Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Monday, February 10, 2014

Historical resonances indeed.

"In the future", Andy Warhol wrote in 1968, "Everyone will be world famous for fifteen minutes." Perhaps he had in mind people such as the heckler at the Bob Dylan concert I attended at Manchester's Free Trade hall in 1966: the one who shouted "Judas!"

Disrupting concerts is usually a good route to quick notoriety and even quicker obscurity. Sometimes it is done to protest about the performers. Sometimes it has been the musical content which has attracted the opprobrium of the protestors. Sometimes it has been both.

As you will have seen from the earlier posts from this blog in among those links, I don't approve of concert disruption as a means of protest even if I agree with the protest's aims. So you can imagine that when I heard about this German woman who interrupted a performance of Karl Jenkins' mass "The Armed Man" in a German church I was unimpressed, and would have been so even had she been shouting about the music.

But she was doing no such thing: she was whining about the blasphemy of allowing the Islamic call to prayer to be heard in a Christian church as part of a "Mass for Peace". She compared herself to Martin Luther, and rails against the Protestant/Evangelical Chisrch in Germany. Only she knows what true Christianity is: "The people know and understand nothing".

The CBN reporter goes on about the historical resonance of the church in Speyer, and let's stay with that. In the Middle Ages, Speyer had one of the largest Jewish communities in Germany, most of whom had fled there from persecution in other Germanic regions. In 1544 the Jews of Speyer petitioned Emperor Charles V to renew their Charter of Rights, as they were alarmed by the rising tide of antisemitic hatred being inflamed especially by a young priest called Martin Luther. Under the Third Reich, Speyer's already somewhat depleted Jewish community was totally wiped out by the Nazis in pursuit of the Final Solution. There are some memorials to the evicted Jews, but the town council voted not to erect plaques marking where their houses used to be (of a kind which are common elsewhere in Germany). It was not until the 1990s that a Jewish community sprang up again in Speyer.

There have been other recent historical resurgences in Speyer:

Now let's consider the musical work whose "Islamic" content Ms Mund was so incensed about. The Armed Man, by Welsh composer Karl Jenkins, a work commissioned by one of Britain's biggest military museums, the Royal Armouries. they commissioned it to mark the Millennium celebrations, and it is dedicated to the victims of the Kosovo crisis. The work combines elements of the Catholic mass with quotations form the Bible, the Mahabharata and the Islamic call to prayer. Subtitled "A Mass for Peace", it makes reference to the horrors of both the First and Second World Wars, and of course to the Kosovo conflict.

So, we are in a town whose Jewish population suffered terribly from antisemitism, both at the hands of Martin Luther (with whom Heidi Mund identifies herself) and Adolf Hitler, whose thugs regularly disrupted concerts which were felt to be un-German, or ideologically unsound. We are in a town which showed no particular interest in the elimination of its Jews, not any great enthusiasm for their return; a town where neo-Nazis march in the street today. The work which we choose to attack is by a British composer, commissioned by the government which helped to defeat Nazism, and dedicated to peace (which as any Nazi will tell you, is only for the weak). It promotes the idea that other religions than Protestant Christianity have a place in the world (it's based in a Catholic mass, for heaven's sake). Its performance places a curse on the church which is such a glorious and significant monument to religious intolerance, the church leaders who organised the performance have betrayed noble German values, and the mere Christians who worship there and attended the concert, they are just so much ignorant fodder if they don't hate in the ideologically correct manner.

No wonder Heidi Mund has become a heroine with a certain kind of German, and with those around the world who long for the return of the Nazis to power in Germany. Can't have pesky non-Christians polluting the place: and any stupid Christians who take their faith seriously and refuse to hate them, well, they'll get the same treatment.


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