Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music

Charlie Tyson in The Hedgehog Review:

A few years ago, I was listening to a recording of the Tannhäuser overture on YouTube. Whether out of glazed torpor or instinctive masochism, I found myself scrolling down to read the comments.

Now, the adage “Don’t read the comments” is, as ever, a wise rule—though increasingly difficult to implement as our digital public sphere turns into one large acidic comments section. But the corner of YouTube devoted to sharing recordings and performances of art music and opera is a gentle, sometimes genteel, subculture. Go to nearly any video of Bach, Schubert, Vivaldi, or Mozart, and you will find hundreds of comments that would strike any jaded young online American as ludicrously heartwarming. Classical Music Land is an unlikely utopia where listener-viewers from around the world, writing in dozens of languages, passionately and unironically extol the glory of music and the beauty of the human spirit.

A rather different community had assembled around Tannhäuser. “Hail our people, hail Wagner!” one commenter cheered. “Brothers…we must defend Europe!” sounded another. “A lot of Bad Goys on here,” a third remarked. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised. But when you are journeying through Classical Music Land and end up at a Nazi convention, you have to ask whether you need a new map.

More here.