Part Seven: Review of "Treacherous Bonds and Laughing Fire"

General Discussion about Wagner and The Ring of the Nibelung

Moderators: Justin Jeffrey, alberich00

Part Seven: Review of "Treacherous Bonds and Laughing Fire"

Postby alberich00 » Sun Jun 17, 2012 8:01 am

[PH] Finally, Berry says that Siegfried's unmediated fearlessness is fatally entwined with his lack of consciousness, while Wotan genuinely conquers fear. This seems to me entirely wrong, because Berry is now totally at sea, and nowhere near land, in having lost his opportunities to grasp the allegorical logic at work in the "Ring." His misconstruing of the nature of Siegfried's unconsciousness is truly fatal at this point. Siegfried's fearlessness is the product of that lack of consciousness which resulted from Wotan's repression of self-knowledge into Bruennhilde, which figuratively gave birth to the artist-hero Siegfried, whose heroic virtue is that Bruennhilde's - his unconscious mind's - protection frees him from suffering from Wotan's abhorrence of a corrupt nature and past, and from foreseeing a foredoomed future, the end. Siegfried, being freed by Bruennhilde's acting as safe repository for that terrible hoard of knowledge which paralyzed Wotan into impotence and inaction, is freed to spontaneously create an art which serves man's religious impulse toward redemption from the real. Wotan doesn't conquer fear except by virtue of having been reborn in Siegfried, minus self-consciousness. It is this that makes Siegfried fearless and free.
This explains why, when Wotan perceives that his hope for redemption through Siegfried has also failed, he wishes to end it all by having Alberich's Ring returned to the Rhinedaughters, as Wagner told Roeckel.

(75) [MB - P. 255-256] Bruennhilde's peroration and self-immolation at the end of "Goetterdaemmerung" constitute one of the most celebrated scenes in world-drama. (...) The final scene of the third act, completed on 28 November 1848, often offered the sobriquet of the 'Bakunin ending', originally had Bruennhilde return the ring to the Rhine, thereby delivering the Nibelungs from Alberich's bonds. This she accomplishes via reading the ring's runes and hearing therein the Norns' sage wisdom. Liberation from Fate's bondage came later to Wagner's conception. The scene climaxes in an address to Wotan, in which his daughter bids him rejoice in Siegfried, the 'freest of heroes', now ready to join the god in Valhalla. That final aspect, close to a republican monarchy, was replaced, less than a month later - and before Wagner's speech to the Vaterlandsverein - with a passage in which Bruennhilde proclaims blessed redemption in death to the god who had, with guilt and fear, created the hero, 'whom, alas, you begat!'.

[PH] Berry observes, interestingly, that one month after Wagner conceived what is known as the rejected Bakunin-ending of the "Ring" (one of five alternative endings), Wagner wrote a new ending in which Bruennhilde proclaims blessed redemption in death to Wotan who had, in guilt and fear, created Siegfried. this variant ending, rejected by Wagner along with other variants in favor of a rather open-ended and ambiguous ending (he said his music would resolve all questions), provides even further evidence for my thesis about the role Wotan plays in creating the very hero who's main claim to fame was to have been his radical independence from Wotan and his influence, but who nonetheless would perform that act which Wotan himself, tied down by his own law, can't perform, but upon which redemption depends.

Signing off temporarily at 9:00am on 6/17/12.

Signing on at 2:54pm on 6/17/12:

(76) [MB - P. 256-258] ... this ultimate conclusion encompassed and dramatised many of the conflicts between previous endings [of the "Ring"]. Bloch justly referred to 'the most polyphonic of monologues in more senses than one'. No more than in the rest of the drama did any single interpretation replace another.
A concept such as annihilation, for example, could take on very different emphases, such as Proudhonesque abolition of private propery, Schopenhauerian Buddhist-tinged renunciation of the Will, and pyromania a la Bakunin. On one level, what Wagner means by annihilation might be expressed by an entry in the "Brown book"; 'I am not able, and do not care, to endure life; I cannot exist. All is madness to me!' Yet even in Schopenhauerian terms - 'I saw the world end!' - this is not sufficient, since its angry rejectionism makes no allowance for Wotan's renunciation of the Will. Closer to the mark is another, later entry, reading:
'Jesus could foresee nothing but the end; we no less. Materially and empirically composed, we await the destructive forces which, even, for the Roman world, did not fail to appear.' Or, from "Jesus of Nazareth":

Jesus teaches us to break through the limits of patriotism and find our richest satisfaction in the salvation of the whole human race. ... I annihilate my
egoism through my ascent into the Universal: and the most complete - the most necessary - annihilation of ... solitary individualism I reach in death,
which brings about the relinquishment of my life and self.

Instead of looking for an after-life, Wotan welcomes death - his own and that of the state. (...) ... through the eyes of Bruennhilde - his 'will' - he lifts the veil of Maya, the principium individuationis, seeing and feeling in the carnage on the banks of the Rhine not only 'suffering humanity', but also a 'world that passes away'. Feuerbach had claimed that all human actions derived from love. Man could not exist purely for himself, or he 'would be able to endure that which is least endurable, nothingness'. Wagner came to believe that, whilst man could not exist purely for himself, not only could he endure nothingness; it might even represent his only hope.
(...) In the final scene ... Bruennhilde's fellow-suffering has enabled her to act, no longer in thraldom to destructive urges of love, but out of wisdom and compassion. (...) The will-to-power stands upon the verge of abdication, the sense of repose a far cry from the angry, urgent counterpoint that accompanied
Wotan's dismissal of the earth-goddess. Both aspects of the world of representation are put to sleep, but as part of a Hegelian world-historical process. (...) To purge the world of evil, Valhalla must, like Fate's dominion, pass into history, and the gold must return to the Rhine.

[PH] Berry notes, accurately, that Wagner's employment of the notion of annihilation in relation to the Jews (as in the infamous remark which concludes "Judaism in Music," in which Wagner called upon the Jews to join the Germans in suffering the fate of Ahasuerus - by "going-under" - in order to attain redemption from their Judaism, as it were) in his anti-Semitic writings can't be applied to genocide. I long ago presented my copyrighted thesis that Wotan "goes-under" in this sense by confessing all that he loathes about his own nature (the Judaism in his own nature, so to speak, which in Wagner's code means egoism) to Bruennhilde, so that he can purge himself of it to be reborn as the purified, amnesiac, ideal artist-hero Siegfried, who, however, lacks (as Berry himself notes, but for the wrong reason) full consciousness. Siegfried lacks full consciousness because Siegfried can't remain fully conscious (like Alberich) without having to acknowledge, as Wotan did, his true status as a craven, moral dwarf, a Nibelung. Only Siegfried's ignorance of the truth about himself frees him to act heroically, in producing unconsciously inspired deeds of redemptive art.

Berry suggests that the final repose in which Bruennhilde tells Wotan he can now rest, after achieving wisdom and compassion and conquering her destructive love-urge, is a far cry from the urgency with which Wotan dismissed Erda (during what Berry himself described as Wotan's Schopenhauerian conversion). This is true, but again, Berry doesn't grasp Wagner's identification of love with art, and that secular art was the Feuerbachian new religion which Siegfried introduced into the world temporarily, with new urgency. My main point here is that Wotan doesn't attain anything remotely resembling a Schopenhauerian resignation and stilling of the will until, perhaps, his final moments when he's given up all hope of redemption from fate through the hero's and heroine's love/art (i.e., through Wagner's redemptive music-dramas), and wills the end, as we see him do in the final tableau when Valhalla burns and the Gibichungs can see the gods and heroes arranged in Valhalla as Waltraute had described them to Bruennhilde. Yes, Wotan does indeed nihilistically will the destruction of all things, including his old hope of redemption (his wish that Bruennhilde take the burden of Alberich's curse away from gods and world, as expressed by Waltraute to Bruennhilde, is a nihilistic wish to end the burden of consciousness itself, not to create a paradise which could only have been enjoyed consciously, i.e., by virtue of the Ring's power).

(77) [MB - P. 260] Does such peace truly constitute redemption? Adorno thought so, albeit in a pejorative sense: 'The destruction of the world at the end of the "Ring" is also a Happy End.' Ultimately, Wagner's idea of redemption was empty, 'a mirage because it is a manifestation of the null and void'. What music really needed was not to present an illusory 'peacefulness above all conflicts,' but to achieve 'the pure, uncompromising representation of absolute conflict'. Adorno also noted music's role in 'reconciling the irreconcilable in an anticipatory image'. (...) It is not only in "Parsifal" that a wound will not heal, nor only there that some form of redemption eventually appears to perform its ministry of healing. Here, both the nature and efficacy of redemption remain more elusive, but this might place the "Ring" closer to the twentieth century and further from a 'peacefulness above all conflicts'.

[PH] Berry states that the "Ring"'s ambiguous ending, with no final peace, places it closer to 20th Century Angst than typical romantic endings, including that of Wagner's final artistic will-and-testament, "Parsifal." I concur. It is precisely because Wagner doubted his original conception of redemption, or even redemption through love, that he kept on revising the ending of the "Ring," until he finally decided to leave it open, mysterious, ambiguous, and let his music do the talking.

(78) [MB - P. 261-262] Redemption refers not only to Wotan. The word Goetterdaemmerung ... permits of ambiguity; it is twilight that yet holds out the possibility of a redemptive dawn - implying beneficiaries other than those immolated men in whom we might yet have invested hope. (...) Even Adorno wrote that the only philosophy which can responsibly be practised in the face of despair is 'the attempt to contemplate all things as they would present themselves from the standpoint of redemption'. (...) Though Alberich might yet envy the Valhalla air he never breathed and covet the goddesses he never subdued, even he wishes the future no ill.

[PH] Berry states, strangely, that though Alberich might envy Valhalla and still long to force himself on Valhalla's goddesses, even Alberich doesn't wish the future ill. Certainly, he doesn't wish his own future ill? But if Berry doesn't mean this, what on earth is he saying? Alberich's interest, his expectation of future power, depends upon full acknowledgment of the objective world and its natural limits, and in this sense certainly he doesn't wish the future ill, because he fully expects to attain absolute power in the future, but he can only do this by discrediting the gods (religious belief) and their proxies (moral heroes, like Siegmund, and artist-heroes, like Siegfried), and providing his own truth-based rule as the only alternative.

(79) [MB - P. 262-264] ... Wagner's drama shows that love, whatever Feuerbachian faith he might briefly have held in it, remains a form of power and ultimately, at least in large part, a delusion. Where other forces, be they Fate, law, or capital, cannot transcend, nor can love. It might 'redeem' other, less ambiguously negative forms of alienation, yet it remains in need of redemption itself.
(...) In the unsatisfactory yet unavoidable business of naming motifs [#93], we should refer to redemption of rather than through love.
The power of Bruennhilde's erotic love for Siegfried distorts this progression, as evinced by her callous dismissal of Waltraute. Bruennhilde has become human, all-too-human, indifferent to the gods' suffering. (...) But now she can act again from compassion, renouncing particular pleasures and making her peace with Wotan. In her deepest being, Bruennhilde is at one with the noumenon, that undifferentiable oneness.

[PH] Berry states that Wagner the dramatist has shown that Feuerbachian-love is a form of power and delusion, so that #93, the so-called Redemption Motif (or Redemption By Love Motif) with which Wagner closes the "Ring," exspresses redemption "of" love rather than redemption "through" love. For decades, in my copyrighted work on Wagner's "Ring," I have noted that Wagner exposes love as a sort of power right near the beginning, in R.4 (among many other instances), when Fafner disparages Fasolt's love for Freia as merely an egoistic claim to exclusive use of her, since Fafner notes that Fasolt would never have shared her. Fafner's critique expresses Wagner's critique of the allegedly transcendent value of love's fidelity, since, from the standpoint of nature's truth (Erda's knowledge), and man's animal instincts of desire and self-preservation (Fasolt and Fafner respectively), love's fidelity is no more than one ego's exclusive claim to enjoyment over another claimant to that object of enjoyment. And one can't help noting that, ultimately, Bruennhilde converts Alberich's Ring into the symbol of the love-bond she shares with Siegfried. The problem is that Alberich's Ring (i.e., its musical motif #19), had already given birth to the original Valhalla (i.e., to the initial segment of the Valhalla Motif, #20a), in Wotan's (Light-Alberich's) dream of inspiration, and likewise, Siegfried's love for Bruennhilde, which is Wagner's metaphor for his unconscious artistic inspiration (a new Valhalla) by Wotan's secret, his forbidden hoard of knowledge which he imparted to Bruennhilde through his confession to her, is another example of Alberich's Ring being the ultimate, though hidden, source of inspiration.

Berry references here, as part of his evidence that love in the "Ring" is an expression of power, Bruennhilde's callous dismissal of Waltraute and of Wotan's and the gods' fears, which Waltraute conveyed to Bruennhilde, in favor of Siegfried's love, which is Bruennhilde's sole concern. Again, Berry doesn't grasp the allegorical logic at work here. Bruennhilde instinctively wishes to wholly banish religious faith, represented by Wotan and the other gods, from her love for Siegfried, which is Wagner's metaphor for secular art, the power of which can only be fully expressed if it is wholly autonomous from its roots in religious faith, as otherwise, according to Feuerbach, it would be subject to religious belief's liability to be contradicted by scientific knowledge, and logic. Bruennhilde's alleged callousness is actually the product of Wotan's own insistence, in his confession to her, that only in a hero who would be Wotan's friendly foe, and in defiance of him become dear to him, could he find redemption. And of course it was Wotan, not Bruennhilde, who insisted on breaking off all overt relations with her and with her concerns. But Berry is correct to the extent that in "Parsifal," far more so than in the "Ring," love (but construed according to my interpretation, again, as Wagner's metaphor for his own redemptive art) is rejected, and is indeed construed as one more expression, however covertly, of the will-to-power represented by the Ring, its power, and its curse.

Finally, Berry states that Bruennhilde is essentially at one with the noumenal, by which presumably he means Schopenhauer's world-will, the allegedly unknowable thing-in-itself. Erda, Bruennhilde's mother, to all intents and purposes represents an equivalent to Schopenhauer's world-will in the "Ring," but that will is the evolutionary will to power itself, which manifests itself in time and space and under laws of causality and/or other natural laws (as described in quantum physics, etc.) we don't yet fully understand. This is where Wagner synthesizes distinct strands of thought which were represented in Hegel on the one hand, and Schopenhauer on the other, because Schopenhauer, for reasons which remain murky to me, seems, at least sometimes, to have insisted that evolution and human history are somehow not expressions of the evolution of the will's rise to consciousness in man [experts on Schopenhauer please help me here, for you are sure to know of extracts from Schopenhauer which would put the lie to what I just said]. But I can recall passages in Schopenhauer, by the dozen (and many of Wagner's paraphrases of them), which indicate that mineral existence, vegetation, sentient animal life, and human life differ to the degree that they both express the will, and are increasingly conscious of the will in themselves, but that the will doesn't become fully conscious of itself except in man, and specifically in higher men. In fact, what makes man unique, in Schopenhauer's system, is that in man alone the will can come to know itself well enough to abhor itself and seek redemption. Erda's wisdom, the virtual voice of the Will-in-Nature, isn't, it seems to me, once she's known objectively, going to provide a consoling escape from the Will, except in the subjective sense that the natural evolution of the human mind included the development of man's capacity for consoling himself with illusion, an illusion, however, predestined by the laws of nature/evolution/history to be overthrown by historical man himself, through his advancement in knowledge (Alberich's and Wotan's acquisition of a hoard of treasure/knowledge, gleaned from Erda's navel, bowels, and surface). Bruennhilde, Erda's and Wotan's daughter (representing the product of man's confrontation with his mother, Nature) taps into the noumenal only in the sense that Feuerbach said man's unconscious, involuntary mind links him with Mother Nature and with all of nature. And of course, Bruennhilde, as Wagner's metaphor for the music which, in loving union with the artist-hero, the dramatic poet Siegfried, gives birth to the Wagnerian music-drama, can be understood in Schopenhauerian terms as what Wagner described as music's direct transcript of the Will.

Signing off temporarily at 4:20pm on 6/17/12.

Signing on at 8:58am on 6/18/12:

(80) [MB - P. 264-266] Siegfried, however, has failed. (...) The gold must be returned to the Rhinemaidens on account of Feuerbachian naturalism, socialist horror at Alberich's conversion of gold into capital, and, above all, Schopenhauerian sympathy with their plight - an emotion of which, it will be recalled, Wotan, in his "Rheingold" power-lust, proved utterly incapable.
(...) ... she [Bruennhilde] exults in leading herself and the hero's steed into the 'laughing fire' of Siegfried's - and her - funeral pyre. Until the very last she insists, her new knowledge notwithstanding, that they will thereby be wed.
(...) The ring has ruled over Nibelheim's capitalist hell, protected and crowned Fafner's Proudhonian hoard, and calamitously perverted the love of Siegfried and Bruennhilde into a marital reification of bourgeois property relations.

[PH] Berry tells us that Siegfried (i.e., Wotan's hope that Siegfried would redeem gods and world from Alberich's curse on his Ring) has failed, and that the Ring must be returned to the Rhine. But he notes, as if it were a contradiction, that Bruennhilde insists, in spite of her knowledge that love is just another expression of the evil will-to-power, or egoism, that she and Siegfried burn up together, i.e., that their love is the essential thing. In my interpretation Bruennhilde's sole purpose (as she suggested herself in T.P.2) was to be the muse for Siegfried's new adventures, which, in my interpretation, are a metaphor for Siegfried's heroic deeds of art inspired by his muse Bruennhilde. But once Siegfried has woken her forever, i.e., once the secret of involuntary religious revelation and unconscious artistic inspiration (the secret hoard of knowledge hidden within the womb of night) has been exposed to the light of day, that gift of unconscious artistic inspiration has seen its last day. But the art produced by that now defunct inspiration can live on with each performance, even in a de-mythologized world (or, at least until all those who truly care about such art see through it, to its true identity as covert religious longing for transcendence, and are unable any longer to enjoy its enchantment). My interpretation of Bruennhilde's ecstatically expressed longing to burn up in Siegfried's funeral pyre, in a final symbolic union, which is another way of saying that their love will be burned up in Loge's - the archetypal artist-hero and master of Wahn - fire of illusion (i.e., burn up to fulfil the trajectory of its own history, its very nature as a transient phenomenon), is that this represents Wagner's acknowledgment that the futile longing for transcendent value that this love represents, which his music-dramas express, can live on only in Wagner's "Ring," each time it's performed. This explains also how the Gibichung's watch these events and become, like us, Wagner's audience. It is this, having just experienced the entire "Ring of the Nibelung" (keeping in mind that Siegfried recounted its primary events in miniature in the narrative of his life he sang to explain how he came to understand birdsong, i.e., how he came to be a music-dramatist), which moves the Gibichungs to the depths of their being, as they watch Valhalla and the gods, and the loving couple, burn up.

Wagner has clearly distinguished the redemption from Alberich's curse, which is only to be obtained by returning the ring (of consciousness, for consciousness is the curse: think here of Tristan's desperation to return from sunlight to the womb of night, the whole point of the third act) to the Rhine of preconsciousness, from the redemption through love-art which Siegfried and Bruennhilde had temporarily offered man, and to which Wotan initially looked for redemption until, having realized that Siegfried would fail, turned instead to the original option of returning the Ring to the Rhinedaughters. He simply had no desire for that to happen until he saw that Siegfried's and Bruennhilde's love, and their capacity to keep his secret, and maintain control over the Ring, would fail.

I don't agree with Berry's assessment, at the end, that the supposed fact(s) that the Ring-power had brought into the world Alberich's exploitation of man through capital and industrialization, Fafner's Proudhonian hoarding, or the perversion of Siegfried's and Bruennhilde's love to a mere matter of conventional marital relations and bourgeois obsession with property, has much to do with this, at least in Wagner's final version of the "Ring" which we now see performed on the stage (though granting Berry's assumption that at various times during the gestation of the "Ring" these ideas had been key parts of Wagner's conception of his evolving artwork). I think Alberich's forging of the Ring and enslavement of his fellow Nibelungs [and note: if Alberich were one of Wagner's stereotypes for Jews, wouldn't Wagner, who said at times that the Jews as a people or race or religion or ethnic group were out to exploit the comparatively naive Europeans among whom they lived, have been more likely to portray Alberich allying with his own people to put the screws to other peoples in the "Ring"?) is far more fundamental and primal, and much less topical, that Berry's reading of Fafner's hoarding as Proudhonesque is wrong, and that Siegfried's and Bruennhilde's alleged marital contract and relations, as Berry reads them, have comparatively little to do with Wagner's final universal perspective as embodied in his "Ring," considered as a whole. I will grant Berry, however, that there is no mistaking that Siegfried's brutality towards Bruennhilde seems very like that of Hunding (not that Berry said this, but it is implicit in various remarks he makes in his book), and there is no doubt that Siegfried's abduction of Bruennhilde to give to another man is intended in some sense to be compared with Hunding's buying Sieglinde from the Neidings who abducted her, and his brutal behavior toward her as an object, or piece of property, later. So I'm not saying Berry is entirely wrong on these points, but simply that there is much more to this matter than he has expressed.

(81) [MB - P. 266-267] However, although Hagen dies, Alberich is conspicuous only by his absence. Why might this be so? Marcuse offers a clue, writing:

If art were to promise that at the end good would triumph over evil, such a promise would be refuted by the historical truth. In reality it is evil which
triumphs, and there are only islands of good where one can find a refuge for a brief time. Authentic works of art are aware of this; they reject the
promise made too easily; they reject the unburdened happy end.

Likewise, Wagner urged Liszt in his "Dante Symphony" not to repeat Dante's error of representing Paradise after the Inferno and Purgatory. 'The really perplexing problem,' he continued, was:

... how, in this terrible world of ours, beyond which there is only nothingness, it might be possible to infer the existence of a God who would make life's
immense sufferings merely something apparent, while the redemption we long for is seen as something entirely real that may be consciously enjoyed.

Alberich's escape alerts us to this danger, and suggests we should consider a cyclical interpretation: Schopenhauer contra Hegel (or Marx). Robert Tucker criticises Marx thus, accusing him of never seeming to have asked what would prevent the inhuman force of egoistic need 'from rising again to estrange man from himself on the yonder side of history'. By locating the ultimate source of 'egoistic need' in the will-to-power, Wagner avoids the danger - if danger it be. Adorno alerts us to the opposing peril when remarking that the forces Wagner unleashes 'end up sustaining the state of immutability and hence the powers that be - the very powers that they had set out to overthrow'.
Might new Alberich's and Wotan's come along to repeat the mistakes of their forebears?

[PH] Berry notes that Alberich survives (at any rate he is unaccounted for at the conclusion of the "Ring," though in an earlier draft Wagner depicted Alberich sitting on the sidelines wringing his hands at the failure of Hagen's last ditch effort to retrieve the Ring as the Rhinedaughters swam away with it) and adds that one explanation of this is that in human history evil is victorious (Marcuse's observation: but Wagner himself once said this himself in answer to the question, why is it that Siegfried dies at Hagen's hands). To explain this Berry quotes Wagner's critique of the Christian concept of paradise, in which Wagner stated that he wondered how man can posit a God and a paradise of redemption as real, when there is no God but only nothingness, while the suffering from which man hopes to be redeemed is regarded as mere illusion. I have used this same extract from Wagner to make precisely the same point, and other related points, for well over a decade in various copyrighted essays I've written about the "Ring." The primary source for this concept is, again, Feuerbach.

Berry goes on to say that Alberich's survival suggests a cyclical interpretation of the "Ring," in which everything we've just witnessed may happen all over again, since egoism hasn't been eradicated from human nature and presumably will come to the fore in all future social and cultural arrangements. Berry suggests that Wagner avoids the danger of positing a happy ending, by locating the ego's need in the will-to-power. I'm not sure in what sense this avoids the danger of being too confident in a happy ending (isn't it enough that man's egoism will always persist!), or even in what sense it is a danger. It has long been central to my interpretation that at the end of the "Ring," in a very real sense, the same conditions exist with which the "Ring" began, with the Rhinedaughters in possession of the now dissolved (back into gleaming gold, presumably) Ring, the Ring curse ended (at least in the cycle which has now ended), Alberich waiting in the wings, and the Rhinedaughters having been warned by Bruennhilde to watch out that their gold isn't stolen again (just as Father Rhine is described by Waltraute as having warned his daughters to guard the gold from the likes of Alberich). But on a more cosmic scale, even if we were to interpret the finale of the "Ring" as a wholesale cosmic destruction, and the end of the present cycle of evolutionary development on earth, the laws of nature persist, and the stuff of nature persists, and therefore the evolution of conscious being, here, or there, now, or later, could always reproduce what had occurred in prior cosmic cycles ad infinitum. But Berry is absolutely right to say that the "Ring" can accommodate both a linear historical interpretation, or a cyclical one, but primarily because the linear one provides the units of the cyclical repetitions.

(82) [MB - P. 267-270] And yet, Adorno is wrong to claim that Wagner's work is characterised by an 'inexorable progression that fails to create any new quality and constantly flows into the already known'. Wagner might not explicitly reject the Schopenhauer ending, but he is clear that the Wanderer rejects Fate, and the principle of reincarnation is not actually incorporated into the drama. The "Ring" remains on the developmental plane of world-history, as opposed to that which Hegel termed Nature's 'cycle which ever repeats itself,' with 'nothing new under the sun'. At the same time, the cycle plays a far stronger role in development - or regression - than Hegel allowed. The fundamental role played by the will-to-power hinders but does not exclude progress. Wagner hints at this in the role of those who watch the fire in the heavens from the ruins of Gibichung Hall, 'moved to the very depths of their being'. What they will do remains unclear, but these 'men and women' ... will not stand in the same position as those never vouchsafed the opportunity to observe.
What should we make of the watchers? (...) It is crucial to remember that the watchers are human. The gods' rule has come to an end, albeit an end owing as much to Bakunin's fire as to Feuerbach's love. Nietzsche's precedent is clear:

Indeed, we philosophers and 'free spirits' feel, when we hear the news that 'the old god is dead,' as if a new dawn shone upon us ... . At long last the
horizon appears free to us again, even if it should not be bright; at long last our ships may venture out again, venture out to face any danger; all the
daring of the lover of knowledge is permitted again ... .

Cosima tantalizes us in recording an 1873 discussion on 'the idea in Scandinavian mythology of a new world to follow the downfall of the gods,' but, alas, she reveals no more of its content. However, if the watchers are moved by the burning of Valhalla, and resolved to attempt the construction of a world without (divine) transcendence, they are also moved by Bruennhilde's renunciation of the Will. At the time of the Schopenhauer ending, Wagner could claim that the 'men and women - for the first time in the entire work - ... feel and express a far broader sympathy'.
Sympathy returns us to Caritas. (...) We should remember ... that Bruennhilde's conversion began with the compassion she felt for the Volsungs' plight. The watchers are vouchsafed that possibility through sympathy with her plight - and have the Feuerbachian advantage of living in a world without false gods. Loss of virginity will not be their trauma. On the other hand, caritas may move them towards some form of Christianity, shorn of its most objectionable external manifestations. (...) Like Feuerbach and Schopenhauer, Wagner is keen to restate some 'true' form of religion in particular and, arguably, Christianity in particular. (...)
The uncertainty of the watchers' position precludes talk of a 'happy ending', yet they stand a little advanced upon us, as a beacon of hope in a world that has destroyed neither Valhalla nor Nibelheim. Art, in Marcuse's words, 'cannot change the world, but it can contribute to changing the consciousness and drives of the men and women who could change the world. (...) ... what, then, of the 'cloth-capped workers out of Brecht-Weill' in Chereau's production? Tanner acidly remarks that the Centenary "Ring" was, after all, a "Ring" to make us think. There is no evidence yet that it has succeeded.' On the contrary, the debate ignited has still not died down. The watchers might be seen, if not to present a particular social class, then at least to provide a crucial social element to the "Ring"'s denouement: a counterpoise to the 'interior' ending to "Tristan ... ."

[PH] Berry argues, in favor of his essentially linear reading of the "Ring," which precludes a cyclical interpretation, that Wotan rejects fate and reincarnation isn't incorporated into the "Ring," so the "Ring" is progressive and remains an account of linear world-history, and doesn't represent a natural cycle which repeats itself. Feuerbach, I note, stated that nature always repeats itself, but that man introduces the new. I might add that though Berry cited Wagner's remark that Wotan lives on, reborn, in Siegfried, in the sense that the artist lives on in his artwork, in which the artist himself is forgotten, he doesn't grasp the figurative sense in which Wotan, the representative of man's religious impulse to renounce the real world in favor of an imagined supernatural alternative, lives on in Siegfried, Wagner's metaphor for the unconsciously inspired secular artist-hero in whom collective, historical man's (Wotan's) longing for transcendence, man's metaphysical need, lives on as feeling, musically, rather than as thought (or a faith).

Berry states that the Will-to-Power hinders but does not exclude progress. Here I believe he's misconstrued Wagner's notion of the Will-to-Power, which in the "Ring" is the impulse underlying natural law itself, one expression of which is the apparently rare and exceptional natural evolution of species which culminates in conscious being (called man, on earth), an evolutionary trajectory which then proceeds through symbolic, or cultural, evolution. Berry says the Gibichung watchers, who are moved to the depths of their being watching the cataclysmic events of the "Ring"'s finale unfold, won't remain unchanged. He then asks who these Watchers are. He quotes Nietzsche's remark that with God's (in this case, the Valhallan gods') death the daring of the lover of knowledge (Alberich and Hagen, in the "Ring") is permitted again. I note that it was the daring of the lover of knowledge, for a long timed suppressed by cultures still sleeping under the sway of that collective waking dream called religion, which overthrew religious faith (the gods) in the first place. Berry then quotes Wagner's remark that in a Scandinavian myth a new world follows the gods' downfall, and draws from this the suggestion that the Gibichung Watchers may be able to construct the world sans belief in divine transcendence, and that they are also moved by Bruennhilde's renunciation of the Will and compassionate sympathy for all. He notes that like Schopenhauerr and Feuerbach, Wagner tried to establish a new form of religion (which is true). However, he also states that the uncertain position of the Watchers at the end precludes a happy ending. I would agree that the ending can't be construed in such simple terms as a happy ending (of course, there is something besides conventional happiness, which is the tragic beauty of romantic melancholy, which is, I think, more to the point, and I think for Wagner a more elevated state than sheer happiness as it's conventionally understood). Berry adds, strangely, that Valhalla and Nibelheim aren't destroyed (didn't we just see Valhalla - religion and art - destroyed, and didn't Alberich, ruler of Nibelheim, survive?). Of course, I suspect that Berry means that new Valhallas, like new Wotan's, may arise in another cycle.

Berry argues that Michael Tanner was wrong to aver that Chereau's Brecht-Weill-inspired Gibichung workers haven't made us think, for, as Berry says, the debate about this goes on. I would agree that the debate goes on, but that's no tribute to Chereau imposing his own reading on a production of the "Ring," which collapses the "Ring"'s provocative ambiguity into a somewhat impoverished one-sided topical reading which can scarcely accommodate the richness of the "Ring."

Berry says the Gibichung Watchers provide a social counterpoise to "Tristan"'s interior end, but it's worth noting that Wagner, in his essay "Epilogue to 'The Nibelung's Ring'," stated that the plots of "Twilight of the Gods" and "Tristan" are virtually identical, a point made by Nattiez in his book "Wagner Androgyne," and also long a key factor in my interpretation of the "Ring" and Wagner's other mature music-dramas as being best understood as varying expressions of a unified world-view and allegory. This suggests that their ultimate meaning may well be identical (though not necessarily so), and in my interpretation they are, for in both cases Wagner depicts the tragedy which ensues when the artist-hero unwittingly exposes to the light of day, to conscious thought, what had heretofore been the secret of unconscious artistic inspiration and religious revelation, by giving his muse (his unconscious mind and the hoard of knowledge contained herein) way to another man (Gunther, and his fellow Gibichungs, Wagner's metaphor for his own audience).

Signing off temporarily at 11:55pm on 6/18/12.

Signing on at 1:10pm on 6/18/12:

(83) [MB - P. 270-272] ... in "Art and Revolution," Wagner had attacked the 'utopia' of Christianity, whose dogmas had never been realisable. His move towards Schopenhauer lessened his hostility, yet reconciliation is never completed; not in the "Ring," nor even in "Parsifal." One the other hand, as Wagner lapped up Schopenhauer's metaphysics, the increasingly preferential role played by music in the Gesamptkunstwerk itself provided a utopian vision. Wagner even rejected the 'Schopenhauer ending' as tendentious, resolving to let the music speak for itself - even if, perhaps especially if, it should ultimately resist translation into words. The final grandeur of Valhalla ablaze and the glorious - if prophetic? - memory of Siegfried and the 'act' lead us into that enigmatic final motif [#93]. Its enigma is as intrinsic, as insoluble, as that of the 'Tristan chord'. It provokes the dangerous, yet creative, questioning of Wotan and Loge, and the malcontent and rebellion of the Volsungs; through Bruennhilde and the watchers, it tantalises us with 'religious awareness', the possibility of redemption. Falling short of absolute reconciliation - as even Hegel had done - returns us to the dialectical conflict between 'absolute' Romantic music and critical utopian ideas.
It seems fitting to turn one last time to the Centenary-"Ring," which has proved quite an inspiration throughout this book. In his "Performer's notebook," Boulez writes:

There have been endless discussions as to whether this conclusion is pessimistic or optimistic; but is that finally the question? Or at any rate can the
question be put in such simple terms? Chereau has called it 'oracular', and it is a good description. In the ancient world, oracles were always ambiguously
phrased so that their deeper meaning could be understood after the event, which, as it were, provided a semantic analysis of the oracle's statement.
Wagner refuses any conclusion as such, simply leaving us with the premisses for a conclusion that remains shifting and indeterminate in meaning.

Chereau himself wished:

... that the orchestra pit be, like Delphi's smoking pit, a crevice uttering oracles - the Funeral March and the concluding redemption motif. The
redemption motif is a message delivered to the entire world, but like all pythonesses, the orchestra is unclear, and there are several ways in which one
might interpret its message. ... Should one not hear it it with mistrust and anxiety?

[PH] Berry suggests that while in the 1840's Wagner could write that a Christian utopia was unrealizable, his conversion to Schopenhauer's philosophy in the
1850's lessened his hostility to the notion of redemption, though reconciliation with it was never fully achieved in either the "Ring" or "Parsifal." He also states that Schopenhauer influenced Wagner to grant music an increasing role in his utopian vision. Given Berry's citation of Wagner's remark that Prospero broke his magical wand in order to exchange knowledge - the achievements of the modern world - for music (an extract which has played an important role in my interpretation over the years), and given also Berry's familiarity with Nattiez's thesis that Siegfried is Wagner's metaphor for the poet-dramatist, and Bruennhilde his metaphor for music, and that their loving union would theoretically produce the Wagnerian music-drama, not to mention Berry's multiple references to the fact that Siegfried and Bruennhilde inaugurate a new Feuerbachian religion of mortal love, it is surprising that Berry doesn't draw the proper inference, that this new religion their love produces is in fact, as both Nattiez and I have long asserted, the Wagnerian music-drama.

Berry then moves on to discuss Motif #93, first heard in V.3.1 when Sieglinde praises Bruennhilde for her help in time of need, and for saving Sieglinde's prospective child (Siegfried), and heard only one more time in the "Ring" during its finale as Bruennhilde tells her horse Grane that they are going to ride together into Siegfried's funeral pyre so they can join him in love and death. #93 is often identified as Wagner's redemption (specifically, redemption by love) motif, though Wagner himself never called it that, describing it instead as a motif (a hymn to heroes) celebrating Siegfried. It has since become known as the
Glorification of Bruennhilde. The only motif from the "Ring" which Wagner ever identified as a redemption motif was #134, which is the motif heard in S.3.1 when Wotan informs Erda that he no longer fears the end she prophesied because Wotan now leaves Siegfried his heir, etc.. This Motif #134 is identified initially with Wotan's futile hope that the loving union of Siegfried with Bruennhilde (i.e., the secular art which the muse Bruennhilde will inspire her lover, the artist-hero Siegfried, to create) will redeem the world, i.e., redeem man's religious longing for transcendent value from destruction by objective knowledge. In any case, Berry states that #93, which he describes as enigmatic, is as intrinsic and insoluble as the Tristan Chord. He adds that through Bruennhilde and the Gibichung watchers #93 tantalizes us with religious awareness and the possibility of redemption.

I repeat: the only "Ring" motif Wagner ever verbally associated with the idea of redemption was #134, the so-called World-Inheritance Motif, which accompanies Wotan in the orchestra as he informs Erda (whose knowledge, as he says just a moment prior to the introduction of #134, wanes before his will, namely, before Bruennhilde, and this is because Wotan repressed Erda's knowledge into his unconscious mind Bruennhilde by confessing it to her, in whom Wotan's secret hoard of knowledge would remain forever unspoken) that he no longer fears the end because he joyously leaves Siegfried and Bruennhilde his heirs, noting on the one hand that Siegfried is freed from Alberich's curse on his Ring, and noting on the other hand that upon waking for Siegfried Bruennhilde will perform that deed which will redeem the world, and that Wotan joyously yields to the ever young (Wagner in his writings identified the ever young with art, as opposed to religions, which grow old and defunct, and science, which changes its paradigms over time, while great works of art remain eternally and universally valid and impressive). Wagner also told Heinrich Porges that upon its first sounding in S.3.1, #93 should sound like the herald of a "new religion." It has been a centerpiece of my "Ring" interpretation since 1983 and before that the new religion, the new Valhalla, which Siegfried's and Bruennhilde's love inaugurates, is Wagnerian music-drama. So Berry skirts this issue but for some reason seems unable to incorporate it into his interpretation, settling instead for the comparatively unfruitful notion that Siegfried is merely another failed social revolutionary like his tragic father Siegmund, with the difference that Siegfried isn't conscious of his true status or role, and that Siegfried's unconsciousness is his downfall. This weak link in his reasoning leads Berry into total confusion about Siegfried's true nature, so it seems to me that Berry really hasn't the remotest idea who Siegfried really is. He simply hasn't a clue why Siegfried is unconscious, or how this is actually Siegfried's virtue, the root of his heroism.

Of course Siegfried and Bruennhilde both betray the redemptive promise of music-drama, the new religion, by exposing the secret of its inspiration (their love) to the light of day, to Wagner's audience, represented by Gunther and the Gibichungs. It is of course to Gunther in particular that Siegfried gives away in marriage his own true love (fulfilling Wagner's intent to share the profoundest secret of his poetic intent with his audience through his motifs, and through Wagnerian "Wonder," which allows Wagner's audience to share his second-sight, so to speak), the muse who is the repository for that forbidden knowledge to which alone the authentically unconsciously inspired artist-hero Siegfried should have had access, so that, instead of concealing this fatal knowledge both from his own unconscious mind, and from his audience, Siegfried unwittingly revealed it. The redemption to be obtained by a restoration of the Ring of conscious mind to the preconscious Rhine/Rhinedaughters means something altogether different from this new religion of art, which depended upon the Ring and its power as its sole hidden source of inspiration, though the one (Siegfried receiving and giving to his audience redemption from full consciousness through his muse Bruennhilde's loving inspiration of his art) is a metaphor for the other (throwing the ring of consciousness back into the Rhine of dissolution), just as the Rhine, and water in general for Wagner, is a metaphor for music and for the unconscious.

Berry says we are left with a dialectical conflict between absolute romantic music and critical utopian ideas. My interpretation can aid him greatly here, for I have incorporated into my interpretation Feuerbach's assertion that when religion began to die out as a faith, as a concept, when God, figuratively speaking, had to retreat in the face of man's advancement in conscious knowledge, as Wotan gradually retreats from involvement in the world to become a mere observer, religious faith, God, took refuge in music. Wagner on several occasions paraphrases Feuerbach's thesis, and obviously dramatized it in Siegfried's waking his muse Bruennhilde and falling heir to Wotan's hopes and fears (I speak here of Siegfried's fear upon preparing to wake Bruennhilde, and immediately after he has woken her, caused, in my interpretation, by his premonition that he'll be waking Wotan's repressed hoard of knowledge, which Wotan confessed to Bruennhilde precisely because he couldn't bear to speak it aloud, which is to say, consciously).

Berry notes Chereau's observation that we should hear the "Ring" finale and #93 with mistrust and anxiety, and there is a certain truth in that, because Berry is right to say that the "Ring" finale not only does not present any straightforward redemption, but actually leaves the question of redemption in doubt. It was only in "Parsifal" that Wagner would make his final attempt, at least partially successful, to resolve the doubts raised by the "Ring."

End of Part Seven: Edited/Revised by Paul Heise on 6/23/12.
Site Admin
Posts: 396
Joined: Tue Apr 19, 2011 11:03 am

Return to General Discussion

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests