Our Wagner, Only Better:
James J. O'Meara
Harry Partch, Wild Boy of American Music, Part 2
Part 2 of 3
Rejecting the equal temperament and concert traditions that have dominated western music, Harry Partch adopted the pure intervals of just intonation and devised a 43-tone-to-the-octave scale, which in turn forced him into inventing numerous musical instruments. His compositions realize his ideal of a corporeal music that unites music, dance, and theater.
Having already questioned the value of Wagner for the alt-Right I might fairly be asked, “Well, what then? What have you to offer us instead?”
One proof of the irrational, quasi-cultic hold of Wagner on the Right is the way one must acknowledge him as possessing all positive predicates, however contradictory. Thus, he is not only the great innovator and pioneer and revolutionary, he is also the great exemplar of Western, or European, musical tradition, the very voice of musical tradition, which must not be questioned.
But Wagner’s “innovation” lies merely in pioneering some new, more dissonant harmonies, a couple of new instruments, and some stagecraft; he still operates within The System, the 12-tone, equally tempered system designed to fit his Erard piano, with its accompanying orchestra, opera houses, music schools and critics. Some rebel.
If innovation within the form is laudable, surely questioning, and indeed replacing where necessary, the form itself is even more laudable. And this is precisely what Wagner did not do.
How about a real revolutionary? How about someone who, like Wagner, dreamed of great Gesamtkunstwerke based on ancient Aryan myths, performed by new instruments of his own design, in similarly innovative theaters? What if in addition he performed a fundamental critique of the Western musical system, but, never having the advantage of a princely patron, spent his life as a hobo and recluse?
And what if he was an American, born in this century? One of us! Just a slob, like one of us?
Enter Harry Partch.
A: The Life
“Depictions of Partch’s tumultuous existence are a fascinating study of 20th-century American life even when told independently.” (Harlan, p. 52)
For reasons that will become clear, the life and work of Harry Partch are best seen as of a piece, one—an integral whole, a unison, 1:1, if you will. The study of both has been immensely benefited by the labors of Bob Gilmore, whose Harry Partch: A Biography (Yale, 1998) is a pretty definitive account of a man who, even when he wasn’t a real live dagnabbit hobo still managed to leave almost as little trace of himself as Don Draper. For a “thumbnail history” you can take a look at Marc Wolf’s “Harry Partch: America’s first Microtonal Composer,” which also supplies the photos, especially of the self-made instruments, that would have been one improvement for Gilmore’s book. Rather than recapitulate these accounts, I want to skim through hitting some of the highlights that stand out when both his life and his art are looked at for Aryan motifs.
First, though, now that the word “integrity” has popped up, I must start by quoting this sad little summary provided by one of Partch’s actual friends and followers, Ben Johnston.
He was so possessive of his artistic creations that notwithstanding the manifest impossibility that any one person could be artistically skilled, let alone talented, let alone genius-endowed in all areas of a complex multimedia art work, Partch was yet unwilling, even unable, to collaborate. He either dictated to his collaborators in their own area or he fought them all the way to an estrangement. . . . In his attitude to society he demanded support for his own work as far as possible without any strings attached while he was capable of even violating a contract with another artist. . . . This goes far beyond artistic integrity; indeed the word integrity is an ironic one to use at all in this context. He orchestrated and all but guaranteed the oblivion his work so obviously courts.
Is there any other musician this combination of genius and amoral cussedness reminds one of? Of course: Wagner.
Partch was born in 1901 and lived until 1974, thus neatly encompassing the period when White America reached its apogee.
His interest in non-Western musics was instilled upon him at a young age from his parents, who had been missionaries in China. Both his parents spoke Mandarin, and his mother would sing him Chinese lullabies while accompanying herself on their reed organ. Later his parents purchased Edison cylinders of Hebrew chants, Congo dances, and Cantonese opera. All of these musics had a lasting effect on Partch. (Harlan, p. 40)
His parents, of English, Scotch, and Irish ancestry, had fled the Boxer Rebellion and settled in the Southwest for his mother’s health. His father worked for the immigration services; apparently, the border was just as porous then as now, but at that time the flood was coming from Chinese trying to circumvent restrictions on the Pacific coast. Of course, none of these hordes spoke the Mandarin dialect, but then as now, the Immigration Service knew no better. Partch’s father rejoiced in the title of “Chinese Inspector,” and apparently his job was to roam around checking out saloons, restaurants, and laundries for suspiciously Oriental types.
More traumatic was Jennie’s decision to circumcise Partch at the age of eight, for which he openly resented her. The incident was still troubling for him in his seventies. He later called circumcision a conspiracy between doctors and mothers who want to symbolically castrate their sons. “If they can castrate them,” he said “they can keep them close” (Harlan, p. 54).
Well, there we are; I told you circumcision would crop up again. Partch clearly saw this as an attempt to separate him from his father and brothers, and indeed most males at the time; a clear indication of his tacit sense that the male Männerbund was being attacked by Woman and Judeo-Christianity, as becomes clearer in Gilmore’s unedited (ahem) quote:
But my mother decided I was going to be different. I was going to be a modern child who was going to be cleansed, as it were, by having a little piece of skin cut off [the Pythagorean Comma!].—I didn’t object to this humiliation so much as that I was then different from everybody else, except for the Jews. . . . this is a cabal, a conspiracy between doctors and mothers—mothers who want their children symbolically castrated. (Gilmore, p. 23)
This was not the kind of “difference” and “innovation” that Partch would champion, but the opposite: it represented submergence in the new, regimented, modern, pseudo-scientifically enlightened masses.
Another “humiliation” occurred when the first-grade Partch drew a stallion, complete with “his symbol of fertility . . . long and portentous,” only to be banged on the head by the girl sitting next to him, who then “vigorously rubbed the sex out of my horse” and redrew it as “presumably female or ambiguous.” “Thus in early years did this Christian abstract female age cow me.”
As Gilmore notes, this “Christian female abstract age” would continue to represent to Partch the threat to not just virility but the wholeness and integrity of the body itself, what would eventually identify in his music as the corporeal.
Another motivating factor Partch’s critical perspective revolved around [was] music education, and particularly the teaching of music in academia. He felt strongly that creativity was stifled in education at every turn: for composers by the emphasis on the imitation of historic styles, and for performers by the emphasis on virtuosic proficiency. (Harlan, p. 38)
Partch, like millions of others, met the same quandary—personal integrity vs. “join the modern cabal”—in college, but unlike most others, he did something about it—he quit. After moving to Los Angeles and enrolling in UCLA, Partch realized that his “teachers” were idiots, men who knew nothing about the actual, physical nature of sound or music, but instead repeated rote nonsense about “harmonic laws” and above all tried to implant an artificial European culture that Partch had no use for. After three months he left and completed his education in the public library, where he could take up—and discard—any book as needed. “I had virtually given up on both music schools and private teachers, and had begun to ransack public libraries, doing suggested exercises and writing music free from the infantilisms and inanities of professors as I had experienced them.”
Meanwhile, a job as an usher acquainted him with the European concert repertoire, as well as the social system involved —a “sea of blue-haired ladies”—that left him with a lasting distaste for all the social snobbery it involved. Although, as he gleefully pointed out, he never paid a nickel for a ticket. “Before I was twenty, I had tentatively rejected both the intonational system of modern Europe and the concert system, although I did not realize either the ultimate scope or the consequences of that rejection.”
The rejection of the intonational system was made possible by his discovery, in the library, of Helmholtz’s On the Sensations of Tone as a Physiological Basis for the Theory of Music (Longmans, Green, 1912; published 1885; downloadable from Google Books), whose explanation of the “natural affinities” of physical acoustics and musical aesthetics provided Partch with a rational and integral basis for musical creativity; he “began to take wing.”
Thus was born Partch’s devotion to Just Intonation, an alternative to the modern European—though crypto-Talmudic——Equal Temperament system that was both scientifically based (uniting art and science, mind and body) as well as more truly, or more profoundly, Western.
[A]ccording to Partch Western music had forgotten this ancient practice. To reinstate this practice, however, he needed not only to erase the arbitrary distinction between music, dance, and drama, but also to return to the use of “infinitely varied melodic and harmonic subtlety.” Just intonation was thus a key aspect of Partch’s project to transcend his own era, an effort he believed was a primary obligation of the artist. What made just intonation so attractive was that it was both an expression of the harmonic series that revealed a connection to our physical being, and a system used by historically and culturally diverse groups. (Harlan, p. 41)
Partch soon realized that a new intonation system required new instruments—integrity again—and he began to construct his famous Partch instruments; first a 43-tone keyboard, the Chromatic Organ, and then, inspired by reconstructions of the Greek kithara, the ancestor of the lute and basically all string instruments, he built his own in 1938, followed by another 43-tone organ, the Chromolodeon, in 1942. He would later describe himself as “a philosophic music man seduced into carpentry.”
But in the middle of all this the Depression took hold, and Partch began a nine-year period, from 1935 to 1944, as a transient, mostly as a hobo, a period documented by a journal, Bitter Music, eventually published as part of a collection of writings under that title in 2000. Nor would later foundation grants—always too little, too late—and music school appointments—always limited, inadequate and isolated from the academic “insiders”—make much difference. In the mid-’60s he said, with some wonderment, “For over 20 years I have been the strangest kind of hobo—a hobo with over two tons of ‘weird’ instruments to take, wherever.”
B: The Man
I’ve suggested that integrity is the leitmotiv of Partch’s life and work (their unity being another kind of integrity), symbolized by the unison, 1:1. We first encounter it in his rejection of an ossified “tradition” of musical education and concert-going, and in his subsequent search for a more meaningful, more truthful, system of musical intonation. The discovery of Helmholtz’s work suggested a way to unify the body and spirit, science and art, with a musical system soundly based in acoustical fact, not academic custom.
The eventual 43-tone system required its own notation, and its own instruments, whose large size suggest that they could become a part of the stage setting itself, and the musicians become singers and dancers as well when not otherwise occupied.
The composer could build, compose for, and train musicians to perform on a new set of instruments. This last seemingly insurmountable option was the path chosen by Harry Partch. Partch’s use of just intonation must be understood in the larger context of what he was trying to achieve artistically. In the simplest of explanations, Partch used just intonation because it allowed him to compose for intoned voice, which helped to create the dramatic effect he was trying to achieve in his music. To accompany the voice in his music Partch needed instruments to play the 43-tone just scale he developed. Over the course of his career he designed and built some 40 unique instruments.
Beginning with King Oedipus, Partch’s first theatrical production, his instruments began to appear onstage as part of the set design. Such staging was used in all of Partch’s theatrical works, and as a result, the musicians were more easily integrated into the drama as actors, singers, and dancers. Thus, for Partch, the idea to use just intonation was embedded within a matrix of ideas that served a broader goal. All of these devices, his integration of drama with music and dance, his use of invented instruments tuned to just intonation, his 43-tone scale, his use of intoned voice, as well as his reliance on percussive techniques, and settings of plots inspired by ritualistic practices, were tools for Partch. (Harlan, pp. 36–7)
Gilmore too speaks of Partch’s “misunderstood theories,” “cryptic notation,” and “strange instruments” as being, despite the unhelpful attention they drew and continue to draw, merely his “tools,” his paints and brushes, what Heidegger might call his “ensemble.” But just as Harlan speaks of a “matrix” Gilmore also makes the important point that Partch frequently spoke of the tonal resources of Just Intonation not as a scale but as a fabric, with the metaphorical implications of an indefinite interweaving that lays down a total pitch space. Gilmore explicitly contrasts this with the closed circle of Pythagoras, as we have earlier, but we could also point out that Guénon also explicitly develops the transition from the spiral to “the symbolism of weaving” in outlining the nature of Universal Manifestation.
It would be quite wrong, though tempting, to see all this as yet more “avant-garde” tinkering and épater le bourgeois tomfoolery. Partch always saw himself as part of the Western tradition—an individual, but a Western, indeed, West Coast, individual—but that it was the ET system that had strayed. From his essay “Bach and Harmony”:
Music was veering away from the linear, becoming harmonic, and attaining a status independent of poetry and the dance. Consequently, instruments with harmonic versatility—keyboard instruments—became the intellect of the new music.
[T]he whole trend of music since Gregorian chant has been a tangent to the main historic stream. The ancient Greek and Chinese conception—as old as history—that music is poetry has deteriorated . . . the voice is just another violin . . .
[W]as the ancient conception lost? By no means. It was obscured, left to folk peoples. . . . But it flowed on in a broad stream [including] the Meistersingers of Nuremberg . . . Negro spirituals . . . and . . . Wagner.
To understand that surprising reference to Wagner, first let’s notice his recurrent notes of disdain for the false, abstract—of “the intellect”—notion of separating music from dance and theatre, while at the same time rejecting the idea of the voice being treated as just another violin. Unity does not mean uniformity. The latter is rather a result of the bloodless, bodiless abstraction of the ET system.
The notion of Partch himself as a Romantic composer is compelling. . . . His emphasis on self-expression and composer as sole author of a work [integrity!] also support this view. In fact one of his earliest compositions after attending university, which he later burned, was a symphonic poem. Yet, according to his statements it was the large forces often required to realize Romantic works that discouraged him from pursuing that style. He also perceived a general lack of intimacy between performer and audience in performances, and particularly between composer and audience. (Harlan, p. 61)
Richard Wagner’s music dramas ostensibly fit this model as well, yet in many ways Wagner’s music dramas equally symbolized what 20th-century music theater composers were retaliating against. Partch, for one, applauded Wagner’s condemnation of Italian and French opera, and his condemnation of “absolute” music for its lack of connection to speech and dance. He was particularly attracted to Wagner’s endeavor to create works that fused poetry, music, and visual spectacle. Yet he was not convinced by Wagner’s operas. Wagner’s use of a large orchestra and the great importance he placed on harmony gave his music obvious predominance over the dramatic action. (Harlan, p. 134)
In the wrestling match between Wagner’s music drama and his symphony orchestra, Wagner’s symphony orchestra (with yeoman help from his arias) gets both shoulders of Wagner’s music dramas on the floor within five minutes after the curtain rises and for the following two or three hours jumps up and down on the unconscious form.
Like Wagner, Partch was unsatisfied with the contemporary state of the musical tradition; unlike Wagner, he located the problem not in a relatively superficial Frenchification of the operatic genre, but more fundamentally: in the inexpressiveness of the equal temperament system itself. While Wagner had gamed the system with a will, glorying in the creation of ever more abstruse and surprising modulation, such as the famous “Tristan Chord,” by Partch’s day the system had been clearly played out.
Such effects, of which Wagner was perhaps indeed The Master, depended on surprise; while any chimp could pound on a keyboard, the rules of the game required one not just to invent new sounds but show how they ultimately fit back into the system—“resolve” them. Composers could only go so far, and then the lines would snap.
Moreover, Partch realized that the obsession with harmonic effects had resulted in an ever created divorce—lack of integrity!—between the voice and the mass orchestra (remember “the voice as just another violin”?). For Partch, integrity meant both the unity of voice and music, as well as respect for the nature—or what he called, in discussing his instruments, the daimon—of each. If, as Nietzsche thought, Wagner’s music/dramas were a rebirth of Greek tragedy, it was fatally botched by the mind-forged manacles of the post-Bach tradition:
It is likely that his experiences attending Chinese operas as a young man in San Francisco helped him to realize his recreation of the ancient Greek dramas. His early attempt to do this with King Oedipus infused epic poetry and music according to the ancient aesthetic that did not strictly differentiate between these two elements. In his later works he also included dance. (Harlan, p. 40)
Partch, in short, recognizes his search for musical integrity as analogous to Wagner’s Gesamtkunstwerk, but finds the latter to ultimately fail due its adherence to the wayward system of ET harmony and the bourgeois concert-system. “The music of the symphony . . . is an art of . . . massed tones . . . and hearers are transported by sheer mass and volume. . . . The music of the historic concept involves the greatest economy of materials, and hearers are transported not by mass but subtlety.”
Partch would try a different, more radical path. Rather than suggesting a few changes in stagecraft or adding another equally tempered instrument or two, rather than superficially appropriating the legendary Meistersingers and shoehorning them into just another opera, he would return to the roots of the Western music that such guilds had tried to preserve, to find out what went wrong long ago, and rebuild a new music for our times. “It was not that Partch rejected the Western tradition, but rather that he felt it should be revered ‘dynamically.’ He vehemently upheld that tradition should be under constant review in order to verify its continued relevance” (Harlan p. 37).
In short, archeofuturism, or radical traditionalism. “The Classics” were fine, but devotion to them, to reproducing them with some kind of “virtuosity,” must not be confused with real creativity.
1. Cover blurb for Thomas McGeary, ed., Bitter Music: Collected Journals, Essays, Introductions, and Librettos (Champaign, Il.: University of Illinois Press, 2000).
2. “My Wagner Problem—and Ours,” https://counter-currents.com/2013/05/my-wagner-problem-and-ours/, forthcoming in The Eldritch Evola . . . and Others (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2013).
3. Ironically, as Daniélou points out, it is precisely the equally tempered orthodoxy of today, in which even musicians—especially musicians—have never heard a truly consonant chord, which prevents us from appreciating exactly how revolutionary Wagner’s dissonances were. Or, indeed, any pre-20th Century music. Kyle Gann, after savaging ET, adds that: “Equal temperament—the bland, equal spacing of the 12 pitches of the octave—is pretty much a 20th-century phenomenon. It was known about in Europe as early as the early 17th century, and in China much earlier. But it wasn’t used, because the consensus was that it sounded awful: out of tune and characterless. During the 19th century (for reasons we’ll discuss later), keyboard tuning drifted closer and closer to equal temperament over the protest of many of the more sensitive musicians. Not until 1917 was a method devised for tuning exact equal temperament. [. . .] Nineteenth-century musicians used to argue about what colors the various keys represented; whether Eb major was gold, for example, and D major red. Twentieth-century musicians have dismissed such arguments as sentimental nonsense, but when you play 19th-century music in well temperament, you begin to hear the differences of color. Is it far-fetched to suggest that Mozart and Beethoven wrote keyboard music with certain key-colors in mind, and that we miss subtle but pervasive qualities in the music when we homogenize it into equal temperament? (Introduction to historical tunings).
4. President John F. Kennedy, Inaugural Address.
5. Tod Browning, Freaks.
6. Joan Osborne, “One of Us.”
7. “Partch projected his self-image through his works.” From the “Abstract” of the appropriately named dissertation, One Voice: A Reconciliation of Harry Partch’s Disparate Theories by Brian Timothy Harlan, available on Google Books here.
9. Gilmore, p. 252.
10. For the lowdown on Wagner, see Deems Taylor, “The Monster,” another part of the Counter-Currents Wagner Symposium.
11. We’ve frequently identified the period of circa 1972-76, admittedly our own Young Manhood, as the peak of White Western Civilization, it being, despite the myths of Liberal “progress”, all downhill culturally, economically, social, since the Boomers took over. And yes, I know that 1901 is no longer “this century” but that’s what Kennedy meant, and I’m sticking to it. As Gary Wills mordantly observed in Nixon Agonistes, Kennedy meant to rudely insult the departing Eisenhower, and wound up lauding the even more elderly Reagan.
12. At the end of his life, Partch had a sign on his door that threatened visitors with “Another Boxer Rebellion.”
13. And, as we anticipated, Partch will also wind up, like Bert Cooper, with “no balls at all,” due to either having had mumps, untreated by his Christian Science mother, resulting in sterility, or a medical condition known as “undescended testicles,” resulting in same.
14. I’ve found at least one other bit of evidence of Partch’s racial realism; in one of his most sustained pieces of satire—comparable to the “routines” developed by his fellow American Crank, William Burroughs, during his own time among the Männerbund of the down and out, or “beat”—Partch mocks the local booster notions that the “pioneer spirit” of San Francisco’s “49er” descendants would produce a “real American music.”
To demonstrate this neo-pioneer spirit, they build a four million dollar opera house which allows descendants of 49ers to repose their fulsome fundaments in a diamond horseshoe, from which they support “American” music. . . . As a final demonstration of pioneering . . . persons with shattered English and long noses are engaged to conduct 90 piece orchestras. (Bitter Music, pp. 50–51)
While “looking down one’s nose” is a common metaphor for snobbery, I can’t help but find a trace of anti-Judaism here, not as a knee-jerk obsession but as something sensed, or “smelled out”—in the artificially implanted German-Jewish Kultur system I noted before. I feel confirmed in that suspicion by the way Partch immediately segues into a reminiscence of pounding the streets of New York, confronting “long dark faces” that surely are not those of Sutton Place. One thinks of Lovecraft’s feverish vision of Levantine swarms during his New York stay. While as we’ve seen Partch is otherwise a very different American breed, open to the very “Levantine pipes” that so tormented Lovecraft in his sleep that he turned them into the blind idiot god Azathoth’s piping at the heart of Chaos, both share a loyalty to the possibilities of a real American culture, and a sense of it being submerged by a tide of foreign dreck, whether elite Kultur, immigrant Yiddishkeit, or today’s “vibrant diversity.” As Christopher Pankhurst says in a slightly different context (reviewing Richard King’s How Soon is Now?) “There is a stubborn urge to authenticity within indie music that is entirely in keeping with the mind-set that can lead one to forbidden political places.”
15. These comments were made in his seventies, during the making of a biographical film; in a different context, he complained about some aspects of the editing thus: “I am far more interesting with my integrity intact” (Gilmore, p. 380).
16. Gilmore, pp. 30–1.
17. Sort of the same way economics consists of fancy theories with little or no relevance to reality: “I’ve found that economic theory is a useful servant for understanding facts, but many bright people seem to view theory as the master to which their awareness of reality must be enslaved.” Steve Sailer, “’How Immigration Can Hurt a Country’ in theory, not just in reality.”
18. Gilmore, pp. 35ff.
19. Partch, Genesis of a Music, p. vii.
20. About this time he began a romance with Latin heartthrob Ramon Novarro, which would end when the latter’s film career took off; see Gilmore, p. 47.
21. Partch, Genesis, p. vii.
22. Gilmore, p. 49 and Genesis, p. vii.
23. Gilmore, p. 260.
24. Gilmore, p. 330.
25. Which also reminds one of the ithyphallic Egyptian statutes, facing each other, arms to the sky, that Evola discusses in The Hermetic Tradition.
26. I would suggest that Partch’s search for a musical system that remains rooted in actual human acoustic experience, not abstract theory, parallels the idea that Evola discusses in “The Idea of Initiatic Knowledge,” in which ordinary experience is transcended not by abstract cogitation—science—nor religious belief, but by a higher form of empirical experience itself. This essay can be found in his collective work Introduction to Magic.
27. “O Freunde, nicht diese Töne! / Sondern laßt uns angenehmere anstimmen, und freudenvollere. . . . Deine Zauber binden wieder / Was die Mode streng geteilt. . . . Ja, wer auch nur eine Seele /Sein nennt auf dem Erdenrund!” Despite his antipathy to the concert tradition, Partch admitted a liking for the emotional intensity of Beethoven. Although Partch’s most obvious classical doppelgänger is Wagner, or perhaps Scriabin, for polemical purposes his Old Guy for the tradition is usually Beethoven, while when intonation in particular is on the table it’s Bach. In both cases, he is at pains to note that he likes the music, sure. An “audibly drunk” Partch recorded in 1966 crows “I’ve never heard anyone play Chopin as well as I do” (Gann, p. 191). But he just doesn’t think that justifies creating a whole totalitarian culture of imitation, privileging “virtuosity” and interpretation (and we know Who the virtuosi and interpreters are) over creativity. As for classical institutions, such as music schools, concert halls, and opera houses, they are anathema, dead and deadening, useful only as figures of mockery.
28. Gilmore, p. 201.
29. See Chapter 14 of The Symbolism of the Cross.
30. “I’ve no business living anywhere east of the Rocky Mountains. . . . No sun in days” (Gilmore, p. 255).
31. Bitter Music, pp. 162–63.
32. In constructing his instruments, Partch always deferred to the integrity or “the daimon” of the instruments; see Gilmore p. 314.
33. Harry Partch “Oedipus” (1954), reprinted in Bitter Music, 219. Cf. Kyle Gann: “He may have written opera, but he was closer to . . . Balinese Monkey Chant, ancient Greek drama, early Florentine opera, the blues—any genre that which uses music to enhance, not dominate, a story (Music Downtown: Writings from The Village Voice, p. 191).
34. “Bach and Temperament” in Bitter Music, p. 163. These are the “mass” effects that Daniélou identified as typical of the attempts of Western composers to supplement the loss of expression in ET. “Eastern listeners often make such remarks as ‘The Beethoven symphonies are very interesting, but why have all those chords been introduced, spoiling the charm of the melodies’”? Needless to say, this was before Nehru, Mao, and others put their people into re-education camps to “modernize” them so as to become Chopin virtuosi, like Red Indians exulting in their glass beads. One thinks of one of Harry Haller’s hallucinations in the Magic Theatre of Steppenwolf: Brahms and Wagner in Hades, condemned to leading hordes of black clad masses over hill and dale—the notes they wasted. These “mass” effects correspond to mass production, mass media, and other characteristics of the increasingly “quantified” modern world, and make the idea of Wagner’s Ring Cycle as a “critique” of capitalism rather ironic. In the unpublished satire “On G-String Formality” Partch ironically confides “Confidentially, there will never be One World until everyone loves Bach as much as we do” (Gilmore, p. 171).
35. Cf. Alex Kurtagić: “Conservatism is the negation of the new; tradition is the ongoing affirmation of the old, of the archaic. And therefore it’s endlessly regenerating, constantly renewing” (“Masters of the Universe” Revisited—An Interview with Alex Kurtagic, June 19, 2013 by George Whale).
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