Our Father of Metal

 

Richard Wagner

Our Father of Metal

My Wagner Experience

Archetype and Motif

Ring Des Nibelungen

Das Rheingold

Tristan und Isolde

Rainbow's Stargazer

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Our Father of Metal

This site is a humble tribute to the greatest composer of music...nay, the greatest Artist in the history of Western Civilisation, Richard Wilhelm Wagner. Originally inspired by Beethoven's late string quartets and 9th symphony, Wagner decided to go even further than those masterpieces by establishing a musical vocabulary in his own tongue. He ultimately set the bar incredibly high for personal expression in the arts, a height which to this very day has not been scaled.

Wagner took the harmonic and contrapuntal intricacies utilised by the composers before him and made them his own, smashing through all the formal straightjackets. He mostly eschewed the by then terribly dated Sonata form, coming up with wildly courageous modulations based upon the individual personalities and situations within his operas.

Not only was Wagner overwhelmingly responsible for the way soundtracks in movies today work with the characters and story, he was the father of the form of music that ultimately became known as Heavy Metal. As you probably guessed, this accomplishment was made far before Rock Music itself even existed! Although there are myriad examples of seminal Heavy Metal that existed before Wagner (examples include portions of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor; Mozart's Requiem and Don Giovanni finale; Beethoven's Symphonies and Late String Quartets), none were as bone crushingly heavy as, for example, Wagner's prelude to Tannhauser. And no one pioneered the defining fantastical story elements and allegory of heavy metal as stridently as Wagner.

When you see a movie with a particularly dramatic soundtrack, or listen to much of the music of Manowar, Judas Priest, Deep Purple, early Metallica and Rainbow, etc., you are listening to something that Wagner almost single handedly conceived (and most purposefully exploited). When you listen to Slayer (or practically any experienced Extreme Metal band), all that dissonant-sounding, harmonic "weirdness" was already done by Wagner in the 19th century. In fact, portions of Der Ring Des Nibelungen, Parsifal, and Tristan und Isolde could be seen as the very beginning of Extreme Metal.

Ear-twisting chromaticism, violently huge and powerful melodies, epic compositions with far greater scope and range than anything before or since in art...these were all the non plus ultra province of Wagner. Au fond, when you take away all the blues, folk, and country music elements in Rock music, you end up with something very like what Wagner accomplished in his operas. Wagner's "heavy metal child" was assimilated into Rock, from there it eventually morphed into the most musically advanced, progressive form of Rock: Guitar-Driven Heavy Metal.

When I write the term "Heavy Metal", I am not writing about bands like Poison, Slipknot, post-1990 Metallica, or Kid Rock. Those bands are more related to the glamour rock of acts like David Bowie, Elton John, and Kiss. I mean the bands that most obviously carry the banner, like Black Sabbath, Manowar, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Metallica (the 1980's material exclusively), Slayer, Deicide, "Viking Era" Bathory, Death, and "Nemesis Divina"-era Satyricon. There are many others.

My aim with this site is to do my best to exalt Wagner's awe-inspiring music, as well as one of the genres of music he defined (Heavy Metal). I felt especially compelled to create a personal website concerning Wagner because of the inspiration his music gave me toward my own musical projects. As you might have guessed, my opera Lyraka was influenced greatly by Der Ring Des Nibelungen. I make no secret of it.

I'll briefly outline my backround for clarification: I started liking guitar driven Rock and Metal in the mid 1970's. When I eventually began playing an instrument (electric guitar), I never really bothered much with learning how to actually read or study music, much less work on my composition skills. I was like most other young Metal guitar players: I just wanted to Rock out. The genius of Wagner's music made me take a serious interest in studying music, an endeavor that for me will be lifelong. His genius inspired me to devote my life toward improving my knowledge of music composition and orchestration.

I must admit, Wagner's musical language is one that has to be learned. I had a hard time appreciating his music fully at first, because I'd been used to more basic Rock/Metal, which features melodies that resolve very neatly. At the time I'd also been immersed in the more easy listening forms of Classical music like Mozart. When I finally broke myself of l'idee fixe that "everything has to resolve neatly" in music, I opened the door to learning Wagner's language. This led to bigger discoveries.

By becoming more knowledgeable concerning Wagner's use of motifs in defining characters and situations, my life itself was overall improved. I firmly believe (through personal experience) that understanding the archetypes that lie behind the characters and situations in the great Wagner operas help us to learn about ourselves, as well as the world around us.

The philosopher Hegel asserted that broadly representive symbols in art can have useful, practical applications. They emphasize the concept, leaving the specifics up to individual interpretation. Wagner's use of broad symbology leaves the individual open to interpreting things him or herself. My belief is that the way one chooses to interpret Wagner's operas can teach a person profound things about him or herself. This is the hallmark of the greatest works of art throughout history: Shakespeare's plays, the fiction of Ralph Ellison, Beethoven's 9th, etc.

In summa, Wagner's music is truly the Art that keeps on giving. There's always something to be discovered, applied, internalised from his music.

Wagner's operas, Beethoven's late string quartets, and heavy metal music in general have provided me with a phenomenally affirming, spiritual journey. They are examples of art that actually made my life a lot better.

They can be like love itself.

Wagner, to share a quote with Nietzsche, is one of the great benefactors of my life.
I hope that all will enjoy this site, it has been a great kick for me to write about such an amazing composer. 

I must use this last paragraph to state that, although Wagner was a great artist, I do not agree or sympathise with any of his political and social views. It would be coarse, but accurate, for me to describe most of Wagner's writings outside of the musical realm to be the work of a complete idiot.

Fascinating, the difference between artist and personal philosophy.

To Be Continued

 

 

Music Inspired by Wagner

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