Steve Schwartz responds to me:
>>I never said that Liszt only consists of vanity. I just said that I
>>think that vanity was the prominent feature in him, more prominent than
>>in Brahms for example.
>You've met both men, of course.
Oh yes, I deed. Two very interesting characters, the one a little bit
too vain for my taste, the other one pretty jolly, humming Strauss
waltzes all the time. They send their regards.
>I'm sorry. You're simply telling me you like Brahms better than Liszt,
>I would suspect because you prefer the music of one to the other. Your
>preference is yours, but I still say that writing a bad piece of music
>isn't necessarily a failure of character and more often a failure of
I do not write about the quality of Liszt, I write about the lack of
meaning in it and the vain virtuoso elements (the nadir of all this is
Paganini). High-quality music can be pretty hollow. A lot of Hollywood
soundtrack music is technically high-class but nevertheless hollow.
>>Do you really think that Beethoven would have felt the need to so
>>empathically express his desire for freedom (eg in Fidelio and the Ninth
>>Symphony) without the experience of living in a deeply undemocratic
>There were lots of paeans to liberty in democratic societies at the
>time. It was something in the air in both Europe and North America. The
>difference is that none of them were written by composers of Beethoven's
>caliber. In fact, there's a lot of celebratory talk in the US right now
>about "liberty and freedom," much of it from the people doing their best
>to limit it. Thus, talking about Beethoven's *motives* (he "felt the
>need") seems to me a bit curious.
I cant see it. If an American composer composes an Ode to Freedom right
now it is because of his or her *motives*, that is that he or she lives
in a society where freedom is limited.
>>Like a Kafka without neuroses and a nicer father would
>>have written pretty different stories.
>I've got a wonderful father, and I used to write Kafka-esque stuff,
>mostly because I admired Kafka and wanted to see if I could make something
>like that. I couldn't, but I doubt it was the accident of my particular
>father. It was probably because I wasn't as good a writer.
No, it was because it was just a kind of hobby - not an existential need
like it was for Kafka.