Sunday, March 18, 2007
Listening notes: (time line through the second opera of the Ring cycle)
9:40 Begins with the luftwaffe taking off on a bombing mission. Lost my place cos I was to busy making myself a pot of tea. I need some sort of sustainance to listen to over 3 hours of Wagner.
9:45 Robert DeNiro sheds a tear in his own private operabox at the sweetness of it. Young lovers gaze rapt into each others eyes. She is married, and he's her brother but the music is so lush you just know they are going to get their jollies off.
10:00 Completely lost. Wotans sword, bloodshed, tears, courage, seems to be the gist of want is going on, and nookie is spread thick of the toast of inscest.
10:10 Track 8 and I have found my place. Each track o the CD is marked with a number inside a small square and this is placed convieniently on the lyric sheet.
10:15 A sword is stuck in a tree trunk. A mountain ash, or to you and me a rowan tree, such a wicked pagan tree, and anyone who manages to pull it out is worth to be a hero. Hold on didn't king Aurthur have the rights on this story. He should get his lawyers on the case and sue the arse off Wagner. This is plain plagarism.
10:25 Second round of tea and toast.
10:35 Siegfried get his name and pulls the sword out of the tree. That is bad cos god himself should be the one who gives new names Jacob to Israel, Saul to Paul. It is a case for the lawyers once again.
10:40 End of First CD
10:42 Helicopters start up their engines and it is American gunship over the jungles of Vietnam, and we are all loving the smell of napalm in the morning.
10:45 The Gods are pissed off. Wotan's wife Fricka is giving him a hard time, over the fact that he is doing damn all to stop his kids from having it off with each other. Spouts something about the sanctity of marriage.
10:47 Unholy I consider the vow that unites without love is Wotan's comeback to her.
10:48 Fricka comes back at him If you grant respectability to adultery then you will have no trouble accepting the incestious fruit of the liason between thes twins.
10:50 Wotan and Fricka have a real old ding dong, just like all married couples do. It becomes apparant that Wotan has screwed around and put a mere human in the club. She gave birth to twins who are now about to have it off with each other. Bad Wotan Even the Gods reap what the sow.
11:15 Heavy philosophy, twisty twisty explainations, justifications to soothe a guilty conscience.
11:30 Brunhilde another of Wotan's kids is given the order by Wotan to kill Siegmund, becasue Fricka's honour has been besmirched. If you ask me none of them has any honour at all. They are all selfserving despots who can justify any action they make as being right no matter how wrong it is. They definately have severe personality disorders these Gods.
12:30 3rd CD in the slot and it is slow slow slow slow, much talking between Brunhilde and Siegmund, heroes getting into Valhalla and all that. Knowing what Wotan and Fricka are like I don't think I would want to be a hero and join them in Valhalla. Boring save for the magic sword. Swords are always good especially if you can be a real hero and threaten to use it to kill your sister who you have made pregnant.
1:15 Wotan kills his son Siegmund. Fricka will be pleased. Wotan breaks the magic sword. I think J.R's lawyers should get on the case. I mean to say the next thing you know some elf or a dwarf will be mending it, and it will be used to kill a dragon or some such rubbish. Brunhilde grabs the pregnant girl Sieglinde and gallops off into the sunset. Wotan having killed his son likes to keep his hand in and kills Hunding as well. In opera terms the couple of killings are over in a couple of lines. No explainations, no arguments, no tempers raised, no pleading, Wotan just whacks them both.
1:20 Ride of the Valkyries, choppers giving it large, rocket launchers red-hot Hoyotoho Hoyotoho is the sound of to rotor blades spinning
1:30 Lots of hoyotohoing as the nine Valkyries swoop in formation over the vietcong. Black clouds on the horizon, delirium everywhere, Valkyries twittering like freaked fairies at the approch of Wotan the War-father the Battle-father, who is well pissed.
1:38 Wotan curses Brunhilde. Fathers can be so unkind to their daughters. If they are not busy killing their sons then they curse their daughters. The curse that the daughters seem to hate the most is to sit by the fire and spin. Knitting woolly sweaters or cooking up a stew for a wimpy husband is the worst punishment out, especially if all your life you have been flying a helicopter gunship. Wotan is a god who pushishes his offspring. If you are a daughter you get cursed, if you are a son forsaken then killed. Period.
2:15 Brunhilde avoids becoming a domestic and cuts a deal with Wotan who lays her out on a rock and puts her in a deep sleep and surrounds her with the fires of hell. This is what she wants, her reasoning being that, it would take a true hero to brave the fires of hell and awake her with a kiss. Hey Walt Disney's lawyers should get on Wagners case, for he has obviously stolen the Sleeping Beauty story from Walt.
2:30 Ends with magic fire music
Saturday, March 17, 2007
Baudelaire said of Wagner "I love Wagner, but then again, the music I prefer is that of a cat hung up by its tail outside a window trying to stick to the panes of glass with its claws."
Wagner is thought to be a fascist dwarf with big ideas. Big ideas like that short arse Napoleon who marched on Moscow. Big ideas like stumpy Adolf who marched on Moscow. Don't you just hate short people, you have to pick them up even to say hello.
But short people tend to over-compensate in other ways. Wagner for instance indulged in multicoloured crushed velvet suits that would have turned Jimi Hendrix green with embarrassment, but regardless of his stature he did big music that took ages to perform.
For example the four-opera cycle "Der Ring des Nibelungen" (1876) takes over 14 hours to perform and if you want to hear a performence of it at Wagner's spirtual home at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus then you have to book 14 years in advance. God it is almost as difficult as getting a child into Eaton, and the end result is often in both cases, a long fruitless wait, with little to show for it in the end.
Wagner was always in debt. He was always running away from people he owed money to. It began in Riga in 1839 where he amassed such huge debtsand had to flee to escape his creditors. Oh and he did not have much luck with his missus either, she run off with a russian army officer. Perhaps this sorry start to married life led him to be infatuated by other women such as Cosima who was the illegitimate daughter of Franz Liszt. Cosima who was 24 years younger than Wagner, gave birth to Wagner's illegitimate daughter, who was named Isolde. Now where did they come up with a name like that? Why old short pants himself and just written Tristan and Isolde based on and arthurian legend dealing with the love of a knight for a married woman. Art imitating life.
But the big project was the "Dwarf's ring" Trust a short arse to write an opera about dwarves.
- Das Rheingold 149 minutes
- Die Valkyrie 216 minutes
- Siegfried 233 minutes
- Twilight of the Gods 245 minutes
Did he worry about mixing whites with colours? Yes of course he did, and that is why he turned his hand to writing such essays as "Das Judenthum in der Musik" (German, "Jewishness in Music", but normally translated Judaism in Music). Wagner, attacked Jews in general and the composers Giacomo Meyerbeer and Felix Mendelssohn in particular. It was reissued in a greatly expanded version under Wagner’s name in 1869. It is regarded by many as an important landmark in the history of German anti-Semitism.
So I have gone to the library and got 3 of these big Wagner operas out. I failed to get Siegfried, or was it Siegmund or Sieglinde or SiegHeil, but I thought what the hell, it might be about inscest, so I will leave that for later. Instead for a substitute I got a MOJO compilation of Sgt Pepper by various artists and I listened to it at one sitting, sort of easing myself into a long listening session of Wagner.
If the Beatles Sgt Pepper was thick and hearty pea soup then the MOJO compilation was dishwater. I don't want to sup that again. I wonder if I will come to the same conclusion about Wagner.
Thursday, March 15, 2007
The theatre is packed. It is a bowtie and tails affair, with a mad sprinkling of cocktail dresses thrown in. A piano is rolled onto the stage. The audience wonders if it is a "prepared piano" A few loose scews and bolts drop onto the floor as the piano is pushed across the stage. The lid of the piano is not closed and poking out from under the lid is the front wheel of a ladies bicycle, and hanging ominously from the handle bars are two carrier bags full of shopping. Is this a mistake? The ladies fidget with their opera glasses and focus down their noses, as the piano comes to rest centre stage. What is going on?
A smartly dressed young man enters stage left wearing white tie and tails. His hair is black and slicked back with brylcreme. He sits down on the piano stool folds his fingers together and cracks his knuckles. He places his sheet music on the piano and starts the first movement of John Cages latest musical offering for piano entitled 4' 33" The audience waits in anticipation. Silence. The musician sits down at his piano, closes the keyboard, and sets a stopwatch for 30 seconds. He remains sitting and does not do anything. Birds were singing outside. A bee flew in through an open window. The audience shuffled their feet, coughed. Had the performace begun?
When that time was up he rose from his stool and made a respectful bow towards the audience. They were flumoxed... should they clap, but then they remembered it is bad form to applaud between movments. He sat down again and turned over a page on the sheet music and he set the clock again for 2 minutes and twenty-three seconds. Under the full scrutiny on an uncomprehending audience the beads of sweat began to form on his brow. A hank of hair from his forelock worked it's way loose from the brylcreme gel and hung down over his forhead. Ladies tut tutted and and gentlemen began to cough nervously. The air conditioning cut out and the imperceptable hum that had been vibrating through the air ceased.
At the end of 2:23 the pianist rose from his stool. It scrapped along the floor as he did so. He removed a handkerchief from his breast pocket and wiped the prespiration from his brow and dabbed the moisture from his upper lip. He turned the page once again... the pages were blank and did not have any notes on them. He set the clock for one minute and 40 seconds, and resumed his seat at the piano.
One woman turned to her husband and said that it was outrageous. She had spent all that money on a new dress, not to mention the jewelry. Her husband who would have prefered to be in the bar drinking brandy anyway, knocked on the floor two times with his cane, and that was all that was need to start the riot. First it was the feet that started to rumble like a train, and canes, walking sticks, and umbrellas with the occasion parasole began to supply a sharp staccatto backbeat. A man with a fine waxed moustache that would have made Elgar envious cried balderdash, and bushsy black beard shouted poppycock. The ladies were affronted by the word not knowing if a poppy had a cock or not. Then all mayhem ensued, there was donkeys braying, spittle flying from outraged purple lips. Some ladies had to have their corsets loosed for fear of apoplexy and neurological impairment
After one minute 40 seconds the pianist he left the stage. The first performance of "4:33" was over, and John Cage could not have been happier if he had been Eric Satie spouting abusive Dada poetry whilst jugging a litter of new born kittens.
For your listening pleasure here is a full orchestral presentation of John Cage 4:33
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
In the taxi today I asked a Russian if he knew the mighty handful, and to my surprise he said yes and when I challenged him he reeled off the names of Alexander Borodin, Modest Mussorgsky, and Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov. No they are not ice-hockey players, they are russian composers, but then again you knew that.
Apparently none of the mighty handful had any musical training yet they wanted to produce a music that was distinctly Russian, and they set about doing this by growing big black bushy beards and drinking vodka, and being critical of each other
A protege of theirs was Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky his bread was neat and trimed and grey which of course marked him out as being gay, He went ahead and married a nutcase called Antonina Miliukova, and after a couple of weeks of marriage tried to top himself by drowning. He failed since the water was only waist deep. All he succeeded in doing was catching the cold. Things went from bad to worse so he left his wife. She never gave him a divorce, and years later at the end of her life Antonina was locked up in an insane asylum and died.
Nadezhda von Meck, was next on Pyotr's list. They exchanged 1200 letters and she financed him to the tune of 6,000 roubles a year. When she discovered what the small gray neatly trimed beard ment she never wrote him another letter and never gave him another penny. Three months after Tchaikovsky died she died of a choking fit.
Everyone has heard the 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky, we all get our education in classical music seconf hand through films. The 1812 featured in the film Gorky Park (1983). and in Dead Poets Society (1989), Robin Williams' character (John Keating) whistles the overture.
Tchaikovsky might haved ended his life by poisoning himself or dying of cholera. Nobody seems to know.
Pyotr and Antonina, Rock and Doris everything changes yet everything remains the same.