Last night I was going to post a video on my Facebook page. I’m a relative newbie at it. I had been inundated with Israeli crisis clips, understandably. I thought some music was in order. A post by my brother led me to Peter Gabriel.
“Here Comes the Flood”. I adore that song. Thought it was very timely. Definitely was interested in posting that piece. Then a thought popped into my head….was Peter Gabriel anti-Israel or was that Phil Collins?
I don’t like Phil Collins music, nor do I like Genesis, the group they formed together, but I do like Peter Gabriel. A lot. So I googled. My memory had served me well… indeed, there was plenty of material, from different sources, pointing in that direction.
So for me, whether to post Peter Gabriel became an issue. I know artists who have a lot of personal issues, but I can still enjoy their work. In fact some of their best music are borne out of their misery.
I feel for them. I identify.
I can separate an artist from their drama. After all, they are the one’s wrestling with it; I’m just peeking in. But this is different. For me, this is hard to compartmentalize.
When Peter Gabriel takes a stand against me, my people, my children, I don’t want to give his music power. I don’t want to hear it. I don’t want to post it.
Perhaps it would be different if I was more detached.
Maybe if I didn’t live in Israel.
Maybe if my faith was tangential versus central.
Maybe if I didn’t completely identify with my Jewish Soul.
Maybe then, I could commence an intellectual discourse on the pros and cons of separating the work from the man.
Maybe I could focus on the quality and nuances of the music. I could dissect harmonies, structure, and innovation within the notes and sever myself from the artist’s ideological bent.
That’s what they do with Wagner.
Richard Wagner is best known for writing several intricate operas. He is also known for his virulent Anti-Semitism. While Wagner was not directly responsible for German nationalism, there is no question that he was a powerful emblem within the Nazi regime. His music held a prominent place in the Nazi psyche.
The intellectual debate as to whether or not to play his music in Israel goes something like this: Wagner’s racism led him to create some of his most complex, rich, and cryptic figures and some of his most haunting music; so why do a disservice to the classical tradition by leaving him out of the repertoire?
Here’s another one.
We should never avoid discussing dark sides of compositions and composers. With Wagner we are invited to enter a conversation about politics and art. Wagner is a departure point for such dialogue regarding the nexus between music and humanity.
But if you survived the concentration camps, this intellectual back and forth means nothing to you. If you are a survivor, you are hearing Hitler’s music, and you’re living your nightmare all over again. And since many of the survivors that are still with us live in Israel, the Wagnerian question is still relevant.
For me, this is not about the intellect. It’s about memory. It’s about association. It’s about heart. It’s about the use of music for good or for evil. Here in Israel we are in the middle of the stabbing “intifada”.
I am in no mood to deconstruct Peter Gabriel’s music no matter how fetching and alluring it may be. No, he didn’t write a symphony for the Hamas elite. No, his music is not chanted during Gaza rallies. But he has signed letters in support of protests, calling on the U.K. ‘to make its relationship with Israel conditional on respect for human rights.’ He has joined other musicians for an album to benefit Gaza; the same Gaza that doesn’t believe in my right to be here.
I guess he doesn’t believe our military is humane. The only one in the world that distributes flyers warning civilians to run for cover, lest they be in danger.
Is his money going to the Gazan people? I don’t think so. I think it’s being funneled to the terrorists.
Should I compare him to Wagner? You tell me. All I know is that he supports a group who wants to snuff my people out in the most violent, egregious way.
Right now my streets are dangerous. My enemies are lurking in shadows. They don’t believe I should exist. And right now, Peter Gabriel’s anti-Israel bias is enough for me to boycott his talent.
Can you separate the work from the man? Is it important to do that? I invite you to weigh in….