A+ a-
Wagnerheim Logo
Wagnerheim Bookmark System
Twilight of the Gods: Page 738
Go back a page
738
Go forward a page

through Wotan’s sin, we hear #88, the motif generally associated with doom, the ultimate price of being subject to fate, to the natural necessity of change, which was introduced in V.2.4 as Bruennhilde announced his predestined death to Siegmund. It also calls to mind, of course, the martyrdom of those culture heroes whose self-deceit has unwittingly dedicated their lives to Wotan’s (collective, historical man’s) futile quest to restore lost innocence, to stop and reverse the natural evolution from unconsciousness to consciousness, by artificially attempting to regain the paradise of preconscious animal feeling in religion and art.

It has often been said that Wagner’s application of musical motifs to the drama grew far more loose and creative during the final phase of the composition of the Ring music, starting with the last act of Siegfried, and expressly under Schopenhauer’s influence, who gave pride of place to music where music and drama, or music and words in general, interact. In other words, it has been suggested that Wagner’s employment of musical motifs by this point in the composition paid comparatively little heed to the dramatic situation or their prior history of associations with the libretto text, and paid more attention to purely musical priorities. While it is certainly true that Wagner’s employment of his musical motifs for dramatic ends grew more involved, sophisticated, and complex as he neared the end of the composition of the Ring’s music in 1874, I do not find it to be true that Wagner’s employment of motifs has comparatively little dramatic significance. That their richness and ambiguity grows is beyond question. I mention this because his employment of motifs in this scene is often cited as a primary example of the motifs’ gradual emancipation from the restrictions of Wagner’s theory of music-drama. On the contrary, I find no dramatic examples of motifs employed purely for musical reasons which cut against the grain of the drama. All musico-dramatic elements seem to me to remain fluent and comprehensible right up to the very finale of the Ring. Nonetheless, it is impossible to ascertain motifs’ “meaning” definitively.

Take for instance the presence of #97, the motif known as “Bruennhilde’s Magic Sleep” (based on #30b, the motif – known as “Godhead Lost” - first heard when Fafner said that if the Giants took Freia away from the gods, the Giants would deprive them of her golden apples of sorrowless youth eternal, i.e., immortality), heard here in a variant as the First Norn says: “In the span of many seasons the wound [which Wotan made in the World-Ash by breaking off its most sacred branch to make his Spear] consumed the wood. Wotan, upon taking his final leave of Erda in S.3.1, and having just told her that her wisdom wanes before his will (i.e., before his unconscious mind Bruennhilde, in whom he repressed the knowledge Erda had taught him), consigned Erda to the oblivion of sleep and dreaming. It is precisely religio-artistic man’s refusal to accept the natural evolutionary trend from unconsciousness to consciousness, to return to an earlier phase of evolution which we might describe as nature’s sleep, or dreaming, which constitutes Wotan’s sin against Mother Nature, his figurative matricide, the wound his social contract, predicated on religious faith, made in Nature.

This is not to say, however, that I am certain I can account, from the standpoint of the drama, for every single recurrence of every motif in the work. To affirm with such certainty where the best we can hope for is well-informed speculation and guesswork, would be suspect in any case, because, with almost any interpretation, one can find plausible reasons for the presence of almost any motif in almost any dramatic context. The only way to speculate intelligently about the presence in different dramatic contexts of various motifs is to remain cognizant of each motif’s overall dramatic profile (i.e., all instances of its recurrence within the Ring), so that we obtain a sense of

Go back a page
738
Go forward a page
© 2011 Paul Heise. All rights reserved. Website by Mindvision.