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ELYSIA LIM | PHIL301

Friedrich Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of MusicSection 19-21

The essence of Socratic culture can be best described as the culture of the opera. The opera is seen as a unique expression of culture, revealing its aims and perceptions in a straightforward manner.[PG143]

"We cannot designate the intrinsic substance of Socratic culture more distinctly than by calling it the culture of the opera: for it is in this department that culture has expressed itself with special naïveté concerning its aims and perceptions, which is sufficiently surprising when we compare the genesis of the opera and the facts of operatic development with the eternal truths of the Apollonian and Dionysian."

Summary

Chapter 19

Nietzsche argues that opera represents a departure from the true nature of music, he questions the credibility of the enthusiastic reception of opera, considering its externalized and half-musical nature, especially in contrast to the sublime and sacred music of Palestrina. Nietzsche notes that opera is not born from the artistic instincts of the creators but is rather the birth of the critical layman. The demand for operatic music, arises from unmusical audiences who prioritize understanding the words over musical complexity. This demand leads to the development of a form where the text dominates the music, with an emphasis on understandable word-and-tone rhetoric.[PG144-145]

Summary

Chapter 19

" The recitative was regarded as the rediscovered language of this primitive man; the opera as the recovered land of this idyllically or heroically good creature, who in every action follows at the same time a natural artistic impulse, who sings a little along with all he has to say, in order to sing immediately with full voice on the slightest emotional excitement."

He later than also talks about how the combination of music, picture, and expression in opera is a result of the crude and unmusical views of its early patrons. Opera is more about meeting the demands of a non-artistic audience than expressing the genuine nature of music. It reflects an idyllic view that everyone is an artist, a belief driven by optimism and a taste for easily understandable and emotionally charged performances.[PG147-148]

" I here place by way of parallel still another equally obvious confirmation of my view that opera is built up on the same principles as our Alexandrine culture. Opera is the birth of the theoretical man, of the critical layman, not of the artist: one of the most surprising facts in the whole history of art."

Summary

Chapter 19

The demand for operatic music, according to Nietzsche, arises from unmusical audiences who prioritize understanding the words over musical complexity. This demand leads to the development of a form where the text dominates the music, with an emphasis on understandable word-and-tone rhetoric.[PG146]

Nietzsche questions what impact opera has on true art. There's concern that opera might divert art from its serious purpose of freeing the mind and delivering it from emotional turmoil, turning it into mere entertainment.

Nietzsche expresses hope in the revival of the Dionysian spirit in the modern world through German music, particularly from Bach to Beethoven and Wagner. He relates the unity of German music and philosophy, exemplified by Kant and Schopenhauer, to a new form of existence. This connection points towards a deeper, Dionysian wisdom that transcends conventional boundaries.[PG 149-153]

" The features of the opera therefore do not by any means exhibit the elegiac sorrow of an eternal loss, but rather the cheerfulness of eternal rediscovery, the indolent delight in an idyllic reality which one can at least represent to one's self each moment as real: and in so doing one will perhaps surmise some day that this supposed reality is nothing but a fantastically silly dawdling..."

Summary

Chapter 19

Summary

Chapter 20

"It may be weighed some day before an impartial judge, in what time and in what men the German spirit has thus far striven most resolutely to learn of the Greeks... the endeavour to attain to culture and to the Greeks by this path has in an incomprehensible manner grown feebler and feebler."

Nietzsche reflects on the relationship between German culture and the influence of ancient Greek civilization, particularly through the works of Goethe, Schiller, and Winckelmann. He expresses his concern about the diminishing effort to learn from the Greeks since the time of these intellectual giants. Suggesting that the attempts to integrate Greek culture into German thought may have been insufficient, leaving a gap in understanding and hindering further progress. The decline in appreciation for Greek contributions to culture is noted, with many adopting a superficial and ineffective admiration for concepts like "Greek harmony" and "Greek beauty."[PG154]

Nietzsche criticizes the state of higher education, where the pursuit of Greek ideals has waned, and academics compromise with Greek culture, leading to a distortion of the true purpose of studying antiquity. He highlights the current cultural confusion, where journalistic trends overshadow academic pursuits, and the value of true art is underestimated.[PG155]

Summary

Chapter 20

"When, therefore, the intrinsic efficiency of the higher educational institutions has never perhaps been lower or feebler than at present... the phenomenon... of the reawakening of the Dionysian spirit and the re-birth of tragedy?"

Despite this, Nietzsche expresses hope in the reawakening of the Dionysian spirit and the rebirth of tragedy as a powerful force for cultural renewal. He suggests that the current cultural desolation and stagnation can only be overcome through a return to the profound and transformative influence of the Dionysian spirit.Nietzsche concludes by urging a return to the Dionysian spirit, symbolized by embracing tragedy, as the key to revitalizing German culture and finding hope for the future.[PG155-157]

"Let no one attempt to weaken our faith in an impending re-birth of Hellenic antiquity... for in it alone we find our hope of a renovation and purification of the German spirit through the fire-magic of music.""Dare now to be tragic men, for ye are to be redeemed! Ye are to accompany the Dionysian festive procession from India to Greece! Equip yourselves for severe conflict, but believe in the wonders of your god!"

Summary

Chapter 20

Summary

Chapter 21

"If at every considerable spreading of the Dionysian commotion one always perceives that the Dionysian loosing from the shackles of the individual makes itself felt first of all in an increased encroachment on the political instincts..."

Nietzsche emphasizes that the Greeks, through their tragedies, achieved a unique and vital understanding of the essential basis of a people's life. He suggests that the awakening of tragedy played a crucial role in the cultural and societal development of the Greeks. He portrays tragedy as a necessary healing potion for a people engaged in battles and wars. He sees a connection between the people of tragic mysteries and those who fight wars, suggesting that tragedy served as a remedy for the societal turmoil caused by the Dionysian spirit.Nietzsche applauds the Greeks for successfully navigating between extreme paths represented by India (asceticism and longing for nothingness) and Rome (extreme secularization). He attributes this success to the power of tragedy, which, in its best form, excited, purified, and disburdened the entire life of the Greek people.[PG158-159]

"Here there interpose between our highest musical excitement and the music in question the tragic myth and the tragic hero—in reality only as symbols of the most universal facts, of which music alone can speak directly."" The glorious Apollonian illusion makes it appear as if the very realm of tones presented itself to us as a plastic cosmos, as if even the fate of Tristan and Isolde had been merely formed and moulded therein as out of some most delicate and impressible material."[Pg 160-163

Tragedy enhances music by incorporating tragic stories and heroes for a richer experience. Nietzsche introduces the Apollonian illusion, a calming cover that balances the intense parts of the story, allowing the audience to enjoy the tragedy without feeling overwhelmed by powerful music. The Apollonian illusion acts like a healing potion, helping people who feel broken find comfort. It changes how we see music, shaping the fate of the characters like molding something delicate and easy to change."

Summary

Chapter 21

Nietzsche contends that the Apollonian aspect of tragedy emphasizes individual characters, biographical portraits, and a sense of beauty. It captivates us with images, concepts, ethical teachings, and sympathetic emotions. The Apollonian element, through drama, provides a detached picture of the world. While drama is a reflection of the world, music, especially in its pure form, speaks directly from the heart of the world. Music is the adequate idea of the world, and drama is merely a phenomenon, an externalized copy of music.[PG164-167]

Summary

Chapter 21

"Thus then the intricate relation of the Apollonian and the Dionysian in tragedy must really be symbolized by a fraternal union of the two deities: Dionysus speaks the language of Apollo; Apollo, however, finally speaks the language of Dionysus; and so the highest goal of tragedy and of art in general is attained."

How does the concept of tragedy, as discussed by Nietzsche, resonate with modern storytelling, whether in literature, film, or television? In what ways do you see the Apollonian (clarity and form) and Dionysian (chaos and emotion) elements reflected in contemporary art, music, or popular culture?

Discussion

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