- Apollo could not live without Dionysus
- Acta semiotica fennica
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Humanities (FGw)
- Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA)
Absolute music, in the sense in which we use the term today, came into existence in the 18th century. Earlier writings, from ancient times up to the Baroque, convince us that music was supposed to be mimetic in character: as a representation of a text, as an imitation of a gesture, or as an expression of an affect.
Surprisingly, we owe the term ‘absolute music’ to Richard Wagner - a composer who is about the last to be under suspicion of writing such music. Not less surprisingly, Wagner initially condemns absolute music on moral grounds: it lacks the word which can give moral direction to the drama. Music is a woman, says Wagner, desiring the verbal guidance of her husband. Wagner salutes Beethoven for introducing the word in his Ninth Symphony: Schiller’s Ode an die Freude will lead us towards the Art-work of the future.
Some twenty years later, Friedrich Nietzsche also applauds the appearance of the Ode in Beethoven Ninth - but for the opposite reason: the fact that we cannot understand a word of Schiller’s poem in the all-embracing violence of the orchestra has released the text from its meaning, so that word and music together enjoy the exultation of a Dionysian dithyramb.
Nietzsche calls upon a later remark by Wagner about the Missa Solemnis to make his point: ‘the text (...) is not understood (...), but serves (...) as material for vocal song and does not disturb our musically oriented feeling’. The explanation of this complete volte-face in Wagner’s evaluation of the hierarchy between music and text is his acquaintance with Schopenhauer’s metaphysics of music: by reading Schopenhauer, the author Richard Wagner had come to understand what the composer of the same name had known all along.
- Proceedings title: Before and after music: proceedings from the 10th International Congress of the International Project on
Musical Signification: Vilnius, 21-25 October 2008
Publisher: Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre [etc.]
Place of publication: Vilnius
Editors: L. Navickaitė-Martinelli
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