Minnesingers, Wagner, and Metal [Updated]

As Taruskin recounts (I, 134-142), Richard Wagner recognized the potential in the stories of the historical minnesinger/meistersinger (German-speaking analogue of the trovères) and appropriated their caché for his operas Die meistersinger von Nürnberg and Tannhäuser. But Wagner is not the only one to cash in on this potential. In a 21st-century example, In Extremo (a German medieval metal band) performs the popular minnesang “Palästinalied”, by Walther von der Vogelweide. The band is true to Walther’s melody and lyrics, in the original Middle High German (they get to three out of the twelve verses, then repeat the first). As you will see in the video below, they are also true to Wagner’s spirit of artistic liberty through a modern lens, complete with a shredding metal electric guitar solo, tatooed bagpipe players, and pyrotechnic explosions. And guess what? The audience loves it.


I put this video up kind of on a whim, because I was surprised by the ability for music that’s almost a millennium old to be relevant in the 21st century, and this video was so zany that I was simply flabbergasted by the find. But I have since become aware that it is potentially offensive to viewers, due to the song’s subject matter (the crusades), and the context of performance (Germans singing in a creepy—goth? occult?—way about the Holy Lands). Let’s just say that I wouldn’t let my son watch this video. It would be sure to give him nightmares. (He’s only 4 months old, but still.)

1 Comment

  1. Zach Wallmark says:

    What is it about Wagnerian pomp, Germanic mythology, and the Medieval Age that appeals so much to metal musicians? There’s an interesting symbolic/semiotic connection there that would be fun to explore. (I just heard about another related subgenre, “Tolkien Metal,” that is of course centered around another Ring.) But for a metal band to actually perform from the minnesang repertory? That’s taking the connection to a whole new level of realism. Great find!

    This reminds me of a farcical metal project I was involved in while at NYU. We performed 19th century German opera and lieder with electric guitar, bass, drums, keys, and two opera singers. The name of the group was “Take Me To Your Lieder.”

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