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January 08, 1967 - Image 13

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1967-01-08
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4

19

4 N- *

"AL.

,91,

Scenes
From a
German
Bestiary
Ecce Homo, by George Gros
Grove Press. $15.00.
When Ecce Homo was first
published in 1923 George Grosz was
brought into court on a charge of
defaming public morals, specifically
of "corrupting the inborn sense of
shame and virtue innate in the Ger-
man people." Grosz's style started
out close to the artists of the nee
Sachlichkeit (n e w objectivity)
group. But with Grosz, hard realism
soon developed into bitter cynicism.
His satirical drawings and washes
developed into an instrument of
propaganda. Always a fine drafts-
man, his work became his weapon.
He was totally aware of the social
and moral misery in the Germany
of World War I and he left no fig-
ure of the time unnoticed. He ex-
plored the war cripples, the pimps
and prostitutes. He satirized the
rich middle class, who, strangely
enough, endorsed all the attacks he
made on them. As he wrote in his
autobiography, they even made him
"almost rich."
Grosz was also painfully aware of
the stirrings of revolution; his work
is tangible proof that there were
Germans who "did know." Nobody,
even after the fact, has captured so
well, the personalities that made
Hitler's rise to power possible.
Because of his intense involve-
ment in the political and social cli-
mate and because of the sheer fe-
rocity of his satire, Grosz is usually
classified as a "Social Realist." In
fact, over a period of years he was
involved with or influenced by oth-
er artistic movements. He was an
active member of the German Da-
daists; later he sympathised with
the neue Sachlichkeit; he adopted
at one point the Futurist tech-
niques. But it is as a Social Realist
that George Grosz is remembered.
His major work and contribution
arose in response to a specific his-
torical situation. When that situa-
tion changed, his drawings no long-
er retained the special flavor char-
acteristic of his best work.
This facsimile of the 1923 Grosz
portfolio Ecce Homo should appeal
more to those interested in the social
history of Germany between the wars
than to lovers of fine graphic art.
These drawings may also appeal to
connoisseurs of sadistic, sexual and
lusty drawings.-
Whether you seek historical doc-
umentation or ' are only curious
about the graphic aspects of the
drawings you will find the volume
satisfactory. The one hundred odd
reproductions are good. The 84 in
S * M ID W E ST 'L ITE RA

..
- -
black and white are large and clear,
while the 16 color plates seem true To Zap or Qt to Zap
to his thin mawkish colors. The
Ecce Homo portfolio includes a V i e - n a m Vietnam!, by Felix and counterlies. Aware of thes
good sampling of the many society Greee. Fnltnm PbihngmCby -ecxmplexiterhesAaeoan tes
types that Grosz explored. It also Greene. Fulton Publishing Com- complexities, he isolates and deal
has a few examples of his work in pany. $5.50. withosefactors which easily lens
the futurist style-perhaps the best How To Stay Alive in Vietnam, by themselves to empirical gvestig
in the portfolio-where Grosz is Col. Robert B. Rigg. Stackpole boonk Thef em 1pare entely con
more concerned with the formal as- Books. $1.95. poeafpotogrphstofeleadin
ectsof at ad les cncered ith. posed of photographs of leadin
pects of art and less concerned with A mericans! A mericans! What has hap- newsmen, supplemented with brie
details of degenerate personalities. pened to you in Vietnam? captions or none at all. In the fo
Yet the simultaneous views worked -Felix Greene lowing text, Greene makes exte
out in the futurist. drawings have sive use of m sourcesuotin
captured the spirit and rhythm of With a chilling sense of urgency, sieueo primary sore, gutn
cty fe. tFelix Greene has given us a pro- documents such as Ho Chi Minh'
This new edition of Ecce Homo found and studied analysis of what, "T w e 1 v e Recommendations" o
has added an introduction by Henry in his preface, he calls "the case 1948 and "A Summary of the Ten
Miller. He does not say much but he against." He writes that he is "whol- Point Program of the National Lib
seems an appropriate choice. Miller ly certain. .. that if the people of eration Front" of 1960. Tn citin
des nt judgeprorszt o y atisc the United States only knew the countless policy statements by Pres
does not judge Grosz on any artistic background of the war in Vietnam, ident Johnson, Ho Chi Minh, Secre
terms. In fact he does not evaluate and what is being done there in tary MacNamara, General Ky, an
Grosz on any terms: he simply likes their name, they would insist on the others, Greene often sets them
the drawings, and has great appre- war at one being brought to an down without comment, letting th
ciation for Grosz's exposure of the -end" With such faith he begins record tell the story.
mordant realism of life. He says the endt i such th e bens
drawings are "naked and ugly, as what probably the most eloquent Greene is an expert at exposin
beautiful and eloquent, as truth it- and painstakingly documented plea the obscured and scrubbing off th
self," The introduction contains no yet produced for an end to this whitewashed - for example, t h
real contributions or insights. How- "great human tragedy." fact that the U.S. supporteda
ever, the "souvenirs" of Miller's Greene, the only U.S.-based writ- French regime we now admit t
"anecdotal life" may be of interest er who has recently visited and trav- have been reactionary and brutall
in. themselves. elled in China, and who has long oppressive. Later we prematurel
B been closely associated with Asian praised the Diem regime we ha
But what Miller says doesn t mat- affairs, historically traces U.S. poli- created; yet nearly everyone admit
ter. That Miller says it is hmpres- cy in Vietnam down to the present now that Diem, whom Presiden
sive. When Miller says there are "moral disaster for the United Johnson has called "the Churchil
"panoramic horrors embedded in the States." Greene's technique of com- of Vietnam," was probably more
pages, that everything the sick bining photographs with history brutal than the French. When we
mind of the censor revels in" will and commentary is unusually, even with our Filita . supr w
be found in Grosz, that Grosz's col- shockingly, effective in exposing his rule we hastened ispoerthro'v
ors are "a mixture of vomit, shit, the deceptive nature of U.S. policy. and assassination. Greene merel
sweat and tears," .you know that "Hopes for victory have been cites the recorda record of count
Henry Miller has found a soul mate pinned first on this, then on that; less mistakes-the French and
and that therefore certain aspects but each new strategy, each new Diem fiascos being only two of th
of these drawings can be nothing hope, has proved illusory,", notes most regrettable.
short of powerful. Greene in the historian's'. role asa
Nancy Schulson sorter of myth fromreality reene s a 1 a r m i n g prophecy
Miss Schulson is a first-year graduate Greene's is a contieiporary prob- sems to have come true already
student majoling in sculpture at the lem, smothered in frenzied. emo- when one reads How 'o Stay Alie
University of' Chicago. ion, hatred and counter-hatred, lies Contnued on Page Nine)
R Y ' R EVIEW *

J ..""1 "( " /f/ t a i +2' e a* S Jl
.. Sr , I1 1"I , . °..,
- .1 1 .
IZO

--

V

Johann, and the Three Unities

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Johann Sebastian Bach, The Cul-
mination of an Era, by Karl Geir-
inger in collaboration with Irene
Geiringer. Oxford University Press.
It is always fascinating to watch a
careful scholar and biographer at
work, especially when his subject is
so far removed in time yet so close
to modern hearts as J. S. Bach.
Furthermore the biographical prob-
lems in Bach's case are enor-
mous-sufficient to test the in-
genuity and insight of the most
competent scholars. Bach's life, too,
can tempt the biographer and musi-
cologist into a blind hero-worship,
and as everyone knows, the conse-
quent interpretations of Bach's life
have often been ludicrous. Karl Gei-
ringer fortunately avoids the ex-
tremes of absurdity, but at the same
time he never quite convinces.
Geiringer draws Bach's career in
a straight-line progression through
which Bach, despite certain devia-
tions from the true path prescribed
by his genius, worked constantly to
"fulfill" his "artistic destiny." There
is a certain justification for this
view, since Bach's music shows con-
stant development--from the ear-
liest, almost purely derivative pieces
to the complex abstractions of "The
Art of the Fugue"-and since Bach
spent most of his life playing, writ-
ing, teaching and conducting for
churches. Furthermore, a kind of
unity links together Bach's works.
The logic that connects each suc-
ceeding development, innovation or
synthesis seems clear; and it could
be conceived, therefore, that the
Bach of 1708 must somehow have
had intimations of greatness that
made him stick to a "true.,path"
which inevitably led from one mas-
terpiece to another. G e i r i n g e r

seems to think that chance, circum-
stance or accident played only the
smallest part. They provided mere-
ly the backdrop for Bach's struggle,
the force over which his genius con-
stantly triumphed.
Bach's life, seen in this way, has
a unity analogous to that of his mu-
sic. Clearly, there were struggles
and experiments; the need to back-
track, to go off on tangents, to wres-
tle with his own intractable person-
ality. But these were ultimately sub-
ordinated to the principle of Bach's
"Genius."
It would be easy to believe in
such a life-one that developed as
neatly as the plot of a Greek
drama-if, in fact, anyone had ever
lived one. Geiringer, though he nev-
er explicitly says so, seems to think
that Bach did, and presents Bach's
life accordingly, complete with the
paraphernalia of a tragic ending.
He seems to have no inkling of
the bourgeois musician that Bach
was, though the evidence is plain in
this book, and consequently he nev-
er quite elucidates the basic conflict
at the center of Bach's personality
--a conflict that colored all his prac-
tical decisions.
On the one hand, there was
Bach's very real passion for money
and prestige. For example, in his
first job, at the age of eighteen,
Bach managed to wheedle a larger
salary out of the town of Arnstadt
than had been paid to any of his
predecessors; for each successive
position he held, he made sure first
that there was a pay raise involved.
His highest point came at Coethen,
;where as court conductor and"per-
sonal, friend of Prince Leopold,
Bach had more money; prestige and
influence than almost anyone else at

court. This was no little progress
for an organist who, in spite of the
opinions of other musicians, was
not thought well of in church cir-
cles, and who came from a fairly
low bourgeois family of pious
church musicians. This is not to
suggest that Bach was a simple-
minded materialist, but that the
aims of his career were at least part-
ly those of his class.
But opposed to these aspirations
was an equally strong desire to
produce the music he wanted, utiliz-
ing his own ideas. Bach naturally
started looking elsewhere for more
money and prestige when he real-
ized that he would never get them
by staying at Arnstadt for the rest
of his life-especially after the
congregation complained that his
accompaniments were too wild. He
left his next job for similar reasons,
even though he appeared to knuck-
le under at first. He seemed happy
for a while when he reached Coeth-
en, but when the Prince lost inter-
est in Bach's music, Bach lost inter-
est in the Prince, his court and his
money. Finally, at Leipzig, Bach
succumbed; he retained the position
as Thomas Cantor for his last twen-
ty-seven years in spite of the fact
that he constantly quarreled with
his superiors, that his music was
misunderstood and disliked and
that his greatest accomplishments
went unnoticed.
Apparently Bach did not seriously
consider leaving Leipzig, even when
his salary was reduced. The conflict
between his material and artistic
ideals was finally resolved by giving
in, in a limited way, to the demands
of materialism in order to give him-
self thie opportunity to realize the
d e m a n d sof art-a compromise
more common than successful.

Ea
tions
com
gian
on"
whic
to Pr
The
will
musi
mott
his f
help
thew
"Inv
writt
Bach
themr
has
suad
a ma
knov
life i
most
But.i
abou
ingfv
othei
sider
have
Geir
Thi
much
comp,
"Bac
short
conve
is fol
ways
mend
cal id
surp&
discu
ism a
the n
sion

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