Some Light Weekend Reading: The Power of Music According to Nietzsche

Friedrich Nietzsche, the famous “god is dead” German philosopher, wasn’t a fun guy, He didn’t derive a lot of pleasure from things in this life–except music. Nathalia points us at this Brain Pickings post.

“Music, uniquely among the arts, is both completely abstract and profoundly emotional,” Oliver Sacks wrote in contemplating music’s singular power over the human spirit — a power that has humbled some of humanity’s most brilliant minds into a state of awe that transcends the intellect.

Among them was the great German philosopherFriedrich Nietzsche (October 15, 1844–August 25, 1900). He who proclaimed that “god is dead” and believed that nothing worthwhile is easy found in music life’s sole unmerited grace.

In an autobiographical fragment quoted in Julian Young’s altogether fantasticFriedrich Nietzsche: A Philosophical Biography (public library), the German intellectual goliath writes:

God has given us music so that above all it can lead us upwards. Music unites all qualities: it can exalt us, divert us, cheer us up, or break the hardest of hearts with the softest of its melancholy tones. But its principal task is to lead our thoughts to higher things, to elevate, even to make us tremble… The musical art often speaks in sounds more penetrating than the words of poetry, and takes hold of the most hidden crevices of the heart… Song elevates our being and leads us to the good and the true. If, however, music serves only as a diversion or as a kind of vain ostentation it is sinful and harmful.

Nietzsche wrote these lines two months before his fourteenth birthday…

Fourteen? Jeebus. Keep reading.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

One thought on “Some Light Weekend Reading: The Power of Music According to Nietzsche

  • October 18, 2015 at 4:23 pm
    Permalink

    “Friedrich Nietzsche, the famous “god is dead” German philosopher, wasn’t a fun guy, He didn’t derive a lot of pleasure from things in this life–except music”

    This opening line makes me wonder where your conception of Nietzsche came from! I think almost the complete reverse might be true. It would be exceptional to find someone who got as much out of life as much as Nietzsche seemed to… as far as his own account goes at least. One of his most popular books is ‘The Joyous Science’!

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.