Friday, October 09, 2009

The Richard Wagner Society

Last night, at about 9:30, my neighbor boned his girlfriend. At least I assume it was his girlfriend. I don't know; she could have been a professional woman. My neighbor has sex several nights a week: sometimes several times a day. I don't have a sense that there's any romantic involvement between my neighbor and the women he bones. The woman will arrive in the lobby of our apartment building, my neighbor will go to the lobby to greet her, the two will go back to his apartment, and they will proceed post haste to the task at hand. Then the woman leaves. I don't know who she is: a professional woman, a girlfriend, or a fuck buddy. My neighbor is a noisy fucker. I get the impression he thinks he's auditioning for a porn producer. For all I know, he may be a retired porn star. Or maybe he videotapes his own performances.

I'm a consumer of porn. I love to watch couples getting it on. I find porn to be very erotic. But the funny thing is my neighbor's sex sessions are not at all erotic, at least not in my opinion. I find my neighbor to be just a noisy nuisance. There's the erotic fuck, then there's the noisy boning session. My neighbor's dalliances fit into the latter category.

Last night, while my neighbor was taking the slow road to the "little death," I thought, "Fuck it. I've had enough of this." I put on a DVD of the Brahms Third Symphony, with Leonard Bernstein conducting the Vienna Philharmonic. It's a sublime performance. I own a two-DVD set of the complete Brahms symphonies: all four of them. Yes, Bernstein videotaped his own performances. The Brahms renditions are outstanding, but I'm not pleased with the camera work. Also, Bernstein is in his late years. It's kind of sad to see Bernstein in these recordings, edging toward old age and death.

Brahms was a lifelong bachelor like Beethoven. And, like Beethoven, Brahms frequented professional women. In fact, Brahms was born in the red-light district of Hamburg. He began taking music lessons at age 4 and by age 8 showed great potential as a pianist. His parents hired him out to play in the bars and brothels of Hamburg. The story goes that from a young age, Brahms was sexually molested by working girls. He himself claimed that his early sexual experiences warped his sexual adjustment.

Recently, Brahms scholar Kurt Hoffman has suggested that the legend surrounding the sexual side of Brahms' childhood is false. Since Brahms himself clearly originated the story, however, some have questioned Hoffman's theory. Brahms' recently published letters also put to rest this story. The places he played were working-class restaurants in a then respectable area of Hamburg which only later became a slum.

Whatever the truth of Brahms' childhood, the fact is that the adult composer frequented the brothels of Vienna. Yes, the staid and respectable, stolidly middle-class elderly Brahms preferred frequenting brothels to marriage.

In the latter half of the nineteenth century Brahms and his supposed rival, Richard Wagner represented two opposing camps in the musical circles of Europe. Supposedly Brahms embodied traditional forms, while Wagner epitomized the "Music of the Future." Wagner and his adherents organized musical societies in major European cities to promote his music. These organizations were known as "Richard Wagner Societies."

Brahms viewed the polemics surrounding Wagner as humbug and claptrap. The story goes that Brahms took to euphemistically calling the local brothel he frequented in Vienna "The Richard Wagner Society." Supposedly, in the midst of a social gathering Brahms would rise and tell the assembled group, with gleeful sarcasm, "Well, I'm off to the Richard Wagner Society."

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