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Steiner and Music

A question on an online forum: Are there any anthroposophic music composers or any composers that Rudolf Steiner found to have very spiritual music?

My response: Those are two separate questions. Steiner himself spoke very favorable of Bruckner in particular, and was a fan of the comic operas of Johann Strauss II. He had a few admiring things to say about Wagner (though if you parse it carefully, he narrowly praises some of Wagner’s aims, without actually endorsing any of Wagner’s works). One can infer he admired Beethoven and Mozart as much as anyone of that era, and refers to the greatness of Bach in an unrelated context. In short, most of the classical and romantic canon of orchestral music could be said to have a strong spiritual component based on comments by Steiner.

As for composers who were also anthroposophists, they mainly lived in the post-romantic era, composing in a very different cultural context. Anthroposophy may or may not play a role in their aims as a composer, and one cannot automatically assume they are attempting to create spiritual music. Victor Ullman is an example of an anthroposphist and composer. He died in Auschwitz, a victim of the Nazis for his Jewish parentage. While his anthroposophy affected how he lived his life, it is less clear to me whether it influenced his compositions as much (though his most famous opera is tilted The Emperor of Atlantis). Few other composers who are also anthroposophists have broken through to the mainstream. But plenty have composed works.

Steiner was very negative about jazz, unfortunately. Then again, most of our contemporary culture is pretty much what Steiner warned a failure of civilization would look like.

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