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Siegfried: Page 597
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wonders, and that through the Ring’s power he can rule the world, Siegfried now says to himself that he has no idea what use the Tarnhelm or Ring have. But he is not suffering from amnesia. What Wagner is driving at is that when the Woodbird, singing, told Siegfried their use, Siegfried was grasping this knowledge subliminally, or, if you will, musically, feelingly, instinctively. It is not that he has now forgotten what the Woodbird told him: Wagner is simply telling us that Siegfried knows the use of the Ring and Tarnhelm unconsciously. Bruennhilde, his unconscious mind, holds this knowledge for him. Similarly, when Siegfried and Bruennhilde have achieved the height of rapture near the end of their love duet in S.3.3, and Wotan’s dangerous hoard of knowledge has been sublimated into tragic ecstasy by Siegfried’s inspired art, Siegfried will triumphantly tell Bruennhilde that the fear she taught him he has now forgotten, as we hear the Woodbird’s Song #128. How interesting then that Siegfried says here that though he doesn’t know the use of these Nibelung objects, they will now serve as witnesses to the fact that he killed Fafner but didn’t learn the meaning of fear from him, since he will learn the meaning of fear (Wotan’s fear of the end) from his muse Bruennhilde!

Siegfried’s new-found ability to grasp the essence of the Ring and Tarnhelm subliminally, or musically, is reflected in Wagner’s thesis about the special kind of knowing through feeling that the audience for his music-dramas will experience, thanks to the fact that the essential motives of the drama, being embodied by musical motifs, can now sound in the orchestra, telling us subliminally of these motives behind the action, without the dramatis personae having to proclaim their motives in words. In the following extracts Wagner explains this in detail.

Wotan, for instance, has – in his confession - submerged his conscious understanding of his own motives, which were too venal for him to acknowledge even to himself, in his daughter Bruennhilde, Wagner’s symbol for the unconscious mind and its special language of feeling, music. Originally, Woglinde’s Lullaby, #4, Wagner’s symbol for primal mother-melody, evolved into word-speech, but Wotan wished to retreat from the consciousness of words back into the safety of feeling, or melody, by imparting knowledge too dangerous to admit to consciousness, to Bruennhilde, his Will, so that, reborn as Siegfried, Wotan could restore the pre-Fall naivete and spontaneity of man’s childhood. Bruennhilde represents the special musical language of continuous organically evolving music, and motifs, which redeems the dramatic action, the Poet’s aim, which Wotan has confessed to her. Thus Wagner said:

“… that Melody to whose birth we now are listening [i.e., inspired modern orchestral music, especially Beethovenian, which Wagner employs in his music-dramas], forms a complete contrast to the primal Mother-melody; … we may briefly denote its course as an advance from Understanding to Feeling, from Word-speech to Melody: as against the advance from Feeling to Understanding, from the Mother-melody to Word-speech.” [536W-{50-1/51} Opera and Drama: PW Vol. II, p. 284]

The Woodbird’s motifs #128 and #129, variants of Woglinde’s Lullaby #4, presumably represent this melody which retreats from abstract language back to feeling and instinct.

Having repressed conscious knowledge of his loathsome motives, his true identity, and his corrupt history, by imparting it to his unconscious mind, Bruennhilde, Wotan has been reborn as Siegfried

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