Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Hour 'zero' for ever

German sonic artist Peter Ruzicka, who upholds the postwar new music aesthetic in his country, has written an opera on the life of philosopher Walter Benjamin. A promotion video tries to wet opera audiences' appetite:

The video is hilarious. The marketing tekst totally over-the-top pretension, hammering it in that every prop and idea that could possibly be found has been put into the production, without concern for its comprehensibility, and drenched in moralistic promises – ‘good for you!’ – to make sure the audience will think it will get a real treat on ‘seriousness’ and ‘political correctness’.

For people who know who Ruzicka is, the effect of all this effort is, however, completely destroyed by the pop music which turns the text into a hilarious spoof – he is one of those sonic artists upholding postwar ‘Nachkriegsschuldbew√§ltigungsmusik’ where aural chaos and aggressive ugliness ensures that both composer and audience are on the moral right side of history.

For innocent people, they will think that they will get a nice hip music underlining historic heroism. They will be in for quite a shock – and maybe that was the very intention of the makers of this promotion video, a perverse trick to get the hall full, lock the doors, and let historic guilt complexes do their work during a couple of hours in morally uplifting but musically and emotionally pulverizing suffering.

Too harsh? Too partisan? Inappropriate because of not having heard/seen the production? Not impressed by the morally imperious subject and thus a priori unfairly unimpressed by the opera?

Here is some Ruzicka stuff, to make sure the composer cannot possibly be associated with the terrible prewar decadence with nazis who loved classical music:

We know of nazi brutes who killed Jews by day and wept in the evening at a Schubert song recital. But with this type of ‘music’ nobody needs to kill anyone to be able to weep at the performance. It is even more likely that people, who entered the opera house in a culturally-wellmeaning mood, discover to their consternation that on leaving the building they feel in a mood to inflict brutish violence upon innocent passers-by.

A couple of years ago I attended a concert where Ruzicka conducted one of his orchestral philosophical exercises. Before he began his own piece, he turned around and gave a full lecture upon his work, to make sure the audience was already impressed beforehand and utterly convinced of the depth of his imagination, thereby isolating every listener, during the performance, in his/her cultural insecurity – ‘I hear nothing of anything that was promised – I must be stupid and unmusical – I better applaud politely and keep my mouth shut about it’.

People like Ruzicka want to extent the postwar moment of a musical 'Stunde Null'- hour zero, to begin anew from scratch after the total rejection of the musical tradition, especially their own -  and live off the cultivation of guilt complexes so that their aesthetic is excused and protected by moralistic preaching. The central performance culture was, after the war, quickly restored, and its works enjoyed in the reassuring awareness that they were now safely contained in the imaginary glass box of the 'museum culture', but for new music their role was finished: after the atrocities of the war and the holocaust, any 'harmonious beauty' was supposed to be a lie.

But ‘harmonious beauty’ has nothing to do with war and Auschwitz. The postwar sonic aesthetic quickly became a fig leaf for lack of musical talent, so that younger generations of sonic artists, who have no experience with war and holocaust, can sport their incompetence as moral superiority. This lie is the real one.

The best reaction to WW II atrocities was not adding even more ugliness and nihilism to the world, but the tired sigh of atonement which are the Vier Letzte Lieder of ‘collaborator’ Richard Strauss.


Addition October 2018:

See also: 'Strauss and the nazis'

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