But the government, press, and public had
long been irritated by Ludwig’s spending on
Wagner’s debts and productions; by rumors
of the former dissident’s political influence
on the king; and by Wagner’s domestic life
(he’d had a child with Cosima von Bülow, wife
of his favorite conductor, whose hiring also
rankled the Munich musical establishment).
The festival theater was the last straw. In 1865
Ludwig’s ministers forced him to banish Wagner from Munich.
The loss of his friend was perhaps no less
a disaster to Ludwig than the political events
of 1866 to 1870: the Austro-Prussian War, the
Franco-Prussian War, and Bavaria’s concession
of sovereignty to Prussia. (The last brought
with it Germany’s criminal code, which out-
lawed homosexuality in 1871. Bavaria had de-
criminalized it in 1813, and Ludwig was most
likely gay.) These events saw the subordina-
tion of Bavaria’s independence to the German
state and were a blow to Ludwig’s self-image
as absolute ruler and spiritual heir of the
Bourbons, to whom his family was distantly
connected. Disillusioned and disgusted—even
considering abdication of the throne to follow
Wagner into exile—Ludwig turned his back
on matters of state, family, and court life and
threw himself into operatic dreamscapes. His
castles rose from the ashes of his life as sover-
eign and statesman.
Neuschwanstein’s mortar and stone didn’t
spring fully formed from Ludwig’s forehead.
The plans derived from a combination of the
nineteenth-century aristocratic trend of
Bur-genromantik (castle romanticism), theatrical
designs, and Wagner’s opera librettos. Any
particular design—the exterior window arches
Tracking the path to the modern guitar, from Sumer to Les Paul
Multistringed instruments have long
existed in Mesopotamia by the time the
lute originates in Sumer around 2250 bc.
Its earliest form has up to ten gut strings
and can be either strummed or played
with a plectrum. Musicians who play the
instrument are traditionally depicted in
Akkadian reliefs in unflattering ways, often
naked, bowlegged, or as dwarfs.
Around 1650 bc the Hyksos
of western Asia enter Egypt,
bringing with them the lyre
and the long-necked lute,
the latter usually depicted
being held by singers and
female dancers. This lute
variant falls out of favor
after Alexander the Great’s
conquest; unfamiliar with
the Egyptian instrument, the
Greeks prefer their own.
During the first millennium, Hu nomads
bring the lute to China; there it evolves into
the pear-shaped, four-string pipa, which is
considered vulgar and emotional. Centuries
later Fu Xuan recalls that “when the people
suffered from being forced to build the
Great Wall, they played the instrument to
express their resentment.” The pipa and its
variants are still played today.
By the beginning of Persia’s Sassanid
era, a short-necked lute evolves: the
duck-shaped barbat. After Arabs
invade in the mid-seventh century,
the lute spreads to the Arab world,
where it evolves into the five-string
oud (in Arabic ud, “wood”).
Moors reach the Iberian Peninsula around
750; within a few centuries, they transmit
the oud to their new home, and European
variations of the instrument soon appear.
The flat-backed Spanish laud becomes the
prototype for lutes throughout Europe.
Inspired by variations on the laud—and on the
Greek kithara, from which it derives its name—
the gittern is created around 1200. A popular
type is the four-string guitarra latina, which
becomes associated with amateur musicians, es-
pecially in taverns. “He sung sometimes,” writes
Geoffrey Chaucer in his Canterbury Tales, “and as
well he could play on a gittern.”
The larger vihuela de mano, which
features six or seven double strings, de-
velops in the thirteenth century; by the
sixteenth century, it becomes the instru-
ment of choice in the Spanish court.
Close contact between
the ancient western
Iranian civilization of
Elam precipitates the
eastern spread of the
lute. By 1300 bc the
long-necked lute is the
dominant string instrument of the Elamites.