(Note: This post has been updated (1) as of 11:52 PM Eastern on 22 Sep. See below)
What is strange about this [post] is that two posts below in the same blog, ACD is describing technical aspects of the Prelude to Wagner's Das Rheingold as part of his series on the Ring for the neophyte. And in posts below that he describes aspects of how the whole [tetralogy] was composed, with a focus on the philosophical [sic] issues that influenced Wagner's decisions. I see no difference between ACD's description of Wagner and [a contemporary composer's] description of his own music, beyond the assumptions that are made about the audience's knowledge.
My answer to that is that a difference exists, and it's huge.
First off, in my speaking in one installment of my series on Wagner's Ring of some technical aspects of the Rheingold prelude, I was not discussing music, but music-drama. That technical description was an opening to a discussion to be pursued in some little detail in the next installment of the series as to how music functions in Wagnerian music-drama to carry, shape, and determine the drama itself. I wouldn't for an instant even think of discussing, say, a symphony of Mozart's or Beethoven's in such technical terms as, outside a specialist's interest, that sort of technical talk means diddly in terms of explaining how such so-called "absolute" music works to affect a receiver. One can, however, profitably use words to explain how a drama works to affect a receiver. Words are helpless to do the same for absolute music. In such a case, only the music itself will do, and it either works or it doesn't.*
Second, in speaking of certain historical and biographical aspects of Wagner in my series of posts on the Ring, and of how he came to certain creative decisions concerning its composition (not "philosophical issues that influenced [his] decisions"), I did so principally because I'm not only discussing an immortal work written by a music immortal, but by a composer about whom so much malicious misinformation is the lingua franca of discussion concerning him and that immortal work that I felt it intellectually incumbent upon me to provide within the context of my series some Ring-pertinent real-deal historical and biographical information. None of this would be the case concerning any contemporary composer or any of his works.
Scott further remarks,
ACD feels that the struggles of the composer are not important to the music, but why should that be? The beauty of any work of art is the fact that it was created by a human being.... Some sort of material was rearranged by a person to create something of aesthetic value. [...] So if the value of art lies in its creation by a person, surely the story of that person, especially the story of that person's struggle to create the artwork, contributes to the aesthetic value of that art.
Scott's notions are interesting, and I've of course heard such expressed before, but I couldn't disagree with them more completely.
The aesthetic value of any work of art resides and is inherent in the created artwork itself regardless of how, why, or by whom it was created. The story of the creator's life and his struggle to create the artwork is beside the point, the point the only point being the artwork that emerged. It makes no bloody difference to the aesthetic value of an artwork whether, say, the artist knocked it off in three hours while at the same time making love to his mistress and imbibing vintage Champagne, or whether it took him three decades while half the time suffering from starvation, and the other half the ravages of some dreadful disease. One thing alone counts: the artwork that emerged. Knowledge of how and why it emerged, while of legitimate historical and scholarly interest and concern in and of itself, contributes zip to, and is a non-factor in determining, the aesthetic value of an artwork, that being always a quality self-determined by the created artwork itself.
*The closing sentences of this graf would more clearly have read: "One can, however, profitably use technical language to explain how a drama works to affect a receiver. Technical language is helpless to do the same for absolute music. In such a case, technical language is useless. Only the music itself will do, and it either works or it doesn't." (Footnote added 23 Sep.)
Update (11:52 PM Eastern on 22 Sep): Scott Spiegelberg's response to the above post, and my answer to that response, may be read here.