File spoon-archives/nietzsche.archive/nietzsche_1995/nietzsche_Nov9.95, message 42

Date: Wed, 15 Nov 1995 05:43:29 -0500
Subject: Re: Music, Nietzsche, Rhythm


> Reg Lilly and anyone who is interested, I liked the analogy of 
> post-tonal music (although I fear, I am not totally understanding 
> what this might mean, reasons in a sec.) to Wagner, and postmodernity 
> to Nietzsche.  Perhaps we could 'stick' with the word "trace" as 
> a safeguard when considering the analogy here. 
> Wagner, believe it or not falls within the traditional twelve tone 
> system, that is, even though he would for example use nonharmonic 
> tones for certain passages, his work remains tonal in the fullest 
> sense.  I usually think of non-tonal or "post-tonal" as something 
> that would exceed the traditional Western representation of music, such 
> as music characteristic of South Indian heritage, the Carnatic 
> tradition. The problem is one of representation, at least 
> comparitively between the twelve tonal system (which I say again 
> Wagner 'is' a part of in many ways, perhaps not logically as you 
> suggested, but relatively) *and* let's say South Indian representation 
> of intervals.  We know thatthe Carnatic Tradition has intervals that 
> fall between a perfect unison and a minor second.  These intervals 
> when represented on a twelve tone scale are more or less the 
> performer's "intuition".  Such as a "bend" on guitar notation, 
> e.g. represented with an arrow and a fraction such as 1/4. 
> So I guess what I'm getting at is, HOW CAN YOU SAY WAGNER IS POST-TONAL? 
> I guess I'm not understanding what you mean.  could you explain further? 
> I have a book entitled "Harmony" fifth ed.  by WALTER PISTON, and 
> wagner *is* cited many times throughout, examples of non-harmonic 
> tones, (sometimes referred to as passing-tones, which effectively 
> displace a melody, like a melody strictly coded to a specific 
> key signature or mode) what about phraseology, free rythm 
> improvisation? could these be recorded and transposed in a twelve 
> tonal systam as well.  I have a studio composition program with MIDI, 
> I suppose it's possible although I haven't tried yet. 
> stevilbollweevil 


I think you are confusing tonality - a feeling of gravity towards a particular 
tone (a key), with microtonality - dividing an octave by more than 12 tones. 

'post-tonal' music would be a reference to atonal music - music without a key.

I think what was said was, not that Wagner was an atonal composer, but that 
there's a relationship between Wagner and the development of atonal music. 
This is true. It was Wagner's 'Tristan und Isolde' that first called into 
question the major-minor system of tonality. Later, in music as varied as 
Strauss and Debussy, Mahler and Scriabin, the pull of the key is so weak that 
it can hardly be felt. It was Schoenberg that introduced atonality. He even 
felt that he was only perpetuating the tradition of harmonic development, the 
traditions of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, and Brahms, to include 
harmonies that were more complex then their predecessors. This was the 
Viennese tradition and there was a 'logic' to it. Wagner however, was _not_ 
part of this Viennese school of tradition, Wagner was revolutionary. As no one 
had done before him, he changed opera, and music itself. Wagner did have an 
influence on Schoenberg and thus the 'logical' development of atonal music, 
but to say Wagner was just a step in this logical development is to look back 
on hundreds of years with too quick a glance.



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