Friedrich Nietzsche, The Wanderer and His Shadow (Der Wanderer und sein Schatten).

The Wanderer and his Shadow, the second supplement to Human, All Too Human, first published in 1880.

  

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Previous Section   168. SENTIMENTALITY IN MUSIC   Next Section

Sentimentality in Music.  We may be ever so much in sympathy with serious and profound music, yet nevertheless, or perhaps all the more for that reason, we shall at occasional moments be overpowered, entranced, and almost melted away by its opposite — I mean, by those simple Italian operatic airs which, in spite of all their monotony of rhythm and childishness of harmony, seem at times to sing to us like the very soul of music.  Admit this or not as you please, you Pharisees of good taste, it is so, and it is my present task to propound the riddle that it is so, and to nibble a little myself at the solution.  In childhood's days we tasted the honey of many things for the first time.  Never was honey so good as then; it seduced us to life, into abundant life, in the guise of the first spring, the first flower, the first butterfly, the first friendship.  Then — perhaps in our ninth year or so — we heard our first music, and this was the first that we understood; thus the simplest and most childish tunes, that were not much more than a sequel to the nurse's lullaby and the strolling fiddler's tune, were our first experience.  (For even the most trifling "revelations" of art need preparation and study; there is no "immediate" effect of art, whatever charming fables the philosophers may tell.)  Our sensation on hearing these Italian airs is associated with those first musical raptures, the strongest of our lives.  The bliss of childhood and its flight, the feeling that our most precious possession can never be brought back, all this moves the chords of the soul more strongly than the most serious and profound music can move them.  This mingling of aesthetic pleasure with moral pain, which nowadays it is customary to call (rather too haughtily, I think) "sentimentality"— it is the mood of Faust at the end of the first scene — this '' sentimentality "of the listener is all to the advantage of Italian music.  It is a feeling which the experienced connoisseurs in art, the pure "aesthetes” like to ignore.  Moreover, almost all music has a magical effect only when we hear it speak the language of our own past.  Accordingly, it seems to the layman that all the old music is continually growing better, and that all the latest is of little value.  For the latter arouses no "sentimentality” that most essential element of happiness, as aforesaid, for every man who cannot approach this art with pure aesthetic enjoyment.  
 

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