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Composers and "Morality"


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Author Topic: Composers and "Morality"  (Read 529 times)
Dundonnell
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« on: March 14, 2014, 01:19:11 pm »

May I just say-at the risk of offending some members who have already posted in a number of recent threads (I am thinking, for example of the Robert Hughes and the David Wright threads)-that I hope we do not get too caught up in the question of the personal morality or, perceived, immorality of composers.

This is something which this forum strongly cautions against. It is a subject of endless controversy but leads-in my judgment-nowhere profitable, can cause unpleasant debate and disagreement and is, usually, almost entirely irrelevant to a sensible assessment of the quality of their music or to its aesthetic appreciation.
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ahinton
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« Reply #1 on: March 14, 2014, 02:53:27 pm »

May I just say-at the risk of offending some members who have already posted in a number of recent threads (I am thinking, for example of the Robert Hughes and the David Wright threads)-that I hope we do not get too caught up in the question of the personal morality or, perceived, immorality of composers.

This is something which this forum strongly cautions against. It is a subject of endless controversy but leads-in my judgment-nowhere profitable, can cause unpleasant debate and disagreement and is, usually, almost entirely irrelevant to a sensible assessment of the quality of their music or to its aesthetic appreciation.
"May" you? You just have!

It is a salutary question nonetheless, not least because the general conduct - including but not limited to the (rightly or wrongly) perceived "morality" or otherwise of particular composers - is not realistically to be considered alongside their music as though the two are somehow interdependent and therefore inextricably linked. Sorabji once said that one would not want to introduce Mozart to one's best friend nor Wagner even to one's worst enemy, but I'm quite sure that he neither saw, nor had the slightest reason to see, this as any excuse not to listen to the former's G minor String Quintet or the latter's Tristan und Isolde.

"Moralising" thus about composers - or rather more accurately taking personal "moralist" stances and using them as brickbats to hurl at them - is an act of (usually loud-mouthed) attention-seeking on the part of the "moraliser", no more, no less; it serves no useful purpose whatsoever in informing its readership (if any) about the works of the composers concerned, especially when it encompasses statements, claims, alleged quotations and the like for which no bibliographical referencing or other corroborative evidence is provided.
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dhibbard
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« Reply #2 on: March 14, 2014, 05:37:52 pm »

I think this should have been in the Bin 
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the Administration
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« Reply #3 on: March 14, 2014, 07:49:27 pm »

I think this should have been in the Bin 

True. And now it is!
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ahinton
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« Reply #4 on: March 15, 2014, 10:05:42 am »

I think this should have been in the Bin 

True. And now it is!
Indeed so - but does that make any material difference, do you think?
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Dundonnell
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« Reply #5 on: March 15, 2014, 01:59:43 pm »

"The Bin" is advertised as the correct repository for threads which do not fit neatly into any of the other categories listed. I do not take it to imply by its rather awkward title that such threads are "unworthy" in any sense and that the subject matter is ipso facto "junk" Smiley
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« Reply #6 on: March 15, 2014, 02:41:17 pm »

"The Bin" is advertised as the correct repository for threads which do not fit neatly into any of the other categories listed. I do not take it to imply by its rather awkward title that such threads are "unworthy" in any sense . . .

Precisely . . . so I've changed the name to "miscellany."

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ahinton
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« Reply #7 on: March 15, 2014, 07:50:01 pm »

"The Bin" is advertised as the correct repository for threads which do not fit neatly into any of the other categories listed. I do not take it to imply by its rather awkward title that such threads are "unworthy" in any sense . . .

Precisely . . . so I've changed the name to "miscellany."
Much better, methinks!
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northern
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« Reply #8 on: March 15, 2014, 08:37:40 pm »

"The Bin" is advertised as the correct repository for threads which do not fit neatly into any of the other categories listed. I do not take it to imply by its rather awkward title that such threads are "unworthy" in any sense . . .


I thought that honour went to the 'Remarkable String Quartets' thread, although it has been tidied up! Grin
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Jolly Roger
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« Reply #9 on: March 16, 2014, 08:15:42 am »

Thanks for your sensitivity about "THE BIN". To be honest, I have been guilty of engaging in pointless dialogue in response to what I considered as misdirected character attacks and self-righteousness from both the right and increasingly from the left. This does not support the cause of great music and for that I apologize,and I feel "THE BIN" was a very approriate repository for my rantings.
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calyptorhynchus
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« Reply #10 on: August 11, 2014, 12:10:52 pm »

I never bother about composers personal morality, but I will never listen to composers' works who were sympathetic to Nazi Germany, Vichy France, Mussolini's Italy, or were enthusiastic toadies under Stalin.
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ahinton
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« Reply #11 on: August 11, 2014, 01:18:19 pm »

I never bother about composers personal morality, but I will never listen to composers' works who were sympathetic to Nazi Germany, Vichy France, Mussolini's Italy, or were enthusiastic toadies under Stalin.
Bothering about it - or about what it is said to be / have been - is one thing but allowing such concerns to discourage listening to any of their music is quite another; do I want to stop listening to Wagner or Schmitt for this reason? - no, I don't. The behaviour of both (especially the former) has been questionable and questioned, but the absence of any evidence of it in the former's Tristan und Isolde and Götterdämmerung or the latter's Piano Quintet (one of the finest ever written for the medium, to my mind) gives me no reason to cold shoulder them as composers - which nevertheless does not mean that I can or do overlook their personæ or conduct...
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« Reply #12 on: August 11, 2014, 03:58:12 pm »

interesting as it sounds, Artur Kapp was used by the Estonian communists (or maybe he used them)  as some of his works were propaganda cantatas and such  ("useful idiots" as Lenin called them).

I'm thinking of the typical "Ode to Stalin"...  "Ode to Lenin" ..."Cantata for Stalin"..etc...etc. the communists liked praises..
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« Reply #13 on: August 12, 2014, 01:27:28 am »

I think that composers' biographical details are of interest to many, if not most of us who listen to their music, and I am often interested to hear bits (for example talking about Ethel Smyth without mentioning her suffragette work), but either (a) judging people for listening to something (I have been criticised for listening to Wagner, for example) or (b) thinking that one can judge music by that are both to be avoided. I guess it's often a question of balance and knowing what 'moral' and political topics one should avoid. These days, I don't think that 'votes for women' is a very controversial topic, but anti-semitism or collaboration with totalitarian governments are. I have to say that I have very little politically in common with most of my favourite composers, except perhaps Vaughan Williams.
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« Reply #14 on: August 12, 2014, 05:23:16 am »

I think we should all be in general agreement that in this music forum, we are interested in the quality of the music and NOT in ALLEGED behaviour or any ALLEGED collaboration which is contrary to commonly held values. Some of this borders on gossip.

 
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