Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns


Fred Baumann writes, profoundly and compellingly, about Mozart, on the occasion of the 250th anniversary of his birth. A taste:

[L]istening to Mozart calls to mind (and in some ways turns you into) a certain kind of person, a more complicated sort than we mostly go in for today. Not a redemptive Wagnerian hero or cynical slacker, not a high-minded virtuoso of compassion and/or righteous indignation, not a "realist" or an "idealist," but someone who both acknowledges, lives in, accepts the viewpoint of, and participates in, all human feelings--even the ugly ones, as we see in the marvelous revenge arias given to the Count, Dr. Bartolo, and Figaro--but who also, in the end, maintains as sovereign the viewpoint of rationality and order. (That is why, in their own ways, all three of those arias are come-dic, even the Count’s, which is also partly genuinely scary.)

In invoking, and to some degree creating, such a person, Mozart implicitly makes a kind of moral case, a case for how we should live. It is not "aesthetic" in the sense of replacing the moral with formal beauty; it is much closer to what we find in Shakespeare’s Tempest or Measure for Measure; i.e., models of a kind of control of the passions that gives them their due. Yet it is presented aesthetically, not through argument or exhortation.


For more on Mozart, go here and here.

Discussions - 4 Comments

I believe Dr. Bartolo is a Rossini character, not Mozart.

My own knowledge of music is quite limited but my sense of things is that that paragraph is one of the most profound things I have ever read about music or anything else. Wonderful summary of Mozart.

Does Mozart’s music effect these changes or is the set of people attracted to his classical music also predisposed to a certain way of thinking?

Why not do a little rought corrolation of this on Amazon?

People who bought the Essential Mozart: 32 of his Greatest Masterpieces also purchased the following books:

Ratzinger Report: An exclusive Interview on the state of the church by Cardinal Ratzinger

Truth and Tolerance: Christian belief and world religions by pope Benedict XVI

The world is flat: A brief history of the Twenty-first century by Thomas L. Friedman

Freakonomics: A rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything. by Stephen D. Levitt.

1776: by David McCullough

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.

Judging from the reading list it appears that people who bought this particular collection by Mozart where by and large conservative, albeit Dr. Levitt in Freakonomics does suggest that Roe v. Wade was responsible for stemming the growth of teenage drug use and crime. By in large it appears the author of the article is correct in saying that "[L]istening to Mozart calls to mind (and in some ways turns you into) a certain kind of person, a more complicated sort than we mostly go in for today." but then again someone who is into Mozart is more likely to see this as a good thing than someone who is happy off listening to Kenny Chesney.

I wrote a novel and called it Mozart and self-published it. The novel is not (really) about Mozart-or only indirectly. Some people bought the novel on Barnes and Noble and Amazon because they thought it was concerning Mozart’s person. I felt guilty about this. Still they could read the synopsis if they wanted to . . . I failed to publicize the novel, because when I was interviewed about it on radio, the host would always ask me to explain the title, and that the novel is not (really) about Mozart. And then my time would be up, once I’d done that. Oh well, my next novel will NOT be named after a famous composer.

On a less frivolous note, I don’t think Bloom is right about Mozart as a hedge against nihilism. Don Giovanni, more than any single other work of "Western Culture," represents the turning point of modernity--one can hear and feel in Don Giovanni both the exhiliration of the Aufklaerung, liberation from priests and princes, and the darkness, the abyss, the Neant just around the corner.


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