Matthew Blackmar: Globalization/Music Publishing/Reception

General Discussion about Wagner and The Ring of the Nibelung

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Matthew Blackmar: Globalization/Music Publishing/Reception

Post by alberich00 » Mon Sep 09, 2013 6:46 am

Paul Heise's review of "Globalization, Music Publishing and the Domestic Reception of Musik Drama," a talk presented by Matthew Blackmar (Harvard Univ.) at the Wagner Worldwide 2013 bicentennial symposium sponsored by the Univ. of South Carolina in the winter of 2013:

Blackmar first itemized Wagner's supposed inventions: cinema, the advertising jingle, the public relations firm, and the Leitmotif.

Now, the global information age must take a new look at Wagner's sheet music culture. Blackmar distinguished different kinds of arrangements for domestidc music-making, including (1) decontextualization, (2) recontextualization, and (3) PH didn't record the third; he'll have to give this talk a 2nd listen.

An accumulation of such arrangements of different types took Wagner's music out of his hands and influence. "Tannhaeuser," for instance, has many stand-alone excerpts. Both Wagner and Liszt realized the commercial value of making their music available in a variety of incarnations. There were a number of Parisian virtuoso arrangers of potpourris of Wagner's music who made it available in this form for publication. Some of Wagner's music even ended up as dance forms. For such commercial purposes, Wagner's early operas were the most popular, especially "Tannhaeuser," until 1900.

A variety of "Ring" excerpts and arrangements were published prior to the premier of the "Ring" in 1876. Different kinds of publications addressed different publics. Piano arrangements signalled both canonization and domestication. There were piano fantasies based on themes from the "Ring." But all such commercial re-hashings of Wagner's music were disassociated from their original dramatic contexts.

Americans in the 19th Century increasingly wanted cultural validation and were striving for gentility. From 1856 until 1990 there were 24 distinct publishers of Wagner's music in the USA. The market for such arrangements was much larger than the number of individuals who could attend performances.

Wagner's operas were sung in many languages.

In the Library of Congress one finds that Wagner and Verdi were the most published [PH: I'm not sure whether Blackmar meant the most published composers per se, or merely the most published opera composers].

For most piano players in domestic settings Liszt's piano transcriptions of Wagner were unplayable. So Liszt's transcriptions were simplified by arrangers. Parlor organ arrangements became popular.

When the bridal chorus from "Lohengrin" known as 'Here comes the bride' entered tin-pan alley, this distanced it from its original dramatic context, and it [PH: ironically] was made into the iconic wedding processional. The 'Ride of the Valkyries' also became popular yet decontextualized in this way.

These arrangements may have helped advertise Wagner's theatrical performances and spread access to them geographically, but these mostly appealed to a distinct audience. Wagner was marketed by the very media he deplored. [PH: I noted elsewhere in this discussion forum, in my brief critical note on Nicholas Vazsonyi's talk on Wagner and the making of his brand, that Wagner believed that only through the widest and deepest dissemination of knowledge of his art would he have any chance of spreading this knowledge to the very few authentic lovers of his art, who were rare and therefore widely distributed in time and space. So, on this basis, Wagner was not in contradiction with himself in seeking to spread knowledge of his art through many methods and channels.]


Question: Was this a gateway drug, helping to lead people to more serious consideration of Wagner's art?

PH seems to have failed to record Blackmar's answer, but did record the following remark: A lot of American versions were pirated copies. I'll have to listen to this lecture again to find and record Blackmar's answer.

Question: Wagner authorized some excerpting of his operas/music-dramas to advertise his works. Wagner even allowed a study edition of "Parsifal" to be published.

PH: If Blackmar addressed this point PH failed to record it.

PH: Blackmar's paper addresses the modern conception of Wagner as a great entrepreneur and self-promoter, who helped to invent the modern media machine. Though I have yet to read it I gather that Nicholas Vazsonyi's book on this subject is the most comprehensive treatment available.
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