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Political Correctness, Music, And Conscience


Peter Clark
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I am planning a recital for April and was intending to include Reger's Dankpsalm but I read recently that it was composed as a kind of "war victory celebration" or something, giving thanks for the safe return of German soldiers in WW1. As a sworn anti-war sort of bloke, is there an ethical problem inherent in my performing pieces which might be said to in some way "glorify" war?

 

Then I turned my thoughts to other similar issues. Given that Luther was fiercely anti-Semitic, would it be correct to assume that some earlier Lutheran musicians - including JSB - might have at least partially inherited this trait from the founder of their church and that this might be reflected in their music and/or the texts they chose to set?

 

But you can take this even further I suppose by questioning the morality of singing on a fairly regular basis hymns and other music which fetes the excruciating cruel death of a young preacher about 2000 years ago. I'm thinking about eg the ghastly "and when I think that God his Son not sparing sent him to die..."

 

A penny for them, people

 

Peter

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I am planning a recital for April and was intending to include Reger's Dankpsalm but I read recently that it was composed as a kind of "war victory celebration" or something, giving thanks for the safe return of German soldiers in WW1. As a sworn anti-war sort of bloke, is there an ethical problem inherent in my performing pieces which might be said to in some way "glorify" war?

 

Peter

 

Or are you thinking perhaps of Seigesfeier, from Op. 145? This was a premature 'victory celebration', to herald the triumphant return of troops from the Great War.

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Or are you thinking perhaps of Seigesfeier, from Op. 145? This was a premature 'victory celebration', to herald the triumphant return of troops from the Great War.

 

Dankpsalm is 145/2, Siegesfeier 145/7.

 

The victory celebration did have to be cancelled, didn't it? But the Dankpsalm is also dedicated "to the German army."

 

Cheers

B

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Or are you thinking perhaps of Seigesfeier, from Op. 145? This was a premature 'victory celebration', to herald the triumphant return of troops from the Great War.

 

Hi. No it is definately Dankpsalm - look at the notes in B&H or Barenrieter (I forget which); and I think that the Seigesfeier is just blatant; I refuse to have anything to do with it! Actually some of the other pieces in the collection are rather good - Weinachten, for example, and Pasion

 

Peter.

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I am planning a recital for April and was intending to include Reger's Dankpsalm but I read recently that it was composed as a kind of "war victory celebration" or something, giving thanks for the safe return of German soldiers in WW1. As a sworn anti-war sort of bloke, is there an ethical problem inherent in my performing pieces which might be said to in some way "glorify" war?

Peter

 

It doesn’t glorify war; it celebrates the safe return of people (it doesn’t matter their nationality) from a war they didn’t choose to fight. You (soldiers/sailors/airmen) don’t choose to fight a war; the decision to go to war is usually taken by politicians after breakdown of talks/negotiations. “Anti-war sort of bloke” or not, I don’t see problem with this (or any similar) piece of music.

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It doesn’t glorify war; it celebrates the safe return of people (it doesn’t matter their nationality) from a war they didn’t choose to fight. You (soldiers/sailors/airmen) don’t choose to fight a war; the decision to go to war is usually taken by politicians after breakdown of talks/negotiations. “Anti-war sort of bloke” or not, I don’t see problem with this (or any similar) piece of music.

 

This seems to me to be a perfectly fair comment - treat the piece for what it is musically, and enjoy it. In any case, Reger managed to die of an alcohol-induced heart attack before the end of the war, so he was unable to re-write or re-assign the dedications of the works.

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I am planning a recital for April and was intending to include Reger's Dankpsalm but I read recently that it was composed as a kind of "war victory celebration" or something, giving thanks for the safe return of German soldiers in WW1. As a sworn anti-war sort of bloke, is there an ethical problem inherent in my performing pieces which might be said to in some way "glorify" war?

 

Then I turned my thoughts to other similar issues. Given that Luther was fiercely anti-Semitic, would it be correct to assume that some earlier Lutheran musicians - including JSB - might have at least partially inherited this trait from the founder of their church and that this might be reflected in their music and/or the texts they chose to set?

 

But you can take this even further I suppose by questioning the morality of singing on a fairly regular basis hymns and other music which fetes the excruciating cruel death of a young preacher about 2000 years ago. I'm thinking about eg the ghastly "and when I think that God his Son not sparing sent him to die..."

 

A penny for them, people

 

Peter

 

 

Hi

 

Only you can decide if you're happy to play the Reger in the light of your conscience.

 

The other issue, though, goes to the heart of the Christian faith - like it or not, Jesus DID come to this world to die for the sins of mankind. You may not be comfortable with the thought - but if God decided that's how the fall could be resolved, then who are we to argue? Without Good Friday and Easter, the church ceases to have any meaning.

 

I assume that if this is your view, you don't participate in performances of the Messiah, or the Bach Passions, etc.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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I tend towards the view that the 'wonderful moments but terrible half hours’ observation can be applied rather widely when considering late Romantic German music. Most of it leaves me bored and baffled in more or less equal measure. However, if you are into this stuff, I would suggest that you simply have to accept that (with the obvious exception of Mahler) most late 19C/early 20C tonal Teutonic composers carried a certain amount of ‘cultural baggage’, and that this impacts either overtly or subliminally upon their work. Having gritted one’s teeth and done this, then surely it’s a case of appreciating the music on its own merits. After all, Levine and Solti found it within themselves to become visionary Wagner interpreters.

 

A couple of years ago, I attended a BBC Phil. concert at the Bridgewater Hall. I had gone principally to hear the Labeque sisters perform the Max Bruch Double Piano Concerto. However, the programme also included Richard Strauss’ ‘Ein Heldenleben’. The programme notes insisted that RS had not intended in any way whatsoever that the ‘hero’ of his tone poem should be equated with Nietchze's Übermensch. Furthermore, any reference to German nationalism that might be found in RS’s works should be seen as being ironic, and not to be taken seriously. Yeah, right.

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This topic almost requires consideration of pacifist/social conscience music, and apart from Britten, Finzi and Tippett, I can't think of a great many, though I suppose that sort of feeling would have existed among "le Six"; Handel was a bit of a leftie and did much for the Coram Foundling Hospital, including a preview performance of the (incomplete) Messiah. Beyond that, I'm stumped. I suppose that the great many composers dependent upon the political and patronage systems make this a difficult exercise. The value of music as a politically influential tool has been exploited from the beginning of time, though, hasn't it?

 

I think the religious angle is going a bit too far - I'd be far more concerned personally about the present-day exploitation of Jesus to justify discrimination on the grounds of skin colour, gender and sexuality, which exists in our own churches and newspaper headlines as well as the more obvious places (www.landoverbaptist.org for one - yes, it is a spoof, but so easily might not be).

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Hi

 

Only you can decide if you're happy to play the Reger in the light of your conscience.

 

The other issue, though, goes to the heart of the Christian faith - like it or not, Jesus DID come to this world to die for the sins of mankind. You may not be comfortable with the thought - but if God decided that's how the fall could be resolved, then who are we to argue? Without Good Friday and Easter, the church ceases to have any meaning.

 

I assume that if this is your view, you don't participate in performances of the Messiah, or the Bach Passions, etc.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

 

 

=======================

 

 

Well I would have thought that Christianity depends utterly on the Ascension personally, but I think that is probably a very medieval view; the significance of which has been lost to people today.

 

Anyway, maybe the best anti-war piece has to be the "Sonata on the 94th Psalm" Reubke....blood and guts all over the place, with God smiting them down and showing 'em who's the big cheese.

 

The alternative is to read a poem instead:-

 

The God of war went forth one day,

upon his handsome filly,

"I'm Thor!" He cried: the horse replied,

"You forgot your thaddle thilly."

 

More seriously, isn't the "Litanies" by Jehan Alain just the perfect musical response to war?

 

It doesn't come much more poignant.

 

MM

 

 

 

(www.landoverbaptist.org for one - yes, it is a spoof, but so easily might not be).

 

 

============================

 

 

It's the correspondence from the readers which is the highlight!

 

I guess if they had an organist, it would be P D Q Bach.

 

:rolleyes:

 

MM

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Hi

 

 

The other issue, though, goes to the heart of the Christian faith - like it or not, Jesus DID come to this world to die for the sins of mankind. You may not be comfortable with the thought - but if God decided that's how the fall could be resolved, then who are we to argue? Without Good Friday and Easter, the church ceases to have any meaning.

 

I assume that if this is your view, you don't participate in performances of the Messiah, or the Bach Passions, etc.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

 

Tony we've had this before: I am surprised that one of your calling doesn't recognise the distinction between the active and permissive will of God....

 

And I was merely speculating as to the possible anti-Semitism of certain composers, not denouncing them!

 

Reger? Well it's a cracking piece!

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Tony we've had this before: I am surprised that one of your calling doesn't recognise the distinction between the active and permissive will of God....

 

And I was merely speculating as to the possible anti-Semitism of certain composers, not denouncing them!

 

Reger? Well it's a cracking piece!

 

Playing their music doesn’t mean you have any sympathies with their beliefs (religious or political). Howells was a non-believer, playing his music doesn’t make people listening to it question the organists faith. If you like the piece, and believe others would like it, then include it in your recital.

 

:blink:

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Dankpsalm is 145/2, Siegesfeier 145/7.

 

The victory celebration did have to be cancelled, didn't it? But the Dankpsalm is also dedicated "to the German army."

 

Cheers

B

 

 

Didn't I read somewhere that Reger turned down an honorary degree from Cambridge University (?) in 1916, shortly before he died, in protest at the use of dum-dum bullets by the British Army in Flanders - or am I imagining things?

 

Does anyone play Siegesfeier these days? I believe Brian Runnett re-discovered it in the 70s (Opus 145 being published for years as 6 pieces rather than 7) and Roger Judd recorded all 7 from St George's Chapel, Windsor in 1996 .

 

JS

 

JS

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I However, the programme also included Richard Strauss’ ‘Ein Heldenleben’. The programme notes insisted that RS had not intended in any way whatsoever that the ‘hero’ of his tone poem should be equated with Nietchze's Übermensch. Furthermore, any reference to German nationalism that might be found in RS’s works should be seen as being ironic, and not to be taken seriously. Yeah, right.

 

Chaps, (we don't have any chappesses at all here, do we?)

 

Now I'm terrified at starting any mud-slinging here and add all the usual caveats here, like please remember that I'm not German myself, neither by birth nor citizenship, but:

 

- nationalism, even German nationalism, is not Nazism (whether Strauss was a Nazi is a different question)

- British nationalism was considered a Kolly Good Thing up until at least W II

- nationalism was the movement of the moment for almost 150 years, leading any European nation that had any opinion of itself at all to grab large amounts of Africa and India and subject same, often brutally.

 

Reger - possibly bad - Elgar - jolly good! Why? India was not the holocaust, of course not, but terrible things happened there too, and this is not a numbers game. If we were to refuse to play any music by anybody whose politics were possibly not 100 % MODERN - because the pacifist and egalitarian ideas we fondly hold today would have been considered very odd 100 years ago, or even 45 in the still-colonial South Africa in which I grew up- we wouldn't have much left. Perhaps we could compile a list of all composers we might blacklist?

 

Let's just think about it from that angle.

 

:blink: Barry

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Chaps, (we don't have any chappesses at all here, do we?)

 

If we were to refuse to play any music by anybody whose politics were possibly not 100 % MODERN - because the pacifist and egalitarian ideas we fondly hold today would have been considered very odd 100 years ago, or even 45 in the still-colonial South Africa in which I grew up- we wouldn't have much left. Perhaps we could compile a list of all composers we might blacklist?

 

Let's just think about it from that angle.

 

:) Barry

 

I’m a pacifist (in principle) in an ideal world, but then we don’t live in an ideal world. I wholly believe that the majority of people fight wars as a sense of duty to their country, not because they believe in the politics and/or the ideals of their countries leaders.

 

But back to the music, which is after all why we’re here. I suspect that the blacklist (or should that just be list in a pc world) would be very long. I think that many composers religious, political or countries ideals, would offend somebody, somewhere.

 

Let’s just get on and enjoy the music.

 

:blink:

 

PS I hope this rant hasn’t caused any offence to you good people.

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because the pacifist and egalitarian ideas we fondly hold today would have been considered very odd 100 years ago

and may well seem positively bizzare in another 100 years or so - so let's just get on and enjoy the music, although...if a composer has been firmly associated with a movement that caused suffering to people still alive or near descendents, maybe we should be just a bit aware of that

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Tony we've had this before: I am surprised that one of your calling doesn't recognise the distinction between the active and permissive will of God....

 

Hi

 

At risk of getting too theological!

 

Galatians 4:4 talks of God sending His Son. 1 John 4:9 adds the fact that Jesus was sent as an "attoning sacrifice", Matthew 16:21 records Jesus Himself foretelling His death - and He claimed to be the Son of God. On this basis, I see no problem with the stanza that you quoted.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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