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Wagner Bicentennial Symposium  
My Wagner Problem—and Ours

1,880 words

wagner-nagano [1]“Your themes — they almost always consist of even values, of half, quarter, eighth notes; they are syncopated and tied, to be sure, but nonetheless persevere in what is often a machinelike, stamping, hammering inflexibility and inelegance. C’est ‘boche’ dans un degre fascinant. But don’t think I am finding fault!”

“As for von Riedesel, he had fallen prey to utter confusion. ‘Beg pardon’ he said, ‘if you please . . . Bach, Palestrina . . .’ For him those names possessed the nimbus of conservative authority, and now they had been assigned to the realm of modernistic disintegration. . . . According to [Breisacher], decline, stultification, and the loss of all feeling for what was old and genuine had begun early on and in a place so respectable that no one would ever have dreamt it.” — Thomas Mann[1]

“Yes, it is. It is very strange, but with our race and in our latitude, rhythmic control is the most difficult thing for a musician to achieve. There is hardly a musician among us who can play the same note five times without minor variations. Part of the fault is that rhythm is never taught correctly to young musicians. For the Negro or African, it comes naturally — this sense of rhythm. As for myself, I can tolerate wrong notes, but I cannot stand unstable rhythm. Perhaps I was born in Africa in another existence. Once in Vienna after we had finished a recording session, I surprised everyone by telling them I was going to hear a Louis Armstrong concert. When they asked why? I told them that to go to a concert and know that for two hours the music would not get faster or slower was a great joy to me.” — Herbert von Karajan[2]

What is it about with the fascination on the Right – even the alt-Right – with the music of Wagner? Surely no one – even on the Right – is crazy enough to think that Wagner is sufficient to overthrow the Liberal Hegemony and re-establish Dharma – sweeping in like the Air Cav in Apocalypse Now [2], blasting out the “Ride of the Valkyries” because “it scares the hell out of the slopes.”[3] Nor is Wagner necessary for such a task.

Nietzsche, of course, can be cited either way regarding what he called The Case of Wagner [3]. But there is stronger and more orthodox Traditionalist support for the anti-Wagner Case; or rather, for the case against the whole of “Western” music, of which Wagner is the epitome.

Take Baron Evola. So-called “classical” music, from Palestrina on, was for him no more than another part of the rotting framework of bourgeois culture, an impediment to be discarded, not mummified and worshipped.[4] It had, by the early 20th Century, split off into its component parts; the chromatic and harmonic “developments” of which Wagner was an exemplar gave rise to increasingly outré experiments, culminating in the arid academicism of Berg, Webern, Schoenberg and other Judaics who were only too glad to lose the goyishe public. The latter, demanding a healthy, danceable, popular music – as Nietzsche did as well – gravitated to jazz. So, the upshot of Western music was a musical culture dominated by Judaics and Negroes.

Alain Daniélou [4], who had an even better claim to be an authoritative Traditionalist,[5] also had the musical training to make essentially the same case.[6] For Daniélou, the mess starts with the Greeks, who, in their typically intellectualizing and number-obsessed way, misunderstood the system of intervals, creating a 12 tone system that combined the incompatible 5 tone (Chinese) and 7 tone (Hindu) systems. Since Western intervals were from then on inherently inaccurate, the possibilities of expression are defective, no longer matching the states of the world and the moods of the human soul. Bigger and bigger orchestras, then new instruments, like Wagner’s special tubas and Adolphe Sax’s various horns, a favorite of the Negro long before the vuvuzela [5] invaded Europe’s soccer fields. Good Wagnerians like Strauss were finally reduced to hauling actual machinery such as aeoliphones onstage to supplement their increasingly threadbare reserves. Meanwhile, as Daniélou tends us, mediaeval Indian musicians could not just “imitate” nature but summon up actual rain storms!

The history of Western music is the history of various such ad hoc attempts to mend things without any understanding of what the problem was; a history which Westerners, in typical fashion, have labeled as “progress” and demanded the whole world adopt, like their “free markets” and “democracy.”

Unlike Evola, Daniélou sees the popularity of Negro music to lie not so much in its vaunted rhythm as in its “blue” or “bent” notes that seek to coax expression from the Massa’s oddly rigid scales. Though praising African music faute de mieux, the well-propagandized won’t like his sensible suggestion that slavery and Jim Crow kept African music vibrant, through forced separation, preventing homogenization via the “melting pot.” No tears for Bessie Smith denied access to a White hospital here.

So far from idolizing Wagner, the Traditionalist should hold him in deep suspicion. Of course, this does not mean one should join or cheer the post-modern wreckers, with their “relevant” productions set in dockside whorehouses, or the academic Grundies tut-tutting about sexism, racism, anti-Semitism, and whatever other minority gripe is fashionable. Wagner is a monument of Western Culture, like the cathedrals, probably the closest predecessor to his achievement of the Gesamtkunstwerk, which one appreciates and defends however one may generally and ideologically regret the encroachment of the Semitic superstition on Europe. You play the hand you are dealt, you chose your enemies wisely. To live, Burroughs says, is to collaborate.[7] And, as he (or rather, Inspector Lee) goes on to emphasize, there are degrees of collaboration.

And I am not entirely immune to the charms of Wagner myself. Nothing is easier than to just sit back and let Wagner wash over one.[8] But it is, or should be, a guilty pleasure. As John Simon said, when he was upbraided by a reader for giving a bad review to a play at which he had been spotted laughing or crying as the case may be, of course I responded to the manipulation, that’s what angers me.[9] But unlike Simon, and like Beckett’s Malone, I prefer to remain calm;

I am content, necessarily, but not to the point of clapping my hands.[10]

So Wagner and Western music is a fait accompli, part of the thrownness of our Dasein. Two cheers! What matters is the future. If not Wagner, what?

The future of Aryan music should be, well, Aryan and Futuristic. I’ve suggested elsewhere[ [6]11] that rather than classical or metal, to say nothing of “classically influenced metal” or whatever, we should set our sights on what’s called New Age music. It’s technical sophistication and relative lack of interest in rhythm perfectly suits the Aryan Soul. Interestingly, it shares, with metal, the same contempt on the part of the both the soi disant “hip” and the middlebrow mainstream media alike.

Whereas, of course, our enemies are only too glad to see us hang ourselves on the cross of Wagner — at best, interpreted for us by the “finest” artists — Judaics, or course;[12] or at worst, another excuse to tar us with the “Nazi” brush. Meanwhile, our youth’s search for expression in music has exhausted even the domestic Negro’s wares and now seeks “world” music — anywhere but Europe.


[1] Mann, Thomas: Doctor Faustus: The Life of the German Composer Adrian Leverkühn, as Told by a Friend; translation by John E. Woods (New York: Knopf, 1997), Chapters 28 and 37. Both remarks are put in the impudent mouths of Judaics, one a concert promoter, the other a private scholar of hyper-conservative views, based perhaps on Leo Strauss. Mann apologizes in both cases for presenting such unflattering portraits of a people he professes to otherwise find admirable. Le pauvre Mann! He taught us, malgre lui, that the Judaic is always on both sides of every issue!

[2] “Karajan on the music of today,” readable here [7]. “This 1963 Stereo Review [8] interview with Herbert von Karajan [9] was tucked inside a copy of Curt Riess’ 1955 biography of Wilhelm Furtwängler [10] that I bought years ago from a rare book dealer.” Karajan falls victim here to the myth of “natural rhythm.” Actually, “swing” doesn’t involve metronomic rigidity but rather a kind of syncopation; Armstrong invented it himself, and later had to teach it to Fletcher Henderson’s orchestra, which was reputed to be the finest in Harlem. Later, Detroit techno legend Carl Craig returned Karajan’s compliment: “Kraftwerk were so stiff, they were funky.”

[3] To anticipate, is it not interesting that Wagner fits right in with globalist imperialism, the destruction of a traditional society, and ultimate ignominious defeat? And that the Colonel’s antics are greeting with big grins by the Negroes riding along?

[4] Julius Evola: Ride the Tiger: A Survival Manual for the Aristocrats of the Soul (Rochester, Vt.: Inner Traditions, 2003), Chapter 23, “Modern Music and Jazz.”

[5] Daniélou was the only first generation Traditionalist to actually live for decades in an actual Traditional setting — rural India, far from the Raj or Gandhi. When he encountered the works of his fellow Frenchman Guénon, he gave them his approval, on the basis of the fearsome amount of traditional Hindu sciences he had learned, by memorization, from authentic pandits, not, as with every later Traditionalist, vice versa.

[6] See his Music and the Power of Sound: The Influence of Tuning and Interval on Consciousness (Rochester, Vt.: Inner Traditions, 1995), first published in India in 1943.

[7] Nova Express (New York: Grove Press, 1992), p. 7.

[8] This is the advantage of the Gesamtkunstwerke or, as we would say today, the full multi-media experience. Tolkien has recently acquired the similar benefit of having his books, which I confess to having never found readable, turned into easily digestible films, the Gesamtkunstwerke of our age. On the LOTR films, and movies as the Gesamtkunstwerke of our age generally, see Trevor Lynch’s White Nationalist Guide to the Movies; ed. Greg Johnson. San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2012. If my confession of Tolkien’s unreadability sounds blasphemous, I can adduce C. S. Lewis as a parallel — on hearing a colleague describe a new book called The Castle by this Kafka chap, he concluded it was a new, great Myth for our time and eagerly sought out a copy of the book, only to find the actual text to be quite a letdown.

[9] Wagner famously made the same charge of ‘unearned effects” against Meyerbeer in Part One of his Opera and Drama of 1851.

[10] Malone Dies in Three Novels, NY: Grove Press, 1991; p. 174.

[11] See “I’ll Have a White Rock, Please: Implicit Whiteness, Aryan Futurism, & the Godlike Genius of Scott Walker” reprinted in The Homo and the Negro (Counter-Currents, 2012) and more recently “Light Entertainment: The (Implicitly) White Music of Scott Walker,” here [11].

[12] Another early Traditionalist, Marco Pallis, though also not averse to the charms of classical music – see his essay “The Metaphysics of Musical Counterpoint” in Studies in Comparative Religion, Vol. 10, No. 2. (Spring, 1976) and online here [12] – was a pioneer in the movement to promote authentic or historically accurate performances of the classical and pre-Bach repertoire, the effect of which was to free us from over a century of romantic — i.e., Judaic – nonsense about sweaty mystical conductors and swooning fiddle virtuosos, filling every performance with enough portamento for a klezmer band.