First-Year Writing professor Alison Kinney has a new essay in the latest issue of Lapham’s Quarterly. Alison’s essay, “How Deep Is Your Love?,” explores Bavarian King Ludwig II’s fanatical patronage of Richard Wagner. The king built a castles, including Neuschwanstein, as “tributes, shrines, refuges, and monuments to his great passion.” Here’s a snippet, where Alison reveals her own great passion, as well:
For a fellow obsessive, Ludwig’s fandom is not only comprehensible but communicable—a contagion and a call from one fan to another.
I myself have come to Neuschwanstein in response to that call, like Tannhäuser on pilgrimage, like Parsifal stumbling toward enlightenment. I am not a natural music lover but an earnestly applied one, who, for much of my life, could hear music and sometimes speech only as white noise, whether because I spent the first language-acquiring months of my life malnourished in an institution, where probably no one spoke to me, or because of a congenital ear condition. I approached music with puzzlement, oblivious to whatever it was that got people so excited. Then one day nearly a decade ago, at a Metropolitan Opera matinee performance of Tristan, my head suddenly made sense of the vibrations of the prelude: the violins’ frantic, strained questions and the agony of deferred answers, the time measured in heartbeats and ebbing waves. I had to leave after the first act. I was crying, staggering. I was thirty-three years old, and, finally, I could hear the music. Wagner’s opera taught my brain how to listen. It changed my life.