Monday, October 26, 2015

Why Nietzsche had to part company with the only other creative genius he had over known ...

From an early age Nietzsche was passionately fond of music, and by the time he was a student he was a highly competent pianist who impressed his peers by his ability to improvise.  In the 1860s Wagner’s star was rising.  He began receiving the support of King Ludwig II of Bavaria in 1864; Tristan and Isolde had been given its premiere in 1865, The Meistersingers was premiered in 1868, Das Rheingold in 1869, and Die Walküre in 1870.  Although opportunities to see operas performed were limited, both because of location and finances, Nietzsche and his student friends had obtained a piano score of Tristan and were great admirers of what they considered the “music of the future.”

Nietzsche and Wagner became close after Nietzsche began visiting Wagner, his wife Cosmia, and their children at Tribschen, a beautiful house beside Lake Lucerne, about a two hour train ride from Basle where Nietzsche was a professor of classical philology.  In their outlook on life and music they were both heavily influenced by Schopenhauer.  Schopenhauer viewed life as essentially tragic, stressed the value of the arts in helping human beings cope with the miseries of existence, and accorded pride of place to music as the purest expression of the ceaselessly striving Will that underlay the world of appearances and constituted the inner essence of the world.

Wagner had written extensively about music and culture in general, and Nietzsche shared his enthusiasm for trying to revitalize culture through new forms of art.  In his first published work, The Birth of Tragedy (1872), Nietzsche argued that Greek tragedy emerged “out of the spirit of music,” fueled by a dark, irrational “Dionysian” impulse which, when harnessed by “Apollonian” principles of order, eventually gave rise to the great tragedies of poets like Aeschylus and Sophocles.  But then the rationalist tendency evident in the plays Euripides, and most of all in the philosophical approach of Socrates, came to dominate, thereby killing the creative impulse behind Greek tragedy.


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