|Date: Thu, 08 Jul 1999 21:38:57 -0700
From: Peter Dorman
Subject: [PEN-L:9027] Re: Re: Re: Re: Hanns Eisler
By going back to the 18th c. we are adding new layers to the question.
Mozart did not have strong political views in the conventional sense,
although he clearly identified with the main themes of the enlightenment
(much trashed on this list). Within the confines of a society
stratified by birth he favored greater social leveling, and he treats
servants and other low-born persons in his operas with respect. (Even
women get some respect.) But it would be wrong to say that he ever put
forward a strong political statement, and his music -- as music -- was
unaffected by politics. Interestingly, Haydn's *music* is intrinsically
progressive within the context of his era. He was the first composer in
the classical tradition to use folk and folk-like music as an essential
component of his work, rather than as a novelty element. (Compare any
landler from the third movement of a Haydn symphony to, say, Bach's
peasant cantata.) Moreover, the sonata form (which he more or less
invented) mirrors the novel as a formal expression of the transformation
of individual consciousness as it makes its way through the world.
(Here I am arguing by homology, but in music I think it makes more
sense.) Music passes definitively from decoration to narrative.
The irony is that Haydn wrote the anthem that became "Deutschland Uber
Beethoven is known for having responded positively to the French
Revolution, but there is little actual politics in his music. (Yes,
there is the ode to brotherhood in the 9th symphony and the prisoners'
hymn to freedom in Fidelio.) For the most part he was pursuing the same
inner/other-worldliness that German romanticism fled to. There was a
practical radicalism, however, in works like the late piano sonatas, the
Grosse Fuge, etc., that broke with music as entertainment (for either
the castle chamber or the bourgeois drawing room) and looked forward to
a different socioeconomic model.
The revolutions of 1848 did not leave a large musical footprint. We
have a revolutionary etude from Chopin, and Wagner's nationalistic
frenzy was his own response to the failure of the revolutionary dream.
But most European music from the latter half of the 19th century is
either salon noodling or inward spiritual quest. When new winds were
finally to blow, they would come from nationalism on the European
periphery, formalism (fulfilling the promise of Beethoven's late works),
and fin de siecle mystical sensualism.
So what we have are the broad themes of modern society: the rise of
nationalist politics, professionalization of the arts and sciences, and
the endless search for methods to arouse consumers/citizens/audiences at
ever deeper emotional and cognitive levels.
In all of this, leftist politics is exceptional and, at most, coincidental.