Nietzsche on Dionysiac Music (Chpt 2 BoT)

April 9, 2012 — Leave a comment

“Although it seems that music was already familiar to the Greeks as an Apolline art, they only knew it, strictly speaking, in the form of a wave like rhythm with an image making power which they developed to represent Apolline states. The music of Apollo was Doric architectronics in sounds, but only in the kind of hinted at tones characteristic of the cithara. It keeps at a distance, as something un-Apolline, the very element which defines the character of Dionysiac music (and thus of music generally): the power of its sound to shake us to our very foundations, the unified stream of melody and the quite incomparable world of harmony.” (p21, BoT)

Here we are getting a distinction within music between the Apolline and the Dionysiac. This helps explain the real difference between the two artistic drivers. It suggests that the ‘real’ state of music is physiological; it drives a physical, unformed (improvised) response:

“”The essence of nature is bent on expressing itself; a new world of symbols is required, firstly the symbolism of the entire body, not just of the mouth, the face, the word, but the full gesture of dance with its rhythmical movement of every limb. Then there is a sudden, tempestuous growth in music’s other symbolic powers, in rhythm, dynamics, and harmony.” (p21, BoT)

Once again semblance:

“With an astonishment enlarged by the added horror of realizing that all this was not so foreign to them after all, indeed that their Apolline consciousness only hid this Dionysiac world from them like a veil.” (p21, BoT)


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