Saturday, 20 November 2010

Pre-Freudian Psychology.

One thing I can't quite understand about the ruling class is their attitude to culture. Seeing that they are generally very well educated, and seeing the reputation that high art and culture has, you would imagine that they would supportive of the arts. But no, like everything else that elevates us above germs, they find it superfluous to the demands of extracting profit.

So we have a long slow war of attrition waged against the BBC, among the most symbolic organisations in the world, which produces programmes such as 'Discovering Music', quite simply one of the most lovely things this island produces. This is a programme which is accessible but not patronising, which explores great art-music in detail, tying together the old problem of emotional and social impact with technical construction and execution, and is endlessly fascinating to boot. That our ruling class would want to destroy this in favour of private broadcasters who would never, ever commission something quite so informative and enriching, highlights the inherent contradictions of conservatism better than almost anything. Fuck them.

Here's some quotes from the programme, which are, let's face it, total E&V fodder...

The most famous chord progression in the history of music

Keeps fulfilment at bay

World of unfulfilled longing and endless desire

As we suddenly become aware of sexual attraction and painful desire

The most poignant interrupted cadence of all

We feel the music has come alive after the disjointed and lonely opening but it has only come alive to experience further heartache and unfulfilment.

But the harmony, like our unconscious lives, is never truly at rest. The structural goals in Tristan are moments of unfulfilment, disorientation and frustration of varying intensities.

We might think that at last the music is about to achieve emotional fulfulment. Longing and denial, both musically and psychologically, will be a thing of the past.

One of the mightiest climaxes in all music, a revelation of pre-Freudian psychology in which climactic achievement is merely an illusion.

In spite of the spiritual and erotic adventures, the striving and longing, we're back where we started.

From agony and unfulfilled desire in life, to mystical union in death.

This is orchestral genius at work.

This music still speaks to us today with a power that is hard to resist.

Wagner now begins to build his final overwhelming climax, striving for mystic union in death.

Only a compositional giant could have sustained such a span, and kept alive without monotony this world of agony and unfulfilled desire.
This was a work that revolutionised the composition of music.

I mean, there is an interesting argument to be had regarding the final chords of Tristan. It's quite easy (and actually quite correct) to identify the B major at the very climax as a kind of false unity, as posited by fascism. I mean, every time I listen to it, it sends shivers up and down my spine, I become liquid of limb and prone to swooning, but I know at the same time that it is a bare-faced metaphysical lie. This is why Mahler will always be an improvement on Wagner - listen to the disintegration at the end of the Adagio from Mahler 9, and you hear the unfulfilling disintegration of self-hood that is almost a perfect companion to the voice in Beckett's 'Malone Dies' - ever obsessed with an end that cannot be experienced from within the self that is utterly focussed upon it. Although Wagner is correct about desire, he is wrong about the Will.

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