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University of Utah radio presents music and other four letter words. Here is your host associate professor of music at the University of Utah Paul bad. And there was Wagner attempting to say something apparently about the 19th century spiritual crisis of mankind to posit some kind of solution with the ring of the NE belongs and finding that someplace in the course of writing that long a set of mythic operas he had to take time out for another more personal crisis which seems to have been in the end more important to the world than anything that he tried to say in the ring. However people diversely him to put the ring of the me below as it appears that Siegfried is conceived as the great hero the great life force as mankind who somehow has to set out to do what the gods never could do that in fact the gods look to men for some kind of redemption which is the inverse procedure of all
religious thought. We've noted that this coincided may be in a in a sort of circumstantial way and maybe in a happy way with an onslaught of biological evolution in the 19th century. But Siegfried. The great life force did. At least accomplish the mission set out for him in an indirect way. The gold. Or the makings of a ultimate good. And maybe even the incarnation of ultimate truth the gold was returned to the Rhine the Rhine maidens were back taking care of it at the end of all that though Siegfried himself had passed away and so had the whole of this particular creation. That is to say the ring of the Nibelungs ends in an apocalypse not unlike that which the Christians had seen. It all has to begin again someplace. The secrets are there the timeless truths the possibilities of working it out without the kind of injustice with
which this world is corrupted and tainted all of those things are possible but probably not in the here and now. And the end of all this as far as history is concerned as far as civilization is concerned. Yes anarchy and all too much upheaval and dissolution. More interesting though is that while Wagner was at work on the ring of the new balloons he took time out to write an opera called Tristan and Isolde in which he seems to have made a couple of statements one in the front of his mind and one in the back. The one in the front is the one that people nowadays seem not to like to hear. In that particular music drama but the one in the back coincided rather nicely with the coming of Sigmund Freud from Wagner seems to sing the myth of Tristan and Isolde as another religious experience. A kind of symbolic drama about the plight of men and the possibility of breaking through the
illusion of most of our daily experience to some kind of bright awareness of ultimate truth and reality while we are yet alive. And that somehow when this happens knowing that no man can see the face of God and live that somehow we must perish in the flesh. And in order to do this dramatically of course on the stage for an audience so that the whole truth would somehow be made theatrically. Tristan himself who has the final conversation in his delirium of ACT 3 Must Die and ease Olga achieves the great APPO theosis that is. She merges with the truth. She has a great outpouring of intensity and vision the revelation if you will which does her in. That's that's a little odd. Maybe for a 19th
century man to be saying that especially in a time of such discuss illusion. And that. Maybe somehow there is a mystic property available to man and that maybe there is an ultimate truth and that maybe there is something like the myth of the buried light and that all we have to do is find some medium or some moment or some way show or like Bugner himself to help us to to uncover the light to rid ourselves of the darkness to become in fact the children. Of light and that having done this we strike through to something like Divine Love and whatever is finally true. Time. And trust does not listen too much that way. Nowadays but it is the kind of aggravated wrestling's of spirit that both just on of these old undergo in the first two acts which seem to
grip people emotionally and psychologically when they go to experience that particular opera nowadays. You know the kind of Freud in wranglings if you will. The possibility of even writing motifs tombs which will correspond somehow mysteriously with with the synonymous states of being. Wagner didn't give his tunes particular names but lots of commentators since his time seem to have agreed that he had something in mind and they all try one way or another to paraphrase. Or to approximate him in language whatever it is that they think those particular notes have reference to. Tryst on Andi's older. Thrashing about in the unconscious. In the area of healing an experience which they cannot know but which they feel in which they sometimes share. All of this is extremely
interesting to the Freud aeons and sometimes even to the followers of your own. However that may be. Drug nurses religious views expressed interest on that he's old and later in Parsifal seem not to have caught on. If he were in fact something like a private mystic that was his own business. But people listening to the music of Wagner felt strongly but TOG of the personal crisis. Kind of Friday and plunge if you will of Tristan and sometimes even in par so far particularly in the scenes involving the witch. And clings over in his mysterious castle. And parts the farmers own. Wrestling's of spirit. And from the ring of the needle them was. That great. World weariness. And sense of the disappearance of the divine. Somehow from human life.
Which in the light of Tristan and Parsifal seems to be something of a paradox inspirers Bruckner is concerned if. It was in this world. I suppose that that famous man Leo Tolstoy was growing up and passing through similar crises in another. Part of Europe. I think maybe it's a mistake for anyone not to have read Tolstoy's confession which is a very short kind of expression of the problem of not only one man but of the whole time. And in many ways it to cross and recross is the territory of the ring of the neighbor longs or Tristan that he's older or anybody else has thought. And healing from the last part of the nineteenth century and in his confession he says this. And that leads us directly to another person who is musically at least representative of most of these feelings. I asked Tolstoy What is the meaning of my life beyond time.
Cause and space. And I replied to quite another question. What is the meaning of my life within time. Cause and space with the result that after long efforts of thought the answer I reached was none. Having understood this I then understood that it was not possible to seek and rational knowledge for a reply to the question of the meaning of my life. And of the reply given by rational knowledge as a memory indication that a reply can only be obtained by a different statement of the question. And only when the relation of the finite to the infinite is included in the question. And I understood that however irrational undistorted might be the replies given by faith. They had this advantage that they introduced into every answer. A relation between the finite and the infinite without which there can be no
solution. So in whatever way I stated the question that relation appeared in the answer how am I to live according to the law of God. What real result will come of my life eternal torment or eternal bliss. Right meaning has life but death does not destroy union with the eternal God Heaven. Which was a rude paraphrase of the experience of Tristan and Isolde so that besides a rational knowledge which had seemed to be the only knowledge I was inevitably brought to to acknowledge that awful. Live humanity has another irrational knowledge called faith. And it is that which makes it possible to live it still remained as irrational as it was before. To me but I could not but admit that it alone gives mankind a reply to the question of life
and that consequently it makes life possible. Looking again at people of other lands not my contemporaries and their predecessors. I saw that where there is life there since man began. Faith is the thing which made life possible for him and the chief outline of that faith is everywhere and always it tentacle that without it he cannot live. For our humanity to be able to live Tolstoy finally concludes in this little section. And continue to live attributing a meaning to life day those. Minions must have a different a real knowledge of faith. Indeed it was not the fact that we with Solomon and Schopenhauer did not kill ourselves that convinced me of the existence of faith but the fact that millions of people have lived and are living now and have bored Solomon and Schopenhauer and
me on the current of their lives and I began to draw near to the believers among the poor. It was simple the unlettered folk. Pilgrims monks sectarians peasants. The fate of these common people was the same Christian faith as was professed by the pseudo believers of our circle. Among them too I found a great deal of superstition mixed with the truth. But the difference was that the superstitions of the believers of my circle were quite unnecessary to them and were not in conformity with their lives being merely a kind of Epicurean diversion. But the superstitions of the believers among the laboring masses. Conformed with their lives that it was impossible to imagine them to oneself without those superstitions which were a necessary condition of their life. The home life of believers in our circle was a contradiction of their faith. But the whole life of the working folk believers was a confirmation of the
meaning of life which their faith gave them. And I began to look well into the life and faith of the folk and the more I considered it the more I became convinced that they have a real faith which is a necessity to them. And all alone alone gives their life a meaning and makes it possible for them to live. That was a. Common sense ability among some especially sophisticated people at the end of the nineteenth century. For whom all of the. Diversions all of the refinements of experience had grown stale. And not least among them was a composer that we have already encountered though briefly before Gustav Mahler who was born in 1860 as you may remember and died in 911. The turn of the century man. We know the sounds of Bognor much read
extremely sensitive almost hyper sensitive. Dazzling musician and boring among the folk in the log cabin with a dirt floor. Peasant people around him the feeling that Tolstoy is speaking about of the honesty of superstition and the need for it. The reality of some kind of faith. And all of the terrible contradiction which civilized life has to offer. My mother went through the crisis of most of the Wagnerian music dramas which is the crisis of civilization. How do you cope somehow with Paradox and contradiction. How to relate my mind and soul how to reply to the demands of. Faith. Where is the truth. If it is not in the time is it indeed among the folk. Is there such a thing left to man as faith. Mahler. Believed I suppose for a long time that there was
ultimate reality and there was a final truth and he believed it for a couple of simple reasons. The first one was that Brooke there believe that. And although in later years he was not especially a proponent of Bruckner's music. That is he didn't set out somehow tunes sort of perform it and make Bruckner famous. There was a time as a student of Bruckner he was much under the spell and the simplicity Bruckner's own fave. The kind of music which was strong and secure and certain and dazzling. I'm. A
man. We may not see his like again and Mahler sensed bad and book Power in the early music of Mahler there as a sort of direct attempt to capture something about something of the strength something of the simplicity. Sometimes Mahler seems on most too simple for some people believed what he was doing however at the time I think there's no question of of
being. A sort of pretender at all. We live from one day to a brief moment I think from the Third Symphony of Mahler. II in which he tries to thank you sickly what everything in the world tells him. And says that if he if you could have found a name for the last movement of that symphony it would have been probably what God tells him. And God and love are certain he quoted just before that movement of course me. It speaks for the folk folk believe it. That's what Tolstoy said those millions of people out there who work hard and who are away from. From refined live by a boat name. And something which is worth something which and doers and something which is bright and vital here and beyond here. And because they believe it. Mahler believes that. And
her and and and the hundred and. The and. The inner to go to. Yes.
OK. Folk song it was a song of the people three angels and sweet harmony thing with joy and
blessing to heaven it rang and Gustav Mahler believes that is caught up in a love only God forevermore. And then I was shouting to heavenly joy heavenly joy is a blessing and City of Joy that has no wind was prepared for Peter and for every body through Jesus Christ to blessedness Stubb Myler the Wandering Jew. But when I tossed I found his faith in the folk mother lost it and find they was not able to speak of him anymore. Something intervened. The look of people changed. There was no trust to be found in the eyes of others. There was no substance in life. There was no reality in the great net of illusion which with experience and there was no way out. There was no way to uncover any light and indeed the ghost of mother began to believe that perhaps there was no light in the folk in himself. Here hereafter. There is.
Something of that sentiment I suppose with us yet I seem to remember hearing recently in music of nowadays probably within the last week maybe even today some time you have heard it. The Gustav Mahler's sentiment that it's his last sort of important vocal work a song of your. People.
The song is good man a long long long long long long long bomb throwing
the backhand. Plan like. Everybody is talking and can't hear where their thing only. The echoes of my mind I'm saying. Just on these old acts one and two because I three doesn't really sort of make it for this generation. Only Mahler. Symphony what
five six. Seven eight is a little hysterical. Most of mine. The song of the earth. People sitting around him. Wonderful beautiful tasteful opinions. Reading making poems talking about art. Beautiful paintings. I see as the reflection of them in a pool. I write all my life for the friends to come and when he comes the only thing he says to me is goodbye. It's called The Crisis of the 20th century I suppose and to bring this back to Odan and his alienation and aloneness. Which song went by and some of us I suppose will never want to believe. This has been music and other four letter words
featuring Paul Bennett associate professor of music at the University of Utah. Music another four letter word is a production of University of Utah radio executive director Rex Cambo. Series director Gene PAC. This series is made possible by a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
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Music and other four letter words
Episode Number
Redemption and the Folk
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Chicago: “Music and other four letter words; 12; Redemption and the Folk,” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 26, 2024,
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APA: Music and other four letter words; 12; Redemption and the Folk. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from