Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science.  Die fröhliche Wissenschaft.

First published in 1882.

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The Cynic Speaks.

My objections to Wagner’s music are physiological objections.  Why should I therefore begin by disguising them under aesthetic formulae?  My "point" is that I can no longer breathe freely when this music begins to operate on me; my foot immediately becomes indignant at it and rebels: for what it needs is time, dance and march; it demands first of all from music the ecstasies which are in good walking, striding, leaping and dancing.  But do not my stomach, my heart, my blood and my bowels also protest?  Do I not become hoarse unawares under its influence?  And then I ask myself what my body really wants from music generally.  I believe it wants to have relief: so that all animal functions should be accelerated by means of light, bold, unfettered, self-assured rhythms; so that brazen, leaden life should be gilded by means of golden, good, tender harmonies.  My melancholy would fain rest its head in the hiding-places and abysses of perfection: for this reason I need music.  What do I care for the drama!  What do I care for the spasms of its moral ecstasies, in which the "people" have their satisfaction!  What do I care for the whole pantomimic hocus-pocus of the actor!  It will now be divined that I am essentially anti-theatrical at heart, but Wagner on the contrary, was essentially a man of the stage and an actor, the most enthusiastic mummer-worshipper that has ever existed, even among musicians!  And let it be said in passing that if Wagner's theory was that "drama is the object, and music is only the means to it” his practice on the contrary from beginning to end has been to the effect that "attitude is the object, drama and even music can never be anything else but means to this”.  Music as a means of elucidating, strengthening and intensifying dramatic poses and the actor s appeal to the senses, and Wagnerian drama only an opportunity for a number of dramatic attitudes!  Wagner possessed, along with all other instincts, the dictatorial instinct of a great actor in all and everything, and as has been said, also as a musician.  I once made this clear with some trouble to a thorough going Wagnerian, and I had reasons for adding: "Do be a little more honest with yourself: we are not now in the theatre.  In the theatre we are only honest in the mass; as individuals we lie, we lie even to ourselves.  We leave ourselves at home when we go to the theatre; we there renounce the right to our own tongue and choice, to our taste, and even to our courage as we possess it and practise it within our own four walls in relation to God and man.  No one takes his finest taste in art into the theatre with him, not even the artist who works for the theatre: there one is people, public, herd, woman, Pharisee, voting animal, democrat, neighbour, and fellow creature; there even the most personal conscience succumbs to the levelling charm of the great multitude; there stupidity operates as wantonness and contagion; there the neighbour rules, there one becomes a neighbour".  (I have forgotten to mention what my enlightened Wagnerian answered to my physiological objections: "So the fact is that you are really not healthy enough for our music")?  
 

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