Thursday, February 5, 2009

When music critics lash out -- the Lexicon of Musical Invective

Check out this great article in Slate in which author Jan Swafford unleashes some tirades by critics about the music of Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, and others. The best one is this screed by a critic named J.L. Klein in his 1871 "History of the Drama" on the music of Wagner:

This din of brasses, tin pans and kettles, this Chinese or Caribbean clatter with wood sticks and ear-cutting scalping knives … [t]his reveling in the destruction of all tonal essence, raging satanic fury in the orchestra, this demoniacal lewd caterwauling, scandal-mongering, gun-toting music … the darling of feeble-minded royalty, …of the court flunkeys covered with reptilian slime, and of the blasé hysterical female court parasites … inflated, in an insanely destructive self-aggrandizement, by Mephistopheles' mephitic and most venomous hellish miasma, into Beelzebub's Court Composer and General Director of Hell's Music—Wagner!

Swafford points out that this outrageous opinion and many others of music critics have been compiled in book entitled "Lexicon of Musical Invective," which was written by conductor, theorist, and scholar Nicholas Slonimsky. (Man, I'm going to have to get this book and find out how I can do my job better!) I hope that you enjoy reading the article as much as I have.

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