File spoon-archives/nietzsche.archive/nietzsche_1995/nietzsche_Nov9.95, message 43

Date: Wed, 15 Nov 1995 10:11:27 -0800
Subject: Re: Music, Nietzsche, Rhythm

Violet seems to have caught my drift here.  I'm suggesting that Wagner was
the beginning of the end of tonality, an ending that ended in important
respects with Schoenberg, specially and initially in his George Lieder.
There (in the third and forth songs) there is no longer any 'tonic pull' and
hence has no tonic/key.  This, of course, creates significant compositional
(and listener appreciation!) problems, not the least of which is that the
very 'syntax and grammar' --even the 'vocabulary' -- of music, which had
been provided by the tonic, was no longer there; listeners often do
understand what is going on in such music, which seems arbitrary and without
any menaningful beginning or end.  With Schoenberg, we have a genuine crisis
of intelligility of music (--that in this ending Schoenberg needed to draw
on the resources of poetry is, I think, significant).  I'm suggesting,
therefore, that where Wagner 'struck the first blow' againt the god of music
(tonality) which 'logically' led to Schoenberg's 'post-tonality,' Nietzsche
struck the first blow againt the god of philosophy and its metaphysical
grammar, which 'logically' led to 'postmodernism.'  When I say tonality, I
am, of course, meaning Western tonality, just as when I say metaphysics, I
mean (and I think Nietzsche means) Western metaphysics.  There is, then, a
parallel between Nietzsche and Wagner from and
music-theoretical/philosophical point of view that can only be appreciated
musicologically and is utter invisible if one treats Wagner as a cultural
icon.  I'm condensing here a hundred pages of analysis, but that's the drift. 

>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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