Saturday, February 6, 2010

on scurvy music

from On Stupidity in Music, an Imaginary Dialogue (1958)
by Hanns Eisler

If I think of the stupidity in music I am of the opinion that the desperate do find consolation.

But isn't consolation the real aim of art, especially of music?

Concerning consolation, I can tell you something from the secret documents of the Austro-Hungarian state police in the year 1805 in Vienna, which says: "In times like the present, when manifold sufferings affect the character of the people, the police must pay more regard than ever to popular distractions. The most dangerous hours are in the evening. How can these hours be better and more harmlessly spent than by listening to music?"

But Eisler, 1805 was the year Beethoven composed his Third Symphony, the Eroica. Did the police chiefs want the Viennese to listen to this revolutionary music?

You overestimate the intelligence of the state police in 1805.

Is bad music always stupid?

No. Dangerous things are unfortunately mostly not stupid. But now I'll contradict myself and give you something "in praise of bad music." Here's what Proust wrote in Les plaisirs et les jours: "Pour out your curses on bad music, but not your contempt!"

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