Help us dream beautiful dreams

Take for instance the representative work Symphony in B Minor (the Unfinished Symphony) by Schubert (1797-1828), an Austrian bourgeois composer of the romantic school. The class feelings and social content it expresses are quite clear, although it has no descriptive title. This symphony was composed in 1822 when Austria was a reactionary feudal bastion within the German Confederation and the reactionary Austrian authorities not only ruthlessly exploited and oppressed the workers and peasants, but also persecuted and put under surveillance intellectuals with any bourgeois democratic ideas. Petty-bourgeois intellectuals like Schubert saw no way out of the political and economic impasse, and lacking the courage to resist they gave way to melancholy, vacillation, pessimism and despair, evading reality and dreaming of freedom. This work of Schubert’s expressed these class feelings and social content. The opening phrase is sombre and gloomy. The whole symphony continues and expands on this emotion, filling it with petty-bourgeois despair, pessimism and solitary distress. At times the dreaming of freedom does come through but this, too, is escapist and negative.

Absolute music composed in Europe in the 18th and l9th centuries are products of the European capitalist society, upholding the interests of the bourgeoisie and serving the capitalist system. The content and the ideas and feelings with which they are saturated have an unmistakably bourgeois class nature. Marx pointed out: “Capital comes [into the world] dripping from head to foot, from every pore, with blood and dirt.” And it is this blood and dirt that bourgeois music extols. Although certain compositions were to some extent progressive in the sense of being anti-feudal, they failed to mirror proletarian thoughts and feelings of their time; and they are, of course, still more incompatible with our socialist system today under the dictatorship of the proletariat. Then why dismiss their class content and extol them? Yet even today there are some who would feed our young people on these musical works uncritically and intact. Where would this lead our young people?

—Chao Hua, “Has Absolute Music No Class Character?”
(Peking Review, #9, March 1, 1974)

[Akira] Kurosawa wrote One Wonderful Sunday with his childhood friend Keinosuke Uekasa…. Kurosawa said of him, “As weak as he is, he puts on a show of strength; as romantic as he is, he puts on a show of being a realist.” Perhaps it was Uekasa’s contradictory nature that led to One Wonderful Sunday‘s audacious—if not successful—climax. As Masako tries to cheer Yuzo in the bandshell after being denied tickets to hear Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony, she suggests they pretend. At first her bit of inspiration works, but the sadness of the long day begins to wear on Yuzo and the imaginary music stops. Then, suddenly, Masako addresses the movie’s audience, looking striaght into the camera. With tears running down her cheeks, she pleads with the audience to clap its hands, à la Peter Pan. “Please, everyone,” she says, “if you feel sorry for us, please clap your hands. If you clap for us, I’m sure we’ll be able to hear the music.” After an excruciatingly long silence, Schubert is heard at last.

—Stuart Galbraith IV, The Emperor and the Wolf: The Lives and Films of Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune

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