Can democratic politics come together with the operas of Herr Richard Wagner?
Let it be known that the music of Wagner makes me fucking howl! Makes me rant like a madman! Also know that this clip of Glenn Gould playing the prelude to Die Meistersinger is just a total gem. Gould is known not only for having been the reclusive Canadian prodigy who pontificated on topics wide and far, (a modernist through and through,) but also for having been perhaps the greatest, if not most important, interpreters of JS Bach. Do not listen to what the dolts in Conservatories tell you! Gould was certainly self-indulgent but he also had an incredible personality and intellect! Much more specifically, his life-long relationship with Bach enabled him to bring out the contrapuntal voices to whatever he played, voices that ordinarily get lost – a sure asset when it comes to the swirling sea of harmony in Wagner!
But listening last night to the duet from Tristan und Isolde, especially the point when Brangane is calling the lovers at dawn, made me also realize once again the importance of feeling those deep passions and longing that reside within us, and that actually give us the experience of being alive! (Policy wonks! Are you listening? Ha!) All those deep and obscure attachments, all those subterranean belongings which speak to us in sweats and puts a little jump in our walk, all the feudal elements that have been inherited over time, all those lost voices, (Hans-Georg Gadamer’s “prejudices,” Montesqieu’s even, maybe even Pascal’s as well) that we customarily prefer to leave behind at daybreak as we get up to go to work or take out the trash, can indeed serve as a counter to all the sham cosmopolitanism, bourgeois pettiness, and techno-capitalism of today. With a Neitzschean edge perhaps we can incite or agon-ize the Meistersinger, i.e., the demos, to dislodge its perfunctory routines, and its tyrannical tendency to “rationalize” and congeal everything it encounters. Perhaps that is what a political education would mean today. Bring out our voices! And listen! (Not interested anymore, wonks? Or are the prospects simply too horrible for anyone – let alone you – to conjure? Am I the only mad one?)
Yes! All this from listening to Wagner, and of dreaming of those endless blue eyes of the most beautiful and beloved soprano, from Austin, who left a long time ago, moved on, and had the strength to forget what she had to forget. I stay behind and dream of transfiguration. Hear the music, hear all the unspeakable painful joy we share. Hear the music with your eyes, maybe even with her eyes… if you can.