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Tchaikovsky composed based on Russian culture not his homosexuality

Even nationalism was better than identity-based art

From Soldier Songs. Composers didn’t lead with their nationality.
From Soldier Songs. Composers didn’t lead with their nationality.

I miss nationalism in classical music. Nationalism is looked upon by certain contemporary elements as bad because the nations in question were colonial powers, and colonialism was bad. I take a different perspective.

Nationalism started in the early 19th Century when composers began composing as a German or as an Englishman, or as an Italian. Famous nationalistic composers include Frederic Chopin, Richard Wagner, Edward Elgar, Giuseppe Verdi, Antonin Dvorak, and Jean Sibelius amongst others.

Video:

Young Pavarotti Sings Verdi

Rigoletto / Act 3 - "La donna è mobile" 1964

Rigoletto / Act 3 - "La donna è mobile" 1964

These composers included elements of their culture in their music. Sometimes the music itself was based on the folk tunes of a nation. Other times the story of the music was based on folk stories or legends of a nation.

Wagner’s music isn’t very German-sounding. There are no oompah sections in Wagner but many of his operas are based on German stories. Verdi’s music is full of oompah sections which give them an element of folk music that audiences of his day would have recognized.

Video:

Wagner: Die Meistersinger von Nürnburg - Finale

Willhelm von Nordbach. 2001 Met Opera production in New York City with James Levine conducting Ben Heppner as Walther von Stolzing , James Morris as Hans Sachs, Thomas Allen as Beckmesser, Karita Mattila as Eva, Rene Pape as her father Veit Pogner

Willhelm von Nordbach. 2001 Met Opera production in New York City with James Levine conducting Ben Heppner as Walther von Stolzing , James Morris as Hans Sachs, Thomas Allen as Beckmesser, Karita Mattila as Eva, Rene Pape as her father Veit Pogner

Before nationalism, a composer wrote music as a composer and craftsmen first. Mozart was a composer who spoke German but there was no Austria. Bach was a composer who spoke German but there was no Germany. Vivaldi was a composer who spoke Italian but there was no Italy. They didn’t lead with their nationality because nations didn’t exist in the same way.

Europe was still experiencing the momentum left over from feudalism. People shared a language and a culture but not a national identity. The identity of the ruler was the defining political qualifier. I guess that could be considered macro identity politics.

The current trend of identity politics is more similar to the 17th and 18th Centuries but with composers placing personal identity first and nationality being of little or no consequence. The composer’s personal identity is primary.

A composer such as Tchaikovsky was writing music based on Russian culture as opposed to his homosexuality. Tchaikovsky is known, primarily, as a Russian composer who was gay. Today he would be a gay composer who speaks Russian. What we have with Tchaikovsky was a homosexual in the context of a Russian culture that in some ways he loved and embraced. In other ways, he detested it but never suggested that it shouldn’t exist.

Video:

David T. Little's Soldier Songs

Starring and directed by Johnathan McCullough for the Opera Philadelphia Channel. Filmed by FreshFly

Starring and directed by Johnathan McCullough for the Opera Philadelphia Channel. Filmed by FreshFly

Personal identity has a more difficult time becoming relevant because it doesn’t have an established culture to base itself on. Tchaikovsky was openly Russian. Everyone in Russia was openly Russian. They spoke the language, they knew the stories, and they sang the songs.

Identity-based art will never have a common language let alone a shared cultural experience. It resists and in some instances tries to destroy existing culture.

I’d much rather experience music written under the influence of a people, a nation, and a definable culture. The vagueness of a single person creating music in a cultural vacuum is something I’m not interested in.

It has been said that classical music has a colonialism problem, a nationalism problem, and even a white supremacy problem. I say that classical music has an identity problem.

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From Soldier Songs. Composers didn’t lead with their nationality.
From Soldier Songs. Composers didn’t lead with their nationality.

I miss nationalism in classical music. Nationalism is looked upon by certain contemporary elements as bad because the nations in question were colonial powers, and colonialism was bad. I take a different perspective.

Nationalism started in the early 19th Century when composers began composing as a German or as an Englishman, or as an Italian. Famous nationalistic composers include Frederic Chopin, Richard Wagner, Edward Elgar, Giuseppe Verdi, Antonin Dvorak, and Jean Sibelius amongst others.

Video:

Young Pavarotti Sings Verdi

Rigoletto / Act 3 - "La donna è mobile" 1964

Rigoletto / Act 3 - "La donna è mobile" 1964

These composers included elements of their culture in their music. Sometimes the music itself was based on the folk tunes of a nation. Other times the story of the music was based on folk stories or legends of a nation.

Wagner’s music isn’t very German-sounding. There are no oompah sections in Wagner but many of his operas are based on German stories. Verdi’s music is full of oompah sections which give them an element of folk music that audiences of his day would have recognized.

Video:

Wagner: Die Meistersinger von Nürnburg - Finale

Willhelm von Nordbach. 2001 Met Opera production in New York City with James Levine conducting Ben Heppner as Walther von Stolzing , James Morris as Hans Sachs, Thomas Allen as Beckmesser, Karita Mattila as Eva, Rene Pape as her father Veit Pogner

Willhelm von Nordbach. 2001 Met Opera production in New York City with James Levine conducting Ben Heppner as Walther von Stolzing , James Morris as Hans Sachs, Thomas Allen as Beckmesser, Karita Mattila as Eva, Rene Pape as her father Veit Pogner

Before nationalism, a composer wrote music as a composer and craftsmen first. Mozart was a composer who spoke German but there was no Austria. Bach was a composer who spoke German but there was no Germany. Vivaldi was a composer who spoke Italian but there was no Italy. They didn’t lead with their nationality because nations didn’t exist in the same way.

Europe was still experiencing the momentum left over from feudalism. People shared a language and a culture but not a national identity. The identity of the ruler was the defining political qualifier. I guess that could be considered macro identity politics.

The current trend of identity politics is more similar to the 17th and 18th Centuries but with composers placing personal identity first and nationality being of little or no consequence. The composer’s personal identity is primary.

A composer such as Tchaikovsky was writing music based on Russian culture as opposed to his homosexuality. Tchaikovsky is known, primarily, as a Russian composer who was gay. Today he would be a gay composer who speaks Russian. What we have with Tchaikovsky was a homosexual in the context of a Russian culture that in some ways he loved and embraced. In other ways, he detested it but never suggested that it shouldn’t exist.

Video:

David T. Little's Soldier Songs

Starring and directed by Johnathan McCullough for the Opera Philadelphia Channel. Filmed by FreshFly

Starring and directed by Johnathan McCullough for the Opera Philadelphia Channel. Filmed by FreshFly

Personal identity has a more difficult time becoming relevant because it doesn’t have an established culture to base itself on. Tchaikovsky was openly Russian. Everyone in Russia was openly Russian. They spoke the language, they knew the stories, and they sang the songs.

Identity-based art will never have a common language let alone a shared cultural experience. It resists and in some instances tries to destroy existing culture.

I’d much rather experience music written under the influence of a people, a nation, and a definable culture. The vagueness of a single person creating music in a cultural vacuum is something I’m not interested in.

It has been said that classical music has a colonialism problem, a nationalism problem, and even a white supremacy problem. I say that classical music has an identity problem.

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