View Full Version : Wagner and Shopenhauer: 200 Years On

Ron Price
05-20-2013, 03:19 AM
…the fruits of inspiration and the start of modern music

This prose-poem is a personal reaction, a personal commentary, on the big 200th anniversary year of the birth of Richard Wagner.-Ron Price, Australia:)
Part 1:

The music and theatre world everywhere in 2013 is and will be especially focused on Richard Wagner. This is the year marking the 200th anniversary of his birth and the 130th anniversary of his death. The Wagner Year celebrations are centred on the towns of Leipzig where he was born, and Bayreuth, which is most closely associated with his work. In honour of this special year, the Bayreuth Festival is further enriched by a broad accompanying programme and a series of special projects. For some five months, from 16 February 2013 to 14 July 2013, Wagner’s works are being showcased. As I write this revision of this post on 21 May 2013, it is less than 24 hours to a special program by one of the world’s leading interpreters of Wagner’s works. The conducting of the Bayreuth Festival orchestra, and an array of outstanding soloists, is the core of a programme in celebration of the 200th anniversary of Wagner’s birth.

Part 2:

Richard Wagner(1813-1883) was a German composer, theatre director, polemicist, and conductor primarily known for his operas, or musical dramas. His compositions, particularly those of his later period, are notable for their complex textures, rich harmonies and orchestration, and the elaborate use of leitmotifs—musical phrases associated with individual characters, places, ideas or plot elements.

His "Tristan und Isolde" is sometimes described as marking the start of modern music, a musical field now filled with more than a century and a half of endless variety. In 1852 Wagner met the wealthy silk trader Otto Wesendonck who bankrolled the composer for several years, and it was this bankrolling that provided Wagner with some freedom to work and not to worry about money. Money is the life-blood or bed-rock of so much of life, whether it is the genius of a man like Wagner, or ordinarily ordinary and humanly human people like me.

By the end of 1854, Wagner had sketched out all three acts of an opera on his Tristan theme. It was composed between 1857 and 1859 during the same years that Darwin published his Origin of the Species. Tristan and Isolde premiered in Munich on 10 June 1865 at the end of the Civil War in the United States. The impact of the Tristan legend, together with his discovery of the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) in October 1854, led Wagner to find himself in a "serious mood created by his reading Schopenhauer.”(2) Wagner utilized that mood to find, to create, the ecstatic expression that inspired the conception of Tristan und Isolde.

Part 3:

This evening I watched the Stephen Fry special on Wagner on ABC1 TV.(1) I have enjoyed Stephen Fry(1957- ) for years, especially his more intellectual interests, although he is immensely enjoyed in popular culture for his part in film and the quiz game QI, as well as several travel programs. Fry is a British actor, screenwriter, author, playwright, journalist, poet, comedian, television presenter, film director, and activist.

Tonight’s TV program focused, in the main, on "The Ring", a set of four operas based loosely on characters from the Norse sagas. The four operas are modelled after ancient Greek dramas that were presented as three tragedies and one play. Fry has been particularly interested in Greek drama and history most of his adult life, and he links Wagner, the Greeks, and his own set of values for the pleasure of those, like myself, with an interest in that 5th century BC Golden Age. The operas are often referred to as The Ring Cycle, Wagner's Ring, or simply The Ring. Wagner wrote the music over the course of about twenty-six years, from 1848 to 1874.

Part 4:

Fry has also written and presented several documentary series, including the award-winning "Stephen Fry: The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive", which saw him explore his mental illness. Fry suffers from the milder form of bipolar disorder, BPD II. My BPD I, the more serious form, has given me an affinity with Fry for years partly due to his efforts to de-stigmatize BPD and mental illness in general. -Ron Price with thanks to (1)ABC1 TV, 10;25-11:25 p.m., 19/5/’13, and (2)Wikipedia, 21/5/’13.

And so it was, so it has been
argued, that modern music in
our time made its debut right
at the start, at the beginnings
of those intimations that, over
time, transformed a heterodox,
seemingly negligible offshoot
of the Shaykhi school of that
Ithna-Ashariyyih Shi’ah sect of
Islam into a world religion……

Wagner had absolutely no idea
that his Shopenhauerian moods
were contemporaneous with an
ecstacy that would result in the
realization of a Wondrous Vision
which constituted and resulted in
an emanation of the brightest, the
fairest, fruit of the fairest civilization
the world had yet seen, and aimed at
the political and religious unification of
the planet in the centuries beyond in the
21st century, and the third millennium.(1)

(1) Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, Baha’i Pub. Trust, Wilmette, 1974(1938), p.48.

Ron Price
20/5/’13 to 21/5/'13.

Ron Price
05-20-2013, 04:20 AM
More on Shopenhauer.....-Ron Price

There is a famous opera written by Richard Wagner called Tristan and Isolde which premiered in 1865. Wagner was inspired by the work of the philosopher Arthur Shopenhauer (1788-1860) who wrote a two volume work published in 1819 and 1844 respectively two dates of some importance in Baha’i history. The work was entitled: The World As Will and Representation.

The romantic narrative of the Tristan and Iseult love affair predated, and most likely influenced, the famous Arthurian romance of Lancelot and Guinevere. The story has also been adapted into film many times. Tristan plays a prominent role in the comic book series Camelot 3000. -Ron Price with thanks to the free encyclopedia, Wikipedia, 4 March 2009.

I am one of those readers of Baha’u’llah’s writings, and there are millions now, who pay heed to every word He ever wrote or spoke and had recorded, although my actions fall far short of His myriad admonitions. I trust Him at once and my trust is the same now as it was forty years ago, though I understand so much more than I did then, back in my twenties.

I feel as I read, at least in many of His writings, that He is writing for me personally. Of course, in such passages He is using the narrative ‘perspective of the believer, the follower, the supplicant’. Baha’u’llah’s writings, as the Professor of Medieval Literature, John Hatcher(1), points out, should be viewed as one organic whole, one unified statement, one ocean; and we should study the ocean and not just a few tributaries.(2)

“That such a man wrote” said Neitzsche of Shopenhauer’s works, “has truely augmented the joy of living on this earth.”(3) This is true par excellence of the words of Baha’u’llah. One does, indeed, grow wings, limbs and inner strengths from the study of His writings. I would like, before my death, to become quite at home with as much of this Revelation as I can. -Ron Price with thanks to (1) John Hatcher, The Ocean of His Words, Wilmette, 1997, p.53 and (2) ibid.., p.80; and (3) Stjepan Mestrovic, The Barbarian Temperament: Toward a Postmodern Critical Theory, Routledge, London, 1993, p.58.

Mostly, though, I look at you(1)
as I would the ocean, walking
along a sandy beach at sunset.

You are so majestic, so grand,
so immense that you can not be
fathomed on this earthly life!!!

You are deeper than I know,
containing mysteries still
unknown, silences profound,
but you are very accessible.

I know your waves and their
delights on hot summer days.
I have come to you often, am
an intimate of its ebb-&- flow,
your sparkle and refreshment
to my spirit and the spirit of
those whom I love, and I have
tasted your delight many times.

Ron Price
30/10/’99 to 20/5/’13.

(1) ‘you’, here, is a personification of the writings of Baha’u’llah.

Ron Price
05-20-2013, 04:25 AM
And even more on this German philosopher....Ron

The sexual impulse is the most vehement of cravings, the desire of desires, the concentration of our willing. -Arthus Shopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation.

We have no reason to mistrust our world, for it is not against us. Has it terrors, they are our terrors; has it abysses, those abysses belong to us...we must always hold to the difficult...that is a certainty...it is good to be solitary, for solitude is difficult at least for millions of people, that something is difficult must be a reason the more for us to do it.-Ron Price with thanks to Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, W.W. Norton and Co., NY, 1993(1934).

That’s certainly true for some, Arthur,
but others are endowed with desires of
a different willing, cravings with very
different fillings, appetites aimed at a
different tilling on the adventure of the
road to death, to the end of life’s line.

Personally, I’ve often found it a very
annoying itch, certainly has absorbed
my concentration far more than I have
liked, wished, desired, caused me a lot
more trouble than I ever imagined and
I will be glad to rid myself, eventually,
of the concupiscible appetite’s never
ending pull, its highly insistent urge.

I often wondered why Baha’u’llah
spoke so little about that which has
plagued me, and stopped me often
from feeling happy and self-fulfilled.

1/11/’99 to 21/5/’13.

Ron Price
05-20-2013, 04:29 AM

The nineteenth century philosopher Arthur Shopenhauer thought that the experience of the sublime could be obtained only at times of contemplation when the will was made to stand still and be quiet. Since so many millions are not capable of achieving the sublime in this way and need some kind of "stimulation" or "activity," civilization results in heightened barbarism. Some thinkers thought this tendency to barbarism and its violence could be countered by heightened sympathy and love.

Perhaps this dichotomy is part of the basis for what Shoghi Effendi calls the integrating and disintegrating forces of our age. I'm not sure. Certainly the question of social control or social order is the primary problem presented to the social sciences by society for solution. The 'answer' to this issue, for Shopenhauer among others, can be found in their total vision of the human being and in the sociological and psychological, the distinctive and compelling, landscapes they create.-Ron Price with thanks to Stjepan G. Mestrovic, The Barbarian Temperament: Toward a Postmodern Critical Theory, Routledge, London, 1993.

This poetry creates a landscape
viewed at distance or close hand.
I wonder if my soul is here amidst
these words which seem like sand.

Belief creates a river and a mountain
range; viewed at distance their size is
small, but close-up they're rich and oh
so deep, and oh so tall: that's not all!!

The days of life add up to make a painting
or a book, but the loudest place I fill in the
cellars of my soul is licensed to be so still.

Ron Price
21/9/’02 to 20/5/’13.

Ron Price
05-20-2013, 04:58 AM
The genius of Wagner----Ron Price
He may set himself a number of goals and pursue them with such energy that his actions are directed more to the goals themselves than to the approbation of others. His world then expands. He is no longer tightly locked into his environment; the resonance within him increases, and he concentrates on more distant objectives. Certainty of the future lifts him beyond the present, creating a greater detachment from the age, enabling him to see himself differently, in a longer perspective....This seems to have been true of the young Caesar. -Christian Meier, Caesar, Harper Collins, 1995(1982), p.100.

His world expanded infinitely in both time and space. He felt lifted into the future, to a time when there was to be a more liberal effusion of grace enabling an acceleration of the march of all that he espoused, his deepest convictions. He felt as if he was only part of his own age, as if he was disappearing into his creations, as if he was creating someone who was in the service of a great idea, with an identity known only in humility and only to God.-Ron Price with thanks to Thomas Merton and Shoghi Effendi.

While He was wafting the fragrances(1)
of mercy over all created things
this genius transformed the world(2)
of opera carrying people away
with his music. His music told
of things to come and listeners
lost themselves in its sounds,
like Tannhauser which he wrote
in 1844 about the inner life of the
artist-mystic-poet-seer, and then
Lohengrin: some mystery, some
impenetrable veil of concealment,
some divine elixir, some crimson-
coloured ruby Ark, some wondrous tongue,
some vast Garden, paradaisical, and some
ultimate retreat, some intoxication that had
come and would again in this world of will.

(1) The Bab and, then, Baha’u’llah
(2) Richard Wagner

Ron Price
18/5/'97 to 20/5/'13

Ron Price
05-20-2013, 05:03 AM
“Wagner’s Mastersinger: The Life and Times of Max Lorenz.”

The outstanding singer Max Lorenz(1901-1975) was Hitler’s favorite tenor. He was married to a Jewess and he was also a homosexual. Last night I watched the last half of a biopic of his life.(1) I had finished my day of writing and reading, of walking and attending to several domestic tasks. I never knew Lorenz; he retired in 1962 when I was just 18 and starting out in life, traveling and pioneering for the Canadian Baha’i community.

I have never been an opera fan although, occasionally, my spirit has been lifted by a chance listening to a tenor voice such as the likes of: Luciano Pavarotti, Jose Carreras and Placido Domingo. Other classical singers like Enrico Caruso and pop singers like Elton John, Stevie Wonder have also lifted my spirits with their tenor voices. In the Mandarin pop scene JJ Lin Junjie and Jay Chou would probably be considered tenor voices too. -Ron Price with thanks to (1)ABC1 TV, 11:20 p.m.-12:15 a.m., 27/28/6/’10. “Wagner’s Mastersinger: The Life and Times of Max Lorenz.”

What a sad ending your life had, Max,
after all that adulation, fame and glory
through those entre deux guerres years!

I had no idea of your life or death, Max,
spaning as it did the first three-quarters
of the 20th century.Your last dozen years
had nothing to take the place of those rich
years on the stage of opera across Europe
and Middle and South America..They say
you satisfied that German need for heroic
voices with your cold fire sound at a time
when the heroic was being played for all
it was worth in that homeland of your birth.

Ron Price
28/6/’10 to 20/5/’13

Ron Price
05-20-2013, 09:42 PM
Here is a little more on Rilke......Ron Price, Australia


This afternoon, since my mood has been low for perhaps the third or fourth day out of the forty days holiday, I have been thinking of some of the ideas of Rilke: to be patient, for everything is patience, toward all that is unsolved in your heart; keep growing quietly and deeply within yourself, for the answers are within; the solitary individual is placed under profound laws; everything is a beginning; sickness, sadness and melancholy are natural, essential to your health. You must wait. -Ron Price with thanks to Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, WW Norton, NY, 1993(1934).

Long ago I said:
“I’ve found my line;”
this is the work.”

But, even then, it has been
an uphill battle to clarify,
to do what is in front of my
nose and, now, give birth to
this dancing star amidst a
diamond-studded star-dust,
immense powerlessness and
abasement and, now, it seems,
endless work. The weakness is
as old as the hills, but the work
is a good, satisfying exhaustion.1

Ron Price
24/1’99 to 21/5/’13.

1 Cezanne worked like a dog. The work was an old dog and he worked all the time after the age of forty. It exhausted him. It was his master. -R.M. Rilke in The Trial of Curiosity: Henry James, William James and the Challenge of Modernity, Oxford UP, Oxford, 1991, p.157.

Ron Price
05-20-2013, 09:46 PM
And a final piece thanks to Rilke.....

Rainer Maria Rilke wrote the first two Eligies early in 1912 which was two years after Virginia Woolf said was the beginning of a new age. No man knew better the cost of truth in painful experience or the necessity of living through suffering until it became an act of total acceptance which released the eternal springs of joy. His poetry at the end was the fruit of his sensibility ripened to perfection. -Hugh Fassett, Poets and Pundits: Essays and Addresses, Kennikat Press, NY, 1967, p.157.

It would seem that the present
is not the here and now, but an
ever and never, a suspension of
time, an endless remembrance,
an inward intensity of the heart,
a loving of the question, the mystery,
in whose shadow my words darken
and glisten, bodying forth an inner,
half-conscious grey, as if it was my
secret soul, sharing our juxtaposed
lonelinesses in a companionship more
real than real, that enjoys no possession
and alters not when it alteration finds,
turning inwardness into things after some
firey transformation: delicate, elusive, sensuous,
physical, temporarily exorcising the spectre of
transitoriness and the delicate, vulnerable
tracery of human relationships, bringing
reality infinitessimally closer through a
patience full of distance, humour and
an inexplicable embarrassment.

Ron Price
5/1/'97 to 21/5/'13

05-21-2013, 10:52 AM
I noticed there was a radio programme called Wagner and German Idealism, which hopefully you can download and listen to, if you are interested.


Jackson Richardson
05-22-2013, 04:28 PM
Prefer Verdi, Mozart or Handel myself. Or even Rossini, Bellini or Donizetti.