Polytheism vs. monotheism. I concede that's not an obvious topic of interest for a musical librettist. Moses made me think about it, I mean the work on the Moses musical which will have its opening soon. As everybody knows, the bible tells us that Moses' Hebrew mother hid him when the Pharao ordered all newborn Hebrew boys to be killed; the child was adopted as a foundling by a woman of the the Egyptian royal family. He grew up as an Egyptian prince. After killing an Egyptian slave-master, he fled to Midian where he married Ziporah. Then he encountered God in the form of a burning bush who ordered him to go back to Egypt and request the release of the Israelites. What puzzled me when I tried to retell that story was the fact that the Egyptians believed in many gods. How could a young Egyptian prince, albeit an adopted child, become a devout believer in the one and only Hebrew God? How could the Israelites trust a disgraced Egyptian prince who was wanted for murder? Friedrich Schiller wrote an interesting essay about those questions. His theory: Moses was actually a heretic Egyptian priest turned monotheist who used the Hebrews to fight the orthodoxy. I prefer another explanation: The woman who adopted him was the daughter of Tutanchamun who tried to establish monotheism in Egypt but was murdered by the orthodox priests. His daughter survived and taught her adopted son, Moses, that there is only one God. I have no proof whatsoever, but that theory works for my story, and that's all I need.
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Ye in the age gone by,
Who ruled the world—a world how lovely then!—
And guided still the steps of happy men
In the light leading-strings of careless joy!
Ah, flourished then your service of delight!
How different, oh, how different, in the day
When thy sweet fanes with many a wreath were bright,
O Venus Amathusia!
Then, through a veil of dreams
Woven by song, truth's youthful beauty glowed,
And life's redundant and rejoicing streams
Gave to the soulless, soul—where'r they flowed
Man gifted nature with divinity
To lift and link her to the breast of love;
All things betrayed to the initiate eye
The track of gods above!
Where lifeless—fixed afar,
A flaming ball to our dull sense is given,
Phoebus Apollo, in his golden car,
In silent glory swept the fields of heaven!
On yonder hill the Oread was adored,
In yonder tree the Dryad held her home;
And from her urn the gentle Naiad poured
The wavelet's silver foam.
Yon bay, chaste Daphne wreathed,
Yon stone was mournful Niobe's mute cell,
Low through yon sedges pastoral Syrinx breathed,
And through those groves wailed the sweet Philomel,
The tears of Ceres swelled in yonder rill—
Tears shed for Proserpine to Hades borne;
And, for her lost Adonis, yonder hill
Heard Cytherea mourn!—
Heaven's shapes were charmed unto
The mortal race of old Deucalion;
Pyrrha's fair daughter, humanly to woo,
Came down, in shepherd-guise, Latona's son
Between men, heroes, gods, harmonious then
Love wove sweet links and sympathies divine;
Blest Amathusia, heroes, gods, and men,
Equals before thy shrine!
Not to that culture gay,
Stern self-denial, or sharp penance wan!
Well might each heart be happy in that day—
For gods, the happy ones, were kin to man!
The beautiful alone the holy there!
No pleasure shamed the gods of that young race;
So that the chaste Camoenae favoring were,
And the subduing grace!
A palace every shrine;
Your sports heroic;—yours the crown
Of contests hallowed to a power divine,
As rushed the chariots thundering to renown.
Fair round the altar where the incense breathed,
Moved your melodious dance inspired; and fair
Above victorious brows, the garland wreathed
Sweet leaves round odorous hair!
The lively Thyrsus-swinger,
And the wild car the exulting panthers bore,
Announced the presence of the rapture-bringer—
Bounded the Satyr and blithe Faun before;
And Maenads, as the frenzy stung the soul,
Hymned in their maddening dance, the glorious wine—
As ever beckoned to the lusty bowl
The ruddy host divine!
Before the bed of death
No ghastly spectre stood—but from the porch
Of life, the lip—one kiss inhaled the breath,
And the mute graceful genius lowered a torch.
The judgment-balance of the realms below,
A judge, himself of mortal lineage, held;
The very furies at the Thracian's woe,
Were moved and music-spelled.
In the Elysian grove
The shades renewed the pleasures life held dear:
The faithful spouse rejoined remembered love,
And rushed along the meads the charioteer;
There Linus poured the old accustomed strain;
Admetus there Alcestis still could greet; his
Friend there once more Orestes could regain,
More glorious than the meeds
That in their strife with labor nerved the brave,
To the great doer of renowned deeds
The Hebe and the heaven the Thunderer gave.
Before the rescued rescuer  of the dead,
Bowed down the silent and immortal host;
And the twain stars  their guiding lustre shed,
On the bark tempest-tossed!
Art thou, fair world, no more?
Return, thou virgin-bloom on Nature's face;
Ah, only on the minstrel's magic shore,
Can we the footstep of sweet fable trace!
The meadows mourn for the old hallowing life;
Vainly we search the earth of gods bereft;
Where once the warm and living shapes were rife,
Shadows alone are left!
Cold, from the north, has gone
Over the flowers the blast that killed their May;
And, to enrich the worship of the one,
A universe of gods must pass away!
Mourning, I search on yonder starry steeps,
But thee no more, Selene, there I see!
And through the woods I call, and o'er the deeps,
And—Echo answers me!
Deaf to the joys she gives—
Blind to the pomp of which she is possessed—
Unconscious of the spiritual power that lives
Around, and rules her—by our bliss unblessed—
Dull to the art that colors or creates,
Like the dead timepiece, godless nature creeps
Her plodding round, and, by the leaden weights,
The slavish motion keeps.
To-morrow to receive
New life, she digs her proper grave to-day;
And icy moons with weary sameness weave
From their own light their fulness and decay.
Home to the poet's land the gods are flown,
Which, the diviner leading-strings outgrown,
On its own axle turns.
Home! and with them are gone
The hues they gazed on and the tones they heard;
Life's beauty and life's melody:—alone
Broods o'er the desolate void, the lifeless word;
Yet rescued from time's deluge, still they throng
Unseen the Pindus they were wont to cherish:
All, that which gains immortal life in song,
To mortal life must perish!
Posted by Unknown at 4:00 AM
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
It took me a whole life to understand Friedrich Schiller's regret at the overcoming of polytheism. Grown up in a Catholic village I regarded the belief in the one and only God as the triumphant emancipation from the stupidity of barbaric paganism. It seemed strange that someone would praise that outdated superstition. I was 13, and it never occurred to me that the revered Schiller was an atheist, because my teachers never mentioned it. Revisiting Schiller in my old days I start to understand his thinking. As an atheist he could compare the various religions from a distance. Being an aesthete, he naturally preferred the fantastic and colorful world of the Greek gods to the one-dimensional, comparatively dull monotheism. At 15 I hated his ode to the Greek Gods, mainly because we had to learn it by heart. Lately I re-read it and discovered the beauty of it. I finally understand Schiller's regret.
Posted by Unknown at 7:00 AM
Monday, January 28, 2013
"Gentlemen, he said, I don't need your organization. I've shined your shoes, I've moved your mountains and marked your cards. But Eden is burning. Either brace yourself for elimination or else your hearts must have the courage for the changing of the guards. Peace will come with tranquility and splendor on the wheels of fire, but will bring us no reward when her false idols fall."
Bob Dylan "Changing of the Guards"
Sunday, January 27, 2013
Saturday, January 26, 2013
When a German journalist learned of the problems to mount a production of Rebecca last year he commented - not without schadenfreude - that this was the second time Michael Kunze's Broadway dreams had come to naught. It is useless to correct such a statement, but it is wrong. First of all, I do not regard the short run of Dance of the Vampires as a failure. As everyone in the business knows, the Broadway version had only little to do with my original. But even if it would have been my version I could be kind of proud of having a Broadway flop. Sure enough, it would have felt better to have a hit, but for a German playwright and lyricist even a Broadway flop is not so bad at all. While German composers such as Frederick Loewe and Kurt Weill made it big in New York, none of their book writers ever reached the Great White Way. Who tried hardest was Bert Brecht. His Threepenny Opera only made it to an Off-Broadway theater. Who am I to compare myself to Brecht? A Broadway flop suits me very well.
Friday, January 25, 2013
When you get older, they already told me in my twenties, you'll be just as narrow-minded and conservative as all the other old farts. I'm brutally aware of it. I find it odd, for example, that nowadays you make money. There was a time when everybody was convinced that you had to earn money. Marxism, very much in fashion when I was a student, never really intrigued me. Still I never stopped to believe that everyone should be entitled to receive an appropriate reward for his respective achievements. It was, of course, always accepted that a clever trick may make gamblers, crooks and God's favorites rich. But now it's not just accepted, it is what everybody wants and hopes for: make money, so you don't have to earn it. Even a school dropout can become a millionaire when good luck gives him a chance to participate in a tv quiz show. I'm not blaming anyone. I am just a bit narrow-minded. Maybe it is inevitable that it will soon be normal also to simply make love instead of earning it.
Thursday, January 24, 2013
Thoughts inspired by the new movie of Kushner and Spielberg: Very well, Lincoln wanted to free the slaves. He did indeed hope that the American civil war would result in "a new birth of freedom". However, the emancipation was clearly not his highest priority. Lincoln did not fight slavery, he fought secession. His first and foremost motive was to show the world that "government of the people, by the people, for the people" - democracy - has the power to survive. We have a problem understanding the importance of that goal; today we see democracies thrive almost everywhere in the world. At Lincoln's time, however, the general opinion was that democracies can not long survive. The shelling of Fort Sumter was for Lincoln not only a threat to American unity, but to the idea of self-government. Why then did he, as shown in Spielberg's movie, fight so hard to finalize the Emancipation Act by an constitutional amendment? My guess is he was convinced that a democracy tolerating slavery could not endure. He was not a saint, he was a politician.
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
The great Steven Spielberg talks about his latest movie, book by Tony Kushner, which is so different from everything he did so far. The film shows Lincoln not as a saint, but as a shrewd but nevertheless sympathetic politician. A must-see. Daniel Day-Lewis is fantastic. How wonderful that Hollywood still produces gems like this every now and then.
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Monday, January 21, 2013
"The material – this is so elementary it shouldn't have to be stated, but almost every musical production in recent years seems oblivious to it – the material is the source for everything seen or said or done on the stage. The director, the choreographer, the designer, the actor who thinks he or she doesn't have to observe this is digging his own shallow grave... The fist five minutes of a musical are crucial: either the audience can be captured, in which case they are all the director's, no matter what he or she does, until at least half way through the first act; or they can be lost, in which case it will take some stage magic to get them back before the end of the first act, if ever. Never mind intelligence and craft, never mind desire, never mind talent. The musical must be in your bones."
Sunday, January 20, 2013
Saturday, January 19, 2013
Friday, January 18, 2013
Today I received the just released book by Stella Adler on America's Master playwrights, edited by Barry Paris. Although I'm terribly busy I couldn't resist the temptation to start reading. The charm of the book: These are transcripts of Adler's lectures. When you read it you actually hear that theater legend talk. She addresses young actors. She tells them: " Your job is not to act. Your job is to interpret… Once the playwright has written the play and the play is here, he's done his job. It's closed… It is an extremely difficult literary form, that little play–so few pages. That's a difficult form and one that's not understood. He has done his job; then you come along. You say, what's my job? You don't know your job. You don't even know the name of your job… You can't just take the words. You have to take the soul… Understand your profession: interpretation means that I'm going to find the play and the playwright in me… Your profession is to interpret." O, how I wish Stella Adler could lecture today's directors of our German "Regie-Theater"!
Thursday, January 17, 2013
"The only position that leaves me with no cognitive dissonance is atheism. It is not a creed. Death is certain, replacing both the siren-song of Paradise and the dread of Hell. Life on this earth, with all its mystery and beauty and pain, is then to be lived far more intensely: we stumble and get up, we are sad, confident, insecure, feel loneliness and joy and love. There is nothing more; but I want nothing more."
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
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Tuesday, January 15, 2013
Monday, January 14, 2013
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Sunday, January 13, 2013
Saturday, January 12, 2013
He was, by turns, a mathematician; an Egyptologist; an astronomer; a geologist; a volcanologist; a Sinologist; a musicologist; a machinist; and the inventor of a speaking trumpet, the Aeolian harp and some say the notorious “cat piano,” which produced notes by pricking the tails of live cats. He was a master of optical illusions, a cryptographer, an early proponent of a universal symbolic language and arguably the first person to discover the germ theory of disease, possibly even the first person to ever use a microscope. To boot, he published over 30 “seat cushion size” tomes on nearly every topic under the sun and established what must have been the coolest museum in 17th-century Europe at the Collegio Romano, famous for a Christ figurine that could “walk” on water, as well as other wonders of “natural magic.” Subsequent generations of scholars have pegged Kircher as a Grade A charlatan. But you have to admire his sheer chutzpah. Who but Kircher would publish an enormous illustrated guide to China (arguing that the Chinese are secretly Christian) without ever setting foot in China? And you have to give him style points for titling a 916-page treatise “The Magnet; Or, The Art of Magnetics, in Three Parts, in Which the Universal Nature of the Magnet as Well as Its Use in All Arts and Sciences Is Explained by a New Method: In Addition, Here Are Revealed Through All Kinds of Physical, Medical, Chemical, and Mathematical Experiments Many Hitherto Unknown Secrets of Nature From the Powers and Prodigious Effects of Magnetic as Well as Other Concealed Motions of Nature in the Elements, Stones, Plants, Animals, and Elucescent Things.”
Posted by Unknown at 6:46 AM
Friday, January 11, 2013
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Thursday, January 10, 2013
Wednesday, January 9, 2013
The Danish physicist and Nobelist Niels Bohr once hung a horseshoe over his doorway. Appalled friends exclaimed that surely he didn't put any trust in such pathetic superstition. "No, I don't," he replied with composure, "but apparently it works whether you believe it or not."
Posted by Unknown at 5:24 AM
Tuesday, January 8, 2013
Monday, January 7, 2013
We all still remember the times when parents told their kids to learn something "safe". Everybody was convinced that you could overcome life's pitfalls by becoming an accountant, a doctor, an architect or a lawyer. Currently we experience that this is no longer true. Computers - and soon all kind of roboters - will take over routine work. Creativity and other forms of right brain activity will get more and more important. In the end a versatile artist will be better off than a bookish clerk. No one puts it better than Daniel Pink, author of the book "A Whole New Mind".
Sunday, January 6, 2013
We tend to forget that in former times it was a privilege to be able go to a concert. Handel's, Mozart's and Beethoven's music was an exclusive luxury of the well-established classes. A peasant, a worker or a servant could not afford to hear a symphony, and probably never heard one. It may well be argued that the European idea of "high culture" has to do with that exclusivity. Many upper class members still regard classical music as their privilege and look down at the pop scene as something mondane, inferior and plebeian. It is difficult to judge music, but its very easy to use it as a status symbol.
Posted by Unknown at 7:30 AM
Saturday, January 5, 2013
Today's Germans try hard to prove that they don't deserve to be judged by the horrible crimes committed by Hitler Germany. This is why most of them are sensitive to human rights and environment issues. Unfortunately this leads very often to moral hubris. Nowadays Germans are always ready to denounce other nations, e.g. those that still think nuclear energy is safe, seem to mistreat minorities or animals, drill for oil, permit the free sale of weapons etc. Lately they even scolded Jews and Muslims for their religious rites. Overcompensating their guilt complex and their historical trauma these "good Germans" tell the world how to behave decently. Again they suggest that they are better than the rest. I'm very doubtful that this is the way to achieve what my they long for most fervently: To be forgiven that they are German and to be loved at long last.
Posted by Unknown at 6:24 PM
Friday, January 4, 2013
Thursday, January 3, 2013
Posted by Unknown at 12:22 PM