Wagner as a forerunner to David Bowie and gangster rap?

Written By The Wagnerian on Friday, 13 May 2011 | 7:17:00 pm

This is sitting patiently in my "to be read shortly" pile.



For over a century, Richard Wagner’s music has been the subject of intense debate among philosophers, many of whom have attacked its ideological—some say racist and reactionary—underpinnings. In this major new work, Alain Badiou, radical philosopher and keen Wagner enthusiast, offers a detailed reading of the critical responses to the composer’s work, which include Adorno’s writings on the composer and Wagner’s recuperation by Nazism as well as more recent readings by Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and others. Slavoj Zizek provides an afterword, and both philosophers make a passionate case for re-examining the relevance of Wagner to the contemporary world.

As the first example of a “mass art”, Wagner’s operas are portrayed as a forerunner to David Bowie and gangster rap, promoting a “terrorist function” of music that breaks down the boundaries between high and low culture.

Wagner’s crucial role in the thinking of Nietzsche, Adorno and Heidegger leads Badiou to posit the composer as the “litmus test” for the role of music in philosophy. Whilst these philosophers tended to criticize Wagner’s attempt to marry nationalism and art as “proto-fascist”, Badiou vigorously defends the positive energy of Wagner’s “enthralling, alluring, deceptive, hysterical, shimmering, seductive, sexual musical edifice.”

More: Here 

PS: this was selected as Paul Griffiths book of the year (2010) in The Times Literary Supplement. He said:

    Not wearily, but freshly and brightly, Alain Badiou takes up from Nietzsche, Adorno and Lacoue-Labarthe the philosophers' debate with the old magician of Bayreuth in his Five Lessons on Wagner (Verso). Badiou's is an un-Wagnerian Wagner, a composer of ambiguities and silences, of suffering and (his own word) heartbreak a composer still with lessons for the music of today.