11 Nov 2008

Scott Wollschleger on Nietzsche contra Wagner

a composer's thoughts on the matter:

Nietzsche’s problem with Wagner also appears to be a problem of the eternal return's manifestations on the cultural level. Contra-Wagner is about Nietzsche’s disappointment in Wagner and in German culture.

From Nietzsche’s critique we can see Wagner’s music lacks "a future".

This kind of music cannot properly return. Nietzsche critiques Wagner's art as essentially reactive, nihilistic and negative. It is a symptom of an era, a history.

Nietzsche’s words point us towards a deeper sense of music, one that has to come by way of affirming love and its depths while still being one engaged in a positive relationship to dance and cosmic joy. Is this the tragicomic?

Whatever the name is, it has nothing to do with Wagner. Nietzsche’s problem here is my problem too when he implies to ask the question: Can music have a future? How does a composer affirm eternal return? Will he do it? With Wagner, the answer seems to be no. However, by way of this critique, Nietzsche points to the possibility of a yes, an affirmative direction, and one that may only will-to-proceed silently. A direction that perhaps, tragically, will lie within the unfolding silence of the critique itself, a drama… We can only come to this understanding if we are Contra-Wagner. Here Wagner truly plays a cultural role. He is tragic. Wagner is a symptom of culture.

Nietzsche is saying yes to "art for arts sake" and, "The whole Olympus of appearance". It is not that the mask is a burden to art, or that it is something art must bear to cover the real, but rather the mask is the real itself. The mask has its greatest power when the world is nothing more than a cosmic dance and a chaosmos. Nietzsche was the first philosopher to introduce the modern idea of the Cosmic Artist. In the case of Wagner, ultimately there is a cosmic refrain and a culture which is to come (or return), one which Wagner is not a part of.

Be it a return to the Greeks for literature or the "grand style" for music. Nietzsche was always in search of the apotheotic artist. He thought he found this aptheosis in Wagner. But instead, while in search of this apotheotic artist he discovered:

"Music has not yet had one".

Response CS: My deepest sincerest thanks for Scott picking up my slack and offerring textual commentary beyond summary, which here is both philosophically interesting as well as culturally informative. We may take stock in Scott's words regarding the future of music. Mr. Wollschleger is part of a very promising fresh new music movement expanding out from New York City. His core group forms an organization, the Red Light New Music ensemble, which brings to the public new music by up-and-coming talented composers through frequent performances and workshops.
Even when he was a student, Scott's compositions received international attention when his pieces were reviewed in the New Yorker magazine. Since then, his works have developed and found new life and character. I highly recommend listening to his "Secret Machines" series on your best stereo system; it is recorded at high fidelity. You can also enjoy his more improvisational pieces here, and his blues pieces, which showcase both his talents with piano and guitar, as well as with studio sound engineering. Also check-out his artistically designed and innovative scores. Soon I will have a posting on his "Digital Sensation No.1," which is the best example so far I know of Deleuze's aesthetic analogy. Exploring Scott's music and that of the Red Light New Music ensemble will expose us to a music "that has to come to love and affirm the depths and still be one of dance and cosmic joy." And that, I confess, makes me hopeful.

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