Tuesday, January 1, 2013


Happy New Year's Day! And much more importantly to me, Happy Wagner's bicentennial year!

To celebrate this occasion, I am commencing, for one year only, my latest blog: Wagner Tripping. (More about the blog and the title—and subtitle—in the next blog, but tripping does mean that, among other things.)

Now this probably isn't of great moment for most people—either the bicentennial or my blog. Many people—in the United States, I would say the vast majority of people—have little knowledge about him and virtually no knowledge about his music (except for this and that exception, the latter aka kill the wabbit). In any case, these folks couldn't care less one way or the other. He's not their cup of tea, they presume (for some, certainly wrongly). Others are more aggressively hostile and would rather Wagner sank into the cesspool of history, usually with almost no real knowledge about Wagner or his music, which I find most irritating.

I love Wagner's music. He is certainly the musical love of my life, and that came as a thunderbolt to me. (Thanks, Donner.) But I am not in the “love the music, hate the man” camp. I actually like Wagner the man, warts and all. But how can I love someone often described as a monster? Well, that's one of the many reasons I want to write a blog, actually. There is no quick but meaningful response to that question, at least none that have come to my mind.

I have been planning to write about Wagner since 2001. Originally, I had thought about it as a book, but that was before blogging was a thing. Plus, it works better as a blog because of links to the actual music or other material. I had originally planned to start the book upon my retirement in 2007 and finish it in 2013 to coincide with the bicentennial of Wagner's birth. But life, and laziness, got in the way. You know, there was Obama's election in 2008, work on the Miramar house, the Hilo house, a lot of travel, helping a friend with a mental illness from 2010 on, the cancer in 2011 and so forth. I kept pushing it back and now here we are in 2013. So I decided to just put out what I could in a year and that would be that.

My intent in this blog is not to censor myself, much.  Christopher Hitches once wrote: "a serious person should try to write posthumously...one should compose as if the usual constraints—of fashion, commerce, self-censorship, public and, perhaps especially, intellectual opinion—did not operate."  That's my aim, as embarrassing as it going to be when I talk about sex and Wagner, and even though I feel quite ambivalent about revealing—hell, reveling in—felonious behavior.  But I will be.  Sorry, mom—and don't worry!

Now, I want to say at this point that I'm obviously not a scholar. (I did work at a university, but as a maintenance person—I plunged scholars' toilets.)  And I don't read music.  I can't tell a sharp from a flat.  Or play an instrument.  I can't sing.  And I grew up hating classical music. (Actually, I am exactly who Wagner was writing for as a later blog post will no doubt cover.)

Because this isn't a blog with academic pretensions, I will tend towards plain speaking.  I don't plan to mince words.  There will be the occasional—regular?—vulgarity because, frankly, so much stuff surrounding Wagner can only be called bullshit.  No other word would work.

The above should not be taken to mean that this blog will be less reliable than a scholarly article.  I care deeply about truth and fairness.  I believe any analysis should be based on clearly established facts. My feeling is if you can't—or don't—back up something controversial that is presented as a fact, you shouldn't say it.  I'm not from Missouri, but I should be.  If you believe I haven't adequately supported a statement, please let me know and I will track it down like a pig after truffles (or retract it if I can't support it.) That said, I am at a bit of a disadvantage as most of my Wagner books are in Santa Cruz and I am here in Hilo until June. I did bring about 50 lbs. of Wagner material with me, but I will be writing without the sources at hand from time to time.  I will use links as my footnotes.

So let my personal little celebration of and reflections on Wagner begin!


  1. Happy New Year, and congratulations on your new blog. I look forward to reading what you have to say on the man and his music. I know very little about either, so, let the learning begin!

  2. Robin's been talking to me about her Wagner musings for years now, and all I can say is y'all are in for a real treat with this blog!

  3. Leslie may be over selling, here. I do have true modesty about my writing; I hope I can live up her expectations.