Richard Wagner

Every so often someone asks me, with awe, “did you know that Wagner never went to music school?”  My response is that it’s obvious from his music.  I don’t know *why* so many people are amazed that Wagner didn’t go to music school.  In fact, I don’t even know if it’s true.  But every so often someone brings it up again.

There are two reasons I don’t like Wagner.  The first is his music.  It is crude, noisy, overdone.  I admit there are a couple of things he wrote that I liked.  The introduction to Also Spracht Zarathustra was one of them.  Most of us first heard it while watching the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey.  I liked it so much I went to the library and took out the whole work.  The rest of it was crap.

Another piece many people like is the Ride of the Valkyrie, which many of us know from the movie Apocalypse Now.  It was the theme when the helicopters would swoop down on the enemy.  Good stuff.  Unfortunately, this piece was followed by an opera, which was idiotic in its theme and clumsy in its music.

I’m not a big fan of opera in the first place.  As Mark Twain once said about one, “I haven’t heard anything like that since the orphanage burned down.”  Regarding another he commented that he didn’t see it as much of an advantage to being skinned.

Twain wrote an editorial in which he criticized Wagner’s music.  He received many angry letters from readers who disagreed.  Twain responded by writing that Wagner’s music was better than it sounds.

I dislike opera.  I don’t like any sort of musical, classical or otherwise.  Moreover, I find most noisy music boring – it just doesn’t reach me most of the time.  True, some pieces, by some composers, are fine.  I like much of Beethoven, also not known for his subtlety.  But Wagner leaves me cold.

So what?  Lots of composers leave me cold.  Why pick on Wagner?  Well, because he was a dick, that’s why.

Wagner was an anti-Semite.  He really, really didn’t like Jews, and wasn’t shy about letting his feelings be known.  In fact, he went to ridiculous lengths to make his feelings known.  For example, Wagner sometimes conducted orchestras.  When he had to conduct for music written by a Jew, he’d wear gloves and throw them out after the concert.  This is some major dickness.

And another thing.  Wagner’s music is apparently directly guilty of killing an okapi. In Denmark, an orchestra was rehearsing some Wagnerian horror in a park.  An okapi at a nearby zoo, not being a great fan of opera, decided to give up and die.  I read this in a column by Dave Barry, so it must be true.

And you know the funny thing is, I have no clue why I went on this rant, why I chose to discuss Wagner today (or any day).  Probably because the guy was an okapi-murdering, anti-Semitic dick.

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