Felsenmusick - The Weblog of Daniel Felsenfeld
The Web Log of a Certain Daniel Felsenfeld: Composer, critic, avid reader, aspiring
bon vivant, capricorn, shadowy figure, advice for the lovelorn

Monday, May 08, 2006

Not So Impressive

Almost done with Edward Said's posthumous concatenation On Late Style: Music and Literature Against the Grain, which, for my money, is an attempt to explain how the approaching of death is the only way to truly get to the heart of the aesthetic matter. I will not go on and on about his scathing indictment of The Ghosts of Versailles for being too recherche (he praises Der Rosenkavelier for the exact same thing, except that Strauss did it as his pals, the Nazis, were pillaging Europe so his Autumnal rediscovery of Mozart is a yearning for earlier simpler times as the bombs fell. Did Corigliano and Hoffmann need a war to make their less-than-gentile look back less tawdry?) but I will go on about his praising Adorno with the faintest of damnation at another time.

I guess I bristle at the entire excercise: it's the Leisure of the Theory Class, an uninvolved observer criticizing from on high anything that is not German or Italian Cinema. What does it really say? I don't disparage critics--I actually have read more academic literary criticism than is probably healthy--but when it comes to the outsider's opinion on matters musical, they tend to get a little cutely haughty, which drives me crazy. At least literary critics have to be competent (if not at times thorny) writers; what do these elevated music critics need to have in the way of musical capacity before they are able to comment so brutally ex cathedra?

More to come when I am finished, for those who are interested, but I wish sometimes academics (or so-called public intellectuals) would hum a new and slightly more expansive tune.

5 Comments:

Blogger Adam Baratz said...

I can't comment on the content of this book, but Said was an amateur musician (pianist I believe). You can still disagree with him, of course. :)

9:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Musically untrained academics shouldn't hum, even if it is a more expansive tune. They shouldn't whistle either.

5:46 AM  
Anonymous Henry Holland said...

he praises Der Rosenkavelier for the exact same thing, except that Strauss did it as his pals, the Nazis, were pillaging Europe so his Autumnal rediscovery of Mozart is a yearning for earlier simpler times as the bombs fell

Um, this makes no sense. Der Rosenkavalier premiered in 1911; in 1911 Adolf Schikelgruber was near starvation, painting watercolors in Vienna. Strauss' "time traveling" (per Stravinsky) operas (which includes Ariadne) were well in place before the Nazis.

If you're so determined to bash Strauss, Metemorphosen or Capriccio would have been more appropriate; the former was definitely written in response to bombs falling.

11:47 AM  
Blogger Daniel said...

Mr. Holland is right, I meant to write Capriccio (late night; plenty of bile) but meant not to bash Strauss. My contempt was reserved for Mr. Said's rather grand over-reading of Strauss.

But thanks for the notice. I stand corrected.

2:49 PM  
Anonymous bc@bu.edu said...

The comments on Srauss were not fair. As you must know Strauss' relationship with the Nazis was a convoluted one, in part because his daughter in law was Jewish and he had grandchildren to worry about. I am not claiming that he was a hero- just that a rush to judgment seems uncalled for.

3:09 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home