Friday, July 02, 2004

The Animalistic Orff

From Was Carl Orff a Nazi? Orff's Musical and Moral Failings by Richard Taruskin:
"In 1937, the year in which 'Carmina Burana' 

enjoyed its smashing success, the National Socialists were engaged
in a furious propaganda battle with the churches of Germany,
countering the Christian message of compassion with neo-pagan
worship of holy hatred. And what could better support the Nazi
claim that the Germans, precisely in their Aryan neo-paganism,
were the true heirs of Greco-Roman ('Western') culture than Orff's
animalistic settings of Greek and Latin poets?
"Did Orff intend precisely this? Was he a Nazi? These questions
are ultimately immaterial. They allow the deflection of any
criticism of his work into irrelevant questions of rights: Orff's
right to compose his music, our right to perform and listen to it.
Without questioning either, one may still regard his music as
toxic, whether it does its animalizing work at Nazi rallies, in
school auditoriums, at rock concerts, in films, in the soundtracks
that accompany commercials or in Avery Fisher Hall."
This is the finale of an insulting, poorly written piece by a NYT writer, a finale seemingly based on the assumption that nothing complex can get stuck in one's head: "'an instant tape loop for the mind,' something that, grasped fully and immediately, reverberates in the head the way propaganda is supposed to do." Various parts of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony have been reverberating in my mind for the last month. Does that make it "animalistic" and "propagandistic"? Somehow I think the author's response might be "yes."

I'm not saying that the Carmina Burana is complex, mind you; I just take offense at the equation of propaganda with anything that effectively reverberates in the mind. It's extremely hard to connect the material in the Carmina Burana with the sinister, animalistic mind-control referenced in this article.

In fact, the (rhetorical or not?) question asked earlier in the piece, "Or is it merely because the Nazis offer an "objective" pretext for dismissal to those who subjectively disapprove of Orff's music for other reasons: reasons having to do, could it be, with prudery?", can be answered with a resounding yes.

Perhaps if I knew the preceding or following (1951! Nazi my foot!) part of the trilogy, the claims made would be more sensible, but as it is the article is loaded with innuendo-through-non-sequitur, insubstantiated claims, and appalling elitism.


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