Please turn on javascript in your browser to play chess.
Culture Forum

Culture Forum

  1. Subscriber AttilaTheHorn
    Erro Ergo Sum
    28 Mar '09 04:38
    Excusatio Meus

    In response to criticism from others that I tend to write too many words, I’m describing the complete narrative of Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle in precisely 300 words, just to demonstrate that I’m capable of simplicity, brevity, and conciseness, and that I can condense something as immensely complicated, perplexing, and convoluted as Wagner’s madness, “Der Ring des Nibelungen,” The Ring of the Nibelung.

    As a matter of fact, my little introduction here is also exactly 300 words, but I’m not calculating the words in the two titles in this total. So this is pretty damn concise, wouldn’t you say?

    Wagner’s music is better than it sounds! Opera is a magic scene contrived to please the eye and the ear at the expense of understanding! Wagner’s operas consist of some wonderful moments but awful half hours! Well, I’ve now solved that problem. Yes, it’s all you need to know about the entire 18-hour, 4-opera marathon (Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried, Die Götterdämmerung) in only 300 words, which can be read in just two minutes, or less than one fifth of 1 percent of the time it takes you to listen to the whole damn cycle. I tried to reduce it to exactly the same number of words as Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, which is exactly 268 words, but it really doesn’t take any longer to read than that does. – Opera would be a lot more enjoyable if it wasn’t for all that vocal racket! Eat your heart out Canadian Opera Company!

    So here you have it, the complete Ring of the Nibelung in just two minutes. It’s 300 words, right on the button. Sit back, and relax. Don’t bother making a cup of tea; you’ll be finished reading this before the tea is ready. Are you comfortable? OK, here goes:


    Wagner’s Ring Cycle in (exactly) 300 Words:

    Evil dwarf, Alberich, wants some Rhinemaiden action. When rejected, he steals gold and makes a powerful ring. Meanwhile, Godfather Wotan, who is somewhat full of himself, builds Valhalla with the help of two giants in exchange for Freia. Wotan thinks he’s sneaky enough to keep Freia: but it’s Giants 1, God 0.

    Nasty god, Loke, has a plan: steal ring and get Freia. Plan works, except for curse on ring. One giant kills the other and Wotan is warned bad times loom. He promptly sires two mortal children and eight Valkyries to collect warriors in hope of getting ring back.

    The two kids, Siegmund and Sieglinda, get a little too cosy with each other (yuk), spawning Siegfried, who is a bit of a tool. Oh, and Siegmund finds magic sword in a tree and Wotan’s wife says Siegmund is a dog and must die. Über-Valkyrie, Brünnhilde, rebels and saves Sieglinda, who is taken in by the evil dwarf’s evil brother and promptly dies in childbirth.

    Siegfried, who has no fear, is used by evil dwarf brother to challenge the remaining giant for the ring. Then he kills evil dwarf brother and sets off to find Brünnhilde, who’s no longer a Valkyrie but sleeps in a ring of fire. He breaks Wotan’s super-magic walking stick and it’s bye-bye Wotan, bye-bye God power.

    Not content with Brünnhilde’s love, Siegfried leaves to be a hero. He’s fooled by a puppet king and his evil adviser, who happens to be the son of evil dwarf. There’s some very confusing stuff involving magic and marriages of people who aren’t who they say they are, but suffice to say Siegfried ends up with a spear in his back. Brünnhilde reclaims the ring and gives it back to the Rhinemaidens. Valhalla burns; Rhine rises.

    Sad business, really.
  2. 07 Apr '09 11:47
    Very aptly put. However, I think Brunhilde saves Sigmund, gets in trouble for that and after having I can't remember who do the deed she was entrusted with carries off Sieglinde off to Mime's cave where Siegfried is born.

    Also disagree with you regarding the glories surrounded by dull thirty minute's worth of music. I don't disagree some segments might work if shortened, but then Wagner would not be able to justify taking 25 years to write the thing. You could have mentioned that Alberich had to abjure love to set in momtion the power of the ring, also.

    Glad to see there are Wagner lovers in Canada. Thought you guys only listened to "Newgrass" and Shania style stuff. I have a digitally remastered version of the Ring I found on clearance. Recorded live at Bayreuth, too. Some day I'll make it tp Bayreuth. Where I live they only do the cycle over a span of four years instead of four nights.
  3. Subscriber AttilaTheHorn
    Erro Ergo Sum
    07 Apr '09 15:34
    Originally posted by scacchipazzo
    Very aptly put. However, I think Brunhilde saves Sigmund, gets in trouble for that and after having I can't remember who do the deed she was entrusted with carries off Sieglinde off to Mime's cave where Siegfried is born.

    Also disagree with you regarding the glories surrounded by dull thirty minute's worth of music. I don't disagree some segments mig ...[text shortened]... th. Where I live they only do the cycle over a span of four years instead of four nights.
    This was intended as purely a humorous article, so there was no way I could include everything. That statement about Wagner's music containing wonderful moments but awful half hours is not mine: It comes from Rossini. He said it, not me.
  4. 07 Apr '09 23:31
    Your posting was very humorous indeed, and I enjoyed it. You write well and I would not listen to your critics. Wagner didn't and gave us glorious music indeed, but even he was not beyond criticism. If Rossini said what he did perhpas it was pure envy for his body of work, outside of William Tell was very run of the mill. The only Italians to come close to Wagner were Puccini, Verdi and Mascagni and Leoncavallo. Keep it up. Very entertaining!
  5. Subscriber AttilaTheHorn
    Erro Ergo Sum
    08 Apr '09 01:07
    Originally posted by scacchipazzo
    Your posting was very humorous indeed, and I enjoyed it. You write well and I would not listen to your critics. Wagner didn't and gave us glorious music indeed, but even he was not beyond criticism. If Rossini said what he did perhpas it was pure envy for his body of work, outside of William Tell was very run of the mill. The only Italians to come close to Wagner were Puccini, Verdi and Mascagni and Leoncavallo. Keep it up. Very entertaining!
    Thanks. I like what Igor Stravinsky said about critics:
    "I had a dream last night. It was about critics. They were small and rodent-like with padlocked ears, as if they had stepped out of a painting by Goya."
  6. 08 Apr '09 03:25
    Originally posted by AttilaTheHorn
    Thanks. I like what Igor Stravinsky said about critics:
    "I had a dream last night. It was about critics. They were small and rodent-like with padlocked ears, as if they had stepped out of a painting by Goya."
    The artist that panders to the critic loses all sense of creative purpose. Wagner felt equally contemptuous about critics going as far as weaving his main critic into Die Meistersinger. Was it Hans Sachs? Or is that the hero? talking off top of my head and not a very knowledgeable Wagner fan. Critics are valuable only in identifying what art isn'r rather than waht art is, e.g., A crucufix floating in urine is in your face or a Madonna plastered with elephant dung. Don't get me wrong. I do not dislike controversial art, simply when the controversy is the objective rather than great art such as Tristan und Isolde, Sergeant Pepper, Pagliacci, Turandot all of whiche stirred controversy, but never questions about not being art. Which brings me full circle. Critics, the best, are usually the artists themselves. Beethoven labored mightily to bear fruit on the music page, scratched out, rewrote, started over then gave us his greatest works! Have you ever listened to the late quartets? Try Opus 131 in C#minor, 132 in A and 130 in E-flat, including the Grosse Fugue. Talk about controversial. The man invented heavy metal 160+ years before someone named it!
  7. Subscriber AttilaTheHorn
    Erro Ergo Sum
    08 Apr '09 09:24
    Oh man, the Beethoven late quartets are incredible, so far ahead of their time. I love them. These were the last things he wrote and I find it interesting that after all the amazing things he wrote in his lifetime, he felt he had to turn to the string quartet to express what he wanted to say. To me, they are the musical summation of the Heiligenstadt Testament that he wrote so many years earlier and about which no one knew until it was discovered in his papers after his death.
  8. 08 Apr '09 11:40
    Well put again. These are incredible musical gems all the more astounding by their subtlety and grace having been written by a then stone deaf composer! My least favorite is Opus 135. It does not reach the heights of the others. 127 is similarly not as good as the other three. Then there are the late piano sonatas.

    Since you like quartets then you surely like lieder? Absolute, undistilled music in its purest form. Die Wintereisse by Schubert strikes me as a continuation of the Beethoven ideal in a different genre. Schubert was a true genius of the miniature. I have yet to find a lied of his i did not like. I only wish I knew German to understand the nuances of the poetry.
  9. Subscriber AttilaTheHorn
    Erro Ergo Sum
    08 Apr '09 12:39
    >You and I seem to have similar interests. I agree about Die Wintereise. In the last song in the cycle, Der Leiermann, I feel that Schibert is speaking about himself as well as all musicians. However, I like die Schone Mullerin better, only because my mother was a miller's daughter.
    >I also agree about the Beethoven piano sonatas. I have all of them and it is a spiritual journey to go through them in order. The last one, notably the last movement, seems to sum up everything about his philosophy of music and life.
    >My favourite composers would probably be Bach and Mozart. Life isn't worth the bother without them.
    >Listen to the Sibelius symphonies for another wonderful experience.
  10. 08 Apr '09 23:00
    There are kindred souls everywhere, luckily. There are few composers I don't like. I never cared too much for the dissonance of the 20th cty. composers excepting Bartok and Shostakovich. I love Sibelius, Nielsen, Grieg, especially since they sound so different from the rest. My first love is Mozart, but after Mozart there are countless others who were transformed through his and Beethoven's influence. I love Berlioz, the proto-Wagner and his bombastic grandiosity not dissimilar from Mahler's. On way home from work they were playing Nielsen. I love opera, especially Italian opera, bel canto, verismo, it does not matter.

    Die Schone Mullerin is fantastic, but so is Schwanegessang and so many other cycles Schubert wrote. What a true genius. If I had but a spark of his genius maybe i could write some day or even perhaps transform it into Lasker-like poetry on the chessboard!
  11. Subscriber AttilaTheHorn
    Erro Ergo Sum
    09 Apr '09 12:03
    >Yes, Berlioz, tremendous! I like Shostakovich too, but I prefer Kodaly to Bartok. One of my professors in school studied with Kodaly. I like Hindemith very much too. Another of my professors studied with him as well.
    >I think Brahms is wonderful and Mendelssohn. I'm tired of Tchaikovsky. I like Stravinsky and Britten. However, sometimes I just want to listen to Rennaisance music and music before that.
  12. 09 Apr '09 22:07
    I never studied music formally, but leanred to love music because my parents exposed me to great music although they never thought I would like it better than they did eventually. They brought home an old Liberace record and I got hooked. Once i discovered these were only excerpts I was mystified and awed that great works were as long as an encyclopedia sometimes. I love Stravinsky, Scriabin, and so on, but like you I also love ancient music, Elizabethan music, Gragorian chant. I love choral music especially by Bach's lesser known contemporaries like Caldara. Also love Bach's two passions, ST John and St Matthew. Also love Monteverdi. Was lucky enough to see La Incoronazione di Poppea with a gorgeous Poppea, as it should be. Could not sing, but looked quite good in her see through outfit! Went to an Italian Rennaissance Music and dance workshop in 04 in Bagnacavallo, close to Ravenna, Italy. I dance Italian folk dance. Italian musicianship is quite good. I was in awe standing before the Accademia Chigiana in Siena knowing Vivaldi taught there. Finally looked at your profile and saw you're an actual horn player. Wonderful instrument! Seems quite difficult.

    Indeed Schuman, Mendelsohn, etc, are great indeed. Love Scarlatti and the much neglected Boccherini. Bocherini's Stabat Mater is glorious. Caldar's Stbat Mater is unsual. You would enjoy it becasue it is heavily brassed for a choral work. I know the horn is in the woodwinds, but since it is made of brass also think of it as belonging in there somwhere.
  13. Subscriber AttilaTheHorn
    Erro Ergo Sum
    10 Apr '09 03:36
    The horn is a brass instrument, but it fits equally well with woodwinds, and strings too. In an orchestra, a horn player plays a lot more than the other brasses because composers recognize that its tone colour can blend easily with all other instruments as well as stand out in solos. It can virtually dominate the whole orchestra when required but it can also drop down to the softest pianissimo and has the widest dynamic range of any wind or brass instrument, covering a range of as much as four octaves.
  14. 10 Apr '09 11:45
    I have always admired people who dedicate themselves to art of any kind. The amount of time and effort required to master an instrument, as well as the intelligence necessary to understand its complexities have got to be enormous. That's why writing music is so intrigueingly fascinating. Having to understand how all the instruments and voices fit together has got to be beyond the grasp of us mere mortals. I have always been astonished by Mozart's scores coming to the publisher with no corrections with few exceptions like his piano conc in C#minor, a work that evidences pain. Yet the composer's pain translates into great joy for our ears. The Heilligenstadt testament has got to have been influenced greatly by Beethoven's pain at having the gift and being unable to hear the product of his genius. We have never had a blind Michelangelo.
  15. Subscriber AttilaTheHorn
    Erro Ergo Sum
    10 Apr '09 14:25
    Yes, Beethoven was totally stone deaf by about 1816, but that doesn't mean he didn't hear what he wrote. He heard every single note, otherwise he wouldn't have been able to write it. I can hear a piece of music in my head just by looking at the music on paper, and naturally Beethoven could too. It takes a lot of training to be able to do that (and of course he learned that in his youth when he still had his sense of hearing) but every musician can. Most people are amazed that he wrote things like his 9th Symphony and the late quartets without being able to hear, but he heard it all.