Friday, July 29, 2005

Valhalla Your Pleasure, Valhalla Your Fun

Maurice: Stevens! What the hell do you think you're doing?
Chris: Whaddya mean?
Maurice: You know exactly what I mean! Das Rhinegold's one thing but if you think I'm going to subject myself to the whole Ring of Nibelung, you're sadly mistaken!

From "Northern Exposure"

Richard Wagner has long been vilified and quite unfairly from my perspective, mostly because the moral kaleidoscope is so often thrust upon us from birth, a distant cousin of the appreciation of art, which comes from a deeper, more primal space within us. The difference is that one of them is chosen for us by other people, the other is a point in the evolutionary timeline of our DNA. Certain preferences, lines, colors, shapes, and sounds are pleasurable to the eyes and ears because a few million years ago, learning to recognize and enjoy them helped our monkey forbearers to survive. Since we are no longer monkeys and have some sense of self, those preferences have dimension and of course, since that dimension is based upon a completely unique set of factors, it's all intensely personal. Moral plates are ever changing, colliding, and reforming around new centers of gravity if we are to believe Nietzsche but when it comes to art, one likes what one likes. Sure our tastes evolve, become more refined. For me, it's always been about color and the mysterious eyes that know how to slap it together so poetically. The red tapestry in so many of Vermeer's paintings, those blue, stiff figures and hilarious perfection in Matisse's impressionism, and my beloved Van Gogh who could somehow exorcise the vibrancy from his paint so that it leaps inside me each time I look at one of his paintings. It's too bad you can't touch them because they seem really multi-sensory.

What was I saying? Oh yeah, the truth of this matter is that the only time art and morality meet is when someone sets them up on a blind date and the result is usually a bastard child conceived after too much cheap beer and sex in the torn back seat of a Chrysler.

At any rate, I'm glad to see that this opera (ok, technically a bunch of them) is getting some well deserved attention. If you're a horn lover (he sure was, and if you have any lingering doubt about his sexuality, you're not alone), this is surely your cup of music.

The art or the artist. Which voice is louder? Probably the one the moves us the farthest in the direction we were headed in the first place.

*edited...because I can.