Georg Friedrich Haas and His ‘Perverted Negress’

The New York Time profiles Haas, an Austrian composer (and an interesting one), and his wife, Mollena Williams-Haas, a/k/a The Perverted Negress:

Waking-Dreams

And now to the article, which I'm just going to leave here:

The Austrian-born Mr. Haas, 62, a music professor at Columbia University since 2013, has recently been increasingly open about the unusual nature of his marriage, which he says has dramatically improved his productivity and reshaped his artistic outlook. He will be the subject of a two-concert American Immersion series on Wednesday and Friday presented by the Austrian Cultural Forum, which includes the American premiere of his “I can’t breathe,” a dirgelike solo trumpet memorial to Eric Garner.

In a joint appearance with his wife, who now goes by Mollena Williams-Haas, late last year at the Playground sexuality conference in Toronto, then in an interview this month in the online music magazine VAN, he has “come out,” as he put it, as the dominant figure in a dominant-submissive power dynamic. Mr. Haas has chosen to speak up, both because Ms. Williams-Haas’s sexual interests are widely known (her blog, The Perverted Negress, is not shy about kink and bondage) and because he hopes to embolden younger people, particularly composers, not to smother untraditional urges, as he did.

The fundamental feature of their relationship is not obviously sexual, Mr. Haas and Ms. Williams-Haas, 46, said in an interview at their airy apartment near Columbia, with expansive views of the Hudson River. “It’s not caning,” he said. “It’s the fact that I need someone who is with me when I work.”

Their marriage can seem, in this regard, distinctly old-fashioned, and not in a Marquis de Sade way. While the terms they negotiated at the start of their relationship do not prevent her from pursuing her own professional and personal life, Ms. Williams-Haas devotes much of her time to supporting the work of a man — “Herr Meister,” she has nicknamed him — for whom a “good day” is one in which he composes for 14 or 15 hours.

2 thoughts on “Georg Friedrich Haas and His ‘Perverted Negress’

  1. “Exploding animals”?

    Hey I didn’t know you went for the kinky stuff :p

    I wonder how much composing Mr. Haas would get done if his wife went “on strike” … and consequently what the real power dynamic in their relationship is. It might turn out to be “asymmetrically symmetrical”, if you catch my drift.

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  2. I had read this in the NYT with interest, though the pleasure found in sadomasochistic sexuality is beyond my comprehension and spectral music that could provide the supporting ambience in a further iteration of the “Saw” saga isn’t always to my taste. Call me a sentimental neo-romantic, but I prefer something like Pärt’s “My Heart lies in the Highlands” anytime.

    After being introduced to Haas, I next looked him up on that treasure trove for music lovers, YouTube, and found this, the introduction to his String Quartet No.2:

    An intriguing use of fifths, evoking an ethereal innocence, subsequently shattered by explosively dissonant chords after measure 57: as Faust says, “Du hast sie zerstört/ Die schöne Welt”; and reminding me of Alban Berg’s violin concerto, dedicated “To the memory of an angel,” 18-year-old Manon Gropius, which also begins with archaic-sounding fifths:

    Perhaps there is something specifically post-WWI Austrian about this, a nostalgic harking back to a world of order and harmony that must yield to loss and disintegration, a tradition carried on by Haas. Or there’s a childhood trauma lurking behind his compositions, something the man is compelled to repeat in his music and sexual life; but that, of course, is pure speculation.

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