I love essays. It is the reason I am in uni. No, really, I almost dropped out, but turned it into a gap year because a few months into fall, all of the Facebook posts from my friends complaining about their essays made me miss it so much. I do have trouble getting started writing though. I tend to research up to the last minute, believing that I don’t know enough about the topic I’m writing on until I actually write it. This usually involves staying up late going “Gah, why did I think I could do academia? It involves words!”
I was working on my last essay of the semester a few days ago. I could not get out of research mode for the life of me, so I decided to write the stupidest version of my essay I could think of, just to get myself writing. It is dumb, it ignores facts, but I asked on Facebook if people wanted to see it so that they could mock me, and some of them said yes. You’re welcome.
The nineteenth century was the time when people said “Hey, maybe music is an actual art form that we should be studying,” so they did. But they had this whole romantic ideal where composers were gods, so they didn’t really look beyond that. Also, they hated women and foreigners, so you could only be a god if you were a white man. Fortunately, since these people were also white men, they could ignore this and study works of music based on the score alone. “Context? Fuck context,” they said, “These pieces have to be great because they’re written by these awesome white men, so we have Schenkerian analysis to take out all of that extra, not necessarily good stuff in order to explain why it all makes sense and is actually genius.” They particularly liked to do this with Beethoven. Most notably, he wrote his ninth symphony after he went deaf, and also after everybody decided he was god. People heard it and thought “This is strange, but it’s Beethoven, so it must be brilliant! Bring on the Schenkerian analysis!” The thing is, everybody fucking loved Beethoven, so they decided that his music, especially the last movement of his ninth symphony, should be used to support their own agendas. Hitler demanded it be played at his birthday party. It was played in celebration of the Berlin Wall coming down. Wagner decided to become Beethoven. This piece was so easily politicised because it was Beethoven, and Beethoven is god.
So with Wagner deciding to become god, he wrote a ton and composed a ton. If you were in the nineteenth century, you either like Wagner or Brahms, and Brahms didn’t build theatres with dumb seating structures and write the longest-ever operas to perform at them, so clearly everyone loved Wagner. Wagner hated the Jews, but no one really cared at this point. After WWII, of course, people went “Oh hey, this is mad problematic, and his whole “I am god/Jews and women suck” ideology kind of leaks into his music. So this, and things like this, are why we have new musicology. It lets us know when the music we are listening to is EVIL.