Jim Buie introduced me to The Political Compass on his blog. There’s a test to take to determine one’s own relative position on the graph. It’s interesting, but more interesting to me personally was the “Composers’ Political Compass.” As it turns out, in terms of political philosophy (and perhaps musical style), the compass points me in the direction of leftist authoritarian–which is perplexing to me as a musician and composer.
But look at the graph: Hovering pretty much south of the center left libertarian are composers I very much admire and respect: Mahler (Sym. No.2 Resurrection) Beethoven (later piano sonatas) Benjamin Britten (choral works), and especially Dvorak. Not a real huge fan of Schoenberg and Bartok, but I can sort of understand their position on the graph. I would have thought that Stravinsky (whose Rite of Spring started a riot) would have been extreme left. Wagner, too. (Every time I hear “Ride of the Valkyries” I think of Coppola’s “Apochalypse Now”–the only movie that almost made me throw up.) And where’s my absolute favorites on the graph? Where’s Debussy? Grainger and Vaughn-Williams? WHERE IS JS BACH?
Still, Schumann? Really? Although it’s been about 30 years since I’ve been in a music history class, I don’t recall Schumann being noted for anything other than his fluidly romantic piano works and his obsessive marriage to one of his young piano students. He just doesn’t strike me as a 19th-century man of political thought. Maybe he was and I just don’t recognize it.
“Anything that happens in the world affects me; politics, for example, literature, people; and I reflect about all these things in my own way — and these reflections then seek to find an outlet in music. This is also the reason for which so many of my compositions are hard to understand… ” (Schumann in a letter to wife, Clara)
But if the Political Compass is any indication of my compositional inclinations, then maybe I am sorta, kinda like Schumann–which isn’t such a bad thing. Still, I’d rather be in a different neighborhood, maybe next door to Haydn or Bach.
Perhaps, I should take the Political Compass test again and pretend it’s musical chairs.
Hear Schumann’s Fantasy Dance (The very first Schumann work I played about 40 years ago.)