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The Rhinegold: Page 115
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[R.1: D]

Now Alberich introduces the second of Wagner’s many metaphors for the birth of human consciousness (the first being the evolution of instinctual animal feeling into language in Woglinde’s lullaby), that higher consciousness is a stumbling block to the ease with which man’s animal ancestors spontaneously, instinctively negotiated their way through life:

Alberich: [[ #6: ]] [[ #7: ]] His progress repeatedly obstructed, Alberich clambers up to the top of the ledge with goblin-like agility.) Slimily smooth and slippery slate! I can’t stop sliding! With my hands and my feet I can’t capture or hold those delightfully slippery creatures.

[He sneezes to #5 – Woglinde darts around and won’t let him reach her]

Alberich: Alas! You evade me? Come back again! What you scaled with such ease was much harder for me.

It was Wagner’s viewpoint that human consciousness interferes with spontaneous, instinctive freedom of action:

“ … this will to live, which is the actual metaphysical basis of all existence, demands solely to live, i.e. to eat and reproduce itself perpetually, and this tendency is demonstrably one and the same whether it be found in the dull rock, in the more delicate plant, or, finally, in the human animal; the only difference lies in the organs which man, having reached the higher stages of his objectification, must use in order to satisfy more complicated needs which, for that reason, are increasingly contested and harder to meet.” [634W-{6/7/55} Letter to Franz Liszt: SLRW, p. 345]

The new motif #6 is introduced here as one of several motival incarnations of this notion that human consciousness is somehow brutal and ugly, i.e., unnatural. It is heard rarely afterward, and only in association with the Nibelungs Alberich’s and Mime’s awkward, urgent, restless locomotion. Motif #7, a slithering motif of six descending chromatic notes, Deryck Cooke called Alberich’s Motif because, he claimed, it is the only motif associated exclusively with Alberich’s character. I call it “Alberich’s Futile Wooing Motif.” It is the basis for only one other motif, #86, heard later in association with Hunding’s pursuit of the Waelsung twins Siegmund and Sieglinde to avenge Siegmund’s adultery with Hunding’s wife Sieglinde, who was bound to Hunding in marriage by force, not love. It represents the incommensurability of conscious human thought, and its ulteriority, with feeling. This is dramatically expressed in the futility of Alberich’s attempt to capture the Rhinedaughters, his clumsy inability to swim like them, with ease. For Wagner, this is the distinction between the seeming spontaneity of unconscious inspiration in religious revelation and artistic creativity, and conscious thinking, conscious motivation, rendered difficult by the

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