Book Review — Five Lessons on Wagner by Alain Badiou

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Book Review — Five Lessons on Wagner by Alain Badiou

Postby feuerzauber » Thu Aug 04, 2011 3:42 am

Key.
Synopsis — blue
Commentary — black


Five Lessons on Wagner Alain Badiou

Preface

Young Alain with father (Mayor of Toulouse) attends the 1952 Bayreuth Ring, smuggles Parsifal as topic into a final exam paper on 'What is Genius', and surveys his father's sponsored Tristan from the Mayoral box in Toulouse.

Badiou is a life-long Wagner enthusiast, yet this is his first sustained Wagner book, which he has consciously styled to possess the "fundamental silences that are broken purely by chance" of his protege François Nicolas's music, a fellow academic who presents the Parsifal course that stimulated the conferences for which these "lessons" were written


Note. The authorized text is reconstructed by a translator from the author's rough draft. This doesn't absolve the author from responsibility for any logical imprecision.


Lesson 1. Contemporary Philosophy and Wagner


The chapter title is inapt and misleading.

This "lesson" is exclusively about a single "contemporary philosophy" expressed in a single book 'Musica Ficta: (Figures of Wagner)' by Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe.

Here is Amazon's product description of LB's book Musica Ficta: "This is a pioneering attempt to rearticulate the relationship between music and the problem of mimesis, of presentation and re-presentation. Four “scenes” compose this book, all four of them responses to Wagner: two by French poets (Baudelaire and Mallarmé), two by German philosophers (Heidegger and Adorno)."

Badiou states the problem this way: Is Wagner still the litmus test for the role of music, generally in ideology and specifically in philosophy?
1. Topic. The topic's underlying assumption is immediately tendencious and the subject's terms are left open to free interpretation — what does he mean by "ideology" and which school or schools of philosophy is he talking about? To answer this, we are supposed to have read LB's book as prelude to the opening sentence of "lesson" 1. Courtesy to his students/readers might have obliged Badiou to make his book more helpfully self contained.
2. Method. A musicologist investigating whether some condition "still is" that "once was" would typically begin by setting up a criterion for testing these states, and for explaining why the condition "continues to be". But Badiou, as philosopher, dispenses with scientific method in favour of his stated "silences broken by chance" procedure.
3. Later on we'll see that the only people this philosopher feels obliged to be courteous to are his philosophical peers — not his students or readers.

Badiou informs us that Lacoue-Labarthe's book indicts Wagner for replacing old-fashioned 'idolatry' with new-fangled 'musicolatry' [= music as idolatry]. We are living in an age of musicolatry.

Badiou is "inclined to agree" because
— Music is now the key to youthful sociability.
— Music is implicated in eliminating the 'aesthetics of distinction' of form — rock, jazz, classical — and of time — baroque, romantic, etc. — Often all on a single 'musicolatrous' iPod — All musics are equal.
[Orwellian equality though, as we shall see.]

Badiou tacitly agrees that Wagner may be implicated — though which Wagner is unclear.
Post-war Bayreuth made a clean break with its discredited past. German national mythology was expunged from Richard's works by
— Wieland's transnational timeless hellenic productions
— Post-May 1968 French Wagnerite "theatricalised" productions
[Badiou is a sans-culottes jacobin] .

The reader suddenly wonders whether Badiou is now discussing something less lofty than modern ideology as mere Bayreuth-German national myth (or even something nasty like Nazism). How does this "philosophical discourse" differ from Bayreuth buzz?

Anyhow, having demonstrated good faith toward LB in round 1, Badiou now rips into him in the most civilised manner in round 2. In Badiou's opinion, LB bases his conception of Wagner on a "theory of politics as aestheticisation".

Wagner politicised the Ring, Meistersinger, etc., but LB is claiming that he went further and "aestheticised politics " — something a stand-up comedian could have invented.

Badiou rebuts LB's claim by demonstrating how the four roles that support this claim are ideologically constructed. [Links from the 'aestheticism of politics' to politics itself escape me. I have no idea of what connecting linkages he's pulling apart.]:
myth — national myth is now expunged from Bayreuth. Though organic to Wagner's conception, myth might even be legitimately excised in a valid rendering.
technology — Wagner's noisy "effects" are non technological
[I think that's what he says.]
totalisation — [total artwork] Wagner's intentions and execution are different. Badiou, servant to two masters Hegel and Wagner, tentatively agrees that just as Hegel brought classical philosophy to a close, so also Wagner brought opera to a close.
unification — Wagner's endless melody does not (as LB claimed) result in music nullifying text. Wagner's music is not mythological
[yep, that's what LB claimed!] Wagner's works are not "overdetermined" (as LB claimed) — a scientific term, wisely left unexplained, that implies too many meanings nullifying each other.

Badiou is troubled (though fleetingly) over "our" inability to distinguish art from non-art [thereby "chucking in the aesthetic towel" with a grand gesture that universalises his inability to perform the aesthetician's elementary task — isn't he in effect saying "I'm not sticking out my aesthetic neck to have it guillotined in a hopeless cause!"].

This doesn't stop Badiou from aesthetically advising artists to stick out theirs to create only what he calls the "effectless effect" — Artists abjure public effects! [These are troubling times to grasp for philosophers, who risk being ignored by artists as well.]

Yet, our Orwellian ideologically constructed world, in which all aesthetic instances are equal, has co-opted Wagner's works as more equal than the rest. Wagner straddles a divide of our own ideological making, in which he is both last purveyor of "high art" and first purveyor of mass culture, and maybe the 'kitsch' of waning empires'. You wonder if these guys really like Wagner. It is intellectually safe for them to closely identify themselves with Wagnerian "high art", with the intended reward of basking in its reflected glory. But — claiming as they do that even they can't tell "high art" from "low art" — their parasitic discourse upon Wagner raises the possibility that they merely comprehend his actual "high art" with what they clearly parade before the rest of us as their own recognisably "low art" aesthetic, which runs somewhere around the level of mass culture and kitsch — wheh, just discovered how easy it is to master Badiou's vaunted ideology-equals-science methodology of silence-punctuated-by-chance.

All this leaves Badiou to close his first "lesson" in a philosophical state of wistful puzzlement over whether an ideological abstraction called 'Wagner's actuality' is "something like a big rock concert". [The curtain falls quickly.]


I have treated this book's "lesson" 1 harshly. The book jacket flaunts Slavoj Žižek's testimonial to Badiou: "A figure like Plato or Hegel walks among us!" — not on the basis of this book. It now fills the shelves of University bookstores. I feel Parsifal-like pity for the innocent undergraduates who will be mercilessly primed to approach these "lessons" seeking musicological or philosophical pearls.


P.S. Have you had your fill of my review of Badiou's "lessons" after "lesson 1". They are too musicologically inconsequential to touch your enterprise.
Time and patience permitting, I can complete the remaining in installments. Better still, I can simply review Žižek's Afterword which, by contrast, is delicious.
Last edited by feuerzauber on Thu Aug 04, 2011 7:08 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Book Review — Five Lessons on Wagner by Alain Badiou

Postby alberich00 » Thu Aug 04, 2011 4:35 am

Dear Feuerzauber:

Thanks much for what seems to be a thorough reprise of the essential content of Badious' first lesson. Since I haven't read the original text yet it would be unfair of me to comment, but nonetheless it sounds like the typical post-modern enterprise of constituting some straw man in substitution for the actual artist in question. I love the way such critics impute certain philosophical, sociological, psychological, aesthetic, and political crimes to an author, then knock them down, thinking that by doing so they've exposed and implicated the author (in this case Wagner: I've never had the pleasure of reading Lacoue Labarthe. Nonetheless, I feel I must familiarise myself with Badiou in order to better grasp what is at stake in the cultural war I'm launching (now isn't that pretentious!). Well, what I meant to say is that post-modern and post-post-modern critics will inevitably take "The Wound That Will Never Heal" as a sort of throwing down of the gauntlet. I make a prediction: not all, but a great proportion of the criticism my book is likely to engender will, at least initially, in all probability inspire the setting up of a whole series of straw men, often on the basis of a refusal to read the book to the end and grasp its parts in relation to the whole.

I'll give you a for-instance. There are many who will see my (largely) original interpretation as an incentive for Regie Theater to outdo what it has already done in subverting Wagner's full power on the stage through an alleged ironical reconstruction. But if I was approached by such a director/producer to serve as dramaturgical consultant, I would tell them simply to go back to the simplicity and mythological universality which was Wagner's original intent, i.e., something between realism and Wieland Wagner's expressionism. The whole point of any Wagner production should be to get out of the way, in a sense, and leave Wagner free to communicate. Any production whose raison d'etre is to draw attention to itself as a production has already lost the point. I recall Wagner's advice that the Holy Grail in "Parsifal" should be simple and not ornate. Any production which insists on inspiring the audience to reflectively question Wagner's "meaning" has missed the point. We are to absorb Wagner's work as in a dream, naively. The sort of reflection on meaning I've undertaken in my book is something that must always remain "after-the-fact," not imposed on or embedded in a production. If asked to serve on such a committee, I will insist over and over again, get out of the way: let Wagner speak. Stop looking for gimmicks to cause the audience to second-guess what's at stake.

Well, these are my initial thoughts. I really do look forward to as much more of your review as you wish to post. I also look forward to reading the original so I can be forwarned re what I'll be facing in the coming debate.

Your friend from Wagnerheim,

Paul
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Re: Book Review — Five Lessons on Wagner by Alain Badiou

Postby alberich00 » Tue Aug 16, 2011 6:44 pm

Dear Feuerzauber:

Thanks for the wonderful gift of the Badiou and Deathridge books. I'm now about 1/3 of the way through Badiou's "Five Lessons on Wagner" and found it more accessible than I had anticipated. I'm now reading the very interesting chapter on the history of philosophic confrontations with Wagner. I should be done in a couple of days (I'm also looking forward to Zizek's epilogue) and will then add my two cents to your review. This book is well worth reading because it provides me a refreshing review on recent trends in Wagner scholarship in relation to prior critiques by such folks as Nietzsche and Adorno.

I recall speaking with Deathridge briefly in NYC at a conference sponsored by Columbia Univ. called "Wagner and the Consequences." The highlight of this 3 day conference was a very well attended roundtable discussion with Edward Said and Daniel Barenboim.

Your friend from Wagnerheim,

Paul

PS. I've emailed both Zizek and Badiou my announcement about www.wagnerheim.com, and hope to receive responses at some point.
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Re: Book Review — Five Lessons on Wagner by Alain Badiou

Postby feuerzauber » Wed Aug 17, 2011 1:07 am

I'm pleased that the Wagner books arrived like puppies to a good home.

I found Badiou improved on second reading, and I'm rather thrilled that you find him interesting.

As you can tell, the first Lesson left me in a troubled state like Hans Sachs in Meistersinger — although I won't pursue that analogy.

To the book's structure…

Badiou's vaunted "silences broken purely by chance" methodology strikes me as affectation.

The best I can make of it is this:
    silence = I let my opponent speak freely;
    chance = I reserve the right to disrupt his discourse when I can bear it no longer — kitchen table rules — I trust he's not really serious about interrupting "at random".

In any case, this approach, which impresses Badiou as on the side of "high art", is (until proven) no more than a presentation technique without especial merit. My (for want of a better term) review adopted a similar approach — though my interruptions were intentionally deterministic.

To the book's content…

The subsequent Lessons 2—4 are indeed fascinating — and I found myself drawn to the continuous argument he builds. These Lessons also clarify whether it's Badiou or his target who's talking.

There is much here that provokes discussion — but with the book now nestling in your puppy basket, and me off to [our first ever] Bayreuth — that's over to you.

As to Lesson 5. This is yet another interpretation of Parsifal — based on the aesthetic of Mallarmé. It strikes me as obeisance to a Gallic god rather than to mundane evidence. But that may be simply because I just can't get worked up over an "ideological" quest for the possibility of ceremony.
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Re: Book Review — Five Lessons on Wagner by Alain Badiou

Postby alberich00 » Fri Aug 19, 2011 9:50 am

Dear Wagnerians Anonymous:

I've now completed Badiou's book, "Five Lessons on Wagner," including its epilogue by Slavoj Zizek, and will soon start John Deathridge's book "Wagner Beyond Good and Evil," with which I had some prior familiarity thanks to some excerpts posted online. I will post a more thorough review of Badiou later, as time permits, but I can say at this point that I found some real value in his effort to reaffirm Wagner's status as a pillar of high-art in the face of the post-modern critique of such folks as Adorno. I was, however, somewhat disappointed in Zizek's epilogue. I found little or nothing new there [PH 10/13/11: Upon a more serious re-reading I found enough of interest there to post an equally intesting response, which you will find posted in this discussion forum]. Given the questions which Zizek poses, I know with certainty that Zizek would find immense value in http://www.wagnerheim.com. I believe he would find many plausible and perhaps even convincing answers to many of his questions.

For instance, he poses more than once the old question re Elsa's true motive in asking Lohengrin the forbidden question. I believe I solved that question in my essay "How Elsa Showed Wagner the Way to Siegfried," which was published by Stewart Spencer (who spent perhaps 3.5 years corresponding with me prior to publishing this paper, which went through many transformations in the process) in the 5/95 issue of WAGNER, the scholarly journal of The Wagner Society (London, UK). [PH: 10/13/11: I've now posted that original paper here in our discussion forum]. I have since greatly elaborated that paper both as an expanded essay (which can be read at wagnersocietyflorida.org: click on resources and texts on Wagner) and as a lecture, which I have presented at many locations. Dr. John Weinstock (Germanic Studies at the Univ. of Texas in Austin) filmed an edited version of that lecture, recorded on a dvd which at some point I will post to wagnerheim.com. I also have a dvd of my lecture on Ludwig Feuerbach's influence on Wagner's "Parsifal" which I presented to the Boston Wagner Society, which I hope to post here.

Intrepid readers of http://www.wagnerheim.com will find what I regard as a persuasive solution to the problem of why Elsa asked the forbidden question: in fact, I interpret Wagner's "Ring" as its solution, just as Wagner himself did, when he said that Elsa showed him the way to Siegfried.

Your friend from Wagnerheim,

Paul alias Alberich00
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Re: Book Review — Five Lessons on Wagner by Alain Badiou

Postby alberich00 » Wed Sep 07, 2011 11:02 am

Dear Wagnerians and other erstwhile affiliates:

Having survived numerous natural and cultural disasters, I'll attempt now to fulfill my threat to post my review of Badiou's "Five Lessons on Wagner."

A quick aside: I just finished watching an excerpt from Charlie Rose's 9/5/11 interview with various guests discussing creativity and the brain, including Oliver Sacks, who remarked that Wagner was first an imitator before he evolved into a world-historical creative artist, and that this is surely the common trajectory for all folks of creative genius. Wagner would concur: he wrote several essays devoted to this very topic, and, as is well known, much to my dismay, identified "imitation" with Judaism. But of course Wagner's larger - though somewhat obscure - point, is that he took Mosaic Law as an archetype for ossification of potential creativity and philistinism, and saw what Christians call the New Testament as Christ's creative declaration of artistic independence. This of course is one of the primary subjects of "Mastersingers." But what really struck me about the interview was Sacks's remark that in "Tristan" Wagner emerged from an imitative into a truly creative artist, who produced revolutionary and powerful music which Sacks absolutely loathes. I wonder if Sacks has attempted to embrace Wagner on his own terms, i.e., to follow the libretto text/drama and the music simultaneously. If he hasn't, I wonder if Sacks's painful experience of Wagner would be altered if he were to try this experiment. I was watching one of Rose's previous interviews with Sachs (that's a slip, but I won't strike it out: perhaps it hides/exposes some "deep meaning"???) about his new book on music and the brain, in which his brain was scanned while listening to, I think, Bach's "Matthew Passion," and scanned again while he listened to a comparable work by Beethoven, perhaps "Missa Solemnis" (one of my favorites). Sacks's brain was all fired up and alight during Bach, and almost inactive during Beethoven. Well, that's interesting! But I suppose it corresponds with his dislike for Wagner. Sacks speaks of patients who suffer from an inability to recognize human faces. I wonder if our personal aesthetic responses to various artworks corresponds to such abilities and inabilities. It strikes me as remarkable, for instance, that otherwise intelligent people, with deep responses to great works of art in various categories and genres, are left entirely cold by equally impressive works in other categories and genres.

Getting back to Badiou, I'll have to post bits and pieces of my review as time permits, and I'll do it, as I always do, by simply flipping the pages to spots I've highlighted, and comment on them as I go. Perhaps I'll attempt a summary at the end. I warn you in advance that I've written similar reviews of numerous studies of Wagner in the past, including Nietzsche, Mann, Adorno, Newman, Cooke, Shaw, Donington, Nattiez, Dahlhaus, Borchmeyer, Tanner, etc., and most recently Mark Berry, which sometimes run to 20-50 pages (my review of Berry's "Treacherous Bonds and Laughing Fire" is 73 pages long: Woe is me!), but I'll try to keep my remarks brief in this forum.


BADIOU'S LESSON ONE:

Badiou P. 9: Badiou informs us that Lacoue-Labarthe describes Wagner as the last great artist capable of defending the concept of high art, but that in the modern world high art can only embody reactionary and fascist tendencies.

PH: This all stems from Nietzsche's critique of what he regarded as Wagner's futile attempt to construct a total work of art of grandiose ambition and architecture, which would overpower and sway his audience against its will, and unearth in the audience primal emotions which would wholly dissolve man's critical faculty. All of this is nonsense. As Michael Tanner once put it, what great artist hasn't had designs on his audience? All great artists move their audience, and if Wagner shakes his audience up somewhat more thoroughly than the competition, this may well arise from causes which have nothing to do with fascist tendencies, or any conscious attempt to sway and overpower. It simply comes with the territory: Wagner is posing the grandest questions about what it is to be human, in the most persuasive way. If one wishes to accuse Wagner of being unconstrained and intemperate, lacking classical equipoise, recall the iron discipline it took in creating the "Ring," for instance, to devote so many years to constructing a conceptual and musical structure of such organic continuity, and with delayed resolution of dramatic and musical ambiguities which remove the "Ring" definitively outside the realm of "Mass Art."

Badiou: P. 10: According to Badiou LB says Wagner's art was the first "mass art."

PH: Mass art, by definition, offers instant gratification to a mass reduced to its most general and common denominator, whereas Wagner offers his audience, and demands of it, an inexhaustible variety and complexity and depth which most members of a rock-music extravaganza would find intolerable, unbearable. I insist that Wagner's four greatest works, the four music-dramas composed after "Lohengrin," inspire a rich harvest of rational and critical thought, as well as engendering the richest emotions (and feeling is not necessarily destructive of reflective thought: feeling may in fact provide an entre to deeper thought). My book on the "Ring" bears witness to this. Wagner has made me more, not less, critical, more, not less, enthusiastic about all the arts, including the other great opera composers. I see, feel, think, more completely, more clearly, thanks to these four works. And, what is more, so did Nietzsche. It is one of the scandals of his massively overrated critique of Wagner's art that one can find many of the trends in Nietzsche's mature philosophy in incipient form, as metaphor, myth, and music, within Wagner's four mature music-dramas, not least because both Wagner and Nietzsche draw much sustenance from Feuerbach. Nietzsche, it seems to me, wished to be an artist, a high form of the Overman, and Nietzsche once remarked that Wagner had effectively stolen Nietzsche's potential audience.

Badiou P. 11: I have no idea what Badiou means when he asserts that the Boulez-Chereau "Ring" proved that we needn't see "myth" as an essential feature of Wagner's art.

PH: Yes, one can interpret Wagner's "Ring" any way one likes: that doesn't mean the interpretation holds any weight. I liked isolated features of the Chereau "Ring" in spite of its transparent attempt to read much of the "Ring" according to GB Shaw's lights, not because of Shaw's influence. Yes, the "Ring" concerns the modern world, but it also concerns the ancient world and all possible human worlds.

Badiou P. 15: Here Badiou asks to what extent we must take the artist's stated intentions seriously in critiquing their artwork, or producing and performing it. Badiou notes that though an artist's stated intentions may be very rich and helpful, they may also be impoverished.

PH: Wagner to some extent agreed with this, per his famous remark that ultimately his own art remained as much a mystery to him as to his audience. This corresponds with Wagner's belief that most of what was worthwhile in his work was unconsciously inspired, and that his conscious mind only did the finishing work, the final polishing, so to speak. Wagner also admitted from time to time that he'd gotten his own stage directions wrong, that his singer-actors and others involved in rehearsing his productions sometimes gave him helpful hints. But proponents of Regie Theater often take this as a pretext to radically alter the tone and even the symbolic content of Wagner's work. It is one thing to say that Wagner could be unconscious of his own deepest sources of inspiration, and capable of self-correction with respect to how to realize his inspiration on the stage, and quite another to give certain peanut-minds carte blanche to alter his artwork at will.

Badiou P. 16: Badiou, much to his credit, notes that Wagner was often highly critical in rehearsal of overblown and histrionic acting and production values, wishing for simplicity and naturalism and restraint.

PH: This puts the lie to a considerable proportion of Nietzsche-inspired critiques.

Badiou P. 18-20a: Badiou notes that LB complains that Wagner's endless melody and musical motifs, and their tendency to unify all diversity, are over-determinative and saturate the artwork at the expense of the libretto text.

PH: Speaking for myself, I've never experienced this: I am able to take in text/drama/music simultaneously without any feeling or sense of imbalance in the component parts. For me, the music enhances the dramatic text, adding another more powerful layer of rhetoric and grammar (in the best sense of the terms), and the dramatic text catches the musical wave and lends it particularity and specificity, as Wagner said. I haven't the remotest idea what LB can mean when, according to Badiou, LB says that the endless melody and musical motifs over-determine the mythic elements. I suspect that such a critique may well stem from an individual incapable of losing himself/herself in Wagner's art, for whom Wagner's art can never be taken in instinctively. For me, it is my most natural cultural element.

Badiou adds, rightly, that he and Boulez agreed that the musical motifs can carry off multiple functions simultaneously, namely, a narrative, theatrical, symbolic function, and a more purely musical function.

PH: In fact, I believe that in Wagner's four music-dramas there are times when the verbal narrative comes to the fore (not at the expense of the music, but simply because Wagner has many means of expression at his disposal, which can be employed separately or together, as circumstances require), sometimes the music alone comes to the fore, and sometimes (most often, I think) verbal text and music support each other equally. Wagner, for instance, stated that there are certain moments in the drama when the music must be silenced, when, as he put it, the real must jettison the ideal to gain frank expression.

Badiou: And of course Badiou is right to affirm, in light of LB's critique of Wagner's alleged over-determination of his art through mythological music ("mythological dictates in the very fabric of the music"), that the damage done by systematic labeling of the musical motifs can never be regretted enough.

PH: I concur with this view and have offered my own commentary on Allen Dunning's numbered list of 178 (more or less) musical motifs in the "Ring" as merely tentative, with no possibility of exactitude. My notion was to give one a sense of the possible "range" of meaning of each motif, to the extent that any given motif can be said to acquire a conceptual aspect by virtue of specific association with elements in the dramatic text. And of course the range of meaning of certain motifs overlap the range of meaning of some other motifs, without being identical.

Badiou P. 21: Badiou gently suggests that LB's critique of RW is based upon LB's own straw man. As Badiou says: "As such, this characterization of Wagner is by and large independent of any real examination of his creative process," because LB's interpretation "is actually being created under cover of a stance on what contemporary art ought to be, and the Wagner thus constructed serves as its foil."

PH: I can't help thinking of the Wagner invented by Nietzsche for his purposes from, I suppose, 1878 onward. Nietzsche, for instance, suggested that though Wagner had a totalizing ambition to create the ultimate romantic artwork which would be all-embracing and systematically unified from beginning to end, that Wagner hadn't sufficient respect for the fact that his real mastery was as a miniaturist. Well, what Nietzsche left out of account is that Wagner is both a sublime miniaturist, and a master-builder. He was great both in the big, and the small, and in their interconnectedness. The key is to discover, if possible, Wagner's unified field theory (I guess nowadays this would be string theory or whatever new name physicists have given the age-old ambition to have a theory of everything - is it M-Theory?).

Badiou P. 23: Badiou concludes his first lesson by posing the following questions: "Is this [LB's] prescriptive set of rules for contemporary art justified and, if so, by what?" And "Is it legitimate to make Wagner the foil for this agenda?" Badiou suggests that LB seeks a contemporary art which will be fragmentary and incomplete, and in this sense humble and de-totalizing, seeing in Wagner the last vestige of a concept of high art in the sense of striving to fulfill the ambition of producing a total work of art. LB evidently poses the question whether Wagner's art is, in effect, the kitsch of a waning empire (the waning Western world, I suppose).

PH: "Parsifal" is, I think, the Wagner artwork most often labeled as "Kitsch," again, thanks to Nietzsche's critique that Wagner seemed, to him, to have thrown into it everything that smelled of retro religious sentimentality combined with sex and violence and transgressive (I hate this word: it has always seemed to me to be the last refuge of post-modern scoundrels) self-violation, i.e., of decadence and nihilism (which Nietzsche defined as a crisis caused by modern man's inability to believe, any longer, in the religious myths of man's transcendent value which had sustained man up until modern times, complicated by modern man's equal intolerance for the prosaic world-view and self-understanding forced upon man by modern science). In other words, modern man could neither retreat to a discredited past nor move forward to a self-annihilating future. Well, Nietzsche was right about this much: Wagner's art, it seems to me, is indeed inspired largely (if not exclusively or entirely) by this conundrum, which Wagner captured in Wotan's paralysis.

PH: And, for those who manage to negotiate their way through the entirety of my book on the "Ring," posted on this site, you will see that in a very real sense Wagner conceived of his art as the last art, the last possible art (in this sense, as Badiou suggests, Hegelian), but not thanks to the megalomania generally attributed to Wagner. Wagner seems to have believed that art, as he defined it (unconsciously inspired), could not survive in the modern world because man has become too self-conscious, and the exponents of high art have become too conscious of the formerly unconscious ground of their creativity. Observe, for instance, that theory becomes more important than the fact in much of 20th century art.

Badiou: I am grateful that on P. 24 Badiou is skeptical that LB's projection of his own issues is really what Wagner is all about.

PH: One thing that Wagner is not about is that he can be taken as a precursor to rock festivals: there simply isn't the remotest relation of the Wagnerian phenomenon to the world of rock, in spite of the fact that isolated rock musicians have claimed a Wagnerian influence on their riffing and even on the more exalted construction of certain pieces.

Review of Badiou Lesson Two coming soon to a discussion forum near you ....!!!!!! I'll post Lesson Two and all others as separate posts, to allow ease of access.

Yours from Wagnerheim,

Paul
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