“the figure of God’s majesty, / His captain, steward, deputy-elect, / Anointed, crowned…” —Richard II, 4.1
The divine right of kings, original sin, and their transfigurations hang heavy over Manhattan. When, in 1099, Pope Urban’s crusaders captured Jerusalem, Christianity, at the threshold of deep fissures between Orthodox and Catholic sects, was legitimized as the event horizon of the West, or “Urbanity.” In the centuries since, the West has become known as the capitalist cancer of socio-political evolution, dominating the global economy. And so creation and performance, colloquially, “the arts” (in this millennia of technology-as-nature, full flush sedation via hot-media entertainments and prescription pharmaceuticals), are hinged upon a thousand-year-old stack of architectures and compositions for the Bible’s God and its Kings.
Ultimately, as the West politicized a formal division between the Church and the Court, the tradition of artful offerings to both pillars remained intact. Transference of the aristocratic court caste to the contemporary-citizens of luxury-constitution (bourgeoisie), is paralleled by transference of the public Church to spaces of quasi-religious institutions, organisms of doctrine and dogma, conglomerate corporations. The Church’s spiritual nourishment, fractured amidst contemporary postmodern society, is resumed through artful actions, chemical alterants, sex, and psychiatry.
Among the remnants of this Western European lineage, Classical Music, or the progression from poorly notated, localized church song, to fluently linguistic German harmony—and finally beyond the reaches of atonality—intimately tracks many centuries of offerings to the divine and the elite. From the great unwashed masses of public church chorales, to the virtuosic instrumental feats of high-aptitude men, to the theatrical-spectacular happening of multi-sensorial opera narratives, this “classical” music may be heard as worship to the scope of Western development.
Though music and architecture were similarly wed to the power-cycle of divine politics throughout the millennia, it wasn’t until the Baroque when churches as architectural spectacles were finally equalled by the musical service portions. While the church buildings were ornate spaces of the grandest human construction and conception, the provincial Northern German organs were the the most advanced mechanical contraptions built to date.
At the turn of the Classical period, as the epicenter of music shifted from the town church-space to the cities’ cosmopolitan courts and public halls, the makers of this wholesome music increasingly became pets of the European aristocrats and not pious servants of the fracturing Christian church. Their offerings to these noblemen were of an intellectual brawn and dexterity, or a soulful egotism, a catharsis of the self for a private, no longer public, God. And into the romantic period, in close conjunction with Europe’s burgeoning political nationalism, the role of musician and composer split, the music, becoming increasingly publicized and disseminated. Finally, the turn of the twentieth century saw the public become increasingly engulfed in imagist entertainment, the sensory palate shifting starkly to illusionary visuals, the noblemen rapidly shape-shifting to moguls of industry and tycoons of trade.
The quality of the established musical supply created a demand for such highly proficient musicians that training became conglomerated into the conservatory model, while the composer as genius archetype emerged into the socio-mythological fabric. And through to modernity, postmodernity, and now to contemporary stature and fruition, whatever seemed to have quickly flit from provincial Northern Germany, to Vienna, to Paris, to Manhattan, in the second half of the millennia, it is dominated by the sociological and psychological pillars of the church and the court.
Through this trajectory the musical artist’s ties to the church of God became systemically secondary to their ties with the new Churches of man: those chimeric organisms of corporations, figments of business and the market. And of the archetypal transfiguration: the provincial North German Kapellmeister—proud, dutiful man of god and noble service—has been relegated, in postmodernity, to the cosmopolitan jester or whore, and is certainly as interwoven in the delicate link between the church-of-capitalism’s dogmatic institutions and the bourgeoisie as always. Now the classical musical artist’s fixation is on making relevant a history of beautiful sonic relics. This stratospheric endeavor is supported almost entirely by the charity and elitism of the wealthy. Further—and with no denigratory affect—the elitism of the wealthy patron is equaled by the unspoken elitism of the classical musician’s fixation, for it is not the contemporary public which uplifts these vestiges of Christian-European domination.