[CHAPTER SIX: THE CHILD IS FATHER OF THE MAN: III. Faces of a Genius]
This chapter begins with a description of Wagner's well-known self-involvement and narcissism.
P. 136: PH: DB's following description of Wagner seems pretty apt: DB: "... Wagner ended up the supreme artist of dramatic psychology. Even so, Wagner's understanding of people in ordinary life was erratic to the end of his days, and he could leave them bewildered and angry that he could utterly charm them with his quickness of sympathy, only for them soon to meet a wall of self-absorption and blank indifference."
PH: Of course, there are vast amounts of documentary evidence for Wagner's character (or occasional lack thereof) throughout his adult years.
PH: DB goes on to describe Wagner's capacity for ingratitude, and also his reckless generosity.
P. 141: DB quotes Wilhelm Furtwaengler, who perhaps said it best when he "... said in his essay, 'The Case of Wagner: Against Nietzsche,' it was not reasonable to expect ordinary behavior from Wagner 'because the man who had 'Tristan and Isolde' in his drawer was not an ordinary man'."
P. 144-149: DB quotes extensively from descriptions of Wagner by Ferdinand Praeger and Edouard Schure which are well worth reading.
[CHAPTER SEVEN: FEMMME INSPIRATRICE, FEMME FATALE: Minna Wagner and her Successors]
P. 157: PH: DB begins this chapter with perhaps the single most insubstantial and unsupported claim in his entire book: DB: "Of all the experiences which went into the making of Wagner, Minna Planer was the most far-reaching. Normally the foundations of personality are set fast at a younger age than Wagner had reached when she first blazed into his consciousness, but she had such a drastic effect, creating such a meltdown of his values, his outlook and his way of feeling, that she virtually configured him anew."
PH: This extraordinary claim is preposterous and absurd on its face. I would be the first to admit that Minna, once she settled into accepting married life with Wagner and her chosen role as his wife for better and for worse, offered him during his early years a stable home and support which he otherwise might have lacked. But Wagner outgrew Minna the more he matured as an artist, and came to see her over time as uncomprehending when it came to his deeper needs as an artist. There were of course times when she displayed wisdom far beyond Wagner's own, as in a letter which has been preserved in which she chastises Wagner for turning on Meyerbeer because of, among other things, his Jewishness, and accusing him of treachery, when Meyerbeer had actively sought to help Wagner embark on his career as an opera composer, with an entrée to the theater. I will support my rebuttal of DB's claim as we proceed through this chapter.
P. 157: PH: As so often DB undermines his own claim, as with his following admission: DB: "With too few of her letters in existence to color in her personality, and fewer pen-portraits, the accepted view of Minna is strangely indeterminate.
P. 158-159: PH: DB launches his argument by showing how documentary evidence proves false Wagner's claim that Minna never deeply loved him: "... 'tepid' was not precisely how it had been between Wagner and Minna. That was not how it had been at all. Even from "Mein Leben," it is plain that where they first met at Bad Lauchstaedt in 1834, Minna dazzled him."
PH: My response to this is: so what! That Wagner was strongly attracted to Minna has never been in doubt. How that supports the extraordinary claim that Minna more than any other influence made Wagner what he was is beyond me.
P. 161-162: PH: DB's next salvo is the claim that the loving marriage she gave Wagner changed him from a proponent and contributor to the free-love-and-sex ideology of the Young Germany movement (as expressed artistically in his early opera "Das Liebesverbot" [The Prohibition on Love]) into an ideologue of love's fidelity, as expressed in Wagner's subsequent operas and music-dramas, and that Wagner denied her importance in making this transition. DB: "The impression of her that Wagner draws together is pleasant enough, but of a woman too prim and petit-bourgeois to grasp and support his great ideals. Above all he presented her as anxious to erase the one solitary lapse of her youth with its legacy of an illegitimate child, and so concerned for her reputation that by the time he knew her she had turned rather prudish and dull."
PH: And here we have a restatement of DB's opening gambit: "In fact Minna was no brown mouse but an Alma Mahler of her time, a bewitching force who made men, including a man of genius, lose their heads, and she reconfigured Wagner's outlook, his aspirations and his whole being."
PH: If DB means by this (as apparently he does) that, given a chance for real married life with a loving wife made Wagner settle down somewhat from the wild boy of his youth, I don't disagree, and I say again, so what! How this tells us anything worth knowing about Wagner's art is something that defeats my imagination.
PH: And here DB provides us the core of his argument: DB: "... in Minna he met a kind of nemesis not for hypocrisy and inhibition but for his 'unbridled licentiousness'. The changes she created were momentous, as his letters to a close friend, Theodor Apel, made clear. They demonstrate that prior to falling for Minna, he had played the field, the field in question being the ladies of the Madgeburg Theatre troupe."
PH: This fluff is presented with a sober seriousness, as if we are now, for the first time, really able to assess the crucial impact of Minna on Wagner's future as an artist when we consider that he used to play around, but after marriage decided to settle down. This is insulting at best. Considering that some of DB's other ruminations on Wagner's significance are of high quality, it is a terrible shame he's allowed this nonsense to dilute the power of his presentation.
P. 162: PH: And now DB presents what I gather he takes to be his coup de grace: DB: "All the available evidence confirms that everything then changed, utterly and totally. Minna destroyed all Wagner's previous ideas of 'free love'. It was the experience of Minna that reshaped his thinking into a belief in the one grand passion, and it was she who symbolized as well as creating this new ideal of one single wonderful woman as life's ultimate fulfillment. [PH: As if Wagner needed any specific love-interest to remind him of one of the primary dramatic tropes of Western Civilization, or even humanity itself, as a basis for the plots of his subsequent operas and music-dramas!] This ideal infused all his later operas except 'Parsifal.' Under Minna's impact he became 'mad with passion' as he himself put it ... ."
P. 163: PH: As supporting evidence DB now tallies Wagner's letters to Minna in which, DB: "When Minna was away, Wagner truly suffers, and he writes huge, maudlin, manipulative letters, day after day, telling her he is in anguish and miserable whenever he is not there. He weeps, he implores, he is in agony; he cannot live without her; she must, must, must agree to be his forever, because he needs her so desperately. She alone 'can bring him peace, redeem him from his turmoil and anguish;' she must meet his needs."
PH: As if this sort of language isn't a commonplace of love letters throughout the ages, but had some special, unique significance in giving us entree into the mystery of Wagner's art!
PH: There is a certain point where all this insubstantial fluff about what everyone with a modest knowledge of Wagner's life already knew, as if it were a revelation which allows us to penetrate more deeply than ever before into the mainsprings of his life and art, becomes downright embarrassing. I wish DB had stuck with the sources of Wagner's fascination and magic which we find in his librettos and music and dramatic plots, and left this very, very lame attempt to link his life with his art out of it.
P. 166: PH: Now, as so often, DB offers up a rather speculative and pedestrian attempt at an analysis of Minna's damaged character, which I won't repeat. However, another of DB's strange admissions that this sort of thing is, after all, quite commonplace (and therefore presumably not going to offer us special insight into the unique qualities of Wagner's art), is the following: DB: "Dieter Borchmeyer has pointed out that in the early nineteenth century many women took up this idea so completely they were literally willing to die for the men they loved in order to redeem them. Wagner's hopes for a commitment true unto death, as expressed by the characters in his dramas, were not some bizarre aberration expressing his personal arrogance but a reflection of the times."
PH: So there we have it! What DB wishes to present as offering us a privileged insight into what makes Wagner's art uniquely persuasive and mysteriously powerful is in fact a commonplace of the times.
P. 167: PH: Now DB offers the revelation that "She was not merely pretty, but beautiful. All the independent evidence goes to show that she must have been more than competent as an actress."
PH: All this by way of showing us why Wagner was so obsessed with her.
P. 167-173: PH: More psychobabble!
P. 173: PH: At last DB says what I've been waiting for, an unwitting admission that all he's been saying so far is irrelevant: DB: "... the mutual attraction between Minna and Wagner had been loosening its grip, a gentle weakening which began after his Dresden appointment. Both Minna and Wagner were changing. There was his staggering development [PH: A development, by the way, which DB partly explained earlier as the product of Minna's overwhelming influence]. Because he was evolving so far and so profound both as artist and man, Minna was ceasing to understand his aspirations and no longer fulfilled his wish-fantasies as she once had."
PH: DB doesn't say so, but isn't this more or less an admission that his entire argument in the earlier portion of this chapter was a waste of time?
P. 180: PH: DB again more or less admits his argument has no weight: DB: "Their wish-fantasies had long diverged; she was dominated by fears, and hopes of security and respectability; he was driven by his art and ideals, his daemon, and his hopes of changing the world."
PH: So much for Minna's fate-altering lifelong influence on the development of Wagner as man and artist!
P. 188: PH: Here again DB inadvertently makes a case against his own high estimation of Minna's crucial significance for our understanding of Wagner's art: DB: "We owe [King] Ludwig an immeasurable debt, because his support, however variable, made possible the completion of the Wagner Experience for us all. Without the king Wagner might have died a debtor in a German jail. Would anyone then have tried to perform 'Tristan and Isolde,' or would it be a forgotten curiosity in a drawer somewhere in Stuttgart? Wagner might have been known to posterity simply as the composer of three romantic operas, the series which ended with 'Lohengrin.' Although the King never remodeled the composer's identity, he is just as responsible as the three remarkable women at the centre of Wagner's life [Minna, Mathilde Wesendonck, Cosima Liszt, then Von Bulow, then Wagner] for his legacy as we know it."
PH: No, in fact the practical aid Wagner got from the emotional support of these three women is very much on a par with the encouragement and practical financial aid which Ludwig offered. None of this aid tells us anything more about Wagner's art than that any complex and difficult human creative endeavor needs all kinds of support systems to come to fruition. But that obvious fact tells us nothing whatsoever about the art itself.
P. 194: PH: And now I quote at length DB's summation of his thesis that Minna personally left her crucial stamp on Wagner's operas and music-dramas, a thesis that I regard as absolute nonsense:
DB: "It was Cosima that made possible what is for me the most extraordinary achievement of Wagner's life, the fulfillment of 'Parsifal,' down to its staging, within a year of his death. Even so it was Minna who remained most deeply engrained. It was Minna who became the source and the paradigm of all the heroines in Wagner's dramas, which each new generation admires and loves. What other front-rank opera composer has created so many appealing women? Mozart has given us Susanna and the Countess and perhaps Zerlina; Beethoven of course Leonore. Strauss added the incomparable Marschallin, Sophie and perhaps Arabella; Puccini perhaps Tosca, perhaps Mimi. But what are these in comparison with the irresistible appeal of Elisabeth and Elsa, of Sieglinde, Bruennhilde and Isolde? Venus, Senta, Eva, and Gutrune are also very sympathetic, and we owe them all to Minna. It was Minna who created in Wagner the romantic mindset which gave us these ideals and then made them so real. Cosima, and briefly Mathilde, would reinforce that mindset. They would re-invigorate the paradigm of woman as life's ultimate fulfillment which Minna had instilled in Wagner. But it was Minna who had forged it in the first place."
PH: I'm sorry to say that this passage makes me gag: to say that we owe any of Wagner's characters to Minna is an insult to our intelligence of the most flagrant kind. What was DB thinking? To think of an artist with the all-absorbing, all-reinventing intellect and imagination of Wagner as transcribing from one particular life experience to produce his whole array of heroines is as far from getting at what makes Wagner uniquely Wagner as it is possible to imagine. I regard this chapter and the prior chapters on Wagner's early life as a disservice to the very premise which DB stated was the inspiration for his book, which is sad, considering that DB has other things to say about Wagner which are of value and worth hearing, even if for the most part they are re-wordings of prior commentaries on Wagner by other authors.
PH: Interestingly enough, the one character in Wagner's operas and music-dramas in which one might find some influence of Minna's character and relationship with Wagner is in his portrayal of Wotan's wife Fricka, to whom Wotan said, in effect, you think only of what is old and has precedent, while I contemplate the new, the revolutionary (as in his support for the Waelsung twins against Fricka's insistence they be punished according to divine law for flouting the rules). This link is of course well known. However, even in this case, Wagner had plenty of precedent for Fricka's character in Greek and Norse mythology.
[CHAPTER EIGHT: THE MIRACLE OF THE MUSIC]
PH: DB is on surer ground when discussing Wagner's music.
P. 196: PH: I can concur for the most part with DB's opening paragraph: DB: "The music lies at the heart of the Wagner experience and without it Wagner might have been forgotten. It is the music which makes the dramas what they are. The music bathes individual scenes with their distinctive light and aura. The music also creates for each drama a complete world that is unique, and the music is responsible for defining its character. Wagner's texts do not do this, although he sometimes believed that they could."
PH: There is a debate of long-standing re the relative value of the music Wagner wrote for his operas and music-dramas, and the verbal dramas themselves, as if the one could be separated from the other for discussion. Some have argued that the music alone is worth preserving and that the dramas for which they were written were a self-indulgence which can now be dropped. Others argue that while Wagner needed the dramas to inspire him to write the music he did, they are merely a scaffolding which, the building of music now completed, can be dropped. Others argue that the music even as music doesn't attain its full effect except as part of the dramas. Others again (such as myself) argue that they should always be considered one and indivisible. When I say this I am not saying that the dramas, taken alone as verbal dramas, can stand on their own in the way that portions of Wagner's operatic music (such as stand-alone excerpts of set pieces, transitions between scenes, and overtures which can be listened to with pleasure in the concert hall) can stand alone. What I am saying that the music, taken alone, as wonderful as it is, only gains its full force and beauty in its unity with the dramas for which it was written. When I hear people say that what matters in Wagner is only the music, I have to wonder if they are entirely missing any dramatic or epic sense. Wagner is one of the world's greatest dramatists, but only through his unique union of music and drama, not through his dramas considered as verbal texts alone.
P. 197: DB makes the interesting point that "Much of Wagner stands among the peaks of music even if evaluated and judged by the stringent criteria of, say, Stravinsky."
PH: This remark is interesting because there is a very real distinction between the more or less self-contained set pieces which are excerpted from Wagner's operas and especially his music-dramas for the concert hall, and these operas and music-dramas as a whole, and in particular the music to which dialogue is set. For example, a close friend to whom I was gradually introducing Wagner's artworks once resisted my effort to persuade him to watch a video of "Siegfried' Act 3 with subtitles in English, because he said he found the drama on first acquaintance rather distracting from his musical pleasure. Therefore, against my better judgment, I sat with him while he attempted to listen to this third act merely as music. Within a half hour or so he asked me to stop because he couldn't understand what was happening in the music, as music. It was just too much for him. I pointed out that a great deal that happens in the music only attains aesthetic sense for us in conjunction with the drama for which it was written. Another example: Wagner often noted that the music he wrote for his dramas does things that absolute instrumental music would normally never do, but which the drama explains and makes natural.
P. 197-198: DB pursues this debate with Stravinsky in the following interesting passage: DB: "He [Stravinsky] argued that music is incapable of representing anything but itself; that any claim to the contrary involves a category mistake, even perhaps a deception. (...) ... Wagner's music succeeds even within Stravinsky's restrictive ordinances, as impressive edifices of sound, even if they were at first too original for people to understand; and some people still have difficulty with appreciating their structural quality."
PH: I have no doubt whatsoever that Wagner's mature music-dramas in particular possess large scale formal symphonic architecture, but again, I would argue that this architecture supports, yet is one with, the architecture of the drama. I certainly can listen to entire large-scale Wagner operas and music-dramas merely as music without the drama, but the overall impact is nothing like as powerful as they are in their full unity as music-dramas (of course, by now I've watched them so often that I know more or less what is going on in the drama moment by moment when listening only to the music, so it's hard to gauge).
P. 198-199: PH: I find DB's following two remarks of considerable interest: DB: "The gift of form and order is something which Wagner offers as generously as any composer ... . Great music, or at least the music of Western high culture, has the ability to reshape the world as we experience it through its organization. It can percolate the mind and reconfigure not only its software but even perhaps the circuitry supporting it. (...) Carl Jung often spoke of the wisdom of the unconscious, operating to create order in the deepest recesses of the mind. A special benefit of great music is that it can help to create that order."
PH: DB links the ordering which goes on in the unconscious mind, and music, here. Wagner, of course, saw musical composition as in some sense linked with the faculty of dreaming. I'm not sure what contemporary research tells us about musical creativity, i.e., how much is merely conscious tinkering, and how much simply comes to the creator without his having been conscious of the mechanics behind the construction. Of course this would depend on the unique personalities of different composers, and not all composers of music are composers of genius. In any case, by its very nature this question would probably be impossible to test scientifically.
P. 201: Here DB offers Wagner's own distinction between the ordering principle in Beethoven's creation of instrumental music, and his own procedure in creating his music-dramas: DB: "As Wagner explained in his late essay, 'On the Application of Music to the Drama', the main difference between himself and Beethoven was that his structures were dictated by the requirements of developing drama, rather than by any abstract formal principle ... ."
P. 203: PH: Another helpful remark by DB: "... it never helps to try mentally to force Wagner's forms into procrustean frameworks, whether of Beethoven or any other model. As it happens, the formats of classical music themselves were originally conceived as resources and not as straitjackets."
PH: This is of course one of the subjects debated in Wagner's "The Mastersingers of Nuremberg," i.e., whether rules for rules' sake, or for the sake of higher aesthetic values. I can't help thinking of a debate I once had with an opera-singing lady-friend, who denied that a certain singer whose voice I admired could be good because, according to my lady-friend, she lacked the proper technique. I asked my lady-friend if technique had any other point than producing beautiful singing, and my retort inspired an explosion of anger.
P. 104: PH: DB's following quotation from Wagner and his response are worth repeating: DB: "In ... 'On the Application of Music to the Drama', Wagner said: 'The new form of dramatic music must demonstrate the unity of symphonic writing, a unity which it will achieve if it extends over the entire drama;' but this unity comes from 'a web of root themes pervading all the drama, themes that contrast, complete, re-shape, divorce and intertwine with one another as in a symphonic movement, except that [In italics] here the needs of the drama [out of italics] dictate the laws of parting and combining.' From the very beginning, Wagner carefully crafted his texts to allow him to build up effective musical structures ... ."
P. 207: PH: Here DB discusses how Wagner employed both closed and open forms very flexibly to create a new, higher order in his music-dramas, an order which is not always discernible to others.
P. 208: DB's following remarks offer interesting food for thought about what it is precisely that music does for us: "What is important about good music is that it can impart structure, even a narrative structure, to feelings and their evolution, and this takes further the earlier point about music's ordering of ideas and experience. Its command of order is one reason why music, even when as openly emotive as Mahler's Sixth Symphony, is not like the raw stuff of everyday emotions. However intense the emotions it expresses, good music still creates a sense of order and balance. This is partly due to a singular feature of the brain; the interpretation of sound and the function of hearing extends and permeates widely throughout the cerebral cortex instead of being confined to a single area. This helps to explain why music intertwines with our other mental processes and affects them, and also why music can bring order and balance to the mind as a whole. It means that music can reach out to old memories and emotions, and that it can extend back into the far distant and atavistic past."
PH: I have no idea how true this is but it certainly sounds like a promising area for research, that might indeed help us to grasp Wagner's unique contribution to the arts, since his music-dramas involve more than one sense, allowing them to interpenetrate in a strange way.
P. 209: PH: Another interesting DB remark worth repeating: DB: "There are ... situations where the music makes us feel something different from what it expresses, because it not only puts the stuff of emotions in order but alters them. It reinterprets them and transforms them, taking sadness and passion and other emotions and reconfiguring them." (...) [PH: DB provides some examples of music which:] "... all reconfigure deep feelings in new patterns, and they leave a sense of equilibrium and adjustment, and not pain, misery, or disunity, not the emotions and sensations to which the music gives overt expression. The application of ... this to Wagner is that his music achieves all these things to an exceptional degree."
P. 211: DB asks: "What [is] it about Wagner's music that achieves all this? What is the source of its spell? Part of the answer seems related to the fact that all spells, including Wagner's - and they have this in common with more conventional chemistry - need and require an exact blend of certain specific elements in order to work. More, the elements need to be assembled in exact proportion, and an exact sequence. The same applies to Wagner's music if it is to cast its spell. His music has to be an exact synthesis for it to work, a synthesis comparable with the synthesis of molecular compounds in chemistry.
PH: I've often wondered what it is that separates the great from the near great or the mundane in art. Of course, I know the view of what is great varies with each person, sometimes with different stages in a person's life, but nonetheless in human history a process of selection over time offers us a canon of great works, which must in their greatness have something in common, something which corresponds with the human brain and human needs and desires. Why is it, for instance, that Wagner's mature music-dramas in particular have made the deepest impression on me in all the arts, without however spoiling for me the greatness of other artists such as Shakespeare, Beethoven, Dickens, Dostoevsky, Debussy, etc.? Surely, as DB suggests, outside of any question of there being unanswerable mysteries, there must be elements and structures which are particularly telling for me. What are they, and why are they?
P. 213: PH: Another helpful remark re Wagner's music from DB: "Wagner announced in print that it was wrong and unhelpful that 'one of my younger friends only viewed what he calls my 'leitmotiv' in the light of their dramatic significance instead of their bearing on musical construction.' Wagner valued the leitmotiv idea as much for its structural potential as for its evocative capacity. It was possible for other composers to evoke atmosphere and 'illustration' without leitmotives, and so could Wagner."
PH: This passage introduces the question to what extent Wagner's employment of his musical motifs in his mature music-dramas are guided by purely musical considerations, and how much by dramatic situations. It is my view that most of the occurrences of musical motifs in Wagner's mature music-dramas have a dramatic rationale, but in order to grasp what this rationale might be [it's impossible to prove any claim either way, in most cases] Wagner's fans need to have a very expansive notion of Wagner's allegorical logic in these later works, an expansive view which I've tried to provide in this website's online book about Wagner's "Ring," and which I will later try to produce in my prospective second volume on Wagner's other canonical operas and music-dramas.
PH: This passage also hints that not all the music in Wagner's operas and music-dramas is motival, not even in his mature music-dramas, a point that my music consultant Dr. Allen Dunning made often with respect to the "Ring."
P. 214: PH: Here DB makes a point which can't be made too often: DB: "... Wagner's late works have long stretches where there is hardly a harmony or a line that does not possess some representative function. His late essay 'On the Application of Music to the Drama' alludes to his own term, 'root themes', and this essay expressed his increasing concern that the labels were too rigid. Labels pin down the meaning of the musical themes too inflexibly; and nothing so simple as a verbal label can cover all that a theme may come to represent. Frequently the scope of their meanings develops as the drama develops."
PH: But DB adds that it is incorrect to assume Wagner didn't sometimes add these labels himself: DB: "Not only do Wagner's preliminary musical sketches set out many of the motives with their names, but Hans Von Bulow, his favorite conductor, was already using these names in correspondence ten years before Bayreuth , which can only mean that they must have been common coin of his discussions with Wagner."
P. 215: DB suggests that this issue of labeling musical motifs becomes even more complicated in "Tristan and Isolde": DB: "In 'Tristan and Isolde' the themes develop in and evolve in new ways. They become like the patterns in a kaleidoscope, constantly changing and transforming, as one musical theme dissolves and evolves into another. It is pointless and misguided even to try and define the exact point at which a permutation becomes a new theme deserving a new label. Trying to give labels to these is like trying to lasso a cloud; and it limits the open-endedness of what the music signifies"
P. 216: PH: Another important point DB makes is that: "Many of Wagner's individual motives expressed concepts that were simple, but their weaving into bigger structures creates rich scenarios, whole tapestries of meaning."
P. 216-217: DB expands on this concept that musical motives in context of their interrelations during dramatic scenes take on a whole new dimension of meaning: DB: "Even individually the leitmotives work on the imagination and musical motives and dramatic motivations are inseparable in mature Wagner. The leitmotives knot together the threads and establish connections, but the effects of the individual threads are as nothing compared with their effect when woven together. The leitmotives have their individual meanings, but only produce their full meaning in context, because it is then that the different meanings interact and that harmony and orchestration add their distinctive contributions. They then add up to symphonic constellations which offer a larger picture and describe the psychological development of situations and characters, their motivations, drives, feelings, desires, and states of mind."
P. 217-218: Here DB poses the interesting question about whether or not music is a language, or is related to language, and whether it can in some way convey ideas, at least by association: "He took to new limits the possibility of expressing ideas in music, and claimed that music could actually speak. His claim raises issues about music's status as a language. The relationship of music to any ideas it expresses is a complex and interesting one. In the case of most language, the association of words with the ideas that they represent is a matter of convention. Any ideas expressed in words could generally have been expressed just as easily in other words, and in foreign languages they are. (...) Is music different? Is the language of music and above all of Wagner's music a matter of convention, or is it more fundamental, rooted in the natural laws?" DB then provides very basic examples of Wagner's descriptive or imitative, program music, but then raises a more interesting question; DB: "Wagner went further and even produced identities of music with experiences that do not belong to the senses at all, thoughts, dispositions, and feelings, such as contentment, frustration, joy, slyness, hatreds, aspirations, heroic resolve, deceit, intention, and ecstasy."
P. 219-228: DB offers a musico-dramatic analysis of thematic material from the Prelude to "The Rhinegold" and "The Annunciation of Death" motif introduced in "The Valkyrie," Act Two, Scene Four, and describes how the music evokes the things, whether material or abstract, it is supposed to represent or embody. DB argues that the motif to which Isolde sings "Todgeweihtes Haupt, Todgeweihtes Herz" in "Tristan and Isolde" Act One is very similar to Bruennhilde's "Annunciation of Death" motif, and that in both instances "fate" and "death" are being conveyed both dramatically and musically.
P. 232: DB makes the following valuable observation about how coherently Wagner has structured his music-dramas: DB: "The sense of coherence common to Wagner's works is all the more surprising because he did not plan them out in advance as Mendelssohn apparently did, mentally mapping out a ground scheme before beginning to compose. Wagner once said he just went ahead and hoped that something would turn up, but he was doing less than justice to his unconscious and its determination to create order and impose form, and less than justice too to the germinating value of his reflective periods, the years of planning and thought over the design of his dramas in preparation for this eventual 'just going ahead'. The gestation process gave rise to a powerful background sense of structure, upon which he could rely for the shaping of his material."
P. 236: One of DB's curious but possibly fruitful speculations: "Although it cannot be demonstrated scientifically ... , Wagner seemed to achieve some direct translation of other modalities of experience into music in a way that suggests the possession of unusual neuro-physiological mechanisms. (...) It is intriguing to speculate whether a complex synaesthesia influenced Wagner's desire to create a total work of art where every aspect of the presentation, all the different arts, would fuse and harmonize."
THIS CONCLUDES MY REVIEWS OF CHAPTERS SIX THROUGH EIGHT OF DAWSON-BOWLING'S BOOK "THE WAGNER EXPERIENCE." (EDITED 5/3/2015)
General Discussion about Wagner and The Ring of the Nibelung
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