Part 3: Review: Berthold Hoeckner on "Lohengrin" 8/94

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Part 3: Review: Berthold Hoeckner on "Lohengrin" 8/94

Postby alberich00 » Mon Apr 22, 2013 12:34 pm

[PH] In the following passage I introduced the idea that Lohengrin is becoming too conscious that his injunction depends upon fear of the truth, and therefore upon deceit, even self-deceit:

[PHmm]
[PH: LOHENGRIN’S VULNERABILITY CONSISTS IN THE FACT THAT HE IS BECOMING TOO CONSCIOUS THAT HE FEARS THE TRUTH, THAT HE DEPENDS UPON DECEIPT]

[PH] [P. 29] “Doesn’t it seem that the redemption Lohengrin offered was inadequate because he was too conscious? Of what was he too conscious? Why, of having committed his three sins! He’s too conscious of having ‘killed’ his mother, nature. He’s too conscious of his hypocritical need to break his own law by seeking out the world he’d disavowed. For these reasons he’s also too conscious to protect the Folk’s consoling Wahn from Ortrud’s NOTH, and may also have exposed the secret of his [P. 30] status as a perjurer to them. Because he depended on self-deception but was becoming too conscious of this shameful truth, was he not also too conscious of being dependent on fear of the truth, of needing a prohibition on knowledge? Might we not call exposure of these humiliating truths his ‘shameful NOTH’?”


8. BH: WAGNER STATED THAT DRAMATIC MUSIC IS UNINTELLIGIBLE WITHOUT ITS ACCOMPANYING DRAMA OR DRAMATIC ACTION

[BH] [P. 212] “Part 1: Elsa’s Aural Vision or The Perfect Music Drama

[BH] We begin with Wagner’s discussion of Elsa’s dream from ‘On the Application of Music to the Drama,' which deserves to be quoted in full:

‘The motif which the composer of ‘Lohengrin’ employs as the closing phrase of a first arioso of his Elsa, sunk in memory of a blissful dream, consists almost solely of a texture of remote harmonic progressions; in the Andante of a Symphony, it would strike us as far-fetched and highly unintelligible; here, in the opera, it does not seem strained, but quite arising of itself, and therefore so intelligible that to my knowledge it has never been described as the contrary. This has its grounds, however, in the scenic action.’

(…)

[BH] [P. 214] Wagner’s discussion appears to reaffirm the central thesis of ‘Opera and Drama.’ Without dramatic motivation, music remains pure ‘effect,’ ‘absolute’ music, and thus incomprehensible. With the anecdote about his friend’s twofold reception Wagner makes his aesthetic point: in a mere reading of the score, the modulation in question seemed unnatural, because the ‘explanatory’ view of the stage was lacking.”

[PH] Hoeckner, as a musicologist, presented numerous and interesting musical examples to illustrate his theses, a contribution which complements what I was able to achieve in a merely conceptual analysis of Wagner’s libretto text in my paper, without the benefit of being able to read music, or training in musicology. Perhaps he can be persuaded to collaborate with me someday to grant my book on Wagner’s “Ring,” “The Wound That Will Never Heal,” the musicological sophistication it lacks, a contribution which would complement my conceptual analysis of the libretto and fairly primitive assessment of the conceptual importance of Wagner’s musical motifs. One can only hope!


9. BH: ELSA’S MUSIC ANTICIPATES & VIRTUALLY CREATES LOHENGRIN, THE DRAMA, AND THE MUSICAL MOTIF (PH: DEFINED AS AN IDENTIFIABLE PASSAGE IN MUSIC WHICH HAS TAKEN ON CONCEPTUAL SIGNIFICANCE FROM THE DRAMA FOR WHICH IT WAS WRITTEN)

[BH] [P. 228] “Does the music really choose its text, or, as usual, the pre-existent text the music? (…) Verse-melody is a mixture of the absent (thought) and the present (emotion). Similarly, Elsa verbally retells and musically relives her dream, mixing two different states of time (and of mind). The event of this actual mixture, then, is the [P. 229] creation of a motif as a musico-poetic entity, the birth, as it were, of a ‘leitmotif’:

‘A musical motif into which … the thought of the word-verse of a dramatic actor has been poured before our eyes, is necessarily determined; upon its recurrence, a “definite” emotion is perceptibly communicated to us.’ [Opera and Drama, 343f (II, 329; translation modified]

[BH] Thus, at the end of Elsa’s dream, her textless motif is ‘determined’ before our eyes, whereas such a motif would remain undetermined in absolute music. In opera, [P. 230] purely instrumental music is a ‘presentiment,’ the utterance of a – verbally – ineffable emotion of utmost repose, from which drama develops. Since this presentiment is governed by the ‘poetic intent,’ music is the means of drama, not its end. In his emphatic conclusion of the second part of ‘Opera and Drama,’ Wagner had defined the poetic intent as the ‘fertilizing’ or ‘procreative’ seed which ‘provides the glorious loving woman, music, with the subject matter she must bear.’ Elsa’s involuntary, yet indefinite, emotion, at the beginning of the scene stimulates the quest for its necessary determination.
Since the ending of the dream narration is the pivotal point in the dramatic transition, it becomes a [P. 231] model for Wagner’s notion of ‘organic’ form. For Wagner, neither a ready-made melody nor a prefabricated situation is comprehensible. By contrast, drama, like nature, is comprehensible, albeit only as something ‘becoming’:

‘By presenting his artwork in continuous organic becoming, and making us ourselves organically participating witnesses of that becoming, the poet frees his work from all traces of its creation.’ [‘Opera and Drama.’ 351 (II, 337; translation modified]

(…)

[BH] [P. 232] As Adorno put it, Elsa’s vision calls the whole drama into being.”

[PH] Hoeckner has elaborated here on his notion that Elsa’s artistic impulse not only creates Lohengrin, the music-drama, but eventually induces her to break his spell by asking him the question about his name and origin which he forbade, which forces Lohengrin to break off their relations. In my 8/93 paper, by contrast, I never considered Elsa’s dreaming Lohengrin into existence as Wagner’s metaphor for the creation of the perfect opera, or revolutionary music-drama, but determined instead that Elsa gives birth to the music-drama expressly by offering to help Lohengrin keep the secret of his identity if he will share it with her in the seclusion of love’s night, so that she can help him maintain the secret which, if exposed to the world, Elsa believes (thanks to Ortrud's influence) would lead Lohengrin to disaster. I determined that in the “Ring” Wotan takes up the offer, made to him by Bruennhilde (differing in this from Lohengrin, who fails because he refuses to share his secret with Elsa), to hear him confess his secret, divine “Noth" (anguish, and need for redemption from it), which Wotan supposes will remain forever unspoken if he confesses it to Bruennhilde (his Will). If we recall that for Wagner drama is associated with man, and music with woman, Wotan offers Bruennhilde a chance to collaborate with him in the perfect, organic union of drama (his confession) with music (her redemptive feeling) in the music-drama, while Lohengrin retreats to the conservative position of both religious faith (which can’t abide interrogation), and absolute music as found in traditional opera, in which music is the occasion and the accompanying drama only an appendage or scaffolding which provides a pretext for the creation of glorious vocal music.


10. BH: MUSIC-DRAMA HIDES THE POETIC INTENT IN FEELING, IN WONDER

[#] [BH] [P. 232] “Wagner’s organicism encapsulates the central paradox of art after the decline of imitation aesthetics. He subscribes to Kant’s notion that art had to appear like nature by concealing its artificiality. (…) Wagner’s ‘Dichter’ is a ‘Verdichter,’ who ‘compresses’ otherwise incomprehensibly scattered human action into a moment, ‘which, taken for [P. 233] itself, appears indeed unwonted and wondrous, yet shuts its own … wondrousness within itself, and is nowise taken by the spectator for a wonder but apprehended as the most intelligible representation of reality.’ Therefore the addition of music to words results in expression

‘that includes the poetic intent in each of its moments, while in each of them concealing that intent from feeling – by realizing it.’ [‘Opera and Drama,’ 358f (II, 344f translation modified]

[BH] Moreover, characters who sing and miraculous events are two sides of a single aesthetic coin: drama is a ‘poetic wonder,’ or myth. Wagner’s poet has to begin with the ordinary, like Elsa’s trial, so that he can then

‘ascend gradually towards the formation of situations whose force and wondrousness remove [P. 234] us from everyday life, and show us a human being at the height of his powers.’ [‘Opera and Drama,’ 352 (II, 338f; translation modified]

(…)

[BH] [P. 236] The ‘melodic moment’ has become a musical thought: a musico-poetic reference that hides in itself the act of its creation, in which we, as audience, participate. As an initially indefinite feeling it was then ‘determined’ in the ‘verse-melody.’ “

[PH] Hoeckner here has introduced Wagner’s notion of the poetic Wonder in which a whole series of events, seemingly disconnected in time and space, disclose to us, as if we are clairvoyants, their underlying unity and coherence through musical motifs. This is a concept which, though I have employed it in a far-reaching way in my online book “The Wound That Will Never Heal,” I did not apply to the analysis of “Lohengrin.” Partly this is due to the fact that according to Wagner himself, in “Lohengrin” he was still far from developing his musical motifs to the point that they could take on, by association, the entire scope of the drama. Wagner also had not yet learned how to fully vary his motifs in relation to their dramatic context, this being part of the solution to the problem of how to associate his musical motifs with the drama in such a way that the motifs become inextricably united with it.

[PH] But Hoeckner also introduces in this section and the last the notion that according to Wagner the artist must disappear in his art, which must seem natural and not the result of conscious intention or artifice. In other words, if there is any underlying motive or source of inspiration for the artist’s creation, it should remain hidden. In my 8/93 paper, I suggested that Lohengrin’s need to, in effect, obscure his original and true source of inspiration, for mysterious reasons, stems not only from aesthetic concerns, such as the notion that the artist should remain hidden behind his work, but more particularly originates in he fact that the religiously faithful have something to hide, which would be dangerous to reveal, perhaps even to themselves, and that this is behind not only Lohengrin’s injunction never to inquire after his name or origin, but also behind the more general desire that art not be subject to critical examination lest, like religious faith, its magic disappear. Furthermore, I noted Wagner's own remark that for the authentic artist his own art and its process of creation may remain as much as mystery as to his audience:


[PHd]
[PH: LOHENGRIN’S PROHIBITION ON INQUIRING AFTER HIS TRUE IDENTITY AND ORIGIN SUGGESTS HE HAS SOMETHING TO HIDE, I.E., THAT HE FEARS THE CONSEQUENCES FOR HIMSELF IF HIS SECRET BECOMES KNOWN TO OTHERS

[PH] [P. 3] “Lohengrin … expects Elsa to make a sacrifice in return for his:

LOHENGRIN Act 1 Scene 3

‘LOHENGRIN: Elsa, if I’m to be your spouse and guard your land and people, if nothing is to tear me from you, you must make me one promise: never ask me nor desire to know whence my journey brought me, nor my name and lineage! …. ELSA: My redeemer, who believes in my innocence! …. As you shield me in my plight (NOTH), so I’ll keep to your command.’

(…)

… why is there a prohibition on revealing his name and origin if Lohengrin comes from God, since the Folk who welcome him assume he’s Godsent? Is it because heaven is a spiritual realm beyond our understanding, and therefore irreducible to concepts or words? If so, is it a realm only ‘knowable’ by faith, but never by thought? Or is there a prohibition because Lohengrin has something to hide, something which therefore can be known but shouldn’t be? (…) “


[PHt]
[PH: IF LOHENGRIN IS A FRAUD, ELSA CAN PERHAPS REDEEM HIM FROM POTENTIAL HARM BY KEEPING HIS SIN SECRET]

[PH] [P. 18] “And what of Lohengrin’s innocence! Elsa seems to assume that Lohengrin has a noble origin, but suppose he doesn’t! That is, suppose the redemption Lohengrin offers is a fraud, as Frederick and Ortrud say. If this were so then Elsa could offer Lohengrin redemption by keeping this sin (NOTH) secret."

[PH] And in my following paragraph I explained in part what Lohengrin might be trying to hide, the fact that what he and other believers describe as divine, in fact has an earthly, natural origin, which is precisely the fatal secret that Ortrud is trying to get Elsa to expose by persuading her to ask Lohengrin the forbidden question:


[PHdd]
[PH: LOHENGRIN’S GREATEST SIN, THE SIN HE MUST KEEP SECRET, WAS THAT THROUGH RELIGIOUS FAITH’S RENUNCIATION OF WORLDLY THINGS, LOHENGRIN DENIES MOTHER NATURE. THIS ACCORDING TO FEUERBACH IS THE CARDINAL SIN OF CHRISTIANITY.]

[P. 24] “Lohengrin’s first and greatest sin was to deny mother nature’s truths by affirming an unnatural, chaste world presumed to be free from its true roots in mother nature.

Indeed, in the years following his completion of LOHENGRIN, Wagner often denounced valuation of [PH: i.e., attributing value to] religious world-renunciation. Wagner instead affirmed the Feuerbachian notion that God was made in man’s image:

'Let us glance, then, for a moment at this future state of Man, when he shall have freed himself from his last heresy, the denial of Nature, - that heresy which has taught him hitherto to look upon himself as a mere instrument to an end which lay outside himself.' (6-8/49 ‘Art and Revolution’; Richard Wagner’s Prose Works; Vol. I, p. 57)”


11. BH: ELSA’S FIRST LAMENT TO OBTAIN GOD’S FAVOR PRODUCED HER DREAM OF LOHENGRIN, BUT HER SECOND LAMENT, HER SUNG PRAYER, PRODUCED LOHENGRIN IN REALITY

[BH] [P. 237] “After the herald’s two calls for Elsa’s champion remain unanswered, she sinks onto her knees, praying (I,2: 320ff; S41: 3ff). The parallelism between the formerly narrated and now enacted prayer accelerates the dramatic process towards the climax of the scene:

‘You imparted to him my lament,
he came to me by your command:
O lord! Now say to my knight
that he should help me in my distress:
… let me see him as I saw him,
as I saw him … let him be nigh!’

(…)

[BH] [P. 239] Finally, when Elsa reenacts her prayer, its formerly narrated sound of lament, the high Ab, becomes song that the people hear. Thus, at the climax of the scene, operatic and (re)enacted narrative [P. 240] collapse into one. The poetic wonder coincides with the wonder of Lohengrin’s appearance on the horizon in a boat pulled by a swan. (…) Elsa’s verbal narration could not have effected the advent of her saviour; only song, as the expression of involuntary agitation. Thus, at the climax, the ear must join the eye to achieve true aural vision … .

[#] [BH] [P. 241] The people have to see the invisible, which was mirrored in her [Elsa’s] ‘glance up’; and hear the inaudible, which she only told them about in her narration. Elsa’s dream only comes true when the visible becomes truly audible, and the audible truly visible. This may explain why her high A, which brings about Lohengrin’s arrival at the moment of her greatest distress, is carried over into the beginning of the third scene (I, 3: 1; S54:4). Only now does she turn around and, seeing him for the first time in reality, cry out ‘Ha.’ At the height of her powers she utters the primeval scream that gathers and releases all her power in the fusion of sight and sound.”

[PH] And here is my brief take on Elsa’s desire that God make her dream of Lohengrin reality:

[PHc]
[PH: ELSA PRAYS THAT GOD MAKE HER DREAM OF LOHENGRIN A REALITY]

[P. 2] “LOHENGRIN begins with Frederick of Telramund’s accusation that Elsa killed her brother Godfrey. Our discussion begins with Elsa’s prayer to God to send her, in reality, the knight she’s seen so far only in dreams, so he can protect her from Frederick’s accusation:

LOHENGRIN Act 1 Scene 2

‘ELSA: You imparted my anguish to him, he came to me by your command; I pray, Lord, now send my knight to help me in my need (NOTH).’ “

[PH] However, later in my 8/93 paper, I developed the notion that Elsa’s and the Folk’s desire for Lohengrin was enough to bring him into being for them, in much the same way that religious faith, the gods themselves, were the product of unconscious human imagination, as will be seen in other extracts from my paper I reproduce in this review.
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