Destruction of Western Civilization through Music and the Arts
Cello Player (Professor Dr. Erwin Freundlich), Max Pechstein, 1919 One of the significant aspects of the current revolutionary madness sweeping the nation is the unrestrained assault on the cultural artifacts of Western Christian civilization. In effect the attack on monuments and the nomenclature of Army forts, schools and streets, and on so much more is emblematic of something more profound and irreparable, an assault on what those symbols signify.
In a broader sense, this assault portends a basic denial of the richness and nourishing fruits of our culture and what that culture has given us. For that denial goes far beyond visible symbols in copper and granite or in place names. We have seen this in the increasing demands for a Taliban-like cultural cleansing of our society. And thus the mounting attacks on our artistic heritageon those works of art that remind us of what our civilization has created and, indeed, of its bounty, goodness and creativity that have helped fashion who we are as a people.
In this climate of nihilism the remarkable art, the superb literature, and the great classical musical heritage which have held us in delighted rapture, are being despoiled, even withdrawn from accessibility like the film classic Gone With the Wind (now no longer available via HBO video platforms). In some cases this has resulted in de facto or outright banning. And if a work of our heritage is simply too significant to be erased, then it will be re-cast and reinterpreted to support the revolutionary agenda.
Penalties are now routinely meted out to the guilty defenders of the two millennia of inherited Western culture. Thus, as we watch statues memorializing Confederate heritage destroyed and symbols commemorating Washington, Jefferson, Christopher Columbus, Father Junipero Serra, and others brought down, we also should understand that this vandalism encompasses far more: the abolition of the historic inheritance and rejection of twenty centuries of civilization.
The guardians of our patrimony may utter a mild demurrer, but more commonly, they accede to and go along with this radical transformation of Western culture. It is not as much for fear of being called racist or a defender of male privilege, rather, too many of our cultural elites are possessed of the same wokeness that dominates the streets, if a bit more rarefied.
The effects are particularly dramatic in performance music. Our musical expression gives voice to our joys, our sadness, our triumphs, our beliefs, and how we view ourselves; it is critical to our understanding of the civilization around us. Yet for decades there has been a constant effort to undermine and reshape that expression to fit a progressivist, post-Marxist mold and agenda. A concentration on race and gender is all- consuming. Anti-racism and feminism have become the benchmarks for this transformation.
Over the past half century and longer progressivists have been largely successful in restructuring what is sometimes termed higher culturean appreciation and understanding of the role in our society of inherited art, literature, music, and architectureand altering its relationship to most average citizens. When I was a boy, for instance, classical music was programmed regularly and popularly on commercial radiothe major local station at that time in Raleigh, North Carolina, WPTF, featured both the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts on Saturdays and a classical music program every night at 8 p.m. Network television offered us the long-running Voice of Firestone and The Bell Telephone Hour. Widely-viewed programs like Sunday prime times Ed Sullivan Show would feature Wagnerian soprano Birgit Nilsson and coloratura Joan Sutherland.
While many of my school chums from sixty years ago didnt really get into classical music like I did, they at least recognized its significance and resonance in society, that it was an integral part of our inheritance, and that it surrounded and annealed and helped define our culture and made that culture more complete. Maybe they didnt listen to the Met, but we all knew the themes from those popular TV programs like The Lone Ranger (with its use of Rossinis William Tell Overture) or Sergeant Preston of the Yukon (with the Donna Diana Overture, by Reznicek). And who can forget Elmer Fudd belting out a cartoon version of Richard WagnerI killed the Wabbit!
Today, it is niche programming on television and radio: cable channels dedicated to a specific interest, radio devoted to the top 40 hits and specialty music, or 24-hour talk. Classical music has completely disappeared from commercial radio and TV. And even classical performances relocation to public broadcasting thirty years ago, with its limited audience, is increasingly tenuous. Now when PBS offers a great performance it is more likely to be rock music from the 1970s or maybe some celebratory ethnic sampling.
The template today distorts that important element of our heritage and denudes us in the face of repeated assaults from cultural Marxism and its minions. The arts have become highly politicized, and classical music, now largely compartmentalized, plays a role in that process.
As Marxists Antonio Gramsci and Georg Lukacs explained a century ago, Western and Christian societyits hegemonycould only be overthrown through patient development, the education of a class of cultural revolutionaries. And it was through a long march through the culture in education, entertainment and the arts, religionthat the West would be defeated, not by force of arms.
The intellectual labor of the Marxist Frankfort School (situated at Columbia University after being expelled from Nazi Germany), and especially their influence in American collegiate education, literary studies, and use of critical theory to, first, devalue portions of Western culture and, then, totally re-position it as a handmaid of cultural Marxism can be widely debated. But the effects of their theories cannot.
Music is seen as an important vehicle for altering the culture. For Theodore Adorno, the objective validity of [a musical] composition
rests with neither the composers genius nor the works conformity with prior standards, but with the way in which the work coherently expresses the dialectic of the material. In this sense, the contemporary absence of composers of the status of Bach or Beethoven is not the sign of musical regression; instead, new music is to be credited with laying bare aspects of the musical material previously repressed: the musical materials liberation from number, the harmonic series and tonal harmony . . .
One can argue that the most recent attempts at cultural purification have gone farther than anything Adorno or his cohorts of the Frankfort School would have envisioned or desired. Yet, the dismemberment of the corpus of our inherited culture and its ideologization could not have occurred, at least in the same way, had it not been for those earlier Marxist theoreticians and their followers.
Classical music in this narrative is too white, too masculine. Not only has it been de-emphasized in our schools and by broadcast media, but every effort has been made to re-interpret it, reconstruct it to give it a more politically-correct, less racist, less white, and less oppressively male character, both in how it is presented on stage and who does the performing.
Increasingly, there are those suggesting a form of affirmative action in how musical ensembles are formed and the musicians employed. The status quo is not working [in employment]. If things are to change, ensembles must be able to take proactive steps to address the appalling racial imbalance that remains in their ranks. Blind auditions are no longer tenable, writes New York Times chief music critic Anthony Tommasini. [T]he audition process has to be altered to take into fuller account artists backgrounds and experiences. In other words, race (and gender) should be major determinants in whether an aspiring musician gets a position in a musical organization or not.
This is especially pressing in opera where demands for more black and minority personnelsingers, staff, company board membersgrow. And in particular there is hostility to whites filling black-face roles, such as Otello in Giuseppe Verdis opera of the same name, roles which have traditionally been assumed by the best vocalists and not based on race. In other words, a Placido Domingo who is white and whose Otello is one of his signature roles, would by this standard partake in racism. Indeed, Joshua Barone, again in the Times, labels internationally- renowned Russian soprano Anna Netrebkos defense of the practice as racist, the eventual kiss of death for an artist.
But it is in public performance that revolutionary changes and restructuring are most apparent and culturally effectual.
There are literally hundreds of examples I could give, everything from the hyper-leftist Eurotrash presentations in opera, to the discovery of second (and third) level women or black composers who are now boosted by woke critics and global capitalist record companies as the new Beethoven or Mozart.
Let me cite a couple of recent examples that have caught my attention.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozarts comic opera of genius, The Abduction from the Seraglio, which playfully makes fun of Islam, was recently heavily censored and its lines rewritten by the Canadian Opera Company. For that production north of the border the company had some bright woke scribbler rewrite the dialogue in order to remove racist and anti- Islamic language. But, then, is it still Mozart?
And after years of patiently waiting to see a presentation of one of the more fascinating and significant operas of the first decade of the 19th century, Gasparo Spontinis Fernand Cortez, originally produced (1809) to glorify the French invasion and conquest of backward Spain (it was later revised to reflect the 1815 triumph of the Bourbons), a decent video (on the Dynamic label) emerged this spring from the May Florence Musical Festival in Italy. Its a fairly traditional, well-sung productionfew of those Eurotrash touches that ruin so much of current musical and theatrical ventures these days. Yet, because Spontini glorifies (in some wonderfully heroic music) the conquest of Mexico and the conversion of the heathen Aztecs to Christianity, the director felt compelled to add a projected on-screen message both at the beginning and at the end basically condemning Western and white colonialism and racism. Nevertheless, the original libretto and music emerge, and I expect to see fierce condemnations of its revival as racist despite the cosmetic application of political correctness.
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