The Most Concise, Brilliant Put-Down of Wagner Ever

Samuel Beckett, 1932, trying to describe the poems he’s written that seem better to him, less “constructed”:

I cannot explain very well to myself what they have that distinguishes them from the rest, something arborescent or of the sky, not Wagner, not clouds on wheels; written above an abscess and not out of a cavity, a statement and not a description of heat in the spirit to compensate for pus in the spirit.

Clouds on wheels! Snap!

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  1. Posted May 7, 2009 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    Love the blog!
    Love the quote even more.

  2. Posted June 15, 2009 at 3:25 am | Permalink

    I have a couple of questions about your blog:

    1) Is it OK with you if I spread some link love and link to your blog? I think my visitors would like your blog.

    2) I noticed on your blog that you link to other blogs, do you think its possible for you to link to my blog

    Please let me know what you think. Thanks for your time.


  3. kkmk1237
    Posted August 22, 2009 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    my favorite Wagner put downs…

    * Wagner’s music is better than it sounds – Mark Twain

    * Wagner has great moments but dull quarter hours – Rossini

    * Every time I listen to Wagner, I get the urge to invade Poland – Woody Allen

    * I like Wagner’s music better than any other music. It is so loud that one can talk the whole time, without people hearing what one says. – Oscar Wilde

  4. Dana Sutton
    Posted September 1, 2009 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    This slur against Wagner is entirely unwarranted. As Mark Twain said in his defense, his music is a lot better than it sounds.

  5. Furry Elise
    Posted September 24, 2009 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    Love the quote.
    But of course, I love your blog even more.

  6. Andrea
    Posted October 25, 2009 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

    and of course there’s Nietzsche on Wagner:
    “Mein größtes Erlebnis war eine Genesung. Wagner gehört bloß zu meinen Krankheiten. Nicht daß ich gegen diese Krankheit undankbar sein möchte. Wenn ich mit dieser Schrift den Satz aufrechterhalte, daß Wagner schädlich ist, so will ich nicht weniger aufrechterhalten, wem er trotzdem unentbehrlich ist – dem Philosophen….Durch Wagner redet die Modernität ihre intimste Sprache: sie verbirgt weder ihr Gutes, noch ihr Böses, sie hat alle Scham vor sich verlernt. Und umgekehrt: man hat beinahe eine Abrechnung über den Wert der Modernen gemacht, wenn man über Gut und Böse bei Wagner mit sich im klaren ist.– Ich verstehe es vollkommen, wenn heut ein Musiker sagt: ‘ich hasse Wagner, aber ich halte keine andere Musik mehr aus.”

    (My greatest experience was a recovery. Wagner only belongs to my illnesses. Not that I want to be ungrateful for this illness. If I, with my work, maintain that Wagner is harmful, then I want to maintain no less, for whom he is, in spite of it, indispensable–to the philosopher. …Through Wagner, modernity speaks its most intimate language, it neither hides its good nor its bad, it has unlearned all shyness before itself. And reversed: one will almost have made an account of the value of modernity if one sees clearly with respect to the good and bad in Wagner.–I completely understand when a musician says today: “I hate Wagner, but I can no longer stand any other music.”)

  7. ******Val in blu
    Posted November 10, 2009 at 12:06 am | Permalink

    be nice
    Liszt wrote some of it

  8. Posted November 28, 2009 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    I heard you play Ives in Portland a year ago and have been tuned into your blog with delight ever since. Thanks for wit, a literary sense, and such a sense of un.

    Ginny Furtwangler

  9. DBrokaw
    Posted February 9, 2010 at 11:45 pm | Permalink

    Another barb at Wagner:

    “I love Wagner, but the music I prefer is that of a cat hung up by its tail outside a window and trying to stick to the panes of glass with its claws.” (Baudelaire)

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