that disagrees with the liberal ruling class as a ...
SOMETIMES I have to agree with liberals. The writers of the US Constitution were living in another age. They just could not foresee how things would change and make the constitution obsolete.
Take the First Amendment and the Jefferson corollary. The whole idea of preventing an "establishment of religion" and enforcing a separation between church and state is just so 18th century, darling.
Because now the problem is the establishment of secular religion.
There's a British chappie who has penned a conventional-wisdom book about the decline of religion. In God is Dead: secularization in the West, Steve Bruce argues that people are just less interested in religion. He writes:
I expect the proportion of people who are largely indifferent to religious ideas to increase and the seriously religious to become a small minority.Of course, if you define religion narrowly as "believing in a transcendent God" Bruce's attitude might be partly right, although the Islamists would disagree. But if we are talking broadly about ideas and communities and rituals in which people construct a faith about the meaning of life and what to do about it, then Steve Bruce is bound to be completely wrong.
A great irony of our modern era is that at exactly the same time that the Cartesian-Newtonian world-view was emerging the anti-systemic capitalist culture was emerging as well. On the one hand you had the billiard ball determinism of Newtonian mechanics. On the other hand you had the infinite complexity of the market process. So why do we talk about the free-market "system", the price "system...
A while back I took a look at "Marx's Five Big Mistakes," five big things that Karl Marx got wrong. I mean things like the immiseration of the working class, the alienation of workers by the division of labor, the labor theory of value, the idea that bureaucracy would wither away under socialism, and that people would abandon the division of labor under socialism. But then I got to wondering...
IF you are a conservative or Republican, chances are that you are a member in good standing of the People of the Responsible Self. Nothing remarkable here. The Responsible Self was invented during the Axial Age, according to Robert Bellah. The idea developed that humans were not simply the helpless chattels of the gods but individuals, responsible before God for their lives. It's the ...
MANY OF THE commenters on my article last week on “Democrats: End of the Big Push” took me to task for underestimating the ruthlessness of the Democrats.
Maybe I do underestimate them. But here is something to back up my point. A well-known Democratic activist recently said this:
Planned Parenthood is not going ...
Last week, the pundits told us, was one of the worst in President Obama’s presidency. ...
THE GREAT EVENT of the second millennium was the rise of the world-historical middle class.... more
Andrew Coulson, Market Education
How universal literacy was achieved before government education
Carl Kaestle, Pillars of the Republic
How we got our education system
James Tooley, Reclaiming Education
How only a market in education will provide opportunity for the poor
James Tooley, The Miseducation of Women
How the feminists wrecked education for boys and for girls
E.G. West, Education and the State
How education was doing fine before the government muscled in
Hernando De Soto, The Mystery of Capital
How ordinary people in the United States wrote the law during the 19th century
F. A. Hayek, Law Legislation and Liberty, Vol 1
How to build a society based upon law
Henry Maine, Ancient Law
How the movement of progressive peoples is from status to contract
John Zane, The Story of Law
How law developed from early times down to the present
James Bartholomew, The Welfare State We're In
How the welfare state makes crime, education, families, and health care worse.
David Beito, From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State
How ordinary people built a sturdy social safety net in the 19th century
David Green, Before Beveridge: Welfare Before the Welfare State
How ordinary people built themselves a sturdy safety net before the welfare state
Theda Skocpol, Diminished Democracy
How the US used to thrive under membership associations and could do again
David Stevenson, The Origins of Freemasonry
How modern freemasonry got started in Scotland
David Aikman, Jesus in Beijing
How Christianity is booming in China
Finke & Stark, The Churching of America, 1776-1990
How the United States grew into a religious nation
Robert William Fogel, The Fourth Great Awakening and the Future of Egalitarianism
How progressives must act fast if they want to save the welfare state
David Martin, Pentecostalism: The World Their Parish
How Pentecostalism is spreading across the world
Work to restore the Road to the Middle Class. Heres how. Ground it in faith. Grade it with education. Protect it with mutual aid. Defend it with the law. more>>
The Road to the Middle Class is a journey from a world of power to a world of trust and love. In religion, it is a journey from power gods that respond to sacrifice and augury to the God who makes a covenant with mankind. In education, it is a journey from the world of the spoken word to the world of the written word. In community, it is the journey from dependence on blood kin and upon clientage under a great lord to the mutual aid and the rules of the self-governing fraternal association. In law it is the journey from the violence of force and feud to the kingŽs peace, the law of contract, and private property.
The incentive that impels a man to act is always some uneasiness...
But to make a man act [he must have]
the expectation that purposeful behavior has the power to remove
or at least to alleviate the felt uneasiness.
Ludwig von Mises, Human Action
But I saw a man yesterday who knows a fellow who had it from a chappie
that said that Urquhart had been dipping himself a bit recklessly off the deep end.
Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison
At first, we thought [the power of the West] was because you had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system. But in the past twenty years, we have realized that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity.
David Aikman, Jesus in Beijing
[In the] higher Christian churches... they saunter through the liturgy like Mohawks along a string of scaffolding who have long since forgotten their danger. If God were to blast such a service to bits, the congregation would be, I believe, genuinely shocked. But in the low churches you expect it every minute.
Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm
Civil Societya complex welter of intermediate institutions, including businesses, voluntary associations, educational institutions, clubs, unions, media, charities, and churchesbuilds, in turn, on the family, the primary instrument by which people are socialized into their culture and given the skills that allow them to live in broader society and through which the values and knowledge of that society are transmitted across the generations.
Francis Fukuyama, Trust
In England there were always two sharply opposed middle classes, the academic middle class and the commercial middle class. In the nineteenth century, the academic middle class won the battle for power and status... Then came the triumph of Margaret Thatcher... The academics lost their power and prestige and... have been gloomy ever since.
Freeman Dyson, The Scientist as Rebel
Conservatism is the philosophy of society. Its ethic is fraternity and its characteristic is authority the non-coercive social persuasion which operates in a family or a community. It says we should....
Danny Kruger, On Fraternity
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