There’s a complete misconception of what Romanticism means, and I can tell you the culprit. It’s terminology. People say all the time “that’s Romantic.”
Um, no. That’s not Romantic. That’s one aspect of Romanticism. You’re talking about Romantic Love, not Romanticism.
Romanticism was a movement that took some of the ideals of the Age of Enlightenment and rebelled against other ideas. It rebelled against becoming too logical because the Age of Enlightenment went too far. The Age of Enlightenment forgot that we have human sides, so the Romantic movement said to be sure to include intuition and emotion.
Romanticism in music
Now, I’m not a Romantic writer. I am however a Romantic composer. So I’ll explain to you what Romantic music is.
Romantic music first and foremost put the composer in the center of the music. The music came from the composer, and actually is a piece of the composer. After Beethoven, the first Romantic, died, you can still hear Beethoven speak through his music. Thus, Beethoven is still with us today.
By listening closely to Romantic music, you can actually tell what the composer was feeling at the time it was written. Music became so expressive and emotional that you can clearly tell what the composer was thinking. He communicated with you through his music.
Romantic composers also loved nature. We tended to glorify the Medieval days of Europe, as there was a simple beauty back then instead of the complex madness we created during the Industrial Age.
Coincidentally, we’re doing it again with the Information Age. We’re forgetting how to be humans. Look at people today. You’ll see a beautiful couple staring at their phones instead of fucking like wild animals.
Romanticism has a strong sense of Nationalism too. Tchaikovsky loved Mother Russia and wrote great music honoring her. Nobody loved America more than John Philip Sousa. Maybe as much as Sousa, but not more than Sousa. Wagner loved being German.
Tchaikovsky had his pieces that were his own. He also had his pieces that glorified Russia. Almost everything Sousa wrote glorified his beloved America. And Wagner had a distinct German feel to his music.
And let’s definitely not forget the Big Five. They got together with the intention of creating a music that was distinctly Russian.
The Blues is American
I put a lot of American flavor into my compositions, especially the Blues. The Blues is simply the basis for almost all American music. The Blues is as American as you can get.
Romance vs Romanticism – Romantic Love
Romantic Love is just a small aspect of Romanticism. It was a revolt against arranged marriage and in favor of love for sexual attraction between two people instead.
I’m glad Wikipedia chose this infamous Waterhouse painting as their example of Romantic Love. A lot of times, Wikipedia is right on and this is a perfect example.
Waterhouse was a Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood artist, which is a subset of Romanticism.
From Romantic love, you got Romance novels. And from Romance novels, you get the misconception of what Romanticism really is.
Unfortunately today, when folks say “that’s Romantic,” what they’re really referring to is Romantic love. Most people don’t know the origins of the word “Romance” and have no idea it was tied to a definitive form of art.
“So, what is Romanticism then?”
So glad you asked.
Romanticism was an art movement that originated in the late 18th century and peaked in the first half of the 19th century. Musically, it started with Beethoven’s 3rd and ended with World War I.
Romanticism emphasized emotion and individualism and glorified nature. It was a partial reaction to the Age of Enlightenment and modernity in itself. Modernity came too fast, and we simply forgot what made us human. And like I’ve already said before, we really need Romanticism today as technology has made us distant from each other.
Romanticism takes aesthetics seriously. It’s not only beautiful, but also picks up all human emotions, including awe and terror. Thus, writers like Edgar Allen Poe were Romantics. So were the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood painters.
Romanticism still exists today in traces. It’s pretty much dead from Europe. However, America still has a lot of traces of Romanticism.
And also as I’ve mentioned before, Nationalism played a strong part in Romanticism. Romantic writers and composers took pride in their national heritage. Their nationalism transferred into their works. Then their works became part of a culture’s national identity.
For instance, today, we still use a lot of John Philip Sousa’s works. You’ve heard a lot of them, even if you have no idea who I’m talking about.
Another example, to this day, Chopin is still the national hero of Poland. And for good reason. Despite Chopin having to live in France for financial reasons, he took pride in Polish culture and always called himself Polish. Everyone loves Chopin. One of his pieces came up in an American Cadillac commercial recently as Chopin is associated with being intelligent and classy.
Awareness of the art form
So if you’re wondering why I wrote this, I want people to be aware of the art form and literary movement called Romanticism. I really don’t care that the term Romantic is not only overused, but misused. I just want people to know about Romanticism, as it’s the style of art/music we associate with.
Romance vs Romanticism doesn’t offend me one bit. However, awareness of the art form would really help us in the long run. I want to be associated with the 19th century movement. I also want to see it come back as a lot of its ideals really need to come back.
A sense of National Identity is a good thing in this age of mindless globalism and consumerism. Also, we’ve lost our contact with nature because we’re too busy staring into our fucking phones like zombies. There are times you need to put the phone down and enjoy someone else’s company, or enjoy being outdoors. If anything, just use your phone as a camera as I’ll readily admit, they do make pretty good cameras on those things.
And finally, we invented Romantic Metal. As a spiritual descendant of Beethoven, that’s how I want to be remembered.
About the featured image
Painting by Eugène Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People 1830. Perfect example of Romanticism.