Deathridge Chapters Five through Eight

General Discussion about Wagner and The Ring of the Nibelung

Moderators: Justin Jeffrey, alberich00

Deathridge Chapters Five through Eight

Postby alberich00 » Fri Sep 23, 2011 1:46 pm

JOHN DEATHRIDGE: "WAGNER BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL"

CHAPTER FIVE: SYMPHONIC MASTERY OR MORAL ANARCHY? [ABOUT "THE VALKYRIE"]

JD P. 54-55: JD discusses Wagner's reluctance to allow performances of orchestral chunks from his "Ring" in the concert hall divorced from their complete dramatic context, though he notes Wagner from time to time had to compromise that ideal to bring in cash, but even more to advertise his work to a larger public who might be persuaded to get to know his works better in their original form in the opera house. In the event, JD notes, even the Munich premiere of "The Valkyrie," which Wagner had disavowed because he did not have total control over the production, generated great enthusiasm for his "Ring" considered as a whole.

JD P. 56: Now JD gets to the heart of the matter: "The startling disparity between unstinting admiration for Wagner's music and skepticism about his dramatic ideas has arisen too frequently in the history of his fame for it simply to be described as a series of misunderstandings. (...) Baudelaire went so far as to say that the musical extracts he heard in the concert hall had a self-explanatory quality ... that made the larger works perfectly intelligible even to those who had no knowledge of the libretti. ... in putting it that way Baudelaire was perhaps already suggesting that the sheer imaginative power of Wagner's music - its aura, so to speak - can transport listeners into their own wondrous, secretive worlds that make sense precisely because they have so little to do with some distracting stage 'business.' "

PH: I can't help recalling Wagner's critique of one of Beethoven's four overtures to "Fidelio," that it was so complete in itself that it made the actual opera which follows it seem superfluous. And of course it is well known that in his last years, while completing "Parsifal," he fantasized about writing symphonies, or, to be more accurate, tone poems, which would be freed of the burden of carrying a drama. I myself have long struggled to justify the essentiality of Wagner's union of music with staged drama to the skeptics who prefer merely to swim within his music sans the stage business for which it was written. A classic example: I once contributed to several Wagner discussion forums (in the early 2000's) and sometimes got into debates about the meaning of various events in the drama (but always taking the music into account in these discussions). One of the regular contributors addressed a complaint to both myself and one of my debating partners to the following effect: he asked: "When did you both stop listening to the music?" Similarly, at a seminar on "Tristan" run by Dr. Elliott Zuckerman back, I think, in the 70's, one of the participants asked the other participants why we didn't just shut up about questions of meaning in the libretto and just listen to the music.

I found it quite extraordinary that a participant in a Wagner discussion forum would take it on faith that two other members who find value in speculating about the possible meaning of Wagner's music-dramas understood as a whole, and not understood merely as music, did not have a capacity to enjoy Wagner's music, as if experiencing Wagner's artworks as a union of music and drama, as Wagner intended, was somehow an inauthentic Wagnerian experience, somehow fraudulent or missing the point. I recall that Ernest Newman was fond of denigrating the drama in Wagner's music-dramas in favor of Newman's notion that they are best appreciated as magnificent tone poems. [Feuerzauber and A.C. Douglas have posted their objections to my recollection of Newman's opinion here, below, and perhaps they are right. It has been probably 30 years or more since I read Newman's "Wagner as Man and Artist," "Wagner Nights," and his four part biography of Wagner, so my memory may be faulty. I recall reading Newman's opinion in my copy of "Wagner as Man and Artist" and will have to dig that book out of one of the storage boxes in my basement and find my reference, or, if I can't find it, retract this statement. Thanks to both Feuerbach and A.C. Douglas for being alert to this possible misrepresentation.] In any case, I regard my capacity to grasp Wagner's music-dramas as a unity to be a virtue, not a vice, and I believe Wagner would have concurred, in spite of his occasional doubts about the significance of his librettos in relation to their music. Wagner can be quoted against himself fairly extensively on this subject, even up until his final years.

Well, I vehemently resist this instinct to denigrate the drama in favor of the music, and not merely because Wagner himself insisted on the importance of his union of music and drama. A large part of the very meaning of his mature music-dramas is the constant contrast between the real world and the ideal world of the imagination, the contrast between history and myth, and other similar contrasts. Wagner also said that while the words and dramatic incidents of his music-dramas give the audience the specifics, the "points" as it were, the music gives the audience the general feeling - the wave, if you will - which corresponds with the specifics of the drama. The point I'm making is that one needs to experience both elements simultaneously to have the authentic Wagnerian experience: not only the conceptual meaning of the libretto, but the ability to experience the full potential of the musical feeling, depends on the simultaneous experience of the contrast between these two worlds, which is actually dramatized graphically in "Tristan" in the contrast between night and day. For the same reason, when Wagner says that a sword or a spear or a rainbow is on the scene, it is manifestly absurd either to replace a symbol, which is actually mentioned by characters in the opera, with another object, or to simply leave this object out. I recall how preposterous it was when Chereau, for instance, did nothing whatsoever to represent the Rainbow Bridge in R.4. A vast proportion of the musico-dramatic power of Wagner's works depends entirely on the interaction of the music with the staged drama and words. Of course much of the music to which Wagner set his operas and music-dramas is persuasive and poignant in its own right, but it can never reach its full potential as musical expression without the context for which it was written.

At the risk of insulting some of my readers, I'm compelled to broach a possibility: the allegorical logic of Wagner's most important librettos is difficult for many in the audience to absorb in a way that evidently is not true with respect to large stretches of the music. While the dramas have for me always been compelling when experienced as they should be with their music, I realize a portion of Wagner's admirers either have not, or cannot, absorb them in the way that some other members of the audience can. I also realize that such admirers obtain an extraordinary experience merely listening to Wagner's music without considering them as dramas. Though I, too, can enjoy Wagner's music merely as music as well as any others, the comprehensive experience of Wagner's music-dramas as music-dramas, and not merely dramatic pretexts for grand tone-poems, is the highest artistic experience of my life. Though this is not a fair comparison, I suppose there are those who are color-blind who can enjoy Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel frescoes in shades of grey, for the sake of all those aspects of Michelangelo's artistic expression which are conveyed without the color, but nonetheless I don't think anyone would argue that the color-blind have as complete an experience of the original as those (assuming an equal capacity for appreciation of Michelangelo's art) who can also experience them in color. I apologize in advance to any visitor to our discussion forum who believes I have disparaged their experience of Wagner, but what I've said has to be said in defense of Wagner's legacy. How much would be lost to us if we only knew Wagner's music and not the dramas for which they were written! If we enter the rating game, Wagner would take his place among perhaps 5 or 6 great composers, and probably not at the very pinnacle, but considered as a music-dramatist, he, in my view, is at the pinnacle of this art-form. As much as I love the greatest operas, for instance, of Mozart or Verdi, I have never found the arguments offered by their adherents for their supremacy over Wagner to be persuasive or have any weight. In saying this I realize of course that at the highest levels of art such discussions are probably senseless in any case.

JD P. 58-59: JD takes on the skeptics. He addresses the criticism that Wagner "... gave his cycle of four dramas a social and ethical dimension of such weight that it raised the stakes too high in terms of what a work of art - especially one that relies heavily on the notoriously elusive art of music - can be expected to deliver. When one is confronted with a work like 'Die Walkuere,' however, the argument is far from convincing. Not only did Wagner's musical inspiration blossom forth as never before ... , but he also created a powerful piece of theater that, despite its mythological paraphernalia, outdoes even Ibsen in showing how middle-class life has become enmeshed in a social order failing for well over two centuries to heal the wounds it has inflicted on society. ... there is no denying that the magnificence of this 'terrible tragedy,' as Wagner described it, is due in no small measure to its ambition as social drama."

PH: JD's point underscores the fact that though Wagner's music-dramas could not, I think, stand alone as dramas without their music, with their music, i.e., taken as they were conceived, as a whole, they grant Wagner status not only as one of the great composers, but also as one of the great dramatists, as Joseph Kerman once argued.

JD P. 58: JD notes with fascination that both the far right (i.e., the totalitarian Nazis) and the far left (i.e., the totalitarian Bolsheviks) claimed to find encouragement in Wagner's "Ring" as a revolutionary work, a foundation for political revolution. "Indeed, the sum effect of political turf wars over the "Ring" has probably been its reduction in the eyes and ears of many to a meaningless and ugly surrealism."

JD P. 60: Speaking of "The Valkyrie," JD says, with PH's full concurrence: "It is not, as Brahms's biographer Max Kalback claimed, a perversion of Greek tragedy [PH: Siegmund and Sieglinde openly espouse their incestuous love, rather than being the victims of ignorance like Oedipus and his mother, who sin, as Wagner put it, unconsciously, but rightly, since the product of their illicit union produces the sublimely heroic Antigone, one of Wagner's models, along with Athena, for Bruennhilde.], but something entirely different, deliberately poised, albeit precariously, between supreme beauty and musical mastery on the one hand and, on the other, at the most intimate level, the tragic modern conflict of human beings in a disenchanted world."

CHAPTER SIX: SIEGFRIED HERO

JD P. 62-63: JD discusses the repellent aspects of Siegfried's character, and that Wagner himself predicted Siegfried would likely be misinterpreted, since he asked Porges to record Wagner's opinion that Siegfried's crude self-expression must be understood as the natural expression of a heroic character who, as Wagner put it, '... has not yet found an object in life worthy of his superabundant strength.' "

PH: Readers of my posted chapters on "Siegfried" will see that I interpret Siegfried's instinctive abhorrence of his foster-father Mime as an expression of Wotan's self-contempt, the self-loathing expressed by Wotan to Bruennhilde in his confession. Another way of putting it is to draw an analogy with Feuerbach's distinction between religion (based, he said, on egoism and fear) and art in thinking of Mime as Wotan's prose, and of Siegfried as Wotan's poetry. Wotan essentially wishes to be reborn as another "self." Siegfried is that other self advantaged by lacking Wotan's unbearable self-consciousness, for Siegfried does not know who he is, and he does not know who he is because Wotan repressed the unbearable knowledge of his own true, craven identity into Bruennhilde, Wotan's unconscious mind, during his confession to her, thus planting the seed of longing in Wotan's wish-womb which figuratively gave birth to Siegfried, the artist-hero who is "free" in the Feuerbachian sense that inspired secular art is free from religious faith's vulnerability to the truth, since art doesn't proclaim a conceptual truth. Siegfried's rage against Mime is Wotan's rage against his own true self: by virtue of his repression of his true identity into Bruennhilde, Wotan's former self splits into two, the real (Light-Alberich's Nibelung nature, represented by Alberich's craven and egoistic brother Mime), and the ideal, Siegfried. These two selves are at war within Wotan. It was because Wotan found only himself (his true, craven, Nibelung-self) in all he had done to redeem the gods from Alberich's curse on the Ring, that he longed for the end: but Wagner's art offered an escape-hatch for religious man's longing for transcendent value, so the end did not come after all until art itself (the hero's and heroine's love) was self-betrayed. Similarly, Tristan, knowing himself too well, wills his own end, but his artistic inspiration by his muse Isolde (the temporary salves for man's unhealing wound, man's existential dilemma, which Wagner's muse-heroines offer their hero-lovers) keeps on returning him to the light of day, to live on.

PH: Siegfried's expressions of brutality, especially towards his former lover Bruennhilde in T.1.3, are actually Wagner's characterization of his critique of his own inspired art, that Wagner ultimately construed his own art as another, sublimated expression of man's egoistic will to power, even though Wagner's own art was ostensibly produced in the service of religious man's longing for transcendent, world-renouncing value. Similarly, romantic love can be construed simultaneously as an expression of sublime selfless love for another, and as a ruthless competition for sole possession of a mate. Thus it is that it is ultimately Alberich's Ring, its curse, which is the underlying but hidden source of Siegfried's artistic inspiration, for Alberich's ring curse is nothing less than Kant's proposition that man has an inherent metaphysical impulse, i.e., a need to posit his transcendent value (even in the face of its impossibility).
Let me be clear: I don't mean that Wagner ultimately recognized himself as an egoistic wannabe, uninspired artist in the sense of Beckmesser, but that Wagner recognized, thanks partly to Feuerbach's analysis, that religious faith is ultimately an expression of man's egoistic impulse to control his world, and that secular art is heir to religious faith as a way of creating the feeling of transcendent value. Art to this extent shares the guilt inhering in Wotan's/religion's sin of world-denial, just as Siegfried was unwittingly implicated in Wotan's guilt (as Bruennhilde says in T.3.3).

JD P. 63: In any case, JD says, rightly, that this notion that Siegfried is actually a proto-fascist archetype, the type of the Nazi blond-beast who destroys everything in his path, is not correct: "But this rather lurid scenario hardly offers much insight into the complexities of this apparently steeliest of Wagnerian heroes and what it is supposed to represent."

JD P. 64: Having noted that Siegfried is actually Wagner's brilliant synthesis of a number of distinct sources in myth, folktale, and popular literature, JD says: "On closer examination the story of the rough-and-ready, disconcertingly stupid boy of the woods who confronts evil with his innate superpower, effortlessly kills a dragon and one of his enemies (Mime) as if it were simply 'natural' justice, and gets his woman in the end in predictable comic-book fashion is actually a far from simple allegory of social change that borrows heavily from several myths and the genres of popular fiction. (...) First of all, it is crucial that Siegfried should be a hero of 'nature'. His purpose is that of 'the artist of the future' to lead humanity, the 'people,' back to the heart of nature'. He is the antidote to a divisive Alexandrine culture and the embodiment of one fundamental idea. (...) The task of the hero, the 'artist of the future,' is ... to restore the vanished harmony of art and community (allegedly) known to the Greeks. And he is to do this by moving modern consciousness, focused as it is on money and competition, away from its center of interest with an aesthetically renewed mythology that could once again open it to the experience of the archaic. The goal of humanity, the restoration of a lost sense of unity, is directed both forward and toward a distant point in the past: the future of man is to become at the same time his 'fundamental origin.' "

PH: I quoted JD at length because there is some, but not complete, correspondence here with my take on Siegfried, namely, the following: 1. Siegfried's elimination of both Fafner and Mime as an expression of natural justice is accounted for in my interpretation on the basis that Wotan, figuratively, wished to sacrifice his own head (represented both by Fafner, the egoistic representative of the self-preservation instinct, or FEAR, and by Mime, who represents what Wagner regards as the average man, or the masses, solely concerned with their own survival and well-being but not actually entering into the progression of history as original creative geniuses do, and to that extent always doing the same thing, as figurative mimes) in order to salvage his heart, represented by Bruennhilde and her lover, the artist-hero Siegfried. According to Feuerbach and Wagner religion could only live on as feeling, aesthetic intuition, or music, once it could no longer be posited conceptually as truth, in the face of the rise to consciousness of historical man's knowledge, gradually acquired as an ever increasing hoard of power over time. So Wotan, representative of religion, had to jettison that part of religious faith which stakes a claim to the power of truth, the power of the Ring, in order to salvage religious idealism as feeling. This religious idealism lived on in Siegmund and Sieglinde as ethical consciousness, altruism, and in Siegfried and Bruennhilde as inspired secular art. But the main point I am making is that, by virtue of repressing his head, his loathsome conscious knowledge of himself, into his unconscious mind Bruennhilde, Wotan automatically kills his fear, Fafner, and his consciousness of his cravenness, Mime: their death at Siegfried's hands follows naturally from Wotan's repression of his head into his heart.

2. JD speaks of Siegfried as representing Wagner's notion of the artist of the future, i.e., Wagner himself, though he doesn't subsequently develop this concept. Jean-Jacques Nattiez has been developing this concept (concurrently with myself, the author of "The Wound That Will Never Heal," over many years, going back to the 70's), and discussed it in his book "Wagner Androgyne," where Nattiez followed Wagner's own lead (as expressed in his theoretical works of the late 1840's and early 1850's) in describing Siegfried as a metaphor for the poet-dramatist, and Bruennhilde as Wagner's metaphor for music, so that in their loving union we find Wagner's revolutionary music-drama. I developed this concept entirely independently, with however, an emphasis on Bruennhilde as Siegfried's unconscious mind and muse of artistic inspiration, a concept missing from Nattiez's account, and less emphasis on Bruennhilde's status as a metaphor for music [for which I give Nattiez due credit], from the 1970's onward.

JD P. 65: JD describes how the entirety of "Siegfried" moves ineluctably from darkness to light, culminating in Siegfried's third act love duet with Bruennhilde: "No one who has actually read Wagner's writings and absorbed their basic idea can fail to sense in the smallest details as well as in the larger forms of the music in "Siegfried" an allegory of the movement from the 'dark ages' to the bright light of the future, the leading back to the 'fundamental' feelings of the ancients and hence to man's 'natural' condition ... ."

PH: I have analyzed the conceptual and motival content of "Siegfried" in general, and S.3.3 in particular, in unusual detail, and go further: I construe S.3.3 as Wagner's metaphor for his own experience of unconscious artistic inspiration: he is giving us, his audience, privileged access to that which is normally hidden, even from the artist himself. That is why it is so dangerous, and ends in the tragedy of "Twilight of the Gods," in which the consequences of Wagner's exposure to the daylight of what should have remained hidden even from him, come to fateful fruition.

JD: "At one point the Wanderer refers to Siegfried's imminent arrival like this: 'In gladness, the god gives way to the eternally young.' Wagner said of this passage that it should sound 'like the proclamation of a new religion.' "

PH: Wagner's new religion was his inspired secular art, the product of Siegfried's loving union with his muse and unconscious confrontation with her dangerous hoard of knowledge, which Wotan had committed to her for safekeeping. Wagner drew this notion from Feuerbach, who said that art [represented in the "Ring" by Siegfried the artist-hero's loving union with his muse of inspiration Bruennhilde] and science [represented in the "Ring" by Hagen] would live on after religious belief could no longer be sustained, and noted that religious feeling lives on, safe from contradiction by objective scientific knowledge, after the maturation of human understanding forces man to relinquish the notion of gods. It is noteworthy that Dunning's Motif #134, the only motif in the "Ring" which Wagner described as a redemption motif, is heard as Wotan tells Erda in S.3.1 that "in gladness, the god gives way to the eternally young." Wagner described inspired art as that which lives on, eternally young, when religions cease to persuade and when scientific knowledge changes over time. Wagner forgot to mention on this occasion that scientific knowledge changes not merely as a whim, but because it is capable of progressing and improving and becoming more comprehensively explanatory (as Feuerbach put it), an accumulating hoard.

JD P. 65-66: "If our Nordic superman [Siegfried] is the man of the future who leads us ... into a new age of light and social harmony, why is he doomed?
The simple answer is that despite the brilliant visions of a future social utopia that flash past in "Siegfried" - not to mention the fake happy ending of 'Goetterdaemmerung', the almost Disney-like artificiality of which Shaw's icy critical gaze immediately recognized - Wagner intended the whole "Ring" project from the start as a profoundly pessimistic comment on the human condition. The boyish playfulness of the hero only makes matters worse. Indeed, Wagner himself grew weary of the almost overbearingly optimistic sense in "Siegfried" of successfully (and endlessly) overcoming the immediate past and returning to a pristine state of consciousness - a process that is reflected in the notorious agendas about the 'end' of opera, the symphony, art as commerce, and even in the very philosophy that he inherited from the so-called Young Hegelians like Ludwig Feuerbach and Bruno Bauer."

PH: I agree with JD that Wagner was clear about the pessimistic implications of his "Ring" before he allegedly first discovered Schopenhauer, according to his own report, in late summer or early fall of 1854. Some have argued he became somewhat more familiar with Schopenhauer than he would lead us to believe, at least a couple of years earlier. In any case, I feel certain that Wagner instinctively took issue with Feuerbach's optimism, which provided the essential conceptual groundwork for the "Ring," and didn't require Schopenhauer's input to grasp the problems inherent in this optimism. The problem, in a nutshell, was that Feuerbach spoke glowingly of a new world of flourishing art and science, freed from the burden of religious faith and belief in absurdities, while at the same time acknowledging that man's primary motive for all thought, word, and action, was egoism. Feuerbach gloried in a notion of universal love and a world of humane values while at the same time he extolled the eventual eradication of religion by a universally accepted scientific world-view which, contrary to all of Feuerbach's protestations, would not necessarily lend support to humane values and love, which were so much a part of our religious heritage. Science could more easily lend itself to a dog-eat-dog understanding of human nature and world history. This is where Wagner had already broken with Feuerbach in the "Ring" allegory, prior to acknowledging Schopenhauer.

JD: JD suggests that Wagner's increasing doubts about Siegfried may have led him to break off continuing the composition of the "Ring" music to complete "Tristan" and "Mastersingers."

PH: Indeed, Tristan, as Wagner himself suggested in his essay: "Epilogue to the Nibelung's Ring," is, in effect, Siegfried in his final hours of life viewed up close, reflecting in TR Act III that he can't bear the now all-too-conscious knowledge of who he really is. In Tristan's anguish and self-flagellation, it is as if Siegfried had suddenly become conscious that he is Wotan, Wotan reborn, so that now he must reinterpret, in guilt, what before had felt innocent and sublime. Tristan can no longer find temporary salvation in union with his muse of unconscious artistic inspiration Isolde. In Kundry we find this terrible trajectory has reached the point that even the muse's mere offer of a temporary salve increases the anguish of the unhealing wound. This all expresses Wagner's ongoing critique of his own artist's nature. The equivalent in "Tristan" of what I have described as the S.3.3 love-duet as a metaphor for Siegfried's unconscious artistic inspiration, is the love-duet in "Tristan" Act II, except that in "Tristan" this love-duet culminates with Tristan's recognition (embodied in his deliberately falling on Melot's sword) that his wound can never be healed, and that to continually let Isolde's inspiration offer temporary healing merely increases the anguish. It is as if S.3.3 and T.3.2, during which Hagen delivers Siegfried's fatal wound of self-knowledge (for it is actually Siegfried who kills himself by becoming too conscious, i.e., recalling, who he is), are juxtaposed in "Tristan" Act Three. The illicit and adulterous sexual union which the sun of consciousness penetrates in "Tristan" Act II is Wagner's metaphor for the fact that he, in his two tragic mature music-dramas TR and the "Ring," let his audience into the secrets of night, the secret source of all unconscious religio-artistic revelation and inspiration. That is why Tristan takes responsibility for everything in the third act. For Tristan's and Isolde's love-duet represents Wagner's own unconscious artistic inspiration, and by virtue of giving their muse (Isolde, Bruennhilde) away to their audience (Marke, Gunther), Tristan and Siegfried have exposed the silent depths of night to day, thereby making their forbidden hoard of knowledge conscious and public. This is the cause of their tragic end. Man's fatal, tragic flaw in Wagner's music-dramas is their ineradicable Kantian tendency to posit their metaphysical, transcendent value in the face of its impossibility.

JD P. 67: JD notes that after completing TR and MS Wagner returned to complete the musical composition of "Siegfried" and "Twilight of the Gods," in spite of his having second-guessed his (allegedly) original conception of Siegfried as an optimistic revolutionary hero. JD notes that Wagner can now access a hugely enhanced musical technique and brings to his completion of the "Ring" the benefit drawn from having completed two pessimistic music-dramas, so that even in Siegfried's delirium in the finale of S.3.3 we can detect the disaster to come: "The sheer symphonic sweep of the final act ... drives Siegfried toward one of the most complex endings in all of Wagner - a deliriously happy conclusion in an emphatic C major in which, on the brink of disaster, he sings with his newly awakened princess of 'laughing death' ... ."

PH: I've always felt it was a stroke of pure genius on Wagner's part to complete "Siegfried" in such a transcendent blaze of glory to make the most cataclysmic contrast possible with the tragedy of "Twilight of the Gods" which ensues.

CHAPTER SEVEN: FINISHING THE END (ABOUT "GOETTERDAEMMERUNG")

JD P. 68: "The 'Ring' has been produced and 'explained' in so many contradictory ways that it probably counts as the most ingratiating work ever written for the operatic stage. ... the skeptic may wonder whether the "Ring" can mean anything at all." JD suggests, I think accurately, that a basis can be found for innumerable interpretations of the 'Ring' from the available evidence.

PH: I believe, however, that though one can construe the 'Ring' in innumerable ways if one cherry picks the available evidence, in much the same way that numerous Christian denominations or even cults emphasize one aspect of the Bible over others as a basis for their idiosyncratic readings, if one is disciplined enough to strive to construe the 'Ring' literally as a whole, taking all of its many scenes into account in great detail, taking both the libretto and the music into account scene by scene, and taking into account the entirety of Wagner's relevant writings and recorded remarks, as well as the remarkable dependence of Wagner's writings and recorded remarks and post-"Dutchman" librettos on Feuerbach, even in Wagner's self-professed anti-Feuerbach period starting with his obsession with Schopenhauer which began in 1854, this at least potentially constrains an interpreter to venture a reading of the 'Ring' which must take account of all of this primary evidence before drawing conclusions. I have attempted to achieve this in the study I've laid before you on this website. It remains to be seen whether it, or at least parts of it, will survive critique in the long term.

JD: JD alludes to "... the abstruse connection between the Holy Grail and Fafner's Hoard outlined in the essay 'The Wibelungs (1848-1849) ... ," as a possible basis for a certain kind of interpretation of the "Ring."

PH: I have drawn considerable insight into the "Ring" from the implications of Wagner's equation of the Grail with the Hoard, and thereby with Alberich's Ring. I have shown how the existential dilemma, whose origin lies in Alberich's curse on his Ring, which lies at the bottom of Wotan's intolerable self-loathing as expressed to Bruennhilde in V.2.2, is linked directly with the unhealing wounds from which Tristan and Amfortas suffer. Visitors to wagnerheim.com will find my detailed analysis of Wagner's suggestion that the Nibelung Hoard evolved into the Grail in my chapters covering the first two scenes and the fourth scene of "The Rhinegold." This also explains why Wotan is Light-Alberich, and why the Ring Motif #19 transforms during the transition from R.1 to R.2 into the first segment of the Valhalla Motif, #20a.

JD: "Virtually any opinion about the 'Ring' can be supported by Wagner himself, who once summed up his all-encompassing view of it by bragging that it contains 'the very essence and significance of the world in all its possible phases.' Wagner, as Shaw said, can be quoted against himself almost without limit. Yet the more he tried to explain his own work, the more he was aware that to interpret the 'Ring' coherently is to venture onto a slippery precipice."

PH: One point worth mentioning in this regard is that, contrary to the received wisdom, there is far more evidence in the libretto of the "Ring," and in Wagner's own writings and recorded remarks, for interpretations of it which outstrip and transcend the stock view of it as a critique of capitalism, than is generally recognized. It is as if G.B. Shaw's 90 or so pages devoted to cherry picking a comparatively small proportion of the content of the "Ring" were somehow definitive and had laid to rest further discussion. In truth, Shaw's interpretation scarcely penetrates the surface. This is also true of Nietzsche's allegedly definitive critique: a very close appraisal of it, sentence by sentence, exposes just how little Nietzsche actually gets down to cases. And this is true of many other instances of received wisdom on the "Ring."

JD P. 68-69: JD quotes Wagner: " 'We must learn to die ... and to die in the fullest sense of the word; fear of the end is the source of all lovelessness.' "
As JD points out, this is from a letter which Wagner wrote to his fellow revolutionary August Roeckel in which Wagner attempted to explain the meaning of the "Ring." It is in fact the fullest interpretation of his own work that Wagner ever offered. Here is what JD says about Wagner's remark: "This key sentence about the 'Ring's meaning was really not much more than a Feuerbach-like homily on the nature of love mixed with the old cliche that heroes' lives, in order to be successful, must be untarnished by fear of death. In any case, two years later Wagner changed his mind. After reading Schopenhauer, he solemnly announced to Roeckel in 1856 that he now saw 'love' as an 'utterly and completely devastating ... part of the 'Ring.' "

PH: Wagner meant considerably more by this statement than this. His statement is Feuerbach-like because it addresses Feuerbach's cure for religious faith, which posits the value of life as constituted in man's rejection of mortal life in favor of the illusion of immortal life, inspired as religious man is by the egoistic fear of death. By conquering this fear the Wagnerian artist-hero makes way for secular art as man's value-giver, which is freed both from religion's dependence on fear of death and the illusions it inspires, but is also freed from religion's fear of truth, since, according to Feuerbach and Wagner, the artist openly proclaims his art either an illusion, or, if his art is music, as aesthetic intuition freed from conceptual thought and its debate over truth and falsehood altogether. And we must also remember that quite often when Wagner speaks of "love" in the context of his art he is actually referencing the love of hero and heroine-muse as his metaphor for the artist-hero's unconscious artistic inspiration. So there is much, much more in Wagner's remark than we would gather from JD's assessment of it.

PH: With respect to Wagner's 1856 reassessment of love as devastating, the plots of both "Twilight of the Gods" and "Tristan" are similar (as Wagner himself pointed out) in that Siegfried and Tristan give their muse-lovers away to another man (Gunther, and Marke), with tragic consequences. Gunther and Marke are equally Wagner's metaphor for the artist-hero's audience. In other words, rather than giving their audience a redemptive work of art which would have provided the audience with at least the feeling that its unhealing wound had been healed, they gave the audience instead the forbidden knowledge, to which only the artist-hero had been privy, and only because he could confront this knowledge while safely unconscious of it [metaphorically, while in loving union with his lover-muse], by giving their lover-muse, i.e., the forbidden contents of their unconscious mind, away to the audience, but in the context of a work of art. In "Tristan" Melot and Marke peer directly into the act of Tristan's unconscious artistic inspiration by surprising the lovers and pouring the sunlight of consciousness into the artist-hero's realm of night (Tannhaeuser's Venusberg, if you will), whereas in "Twilight of the Gods" the fact of this unconscious artistic inspiration, the illicit union of hero with heroine, is revealed to his audience by Siegfried while he is singing the song narrating how he came to grasp the meaning of birdsong to his Gibichung audience, including Gunther.

JD P. 69: JD describes Wagner's difficulty in trying to explain to some of his admirers what the "Ring" was all about, and mentions Wagner's protests to Roeckel that the audience must simply feel the necessity for what happens, such as the necessity for the downfall of the gods, and the reason why Bruennhilde yields so quickly to Siegfried.

PH: In my "Ring" interpretation, found here at wagnerheim.com, I fully discuss all the primary evidence in the relevant documents, and what I take to be Wagner's allegorical reasoning, behind the inevitability of the gods' downfall. Furthermore, I show why we can't begin to grasp the dynamics of Siegfried's relationship to Bruennhilde until we grasp that Siegfried is a metaphor for Wagner the music-dramatist (or any other plausible artistic genius who could fulfill Wagner's role in world history), and Bruennhilde Wagner's metaphor for Siegfried's unconscious mind, the source of his artistic inspiration, and metaphor as well for the language of the unconscious mind, music (to which Wagner appealed as offering Roeckel the answer to his questions).

JD P. 70-71: JD notes that JB Shaw disparaged "Twilight of the Gods" as a holdover from the days of Wagner's traditional romantic operas, and that Shaw contended it was unworthy of the allegedly more purely musico-dramatic parts of the "Ring" which had been written and composed more in accordance with Wagner's theories about political revolution and revolutionary music-drama. He notes that Shaw felt that Wagner's compositional skills let him down because the "Twilight of the Gods" libretto had been written 20 years before Wagner had set it to music, and Wagner had ceased by then to believe in Siegfried and the revolution, etc. So I admire JD for saying the following: "But the witty image of the once passionate revolutionary who no longer believed in his own allegory and was therefore unable to find the right music for it is belied by Wagner's score." JD adds that it seems to have been a happy chance that Wagner interrupted the composition of the music of the "Ring" to spend 12 years completing "Tristan" and "Mastersingers" before completing the composition of the "Ring," because "... his music gained so much in power and sophistication as a result that it is difficult to imagine how he would have done justice to the daunting scale of the cycle's grand conclusion had he composed it any earlier. The sheer richness of harmonic detail, the ever-resourceful transformation of motifs, and the vitality of the orchestral invention ... : this was not the work of someone whose head had been turned by the outcome of the Franco-Prussian War and who had allowed the "Ring" allegory - as Shaw put it - to collapse."

PH: I go further. I've shown how Shaw failed to take into account that the libretto of "Tristan and Isolde," which Wagner first conceived in 1854 and didn't begin to write until 1857 (correct me if I'm wrong), is, in Wagner's own stated view, more or less identical in plot to that of "Twilight of the Gods." In other words, there is something about this archetypal plot, in which a hero unwittingly, or under a spell, gives his own true love away to another man, with tragic consequences (as Wagner expressed it in his "Epilogue to the Nibelung's Ring"), which is central to Wagner's transformation from a creator of traditional romantic operas, to the author-composer of revolutionary music dramas. There are some holdovers from the earlier phase of number opera in "Twilight of the Gods," probably because it was the first of the "Ring" librettos Wagner completed, but it dramatizes a plot which was essential to Wagner's music-dramas, since Wagner in effect re-conceived it for "Tristan," with an entirely new kind of music which, though revolutionary, differed in numerous respects from Wagner's theory of the music-drama as expressed in his theoretical writings of the early 1850's.

JD P. 72: JD describes his difficulty in making sense of Siegfried's selective amnesia with respect to Bruennhilde in "Twilight of the Gods": "No number of magic potions and rebarbative oath takings can make us really believe Siegfried's selective amnesia about Bruennhilde until we realize that he has left behind the world of Sleeping Beauty and Grimm's fairy tales in "Siegfried" and entered an almost Shakespearian world of human treachery and bloody intrigue in the Hall of the Gibichungs. On this level of the epic, the evil surroundings seem to infiltrate his character and turn him into his own opposite by a kind of mythological osmosis."

PH: In my "Ring" study I've interpreted Siegfried's amnesia in light of Wagner's own admission that as an authentic artist he could be as deluded about the true meaning and nature of his art as his audience. Wagner was speaking of the authentic artist's unconscious artistic inspiration, i.e, that the greatest artists may well remain entirely unconscious of their underlying source of inspiration and motives in producing their art. From the "Flying Dutchman" onward, Wagner set out in each of his operas and music-dramas to explain this and to explain the entire natural and historical context which produces such artists and which may well condemn them eventually to oblivion. Thus in the "Ring" Wagner set out to explain why the artist-hero Siegfried had to die. The unconsciously inspired artist ceases to exist once he becomes too self-conscious to draw upon his formerly unconscious artistic inspiration, i.e. figuratively, when he can no longer enjoy loving union with his muse of inspiration, his heroine-lover. This provides an explanation for what happens in "Tannhaeuser," "Lohengrin," "Twilight of the Gods," "Tristan," and "Parsifal."

"Mastersingers" stands outside this immediate frame of reference, but holds its place in Wagner's most comprehensive frame of reference, in that Walther remains an unconsciously inspired artist throughout. Unlike Tannhaeuser, Siegfried, Tristan, and Parsifal (alias Klingsor), the artist-hero Walther does not give away his muse to his audience, either literally, or figuratively (as in Tannhaeuser's revelation, within his inspired song sung before the Wartburg Court, of his formerly unconscious inspiration by Venus in the Venusberg, his womb of night).

JD P. 72: Speaking of Bruennhilde, JD says that: "... when she is confronted with the 'false' Siegfried in 'Goetterdaemmerung,' the sight of the powerless heroine still wearing the all-powerful ring is scarcely credible. So, too, is her schizophrenic leap into the character of an evil, scheming villainess who helps the Gibichungs to plot Siegfried's downfall -- that is, until we realize that his is yet another of Wagner's fearful symmetries. Having been forced by a reluctant Wotan to leave the gods, but at least having done so on her own terms, she is now forced by a determined Siegfried to journey back to the gods' enemies [presumably JD means Hagen? That the other Gibichungs are somehow the gods' enemies is a stretch!], and according to their conditions."

PH: Here again my interpretation can come to the rescue. I have explained in some detail in wagnerheim.com why the Ring grants conditional power but not absolute power, though it gives its owner the impression that he/she could well possess, or at least participate in, absolute power, at least by knowing it. It represents the power of the human mind; the Tarnhelm represents the imagination, one of the key products of the human mind, and therefore is associated with the "Wonder" of Wagner's musical motifs; and the Hoard, another product of the Ring, represents collective man's historical acquisition of knowledge of himself and his world. But though knowledge grants man conditional power, it only grants his imagination the concept of absolute power.
Furthermore, Bruennhilde's seeming betrayal of her true, noble, loving nature, by conspiring with Siegfried's enemies to avenge herself on him for his apparent betrayal of their love, in my interpretation comes as a matter of course: according to the laws of both somatic and cultural evolution, life is predestined ultimately to become conscious of itself, if not here, then there, and if not now, then at some future time, by the laws of statistical probability. The unconsciously inspired hero is at some point in history pre-destined to become too self conscious to be able to draw any longer on his formerly unconscious inspiration. Thus his muse opens her eyes, or wakes, forever, as Siegfried says of Bruennhilde with his last breaths. This being so, his betrayal of his muse, his womb of night, to the light of day, is inevitable, just as it was inevitable according to Alberich's curse on his Ring that the gods (i.e., human beings who unwittingly invented the gods but believe in their actual existence) are predestined to destroy faith in themselves, and to go down to destruction once man replaces them with science, i.e., with affirmation of Mother Nature's (Erda's) objective knowledge. Thus the muses Venus, Elsa, Bruennhilde, Isolde, and Kundry all conspire with the hero's enemies to expose his illicit love with them (the secret of his unconscious artistic inspiration) to the light of day, the public, the artist's audience.

CHAPTER EIGHT: "DON CARLOS" AND "GOETTERDAEMMERUNG"

JD P. 83: "... Wagner's passion for allegory - a passion he never really discussed - led him to drench his stage works with Christian images and clear references to modern social and philosophical ideas that bear no relation to Greek tragedy whatsoever, even though ... they aspired to its ambition."

PH: Whatever does JD mean when he says that the Christian images and references to modern social and philosophical ideas that Wagner employed in his artworks bear no relation to Greek tragedy? I believe I've shown in my analysis of the "Ring" that such references have everything to do with the universal concerns of the tragedies of Sophocles and Aeschylus (and whoever wrote "Prometheus Bound": Aeschylus's authorship has been disputed). Wagner's analysis of the conceptual unity underlying the links between the Prometheus myth and the Biblical account of the Fall, in light of Feuerbach's understanding of religion, is central to our understanding of the "Ring," and of Bruennhilde and Loge in particular.

JD P. 94-95: "In the music of "Goetterdaemmerung" generally, many motifs are closely tied to meanings while others are relatively indifferent to them - a calculated inconsistency that was one of the fruits of writing "Tristan" and "Die Meistersinger." In the opening Norns scene the Valhalla and Spear Motifs ... are used very precisely. But it is hardly obvious, except in the widest sense, why the scene should begin with a recollection of Bruennhilde's awakening in the remote key of C flat minor, only to be followed soon after by a fragment of her 'magic sleep' motif at the third Norn's 'Why aren't we spinning and singing? ... ."

PH: My interpretation makes sense of this contrast of Bruennhilde's magic sleep with the music associated with her awakening by Siegfried. Had Siegfried remained, like Walther, an unconsciously inspired artist, Siegfried could have continued to safely wake, solely for himself, his muse of unconscious artistic inspiration, in order to draw from the forbidden knowledge which she holds for him, and protects him from, the inspiration needful in order for him to create and produce redemptive works of art among men (i.e., among the Gibichungs). But Siegfried eventually becomes so conscious of his true identity that, instead of granting his audience the privilege of enjoying a redemptive work of art, Siegfried, within what should have been a redemptive work of art, actually gives away the secret of his unconscious artistic inspiration. Figuratively, he gives his own muse Bruennhilde away to his audience (Gunther, and the Gibichungs). Thus "Twilight of the Gods" begins dramatically with a recollection that Siegfried has woken Bruennhilde, and with a premonition that, as he says with his dying words, she will now open her eyes (wake) forever. Siegfried will unwittingly let the sun of consciousness penetrate what should have remained his sacred and secret womb of night. This is not to say, of course, that JD is incorrect when he affirms that Wagner had become more free and virtuosic in his employment of musical motifs when composing the latter third of the "Ring" after having completed "Tristan" and "Mastersingers," and benefited from the lessons learned while composing their music.

JD P. 99-100: "Adorno saw the contradiction between the rigid countenance of Wagner's motifs and the symphonic ambition of his music as a negative moment. On the contrary, this is the heart of Wagner's allegorical way of seeing and hearing. At the end of "Goetterdaemmerung the observer is once again confronted with the pallor of death ... -- the petrified primordial landscape where the weight of history, carried by Waltraute's musical description of Wotan's state of mind, appears untimely, unsuccessful, and laden with melancholy. Wagner's allegory may lack all symbolic freedom of expression, all classical proportion, even all humanity. But behind the glittering flames and the healing balm of the Bruennhilde motif [JD speaks here of Dunning #93, the so-called "Glorification of Bruennhilde Motif," first heard in V.3.1 when Bruennhilde has told Sieglinde to live on for the sake of the child in her womb, whom Bruennhilde names Siegfried, thus introducing the Siegfried Motif #92, and Sieglinde introduces #93 by singing of the "wonder" of Bruennhilde's intervention on behalf of the Waelsungs], the secular explanation of history as World Passion is frozen musically into an allegorical form, which, precisely because of its sepulchral repose, can pose the enigmatiic question of the nature of human existence it does."

PH: Beautifully said, even though I'm not quite sure what JD means when he says Wagner's allegory may lack symbolic freedom of expression, classical proportion, or even all humanity.
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Re: Deathridge Chapters Five through Eight

Postby feuerzauber » Fri Oct 07, 2011 1:50 am

Minor Comment on Ernest Newman

I recall that Ernest Newman was fond of denigrating the drama in Wagner's music-dramas in favor of Newman's notion that they are best appreciated as magnificent tone poems.


I find it highly improbable that Ernest Newman ever denigrated the drama in Wagner's music-dramas in favour of their isolated musical tone-poetry. Not this from the man who scrupulously translated the dramas into metrically equivalent English verse — scansion that suits the vocal score.

The readily accessible Newman source for most people is his Wagner Nights. Read the Introduction. Here he implies quite the opposite.

Misinterpretation may arise from Newman's seriously witty approach to aesthetics, as evidenced in the last paragraphs of his Introduction where he bewails the exigencies of actual performance inevitably casting a matronly "Venus de Kilo" to play a virginal waif — this before post-war Regietheater even gets a chance to compound the disillusion.

Hence he consistently wrote (I don't have the reference to hand) that perhaps the remaining "ideal" Wagnerian experience is to follow in imagination by reading the full score (mixing the orchestral colours in the mind) just as the composer did himself. But Ernest Newman never, never, never recommended dis-integrating the text and stage directions from the music. I believe for him they were integral to the score, i.e. to the work.

I leap to his defence because Newman is one of my critical gods (along with Vasari and Dr Johnson) — Aristotle and Hegel inhabit a different theoretical plane.

To invert the standard rejoinder — I will be sorry to be proven wrong.

P.S. In reference to earlier discussion, Newman (the translator) distanced himself from the popular canard of Wagner's verse being execrable — yes, he found it challenging to translate Tristan's minimalism into understandable metrically equivalent Skeltonic (sic) form — but never execrable, and never ever expendable.
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Re: Deathridge Chapters Five through Eight

Postby alberich00 » Fri Oct 07, 2011 6:09 am

Hello, my Bayreuth-initiate friend Feuerzauber:

I don't trust my memory these days, and, by god, I'll write a retraction if I can't find my source in Newman for my remark. By the way, I'm sure I haven't gotten it wrong merely on the basis of Newman's subtlety, a misconstruing of nuance: I was thinking of some very definitive statements I can recall in, I think, "Wagner as Man and Artist," and perhaps also in the four-part biography. But we'll see. Thanks, my friend, for bringing this to my attention. I'm hugely disadvantaged at this particularly sticky moment in my life, because my reasonably large Wagner library is mostly stored in cardboard boxes in the basement, so, in order to find a single book for reference, I usually have to unpack all 30 or 40 boxes to find it (you know how it goes: the book I was looking for is always the last one I find, ho ho). There's no room in my bedroom/office for anything more than a pile of books in the closet (no book shelves). My life's dream is to be able to have everything I need at my fingertips someday.

By the way, I know Newman had an extraordinarily deep and authentic experience of Wagner, which made it all the more surprising to me that (again, if I'm recalling correctly) he would impute so little of that experience to the drama (here PH goes again!). And much of Newman's appreciation of specific aspects of Wagner's works is enthralling: he's a huge pleasure for a Wagnerian to read. I do recall Newman saying that the drama was necessary for Wagner, that without it he wouldn't have been inspired to write the great music we know, but if memory serves Newman regarded it as more an occasion for the musical inspiration than great drama. However, I also recall Newman writing often of his appreciation of moments in Wagner's operas and music-dramas in which the dramatic situation plays an important part in his appreciation, so again, this made it all the more surprising to me that he - seemed? - to be saying the music is the main affair and the drama merely its occasion. I'll look it up and get back to you here: it troubles me if I'm perpetrating character assassination.

Your potentially penitent friend from Wagnerheim,

Paul alias Alberich00
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Re: Deathridge Chapters Five through Eight

Postby A.C. Douglas » Fri Oct 07, 2011 7:22 am

alberich00 wrote:I recall that Ernest Newman was fond of denigrating the drama in Wagner's music-dramas in favor of Newman's notion that they are best appreciated as magnificent tone poems. [...] I also recall Newman writing often of his appreciation of moments in Wagner's operas and music-dramas in which the dramatic situation plays an important part in his appreciation, so again, this made it all the more surprising to me that he - seemed? - to be saying the music is the main affair and the drama merely its occasion.

You mean the Newman who declared the Ring the greatest drama since the Oresteia and compared Wagner the music-dramatist with Shakespeare the mere dramatist?

I don't know what out-of-context comment of Newman's you're recalling, Paul, but you're quite wrong in your above. Newman would have been among the very last to declare that Wagner's music-dramas "are best appreciated as magnificent tone poems[!]".

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Re: Deathridge Chapters Five through Eight

Postby alberich00 » Fri Oct 07, 2011 8:28 am

Dear A.C.:

It looks like I'm on the road to a big reversal of fortune on this one, but I'll try to find my reference and post it as soon as possible. Is it possible I was confusing Newman with Tovey? We'll see.

Yours from Wagnerheim,

Paul
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Re: Deathridge Chapters Five through Eight

Postby A.C. Douglas » Fri Oct 07, 2011 9:37 am

alberich00 wrote:Dear A.C.:

It looks like I'm on the road to a big reversal of fortune on this one, but I'll try to find my reference and post it as soon as possible. Is it possible I was confusing Newman with Tovey? We'll see.

It's possible you're confusing Newman with [Joseph] Kerman ("Opera As Drama").

ACD
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Re: Deathridge Chapters Five through Eight

Postby alberich00 » Fri Oct 07, 2011 9:44 am

Dear A.C.:

By the way, I learned through the grapevine that Joseph Kerman is aware of www.wagnerheim.com and might give it a look. It would certainly be wonderful if he was inclined to leave a footprint here.

By the way, I checked my closet and the only Newman book in there is "Wagner Nights," which means I really will have to turn the basement upside down until I can find Newman's four-volume Wagner biography and "Wagner as Man and Artist," to see if I can dig up my reference. I'd sell my soul to the dark powers (and even the light ones if necessary) to have 2-3 clean, bright rooms with shelving for all my books, so I can access my library at will. I did a quick scan of the index and there don't seem to be any relevant remarks about Aeschylus or Shakespeare, so these must also be in my Newman books which are in hiding.

Yours from Wagnerheim,

Paul
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Re: Deathridge Chapters Five through Eight

Postby A.C. Douglas » Fri Oct 07, 2011 10:31 am

A.C. Douglas wrote:
alberich00 wrote:Dear A.C.:

It looks like I'm on the road to a big reversal of fortune on this one, but I'll try to find my reference and post it as soon as possible. Is it possible I was confusing Newman with Tovey? We'll see.

It's possible you're confusing Newman with [Joseph] Kerman ("Opera As Drama").

ACD

I should have been more clear in my above.

When I said it's possible you're confusing Newman with Kerman, I did NOT mean to imply that Kerman declared that Wagner's music-dramas are "best appreciated as magnificent tone poems" as you put it. What Kerman said is that Wagner's music-dramas tended toward the ideal of being huge-scale tone poems but that they never achieved that presumed ideal.

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Re: Deathridge Chapters Five through Eight

Postby feuerzauber » Mon Oct 10, 2011 12:41 am

Newman's "Ideals"

I've spent the last few days leafing through Newman books I hadn't touched for nearly 20 years.

I can't find a reference that states exactly what I claimed. The nearest I've come up with is Sunday Times article "Reading and Hearing" [23 Sep. 1923] reproduced in "More Essays from the World of Music" Vol. 2.

In bewailing the exigencies of performance, Newman concludes that score reading "is a keener pleasure, nine cases out of ten, than that of concert going". Of course, "perfection in performance is indeed worth leaving one's fireside for".

As to synthesis of words and music, Newman writes in another Sunday Times article in the same collection "Holst: Words and Music" [22 Apr. 1934] that Holst is sensitive to the "subtleties of poetic rhythm—which as our Shakespearean actors and actresses demonstrate, not one person in ten thousand has". It is for similar reasons that Newman would, if he could, avoid such In-the-flesh affronts to an author's/composer's work.

Incidentally, I was amused by Newman's comments on George Bernard Shaw's just-published musical journalism [26 Jun. 1932] "having been fortunate enough to evade the universities and colleges, [GBS] saw things musical as they were, not as they would have appeared to him as a member of a clan, a clique, or a junta."
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Re: Deathridge Chapters Five through Eight

Postby feuerzauber » Mon Oct 10, 2011 12:49 am

Is this the "Tone Poem" Reference?

There is a chapter on "Programme Music" in Newman's historically fascinating "Musical Studies" (collected in 1905). It takes us back in time to the premiere of Heldenleben — a time when late romantic tone poems were cutting edge.

Newman is sceptical of Wagner's land-of-Lied thesis that poetry limps without music, and land-of-Beethoven's-ninth thesis that music falters without verse. (But Wagner's context was music drama, and that changes everything.)

Newman undertakes to show by reductio ad absurdum of Wagner's theses, that

"Wagner's own analysis of the natures of poetry, music and drama conclusively proves that, if there can be said to be such a thing as an ideal form of art, it is not the opera, but the symphonic poem."

This may be [one of] the Newman source[s] we are looking for.

Despite a love of European poetry-qua-poetry, Newman championed (in his own way) the Lied as art form as much as any other person — Fischer-Dieskau included. In fact, Hugo Wolf's synthesis of text and music compels Newman's provocative (Lied, not Tone-Poem based) assessment in "Wagner, Debussy, and Musical Form" [1918] in Testament of Music

"I venture to think that the supreme master of form in music is not Beethoven or Wagner but Hugo Wolf".

Of course, the fascinating Wolf was less successful on the large scale.
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