The Christmas season always gets me excited for music, because there are so many wonderful carols and hymns about the birth of Jesus. I will write more on the topic of Christmas carols later on in the month, but today I wanted to touch on a really niche topic: Milo Yiannopoulos‘s love of Romantic-era music.
What got me on this topic is not just my musical mood; it was an epic Telegram thread Milo had going about… classical music.
Milo possesses an unapologetic opinion on virtually everything, it seems, and he defends his positions to the hilt with venomous wit. But he also supports those positions with depth of thought and nuance. For all his brashness, Milo is exceptionally erudite on a broad range of subjects, and I was blown away to read his exchange with Patrick Casey, who appears to be another online Traditional Rightist (from what I can gather).
The tête-à-tête began when Casey told Milo that Wagner, the bombastic nineteenth-century German Romantic composer, is “the musical equivalent of Marvel movies,” all BAM!s and POW!s and onomatopoeia. After a bit of back and forth of the relative merits of Baroque music (Bach is the classic example, and master, of Baroque counterpoint) and properly “classical” music (think Mozart, with Beethoven straddling between the classical period of the late eighteenth century and the Romantic period of the nineteenth century), Milo dropped some high-level musical analysis and music history:
𝕄𝕀𝕃𝕆 👑, [05.12.19 01:39]
There’s more to talk about in one chord by Wagner than in entire concertos by Albinoni.
𝕄𝕀𝕃𝕆 👑, [05.12.19 01:43]
Bach is sublime; irreplaceable. But you could dispose of all of Albinoni for a single Shostakovich or Mahler symphony—even a gay old Rachmaninov piano concerto.
𝕄𝕀𝕃𝕆 👑, [05.12.19 01:46]
The only piece of music Albinoni is known for today, the maudlin Adagio in G minor, wasn’t even written by him. It’s a twentieth-century fake. His own best-known work isn’t even real!
𝕄𝕀𝕃𝕆 👑, [05.12.19 01:47]
Happy to debate Romantic supremacy any time, but my interlocutor appears to have dropped off. Perhaps he was sent to sleep by one of those dreary oboe concertos. I’ll post some better listening suggestions soon!
𝕄𝕀𝕃𝕆 👑, [05.12.19 01:53]
One last point—Romantic music is the only proper soundtrack to the trad life. It’s all about the wonders and mysteries of nature and man’s yearning for the supernatural and the ineffable. What better musical accompaniment to a young movement rediscovering the glory of God? The way Christianity so often works is reflected perfectly in Romantic preoccupations and styles: The mundane, dissolving into the sublime. Plus, of course, most of the best composers were batty nationalists.
People who never graduate from baroque music tend to have no imagination—and no soul.
The back-and-forth continued a bit longer, with Milo linking to this beautiful example of Wagner’s use of descending chromatic motion to create some unusual harmonies (for the laymen, suffice to say that moving from Ab to E to C is not a natural or closely-related harmonic sequence, but it makes sense—the notes of the Ab major chord are Ab, C, and Eb; the Ab is the harmonic equivalent of G#, which makes up the third interval of the E major chord [E, G#, and B], while the Eb resolves to an E and the C to a B; finally, the E major chord can shift to a C with the G# descending to G, the B rising to C, and the E staying constant):
Milo’s most interesting point is one I’ve mulled around a bit myself, and even pointed out to my history students when were covered America’s New Age-y offshoot of Romanticism, Transcendentalism: the major Romantic composers were deeply nationalistic (such as Edvard Grieg in Norway). Their composing often was a means to enhance their nation’s identity and standing in the world. There are countless examples of composers, particularly Eastern European ones, deriving their melodies and motifs from the folk tunes of their native lands.
Indeed, if you’ve ever heard classical music in film, especially in movie trailers, it’s very likely Romantic music that you’re hearing—probably Frédéric Chopin, the emotive Polish pianist, or my personal favorite, French composer Camille Saint-Saëns. How many times have you heard this piece at the theater:
(As a brief aside—I should have posted another Saint-Saëns piece, “Danse Macabre,” at Halloween; it’s one of the best examples of programmatic music in existence, it’s spooky fun:
I particularly like that strange PBS animated version, and I generously, uh, “borrowed” from “Danse Macabre” for my own composition, “Zombie Unicorn.”)
Milo also points out the spiritual roots of Romantic music, and the parallels to Christianity. The movement was, indeed, fascinated with the supernatural, and was, in many ways, a reaction to the logic and categorization of the Enlightenment, with its imperialist ambitions to define and sort everything.
That’s enough geeking out on Romantic music for one day. It’s not surprising, upon further reflection, that Milo—a fierce defender of national sovereignty, and a flamboyant man himself—loves Romantic music. It certainly fits his fiery temperament.
Happy Friday, and happy listening! And a final word of advice for my single readers: take the artsy girls to the symphony when they’re featuring Romantic Era composers. They all love Chopin, et. al.
18 thoughts on “Milo on Romantic Music”
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