Sunday, December 20, 2020

Steve Erickson on "Bad Men Making Great Art"

From Steve Erickson's 11-2-20 LOS ANGELES MAGAZINE article entitled "In the Current Political Moment, Richard Wagner’s Influence Is More Relevant—and Problematic—Than Ever":

On the eve of an election where the choice is nothing less than democracy versus neo-fascism, you don’t have to know much more about Richard Wagner than I do to find Alex Ross’s Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) timely. Ross makes a persuasive case that the nineteenth-century German composer wasn’t just the most influential artist of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, but maybe the most influential artist ever in any form. Wagner’s operas plumbed the primal and dreamy, the heroic and pagan. If you’ve ever been to the movies or watched TV, then you know Wagner better than you think: His music has scored everything from the ride of the Ku Klux Klan in Birth of a Nation to the helicopter raid at dawn in Apocalypse Now. And his massive productions were so dramatically grand and so epic in scale (up to 15 hours long) that while it might be overstating things to say there would be no Star Wars or Lord of the Rings without them, neither would have the same enduring resonance. Wagner was a towering influence on everyone from Joyce to Dalí to Sontag, and although Ross doesn’t, I would argue that the Beatles’ Abbey Road has Wagnerian flourishes.

Just as Wagner begins to loom as a heroic figure of his own, however, we run up against the complicated realities of Wagner’s shadow and the man who cast it [...].

In the current American Reich, when woke Red Brigades police our collective taste, good faith easily gives way to bad. Alex Ross’s Wagnerism, which might otherwise seem a bit rarefied if not arcane, confronts the moment’s dilemma of how to think about bad men making great art that inspires both more great art and unfathomable evil. It’s a dilemma without an answer other than to embrace the contradictions instead of trying to resolve them. Art doesn’t lend itself to clear-cut conclusions any more than do the men and women who make it or write books about it.

To read the entire article, click HERE.

No comments:

Post a Comment