Wednesday, November 25, 2015
Schopenhauer and Wagner (Post One of Three)
I would like to begin by apologizing for the tardiness of this post, as I have been without internet for the last couple of days.
Arthur Schopenhauer, the German philosopher born in 1788 who died in 1860, had a very dark outlook on life. Though he held a bleak general outlook, he loved music. He is attributed the quote:
Having said this, it is to be no surprise that he and the highly regarded composer Richard Wagner are closely related in history. Though there is no evidence that they ever met, with Schopenhauer being 25 years Wagner’s elder, Wagner was introduced to Schopenhauer’s writing by his friend Georg Herwegh, a German poet of Wagner’s time. Wagner shared Schopenhauer’s dark, borderline pessimistic world view, which was evident in most of his operatic works. The one that sticks out most, however, is his operas “Tristan und Isolde”, “Parsifal”, and his famous opera cycle: “The Ring”. In all three works, a theme of the futility and almost unimportance of human life is largely present. It is worth noting that in “Tristan und Isolde” a chord now referred to as the Tristan chord was created. It is a commonly held belief that the Tristan chord is directly derived from Schopenhauer’s philosophies. The belief is founded by Schopenhauer’s statement that: “music raises expectations in its hearers and leads them to desire that its melody resolve itself in its tonic. If this does not happen, we feel frustrated, as if the melody had remained unfinished, interrupted.” The far more evident display of Schopenhauer’s influence is in the plot of “Tristan und Isolde” itself. In the opera there is a stark lack of actually meaningful events from an onlooker. Instead the action is all psychological on the part of the characters, displaying futility above all else. Another interesting comparison of the two is an interest in Buddhism evident in Schopenhauer’s writing and in the fact that Wagner had started work on an opera to be entitled “The Victors” about the Buddha, but never lived to complete it.