Early Greek Philosophy & Other Essays Collected Works, Volume Two

By Friedrich Nietzsche

Page 24

of the whole, which we, _without_ the diversion of music
and orchestration, so often cannot penetrate even with the closest
attention--was this whole world of miracles transparent as glass to
the Greek crowd, yea, a metaphorical-conceptual interpretation of
music? And with such mysteries of thought as are to be found in Pindar
do you think the wonderful poet could have wished to elucidate the
music already strikingly distinct? Should we here not be forced to an
insight into the very nature of the lyricist--the artistic man, who
to _himself_ must interpret music through the symbolism of metaphors
and emotions, but who has nothing to communicate to the listener; an
artist who, in complete aloofness, even forgets those who stand eagerly
listening near him. And as the lyricist his hymns, so the people sing
the folk-song, for themselves, out of in-most impulse, unconcerned
whether the word is comprehensible to him who does not join in the
song. Let us think of our own experiences in the realm of higher
art-music: what did we understand of the text of a Mass of Palestrina,
of a Cantata of Bach, of an Oratorio of Händel, if we ourselves perhaps
did not join in singing? Only for _him who joins_ in singing do lyric
poetry and vocal music exist; the listener stands before it as before
absolute music.

But now the _opera_ begins, according to the clearest testimonies, with
the _demand of the listener to understand the word._

What? The listener _demands?_ The word is to be understood?

But to bring music into the service of a series of metaphors and
conceptions, to use it as a means to an end, to the strengthening
and elucidation of such conceptions and metaphors--such a peculiar
presumption as is found in the concept of an "opera," reminds me of
that ridiculous person who endeavours to lift himself up into the air
with his own arms; that which this fool and which the opera according
to that idea attempt are absolute impossibilities. That idea of the
opera does not demand perhaps an abuse from music but--as I said--an
impossibility. Music never _can_ become a means; one may push,
screw, torture it; as tone, as roll of the drum, in its crudest and
simplest stages, it still defeats poetry and abases the latter to its
reflection. The opera as a species of art according to that concept is
therefore not only an aberration of music, but an erroneous conception
of æsthetics. If I herewith, after all, justify the nature of the opera
for æsthetics, I am of course far from justifying at the same time bad
opera music

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