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Thursday, April 1, 2010

The German Enigma

"One of the anomalies of art and culture, enigmatic and inexplicable, is that the Germanic peoples who, with Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart and Wagner, have produced the world's greatest music, should also have the most dolorous record in barbaric militarism since the dawn of Christianity. Not only in the 20th century, but as far back as Attila the Hun, it almost seems as if there has been an Anti-Christ gene in the Germanic heritage. Then whence the music? A mere handful of poets dominated by Goethe; a meagre contribution to painting; one novelist, Thomas Mann, great but not on the same shelf with Balzac, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. But music, yes. Genocide, yes. I repeat, enigmatic and inexplicable."
Alan Jay Lerner


  1. Ne cantor supra carmen iudicaret? - Let not the songmaker go beyond his task? No, he has to go beyond! He has to, he has to.

    "My friend, the spirit of an earlier time,
    to us it is a seven-sealed mystery.
    And what you learned gentlemen would call
    its spirit, is its image, that is all,
    reflected in your own mind's history."

    In this case the gentleman is a racist philosopher of history looking for a german war-and-music-DNA segment.

    I don't know if the Englishmen or the Germans are to consider more spartanic. But the fairy-tale that Germany has always been a brutal, aggressive culture is like Noam Chomsky's statements of fathomless wisdom on the United States and Israel (not to speek of his former statements on Pol Pot's democracy).

    It is obviously a different situation if you stay on an island like on a fortress, "balancing powers on the continent" in Europe, or if you stay in the midst of where powers are being balanced. But nevertheless there is no consense among historians on who faught more battles in the last 1000 years. This kind of consense exists only among racists, nationalists or other mystic mists.

    For different reasons germans and jews have for centuries produced for instance grammer and desert wisdom and little else (in comparison especially with Italy). And music is a place where the jewish-german destiny is particularly intertwined after the jewish emancipation.

    "I do not think a great deal of jewish generals and christian bankers. But Trotzky was an exception." Valeriu Marcu

  2. Writing and painting doesn´t cost much money. But if you write music and you want it to be performed, you need money for paying artists and orchestras. So you may find a part of an answer on Lerners question in the fragmented countries in Germany, each with a court and sovereign, as well as in the court-alike representation of religious leaders. There you had lots of budgets for musical adventurers. There you had lots of reasons, as well, for disputing and combating each other.

  3. Being a musician, interested in history, Lerner would do better, if he explained us the decline of German music, which started with Mendelssohn's defamation by Wagner, continued with Mahler's depressions and didn't end with Schönberg's despair. And after the second World War even german folk music and entertain music experienced a decline in taste and self-conception whithout precedents.

    In Spain during and after a ferocious period of brutality (starting in 1492) appeared the best music, literature and painting art (el siglo de oro) one can imagine! But during the german nationalism the gifts of inwardness dwindled more and more away, and a bourgeoisie hypnotized by Gottesgnadentum at the end sang a poem of the democrat Hoffmann von Fallersleben, as if it was a Nazianthem.

    The german brutality legend is a legend which began to circulate after the boxer revolt (and british fear for their empire) and is a corollary to the then newly born "Made in Germany" fame. In Italy there were in the 70-ties and 80-ties plenty of communist historians who relentlessly were lying about Germany and told even the fairytale on Leopoldo of Tuscany


    being hated by the italian population. But former books (and the monuments all over Tuscany) tell other stories. And the monument which the population of Triest had put for Empress Sissi, and after 45 was removed, has been put back again after 1989 (during the government of a leftist mayor).

    Bevor 1989 it happened at least three times that in the italian TV evening news the distruction of the Monastery of Montecassino has been ascribed to the Germans. Even after 1989 there were still schoolbooks - used in italian history lessons - which affirmed that the italian population of Istria had been thrown into the karst caves (so-called "foibe") not by Tito's partisans, but by the Germans, and now I have to learn that even Attila was German? And the ethymologic origin of Attila is Hittila, isn't it?

  4. Another enigma: why is the radio programm in Germany very often so good?

  5. Polanski's "The Pianist" is great.