Bukowski and Classical Music - anyone else at a loss... (1 Viewer)

Bukowski - he drank, he wrote, he drank, he worked at a job he detested but paid the bills and let him, what, drink and write, not necessarily in that order. He was ruggedly ugly with the personality of a bull dog and the genius the likes of which we see one in a generation. Oh, and he bet on horses, every single day. Does anyone else have trouble connecting these dots to the gentile strains of Haydn and Debussy? Maybe I'm missing some Bukowski minutia - please friends, fill in this perplexing blank.
 
Good point - but he would have been a teenager in late 30's, early 40's and radio ruled the world. Tons of crooners, then folk (which I believe he probably despised), rock and roll, and on and on. It's just interesting to try to rationalize such beauty against such gruff realism. But possibly he needed such an outlet to soften the pain he was so obviously in and the loneliness and despair over so much lost love. A thought.
 
If you view him in simplistic terms, then yeah, it doesn't fit. But there's much more to him than the drinking and gambling bit. Sure he did it, and it fit in well with the persona that he built, but I don't see that as the core of who he was. To me, the classical music fits perfectly with the more nuanced aspects of his personality.

I'm not trying to sound cryptic or condescending, but I really don't think it's something that can be easily summarized. Read enough of his poetry and you'll likely get it.
 
To me, the classical music fits perfectly with the more nuanced aspects of his personality.

I like that; well put.

Another thing is that despite his integration, as it were, into the L.A. and hence U.S. existence - at least a part of it, I think it's fair to say that he retained a certain German identity. It's likely no coincidence that the Three B's, as he has referred to them: Bach, Beethoven and Brahms, were all of German heritage and listed as among his favorites. Sorry, I can't cite a direct source, but having played in a Symphony Orchestra and having read probably a thousand of his poems, I know I read that in there somewhere.
 

Ponder

"So fuck Doubleday Doran"
RIP
According to Robert Sandarg in his "Classical Buk"essay:

"Bukowski's all-time, top ten classical composers would probably be, alphabetically: Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Handel, Mahler, Mozart, Shostakovich, Sibeliuis, Tchaikovsky and Wagner (with Stravinsky waiting in the wings)."
 

mjp

Founding member
But he also wrote about crooners, and about the old songs and even about rock and roll. He didn't write about them as much, but the idea that he ignored or rejected everything but classical music isn't exactly accurate. He simply preferred classical music.

Creative people, and especially, "genius the likes of which we see one in a generation," often have a low tolerance for art that they consider easy, cheap or common, and most popular music is all of those things.
 
Do you mean "gentle" strains of Haydn and Debussy? The writers he admired were also hardly "popular": Dostoyevsky, Celine, Hamsun, Pound, Li Po, Catullus...Probably not the favorite reading of a "typical" "working class" ( I don't like these terms so use "") horseplaying, drinking...etc. But these are all stereotypes anyway.
 
I think Kalima meant "genteel."
Good point about the writers he admired being comparable to the music he loved. Just as he didn't respond much to popular music, I don't remember him reading (or commenting) much about pulp or mainstream writers. One reason he gravitated towards classical music is its relative lack of the human voice (I remember somewhere Buk talking about a classical piece of music being ruined by the human voice - maybe a Wagner piece). But it's not just the lack of the voice, otherwise jazz would have also appealed to him. I think he responded to the brooding quality of Germanic classical music, and the complex emotions it could evoke.
 
According to Robert Sandarg in his "Classical Buk"essay:

"Bukowski's all-time, top ten classical composers would probably be, alphabetically: Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Handel, Mahler, Mozart, Shostakovich, Sibeliuis, Tchaikovsky and Wagner (with Stravinsky waiting in the wings)."

I would also ad Bruckner to the list...and, he was especially fond of Mahler.
 

number6horse

okyoutwopixiesoutyougo
My Dad was/is a lifelong blue collar worker (post office in fact). Younger than Bukowski by 17 years, he never cared for his generation's music either - early rock/rockabilly, doo-wop, or cool jazz never appealed to him. He preferred symphonic and chamber works of the Classical and Romantic periods. And he always revered Van Cliburn as the ultimate Cold War hero.
 
Wonderful replies and many thanks for clarifying some key points regarding more "Bukowski lore". It is quite logical that spending so much time wordsmithing, he would prefer music without words. It's just reading his work while listening to classical music is a rather surreal experience. Interesting, but surreal.
If you view him in simplistic terms, then yeah, it doesn't fit. But there's much more to him than the drinking and gambling bit. Sure he did it, and it fit in well with the persona that he built, but I don't see that as the core of who he was. To me, the classical music fits perfectly with the more nuanced aspects of his personality.

I'm not trying to sound cryptic or condescending, but I really don't think it's something that can be easily summarized. Read enough of his poetry and you'll likely get it.
I don't consider it condescending at all and appreciate your viewpoint and suggestion.
 
So, I know he liked Beethoven and Mozart as most people do but there are two other composers he mentions a lot. One is Brahms and I'm not sure if he talks about Haydn but I could swear there was one other guy I was just thinking of the other day. and I got my Pleasures of the Damned at the place in the suburbs... so if you can help a brothah out, and shed some light on who else he really liked please do. And Please don't just say Wagner!!! I know he mentioned him a bit but there was one other guy I could swear...

thanks!

j
 
Hmm, I don't really agree. Once I got into his poetry it never really struck me as surprising at all. Classical music is full of conflicting moods: brutal, dark, beautiful, sad. It compliments his work (I couldn't imagine any other music doing so) There's something fitting - dare I say poetic - in the vision of Buk bent over his typewriter in a cheap roominghouse, blaring out classical music. A long with the booze, the street tough, machoism, the love of cats, the obvious sensitivity - it all just completes the paradoxical nature of the man and his work (IMO what makes him so great)
 

Rekrab

Usually wrong.
The absence of lyrics in most classical music may have been a big factor. He had no tolerance for bad writing, and lyrics are often the worse writing around. Add the "brooding" thing (as someone pointed out), the simplicity, and the high quality of artistry, and it's easy to see why he would prefer Classical music over other forms.
 
Hi all, Bukowski newby just starting to really dig in. I come at this as an aspiring writer and there is something that nobody has really touched on and it's just pure speculation on my part as to how this pertains to Mr. Bukowski.

Writing (or any kind of creative process) for some people is dependent on "opening up the flow" and tapping into the subconscious. That can be really hard to do for some people with music playing that demands attention and constantly breaks into one's thoughts. Music with words can often tend to seep into one's writing, sometimes in subliminal ways or sometimes obvious. Pop music jars and involves, and to some that is good but to some it isn't. I've found that the noisier genres of jazz does this also, and have personally found I work purest with almost ambient music or classical playing, better than with nothing playing. It can act as a focusing lens, like sonic wallpaper, that lets a person get into the creative zone. Maybe he just found something that focused him.

It seems he liked classical whether creating or not so maybe this invalidates my whole line of thought but this all just occurs to me because I like jarring noisy music 90% of the time but during the times I am trying to write or create it is always classical or something else that I can just kind of soak up without it breaking into my flow. Like I said I'm fairly new to the Bukowski world and have no idea if this has any relationship to his reality at all, but the thoughts occurred to me in an insistent enough manner as a remote possibility that they made a lurker sign up for an account! Cheers all.

P.S. I live in Minneapolis and am friends with people in the building where Factotum had it's "bike shop" segments filmed in. The building is actually anchored by a bike shop called One on One Bikes and it was years and years between when the movie was shot and when it finally came out. Matt Dillon visited the bike shop a few times and apparently was quite the friendly and "normal" dude, no pretense or star trip.
 

Black Swan

Abord the Yorikke!
Hi sgraham! welcome to the site.
You may want to introduce yourself in the "New blood-introduce yourself" section and let us know how you got to know Bukowski, or how his writings have inspired you. :wb:
 
Two further reasons why Buk might have preferred classical over swing and jazz:
1. If a song has words, often the lyrics read like bad poetry. Who wants to listen bad poetry? (esp. if you are trying to compose your own poems at the same time?) I often write listening to things but I can't type and listen to talk radio. (Of course, Buk listened to music without writing also.) Also classical lieder are generally not in English, so you don't get this friction between heard words and writing your own words. As I recall, Buk wasn't fluent in any foreign languages.
2. Buk was an individualist (think of his favourite authors). I think he wanted to stand apart from the crowd, so classical music may have spoken to him as an outsider.
Just a couple of thoughts.
 
I think he wanted to stand apart from the crowd

I think that's true, and I think of it as similar to Crumb's 20's music thing. Both were pretty complete social outcasts. The 'popular' kids never wanting much of anything to do with either of them. So, eschewing that world, they found others. Crumb with old timey jazz, Bukowski with classical.

Of course, I'm projecting here. If it weren't for a bunch of hair metal loving jocks beating up on me in middle/high school, I would never have fallen in love with punk rock. :)
 
Such an interesting thread! Talking about the lack of human voice in classical music, this reminds me of a letter Buk wrote to the WEbbs in 1963.

"That is why I do not like opera. Somebody I know pretty good and who knows I like the classical symphonies [* * *]
asked me, "How come you do not like opera?" and I answered, "Because it contains the human voice." "What's wrong with that?" she asked. "I don't know. I just don't like the human voice. I think it's fake. Almost anything that comes out in voice is fake. I don't care if it is singing or the Gettysburg Ad., I don't like it.
Here you have some bitch singing ultra-soprano who beats her kids and squats over a bowl and drops turds like
the rest of us, and she is through the Art-form trying to become purified and trying to purify the
rest of us. I just don't like the human voice: it drags down, it wears, it will simply not let things
alone."

"But don't you realize that these instruments are played by human beings and that the
human voice is just another instrument?"
Which is a pretty damning argument, but I still say the voice is more direct, and that
something is gained (not lost) by letting it come down through the fingers (violin or piano)."
(my italics)

Sorry for the long quote ^^
 
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There was a bluebird in his heart that wanted to get out.

that's the first thing that came to my mind when I read this thread, the Bluebird poem. I like the scene in Barfly too, very early on in the movie where he staggers from the bar, in a mess, into a room that is a mess, and turns on the radio to some beautiful classical music, to which he listens then becomes inspired and rushes over to the table to scrawl down some poetry (presumably)
 
He seemed to have a good handle on the current pop music though, in concert reviews he was able to reduce the Rolling Stones fans to their base components/onstage hierarchy/bullshit factor based on just seeing how they behaved in concert.
 
Bukowski - he drank, he wrote, he drank, he worked at a job he detested but paid the bills and let him, what, drink and write, not necessarily in that order. He was ruggedly ugly with the personality of a bull dog and the genius the likes of which we see one in a generation. Oh, and he bet on horses, every single day. Does anyone else have trouble connecting these dots to the gentile strains of Haydn and Debussy? Maybe I'm missing some Bukowski minutia - please friends, fill in this perplexing blank.

the poem 1813-1883 in "you get so alone at times" sums it up pretty good (reference to wagner).

also "gamblers all" (reference to mozart) and "it beats love" (wagner especially), and "1966 volswagon minivan" (bach) and "finally in "albums" he doesn't reference any specific composer but he talks about the role of classical music, right up there with wine, as the pillars of his toughest years. in "life, death, love, art" he mentions specifically that debussy (and chopin) don't interest him.

on the other side of the coin, in 'guitars' he says that he hates guitars and that "there is something about a guitar that I just don't like" and "only awful people play guitars."

aside from 1813-1883 all of those poems are from "the night torn mad" which is the one i've been using as a pillow the past couple of months.

incidentally, although the list is long, volkswagon minivan in the night torn mad is one of his more moving verses imo. gave me a spiritual sensation, anyway, and those are hard to come by any more.

http://savebukowski.org/manuscripts/displaymanuscript.php?show=poem1985-02-00-the_albums.jpg
 
Going back on my previous quote:
After reading more letters/poems/stories the theme of the hated voice seems recurrent. In fact, voice is presented as something intrusive, something that drills inside your reluctant soul -for ex. when the narrator in 'Post Office" says he can't escape the constant babbling of his colleagues.
Hence his yearning for silence and solitude.

But then that's another subject.
 
he was born in 1920, so it may be more of a generational thing.

I don't know about that. Kerouac was born in 1922 and he was all about bebop. Then there's Fitzgerald and the 20's, the Jazz Generation. I just think that Bukowski was more of a 19th century personality: Think of the great German composers that he wrote about so often in the same context as the great poets: They were almost all brooding, solitary romantic figures. As opposed to jazz and especially rock that is a collaborative, community oriented thing. There may have been more of an awareness of classical music in his day compared to now, but when you think about the time of his early manhood---the 40's on through the 60's--- it was all about jazz, then early rock 'n roll and peaking with the Woodstock generation. His writing was so vital and free that only hippie rags would publish him at first, but he rejected the hippies. I guess it was just a matter of temperament. He reminds me of my father, who literally listens to nothing but Bach. He's always been kind of a loner. He was was born in 1950, and knows less about the music of his generation than I do. Aside from the Beatles, he wasn't even really aware of Jimi Hendrix, or Zeppelin. In fact he didn't own a stereo or listen to music at all until he was in college and bought some Beethoven records at a yard sale.
 
I'm sure I read somewhere that Buk said his favourite was Sibelius. Anyway I just picked up all seven symphonies on four cd's for bugger-all from a charity shop where I live. And..they're great..if you like classical..I do..maybe I'm just getting old.
 

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