Home » Nietzsche and Wagner Essae

Nietzsche and Wagner Essae

In terms of artists and their influences, the case of Nietzsche and Wagner has been the focal point of discussion between many great academic minds of the last century. The controversy surrounding the relationship has led many to postulate that the eventual break between the two men may have contributed to the untimely death of Wagner in 1882, and Nietzsche’s eight-year writing spurt from 1883 – 1888.

While investigating the details of this peculiar relationship, I was struck by the historical and philosophical depth of several discoveries, the fundamental question being this: Why was Nietzsche’s perception of both Wagner’s music and his character upset simply because Wagner declared his return to God? I envisioned that this question would provide a rather simple essay, one aimed at declaring the cause of the quarrel as a basic Christian vs. Atheist dispute among oversensitive philosophical minds – but this paper has turned out to be a wealth of thought, knowledge, and chance that I can’t possibly express in five to eight pages.

What struck me as odd throughout my research, aside from many eerie coincidences in the progression of their lives, was how many times the subject of Ludwig van Beethoven appeared in my research, as he was Wagner’s first real musical inspiration and various references are made to him. I was able to make many parallels between the life of Nietzsche and Beethoven, and it is in my opinion that the similarities between these two men are even more profound than the parallels between Wagner and Neitzsche.

As academic interest in the comparison between these two men is buried beneath an overwhelming amount of material relating Nietzsche and more directly related historical characters (i. e. Wagner, Hitler), much of my paper is based purely on my own speculation and inference (I only found one useful website). I have found that the two men’s lives are undeniably a subject worthy of comparison; the phases of life of Nietzsche’s overman that he prescribes as the camel, the lion, and the child befit the artistic and rhetorical stages of each man’s respective life with an uncanny resemblance.

With regards to popular comparison’s made between Nietzsche and Wagner, Nietzsche and Hitler, Hitler and Wagner, Napoleon and Hitler, Napoleon and Beethoven, I developed an unprovable, yet intriguing, theory of how these men were all connected through a reincarnation of ideas and personalities. This theory, upon further research, has manifested itself as an integral part of Karmic New Age esoteric philosophy. In short, an ongoing practice and belief in this philosophy predicts the dawning of a new era for mankind, and I believe that the men I will discuss play an integral part in the coming of this alleged era.

The problem I thus pose is not what shall succeed mankind in the sequence of living beings (man is an end), but what type of man shall be bred, shall be willed, for being higher in value, worthier of life, more certain of a future. Even in the past this higher type has appeared often-but as a fortunate accident, as an exception, never as something willed. . . success in individual cases is constantly encountered in the most widely different places and culture: here we really do find a higher type, which is, in relation to mankind as a whole, a kind of overman.

Nietzsche, The Anti-Christ, sections 3 and 4, in The Portable Nietzsche, pp. 570-1 “Of three metamorphoses of the spirit I tell you: how the spirit becomes a camel; and the camel, a lion; and the lion, finally, a child. ” –Ibid. , Thus Spoke Zarathustra, p. 137 In demonstrating the path of information that led me to the comparison of Ludwig van Beethoven and Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (from here on out referred to as LvB and FN, and Richard Wagner as RW), I must describe the initial research that revealed to me why FN rejected RW as a true overman.

While exploring Thus Spoke Zarathustra – the critically proclaimed pinnacle achievement of FN’s work – the concept of his “overman” led me to a much greater understanding of the artistic similarities between the two men’s lives. Moreover, once FN makes clear his perception of RW in Nietzsche Contra Wagner the reasons supporting FN’s contempt for his former friend and inspiration became increasingly clearer; I realized that what repulsed FN was not that RW’s music was badbut dangerous.

Initially, FN recognizes RW as a certifiable champion of a higher state of being, the overman, a creative genius like himself. It seems that RW’s death-bed union with Christianity, however, was in FN’s opinion, a shortcut into a false feeling of transcendence. For the overman, this is a poor decision to make; FN’s feeling was that the idea of morality in any conventional sense could only serve to suffocate and limit the creative instincts that define the artistic genius and allow him eternal happiness.

If they are replaced with ethical decisions of a weaker group of beings, the overman is doomed to suffer his own un-fulfillment. Please refer to the first attached biography of Richard Wagner (Bio 1) and to the second biography of Friedrich Nietzsche (Bio 2). Wilhelm Richard Wagner was born on May 22, 1813 in Leipzig, the son to Carl Friedrich Wilhelm Wagner(b. , who died later that year, as a result of the Battle of Nations fought just outside of Leipzig. . In 1944, he releases his opera, The Flying Dutchman, which is the work that is said to have put Wagner on the map.

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche is born on October 15, 1844 in Rocken, just southwest of Leipzig, as the son of Karl Ludwig Nietzsche(b. 1813-1849). Nietzsche’s father died of a brain ailment when Friedrich was only 4. As we already know, the two men’s involvement led to much creative influence, this being easily demonstrated in the fact that Wagner is repeatedly the subject of Nietzche’s writing. The impact they had on each other, however, seems to have been so great that perhaps their particular exchanges were in fact no accident of time and location.

To consider this for a moment, one might take note of the fact that in 1844, the year of FN’s birth, RW was known to have seriously began his musical and spiritual journey with the release of The Flying Dutchman; this could be interpreted as kind of artistic birth, perhaps the passing from Zarathustra’s metaphorical camel to his lion, from scholarship to creative endeavor. When Nietzsche is four, his father dies of a brain affliction, and six months later, his younger brother Joseph of age 2 dies.

From the age of 14 to 19, Friedrich attended the prestigious Schulptforta boarding school at Naumburg, where he led a music and literature club called, “Germania,” and the club’s subscription to the Zeitschrift fur Musik is how Nietzsche first discovered Wagner. In 1864, Nietzsche studied at the University of Berlin. Inspired by a classics teacher, Ritschl, Nietzsche followed him to the University of Leipzig in 1865. He happens upon Schopenhauer’s, The World as the Will and Representation(1818) in a local bookstore.

Schopenhauer’s transcendental philosophies of art, creation, and turbulent emotion was called the “cadaverous perfume” that led Nietzsche into full appreciation of the aesthetics. .in 1849, RW releases his first publication of ideas, The Art Work of the Future, which called for an evolution in art. Succeeding this work was Art and Revolution, and Opera and Drama. He is greatly influenced and inspired by writer Schopenhauer, who begins the idea of a Godless world, which gives great beauty to the intense feeling of deep suffering and quiet sorrow.

In 1866, Nietzsche reads F. A. Lange’s History of Materialism and Critique of its Present Significance, a new-work that criticized materialist metaphysical theories from the standpoint of Kant’s critique of metaphysics in general. Nietzsche was greatly inspired by the more cynical, yet honest view of metaphysical speculation as an expression of poetic illusion. In 1868 he meets Wagner for the first time. In 1869, he becomes professor extraordinarius of classical philology at the University of Basel, Switzerland, at the astounding young age of 21.

In 1870, the University chair recognizes his genious and insists that Nietzsche get tenure at the school. In 1872, he publishes his first work, The Birth of Tragedy, which is a small success. Wagner praises it liberally (some sources suggest mockingly), but not all critics gave it the same praise. In 1876, at the age of 32, he made an unsuccessful marriage attempt to Mathilde Trampedach. Inbetween, Nietzsche completed the Unfashionable Observations(1873-76), which used Arthur Schopenhauer and Richard Wagner as demonstrations and inspirations for new cultural standards.

In 1878, he wrote Human, All Too Human, which marked a distinct turning point in his style, and the end of his friendship with Wagner. He retired from the university in 1879 June. The remainder of his works came during his nomadic years. His most famous work, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, (1883-85) came directly after the year of Wagner’s death, and the year that he fell into deep depression because of another failed love attempt with a woman named Lou Salome. The rest of his works come between this and his mental breakdown in 1889. He remains in a virtually catatonic state until his death in 2000.

The likely connection that can be extracted from the above text is the notable absence of a father figure in FN’s early years as an excellent reason for attachment to an elder father-like figure such as RW, who would guide and influence the course of his work and thought in so many deeply emotional ways. Their shared appreciation and fascination with the ideas of Arthur Schopenhauer – ideas generally of art as the vehicle of transcendence – distinguishes them as two of the pioneering forces behind the manifestation of transcendental and Eastern philosophy in contemporary music and literature (See Schopenhauer’s fundamental philosophy).

RW’s impact on Nietzsche can, therefore, be almost certainly thought of as essential to Nietzsche’s philosophical development. If one then considers RW’s life, and the creative periods and transitions he underwent, clear signs of a potential overman can be observed. RW’s first stage of development as an overman could likely be targeted at the time of his discovery of Ludwig Beethoven’s music, circa 1829. From this point up until 1844, he built his compositional repertoire, learning and emulating the ideas and methods of Beethoven.

RW as the camel is burdened with the desire to create – or become- but is not yet fully competent or capable of manifesting a work distinctly his own. He never loses respect for Beethoven, and it is clear that he is still thinking of his teacher when he writes his essay on Beethoven in 1770, as a celebration of Beethoven’s birth 100 years before: “(Beethoven) was extremely important, in that he outlined there his future objective of writing operatic works that would bond symphonic music and song into single, coherent dramatic pieces. ” — Beethoven Essay, 1870

We see Beethoven’s crucial role in RW’s creative process. The end of his camel phase is marked by the release of his first renowned work, The Flying Dutchman (1843-4). It is after this that he becomes recognized as an important figure in the music world, befriending esteemed contemporaries such as Franz Liszt. It is also here that his unfocused rebellious energies (1848 revolution attempt, fleeing of creditors, political activism in general) evolve from instinct to inspiration, enabling RW to produce some of his life’s most avant-garde and revolutionary works.

His influence from Schopenhauer opens him to many far eastern ideas of transcendentalism and a god-less world. He writes three books in the early 1850’s that definitively characterize the early years of his philosophical and spiritual dissention and musical revolution. This sharp break from all conventional thought on religion/philosophy is a distinct feature of the lion phase, in which the overman fights with all his might to deny convention, and create freedom for oneself.

Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Kaufman 139) The final creation of the lion phase must be his infamous opera masterpiece, Tristan und Isolde. . released in 1959, first performed in 1965, commonly thought of as the opera that brought music into the twentieth century. The reduction of resolution and stability and the increase in tension and confusion would bring the emotion to a level that the world had never seen, and would open the door to revolution in western harmony.

Said about Schopenhauer, “He felt that, through their ‘negation of the will’, great mystics and creative artists, especially musicians, could perceive and express the most profound truths about the essence of being and becoming. “( John 12 ) Wagner adapted these ideas verbatum and wrote a tragic love story that unified all his passions: the classic story, the super-emotion, and the intense demonstration of the dismal message that death is the only true salvation.

This veritable cathartic experience was the culmination of his life’s significant contributions to the progress of music and opera; in literature, it was the fruition of his philosophy, and a manifestation of his most personal fears and desires – the impossibility of true love, the idea of death as the sole path to love’s fruition, true enlightenment, and liberation from the Desire that prevents a content and fulfilled existence (Schopenhauer).

After the premiere of Tristan in 1866, one would think that there would soon after be an observable artistic shift of RW’s music into the metaphorical child metamorphosis-the stage of complete self-actualization and the re-awakening of the spirit to zeal for life. It is instead, the start of many financial troubles and a steady decline in popularity. Ironically, Nietzsche meets his mentor and superior in 1868, just at the start of RW’s decline from the journey towards achieving happiness through pure art and becoming a true overman.

RW’s abandonment of his life’s work and beliefs, and his eventual reconciliation with Christianity, culminated in his final opera, Parsifal, in 1882, which was overflowing with Christian and Aryan imperialist intent. His death followed soon after in 1883. It seemed that RW had reached the end of his artistic journey at Tristan. His efforts at Bayreuth seemed – to the artistic community and the general public – a vain attempt at regaining lost respect and popularity.

His final work was often seen as a compromise of his true philosophy and beliefs, the aim in Parsifal apparently only an over-dramatic and unconvincing attempt at another masterpiece whose passion would equal that of Tristan. Whether vanity was his motive, or whether the struggle to create during his life without a safety net for the afterlife was too difficult, FN saw RW’s moral transformation as a failure. The rapid onset of RW’s physical illness and his distorted Anti-Semitic moral sentiments thus came to serve FN as a very grave example of what the overman becomes when he strays from his natural creative instincts.

Every time, sickness is the response when we want to doubt our right to our task, when we begin to make things easier for ourselves in any way. “(Nietzsche contra Wagner, Kaufman 677) It might be postulated that this great disappointment was necessary for FN to reach his fruition. Regardless, one can plainly see that FN’s journey towards becoming an overman greatly coincides with the phases of RW’s journey. This course towards the overman, and the similarities between the paths of these two men is what spawned the idea of relation between LvB and Nietzsche.

We must remember that FN is born as RW enters his lion phase. FN enters his camel phase upon meeting RW, who has, at that time fallen from his lion phase. FN’s lion phase ends with the death of RW, whereby he achieves the final metamorphosis, the innocence of the child, at the end of his fictional autobiography, Thus Spoke Zarathrustra. The remainder of my paper details the research of reincarnation that was inspired by these comparisons and coinciding events. (Friedrich Nietzsche, 3.

Unzeitgeme Betrachtung; ” … t is the most terrible antidote against unusual individuals to drive them that uch back into themselves that their re-emerging causes a volcanic eruption each time. However, there will always be a demi-god, every now and then, who will be able to live under such terrible conditions, and that victoriously: and if you want to hear his lonely songs, listen to Beethoven’s music”). -Quote taken from http://www. geocities. com/Vienna/Strasse/3732/niebeetpages_e. htm, April 27, 10:00pm We must now turn our attention to the strange similarities in path not between RW and FN, but rather between LvB and FN.

Please refer to their respective biographies. The comparison that follows has suggested to me a recurring pattern of life events in the life of LvB and FN. FN’s grandfather (notice the ‘Ludwig’) is born in 1770, and his offspring (FN’s father) is also a ‘Ludwig’. They were both 56 at their deaths. They both were gifted at their field at very young ages. They both were right around their mid-twenties when they really actualized a potential for greatness-LvB sees Haydn’s jealousy in 1795, FN is given tenure as Professor at the University of Basle in 1869-70, at a remarkably young age.

They both struggled with illness directly affecting their means of expression (LvB, with hearing loss, FN, with migraines and vision loss). LvB’s first encounter with his obvious role-model was in 1793(Haydn), at the age of 23. FN’s first encounter with RW was in 1868, at the age of 24. The two men were very interested always in music and literature, never exclusively one or the other, and they both dabbled in each other’s fields. The coincidental dates could be subject for its own manuscript, but I will leave it up to the reader to observe any more detail recurrences.

In terms of literature, they both display a profound. interest in Greek prose, as it reflects an entirely different society in which man thrived in the arts and culture. The attraction of each man to the love for life is apparent. There is a remarkable reoccurrence of rejecting those who detested life. We know that LvB preferred Goethe and Schiller to Klopstock, specifically because Klopstock did not love life as the other two did. Said by Beethoven, “He(Goethe) has killed Klopstock for meBut he is great and uplifts the soul nevertheless. If only he did not always want to die!..

But Goethe-he is alive, and he wants us to live with him. That is why he can be set to music. “(Schwaegermann 4/25/01). This is one of the main reasons that FN rejects Schopenhauer and RW, for their philosophies ended with death as the only solution. Neitzsche said, “.. they negate life, they slander it, hence they are my antipodes. “(Nietzsche contra Wagner, Kaufman p. 670) Let it here be noted that this parallel is not between philosophies (for as we know, FN did not believe that a Christian could ever achieve full artistic potential), but rather between specific attitudes towards a specific subject.

Assuming once again that the reader of this paper is somewhat familiar with FN’s three stages of the overman (Thus Spoke Zarathustra), we can easily see the similar paths in each man’s life. I must point out that FN would not have considered Beethoven as a realized overman, for he remains Christian throughout his life, but the stages of Nietzsche’s development towards said-goal are a vantage point from which to see the comparison of life events.

LvB meets with Haydn, in 1792 to begin an anticipated training, as the two were the most prominent and noteworthy musicians (one as an accomplished master, the other as a child prodigy), but by 95, this service reaches its end. Maynard Solomon says in his biography of LvB, “The relationship between the two took on a complex and tangled character from the very start. Almost immediately after the start of his lessons, LvB conceived of the notion that Haydn was envious of him, or unconcerned about his progress. ” (Solomon, p. )

The teacher, here, seems more concerned about the vanity of the accomplishments than with the value of the art — we see in RW’s final phase of life a similar ‘counter-art’ ideal. LvB is now in the camel phase. He has been learning his whole life, but now seems to recognize that he has the potential to create, and his desire to release his creation becomes slowly apparent. His first piano concerto and the Sonata Pathetique start to show his brilliance, and his gradual departure from traditional compositional form. In 1801, we see a strong desire to break away from tradition with the Moonlight sonata.

Excited about political upheaval and a potential unification of Europe, LvB finds new inspiration – Napoleon. But as the camel bears a great burden of struggle to learn, and the desire to create without full faculty, LvB is seen to struggle very much as the onset of his hearing loss is imminent. He becomes very depressed and detached, and we see that he is at the depths of despair at the end of his camel phase in 1801-02. The Heiligenstadt testament reveals his realization that he cannot take his life for he has not given to man-kind the full extent of his capabilities.

The letters LvB wrote in Heiligenstadt expressed a clear desire to take his own life, but as he later writes, “I would have ended my life-it was only my art that held me back. “; “Thanks to (virtue) and my art, I did not commit suicide. “(Solomon, p. 154) –This sense of duty and obligation to his true nature are the virtues that RW lacked, according to FN. — The next year, he is appalled that Napoleon, his hero and liberator, becomes caught up in the vanity of his affairs and crowns himself emperor.

He has seen the tragic human vanity and imperfection of his hero, he has recognized that he himself is a great man with a great destiny, and in turn he releases something that has never been seen before, the third symphony, Eroica. Originally dedicated to Napoleon, he changed the title completely before releasing the work. The piece marks the beginning of a new phase, as it was his first truly revolutionary work. It broke all conventional structural forms, and started a new wave of composition. He is now in the lion phase, protesting with all his might everything that has been mandated of him.

The infamous fifth and sixth symphonies came after this. We know of one last failed love attempt by LvB because of the Immortal Beloved letters of 1812, and this seems to mark his transition into the third creative period, his child phase, in which his hearing loss increased dramatically. The music in this phase becomes representative of his stream of consciousness. The contrast and overlapping of counterpoint and modal passages (the most intellectually challenging form of composition vs. the commonly used Christian hymnal style) has often been thought of as man’s struggle between science and faith.

It is interesting to note that Haydn dies in 1809, and Napoleon is defeated in 1812 (finally and certainly in 1813). The teacher dies, and the new student is soon born-RW. Just as one misuser of potential greatness is defeated in 1813, the next journey destined to fail begins. Let us not forget that RW’s father is born in 1770, paralleling Beethoven. He dies in 1813. FN’s course seems to be marked by the same pillars as that of Beethoven’s. His camel phase starts probably as early as his high-school years, but most definitively when he obtains his first Schopenhauer text in 1865.

FN is a dedicated student, his discle-ship continues as he praises RW and eventually befriends him. He never fully disrespects the clear vanity and lack of strength that RW exhibits in his attempt to re-gain the lime-light with the Beyreuth festivals, even though he is suspicious of his hero. The camel bears the burden, till the summer of 1876– “I said farewell to Wagner in my heart. “(Nietzsche Contra Wagner, Kaufman p 675), and then he releases Human, All Too Human, in which we see his first public and published revolt against RW. He is now in his lion phase.

At the release of Parsifal by RW in 1882, FN reports himself as having become sick and disgusted, for he had seen one like himself abandon the journey. After seeing the premiere, he says, “.. I trembled; not long after, I was sick, more than sick, namely, weary – weary from the inevitable disappointment about everything that is left to us modern men for enthusiasm, about the universally wasted energy, work, hope, youth, love-weary from nausea at the whole idealistic lie and pampering of the conscience, which had here triumphed once again over one of the bravest”(Nietzsche Contra Wagner, Kaufman p. 6).

And it was in the winter between 1882 and 83 that FN attempted the relationship with Lou Salome, a woman he had become amorous of, and who denied his marriage proposal. The deep depression of the broken-hearted and the grief of seeing the downfall of his hero are the last days of his dependence on worldly matters. It is the start of his child phase. His most memorable works all came after this. The depravity and suffering of the artist has always seemed to magnify the art from within. This last attempt with a woman can be seen in both men’s lives as the entrance into their child-phase.

Beethoven’s questioning of faith begins to appear in his music, and Nietzsche’s most distinctly anti-Christian (i. e. The AntiChrist) are written. For Beethoven, it was a loss of hearing that affected his work. He could no longer conduct his own works, and he had no real way of knowing how the music really sounded, except to himself– a beautiful idea buried in his own mind. But works such as the ninth symphony prove that he wasn’t done yet. The transcendental quality of the piece was RW’s greatest influence in music. It was through much suffering that the task was achieved. For FN, it was a marked increase in rhetoric ability.

He began work on his most renowned work, “Also Sprach Zarathustra”, in 1883, immediately after his depression. And he continued to write constantly for the next five years of his life until his untimely mental breakdown in Dec. 1888, Jan. 1889. So what about RW? RW abandoned his goal. Upon prospect of financial troubles, RW’s last projects in life (Bayreuth, Parsifal) were a submission to conventional practice and belief to ease life’s burden. Unfortunately for RW, he was either one of two things: an overman who didn’t follow his task, and therefore could not survive, or a human who tried to take on the task but failed.

Neitzsche concludes that the true overman has not the capacity for such an abandonment. He let vanity, or materialism stand in the way of his art. Haydn, through jealousy and other vain motives, clearly desired that LvB acknowledge him as superior and mentor. (Soloman 97). Again, I must point out that RW’s father was born on the same year as Beethoven, and that RW was born just as LvB was commencing his final stage. FN’s father was born the same year as RW, and FN was born the same year that RW would be starting his lion phase.

Since we are not even certain of the identity of Beethoven’s father, it would be hard to speculate as to who his ‘mentor’ was – it would be convenient to my point if it were Haydn. But another strange coincidence has made itself apparent to me. Adolf Hitler was born April 20, 1889, the last year of FN’s child-phase before his catatonic state. He died in 1945, making him 56. He claims to have always thought to RW for inspiration and guidance. Without any furthur investigation, I might suggest a certain pattern of cyclical overmen – or rather, potential overmen. LvB reaches fruition, RW fails, Nieztsche reaches fruition, Hitler fails.

The coincidence of dates is probably just chance, but the frequency at which we see them is a little unnerving, and if nothing else, a cause for the discussion of interesting parallels between interesting people. The reincarnation of ideas and of attitudes towards life is apparent, but to say anything definitive on this happening would not be logical or justified… but The final part of this work is a scattered and unrefined continuation on the ideas implied and suggested above. The research behind this paper has been a sort of mile-stone in my academic life, and I couldn’t bear to just finish the paper without looking just a little deeper.

The idea of reincarnation, of one soul transferred between bodies, has never really occurred to me, but my deep and profound respect for the two men who reached life’s fruition has held my interest in an otherwise dismissable subject. I will generously provide excerpts and relevant resources specific to the reader’s various potential reactions and questions-for this section of the paper is my dedication to an interesting topic, not an argument to justify any sort of thesis or point. All relevant writings are attached, and all websites given. If you aren’t interested, please stop reading.

This brief summation of the concept is from Benjamin Crme-if you are still interested, please read the following: . in the world, today, there are really three approaches to the idea of reincarnation. A two-fold one in the West, where the idea itself is almost non-existent, either a belief in the transmigration of souls – that you could be a human being in one life and an animal in the next, and therefore that there is great danger in swiping flies and treading on ants because it could be your grandmother — or simply an interest in past lives. That is almost the sole interest in the concept of rebirth in the West.

Cite This Work

To export a reference to this essay please select a referencing style below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.