The genealogy of chaos: multiple coherence in Wagnerian music drama.
That Wagner conceived Der Ring des Nibelungen as a coherent cosmology is evident not only from the composer's description of the Prelude to Das Rheingold as an image of the beginning of Creation,(1) but also from numerous cosmological trappings in the music dramas themselves(2) Cosmologizing gestures extend from the poetry into the tonal structure. Since the Prelude was specified as the pre-cosmic chaos, Wagner's 'technique of anticipating a pitch through a prominent overtone lends a certain inevitability to the process and suggests that all life - the entire musical universe of the Ring - is latently present in the initial sound ... an evocation of the endless void out of which a mythical world will soon be created'.(3)
Demonstrating the coherence of Wagner's cosmological scheme, however, requires us to distinguish his composite purposes and the multiple levels of independent cohesion whose synthesis these purposes demanded. We suggest that Wagner's process of achieving multiple coherence was fourfold: firstly, to distil from the chaotic surface richness of the Norse sagas a single unified story that would rationalize the predicament of Germanic culture; secondly, to project into that horizontal surface story a vertical axis that would embed it within the deep structure of world myth, which he understood largely in terms of classical Greek and Roman models; thirdly, to ensure the mutual coherence of surface saga and deep mythical structure by subordinating each to what Wagner considered to be fundamental psychological principles later specified in a philosophical treatise;(4) and lastly, to employ a ready-to-hand functional tonal grammar, which he had absorbed from his studies of Beethoven, to subsume poetic coherence within its own independent syntactical and formal procedures.
Many of Wagner's creative problems arose from the need to unify each level of his composite purpose in a single dramatic whole, despite the fact that each was characterized by its own prior internal coherence. Each stage of his solution left traces in public statements and prose works. Their contradictions explain why Wagner's essay 'Die Wibelungen' gives the impression of incoherence:
During the summer of 1848, Wagner's cloudy rhetoric reached mystic heights with the writing of The Wibelungs, a determined but confusing attempt to organize and clarify his reading and thinking on the Rhenish myths of Siegfried and the Nibelung hoard ... The Wibelungs identifies Friedrich Barbarossa as the reborn sun god, Siegfried; the Nibelung hoard mysteriously ascends, is transmuted in the process of time into the Holy Grail (an act accomplished, Wagner insists, in the German consciousness) and becomes the object of the Emperor's last journey to the east.(5)
Here, Wagner can be seen struggling with the multiple demands of narrative coherence (making a story out of it); mythical fidelity (setting the story within a rationalizing structure of sun-gods and the like); and psychologizing (embedding both within an historically transformational 'human consciousness').
We may further analyse the 'coherence problem' in terms of the conflict between the saga-driven Norse sources and their Graeco-Roman mythical extensions, and the historicizing tendencies of the Greek and Roman annalists. This is a source of the curious conflations between Siegfried (saga), sun-god (myth) and Barbarossa (history). An example of this kind of practice,
found in the Roman and Indie traditions, concerns the valiant defense of the community against the depredations of a three-headed monster. At Rome, given the Roman tendency to historicize myths, the theme is reflected in the 'historical' account by Livy and others of the three Horatii (one of whom survived) and their defeat of the three Curiatti, who may be the rationalized form of a tricephalic adversary that threatened the existence of the Roman state; in India, where myths tend to remain unhistoricized, it is reflected in the Vedic account of the slaying of the three-headed son of Tvastar by Trita Aptya, who functions in this context as an extension of Indra.(6)
Wagner saw in the conflation of myth and history a possible solution to the problem of making Norse saga relevant to his modern audience. His 'Roman' solution, later discarded, duly crops up in the 'Wibelung' essay: 'Since Friedrich, Siegfried, Baldur, and Christ appeared to him as manifold manifestations of a single god, his subject but changed garments and outward circumstances of his struggle'.(7) The questionable coherence of Wagner's literary efforts at this stage is less the result of a tendency toward 'cloudy rhetoric' than a structural problem inherent in conflating too many levels at once in the service of contemporary relevance.
On the evidence of his compositional practices, we conclude that his solution to the relevance problem was to discard historicism and opt instead for psychology, on the assumption that what is most relevant to any given audience is its own psychological processes. Wagner's move towards psychologizing his cosmos is thus traceable to his failure to rationalize history as a decisive arbiter of coherence. Once Friedrich was discarded, the hero/sun-god axis could organize itself by means of its coherence with unconscious processes later rationalised by Freud, Jung and their colleagues in such terms as 'feeling toned complexes', 'libido' and 'archetypes'. A further move arose from the contradiction between Wagner's loyalty to a rich but only indeterminately coherent saga surface and his desire to do for German culture what the classical dramatists had accomplished for their own: to endow it with a mythical grandeur that would justify the audience's individual sufferings through redemption within a greater mythos. Such a mythos was not to be found in the Norse sagas available to Wagner owing to the absence of a northern tradition comparable to that of the Attic tragedians. With its vast narrative sweep and its episodic and picaresque character, saga is an unwieldy vehicle for demonstrating tragic dynamism and cohesion of the order of Sophocles or Euripides. At the same time, nineteenth-century Norse scholarship had not yet developed beyond the wholesale importations of 'sun-god mythologies' from classical myth that characterized the approach of Max Muller and his contemporaries. The deep structure beneath the sagas was only incompletely understood, and this perceived absence generated contradictions that forced Wagner in the direction later taken by Georges Dumezil in constructing a functional scheme for Indo-European mythology.
The concept of psychological coherence in Wagner's work has been discussed in general terms by Donington.(8) Here, we are less concerned with interpretation than in documenting points of coherence between textual/musical events and parallels in the psychological literature, and demonstrating that such gestures conveyed to Wagner a recognizably 'psychological' significance. Exemplary of such coherence is Darcy's suggestion that 'Wagner has given us the ultimate demonstration of musical organicism: from a single musical pitch ... he has literally created life itself ... he has also demonstrated an essential part of his world view: that the ultimate goal of nature is to evolve into human consciousness'. Darcy's insight indicates, firstly, that Das Rheingold's water world was to Wagner the unconscious matrix of consciousness; and secondly, that its poetic and tonal forms are psychologically coherent. According to Cosima, Wagner associated the Rheingold Prelude with the Unconscious through the motif of sleep: 'of the movement of the waves in Das Rheingold R. says, "It is, so to speak, the world's lullaby" '(10) This is hardly surprising, considering this music's genesis in a dream.(11)
The above suggests a connection between the E flat major Rhine Daughters and sleep, dream-consciousness, or the 'state of Nature'. The alternately sleeping and waking gold suggests a state of periodically heightened awareness that cyclically recedes again into its water womb. Such cyclism in turn suggests a poetic vision of the psyche, within which ego enjoys a flickering existence punctuated by cyclic returns to the watery matrix of consciousness. We can appreciate the relationship between Wagner's poetic account of the Unconscious and nineteenth-century psychological thinking by comparing it with a passage from the pioneer psychologist Carl Gustav Carus, whose treatise Psyche appeared, with admirably synchronistic exactitude, in 1846, the year that saw Wagner's first work on the Ring cycle. Carus's vision of the watery psyche parallels Wagner's own water world:
In the entire realm of the unconscious life of the soul, fatigue does not exist. Liquid currents thus flow restlessly within us, the heart beats, the lungs breathe, and the glands secrete incessantly. In all these manifestations of life, there is no pause or fatigue. This is all the more remarkable when we consider how quickly other muscles tire after long activity. All conscious processes require constant interruption and refreshment.(12)
Carus's Unconscious coheres with Wagner's image of the world's beginning in detail: 'the life of the psyche may be compared to a great, continually circling river which is illuminated only in one small area by the light of the sun'.(13) In Wagner's Rhine scene, Carus's 'sun' makes its appearance as 'the sun in the waters', the magical Rhinegold that alternately sleeps and wakes while the Rhine Daughters circle around it in eternal play like vivid personifications of Carus's liquid currents flowing restlessly without pause or fatigue. Wagner's water world thus coheres with nineteenth-century images of the psyche: when he began to construct a theory of the Unconscious, he did not have to step far beyond poetry to do so.
THE 'DAEMONS OF TONE'
The Unconscious connection is also coherent with Wagner's creative style: 'A musician, when he is composing, falls into a sort of insane, somnambulistic state. How different from literary work - words are the gods living within a convention, but tones are the daemons.'(14) Wagner connects his 'daemons' with Platonism (specifically, Plato's Symposium) in his declaration that 'In Tristan it is ... Eros who holds sway, and what is in the one philosophy is music in the other'.(15) The daemonic aspect of such tones was evident from their narcotic effect upon the composer's state of consciousness. Thus, 'very often, when I am in the grip of some musical idea, I fall asleep like this; it is a sort of enforced silence, from which the sound then emerges'? The word 'enforced' reveals the daemonic fingerprint, since in Neoplatonic thought 'the influence of the Sun and the stars, their influxes and their radiations, and all the forces which rain from the sky on man and define his fate, are demons, or forces because the essence of a demon is force'.(17) Wagner said of Tristan, 'I don't know what devil it was that drove me to produce such stuff - it was the music, which came welling like that out of the subject'.(18) Wagner described musical inspiration as visitations from spirits who reveal themselves as tonal entities; thus 'I am immersing myself more and more in my world of spirits, the whole day is taken up with their rhythms and fluctuations'.(19)
Wagner's connection of his 'daemons of tone' with the Platonic classics suggests a decisive step in his imposition of psychological coherence upon his saga surface and his mythical deep structure. For the act of subsuming myth into the structure of harmony had already been accomplished by the Renaissance Neoplatonic academicians, and this move in turn subsumed into opera. Thus both theory and structure were ready-made for Wagner's purposes.(20) Like Wagner's devil welling up from the musical subject, the Neoplatonic 'daemon' was a specifically musical being. Wagner's accounts of his tone-spirits find identical inflection in Marsilio Ficino's Platonic commentaries. In his discussion entitled 'Ficino's comments in summae 11 and 35 on the daemons' critical role in the physiology of hearing', Michael J. B. Allen draws a conclusion relevant to Wagner's accounts of his own 'daemonic' inspiration:
Though summa 11 had argued that a demon 'may indeed frequently move the imagination, and can thus move it through the sight and heating alike,' it had also argued that Socrates was moved through the hearing, because he was 'the most eager of all for instruction and dedicated, as it were, to the hearing.'... but how does a demon mediate sound? Summa 11 briefly offers us two surprising alternatives: 'Either the demon takes the concept to be imagined and effectively extends it to, or generates it in, the inmost heating; or the demon himself in his own spiritual body forms the sound by a certain marvelous motion, and with the same motion strikes as a sound upon the spiritual body of Socrates. When this vibrates, Socrates' inmost hearing is excited to the same.'... both music and the human spiritus are living 'kinds of air, moving in a highly organized way.' Since the ear contains air set deep within it, and since it is 'untroubled by ordinary aerial disturbances,' sounds, 'being moving, animated air,' must 'combine directly with the spiritus aerus in the ear.'... 'Musically moved air is alive, like a disembodied human spirit'... Ficino clearly conceives of the demons as actually being music or embodying it at least as it enters man's inner ear. Thus he raises the possibility that we can 'make' demons by 'making' music.(21)
Wagner's concept of a living daemonic power commanding a cosmological tonal coherence, projected upon common practice syntax, automatically endowed tones with a deep-structured mythical coherence. This is because the Neoplatonic daemons were ordered within a hierarchy of 'twelve world or celestial gods' inhabiting the 'supracelestial spheres'.(22) Their circular motion had as its epicentre the Platonic Idea itself. The soul is moved by daemonic agency to circle around the One, the Platonic Idea, in the manner of the planets' circuits of the heavenly spheres. This twelvefold organizing principle relates the daemonic music to the heavens, since to Ficino song is 'contemplation and praise of divine things', of which the twelve celestial Gods are the collective archetype.(23) Wagner's understanding of his own mythos was influenced by Platonic images; thus Cosima records that 'he goes off to "Tellus and Sol" (Erda and Wotan). "If I had more of a philosophical bent," he says, "I should describe this prototype of all individualization; the separation of the planets from the sun is the beginning of all phenomena".'(24)
Wagner's need to impose mythical deep structure upon music in the service of coherence between saga surface, mythical structure and tonal syntax was thus answered by the ready-made philosophy of the 'music of the spheres', given authority by Socrates and Plato. The twelvefold nature of the Neoplatonic tonal daemons cohere with the twelve chromatic notes, which, being 'daemonic', endow the circle of fifths with life itself.(25) This suggests that the composer's characteristic way of personifying music in his theoretical writings was philosophically systematic. In Oper und Drama and elsewhere, musical pitches are always spoken of as alive and harmony and modulation as living processes. Thus:
Chief-tones are ... adolescent members of the family, who yearn to leave its wonted surroundings for an unhindered independence: this independence, however, they do not gain as egoists, but through encounter with another being, a being that lies outside the family. The maiden attains her independence, her stepping beyond the family, only through the love of the youth who, himself the scion of another family, attracts her over to him. Thus the tone which quits the circle of the Key is a tone already prompted and attracted by that other key, and into the latter must it therefore pour itself according to the necessary law of Love. The leading-tone (Leitton) that urges from one key into another, and by this very urgency discloses its kinship with that other key, can only be taken as prompted by the motive of Love. The motive of Love is that which drives the 'subject' (Subjekt) out beyond itself, and compels it to an alliance with another?
Here, harmony is a living daemon and modulation an expression of Platonic Eros. Embedded in the Neoplatonic tradition, then, is a coherent cosmology in which the heavenly spheres are mediated by tonal daemons whose songs make intelligible the Platonic Ideas - a cosmology ideal for Wagner's creative purposes.
Wagner may be excused for seizing upon Platonic concepts to impose coherence upon his multi-layered musico-dramatic cosmos, since the Renaissance Neoplatonists had already called upon the 'music of the spheres' to explain everything and subsume it under the sign of music drama:
It is in this universal harmony that Ficino justifies astrology, together with magic, as being the concord of everything, in a concept which was to be so popular throughout the centuries, whilst the figures which peopled the heavens were transfigured into a fantastic vision of the cosmos, in the form of beauty which is also truth. Demons, gods, stars, prayers ... All is music, beauty, harmony: all difficulties finally seem to be resolved under the sign of art. Music, the harmony of the world, the universal harmony, the eternal poem, the theatre of the world: these are all dominant themes from the fifteenth century onwards, and scientists and philosophers were to write and speak about them from Galileo to Kepler, from Descartes to Mersenne ... The world as a work of art could be the title of all Ficino's philosophy - the figured, animated, living world of the astrologers and magicians.(27)
Such a philosophy not only imposed a priori mythical coherence upon music, but described the cosmos as musical theatre. Thus the music of the spheres so pervaded the Renaissance that Eugenio Garin identified it as the thread uniting the humanities and social sciences. This doctrine inspired the wholesale importation of classical mythical imagery into the humanist, theological and natural-philosophical speculations of the times.(28) This Neoplatonic combination of a humanism wherein the individual is elevated to cosmological status, and the internalization of cosmological schemes drawn from the classics, is exactly the philosophical complex that characterized Wagner's intellectual preparations for the composition of the Ring.
In adopting a Neoplatonic frame of reference, Wagner was not so much revolutionary as traditionalist. Donington argues that Neoplatonic assumptions guided many steps by which opera was developed and that they stand as a foundation of the operatic tradition. He points to an intermedio to the Florentine comedy La pellegrina (1589), which included
an ambitious staging of the upper cosmos and its chief inhabitants, carefully based on the famous Myth of Er given by Plato in Book X of the Republic, with Neoplatonic amplifications. After an introduction by a personification of the Doric Mode, the goddess Necessity was revealed on a high cloud, holding between her knees that enormous spindle whose turning is the symbolic centre of the cosmos. The three Fates (Parcae or Moirae) clustered around her; and splayed out on clouds at the sides came Plato's eight sirens of the spheres, with two others, whose harmony was supposed to combine into the music of the spheres. Still lower came the seven Planets, with Astraea, that goddess of Justice whom Ovid relates to have lived on earth during the Golden Age, but to have retired to heaven in outraged disapproval thereafter. Twelve heroes and heroines poised up at the back, standing for six virtues, were a more mixed collection, as for example the Roman Numa Pompilius and the Egyptian Isis jointly representing Justice (in addition to Astraea).(29)
Here may be observed precisely the multiple coherences which characterize Wagner's Ring poems. The Roman historical figure rubs shoulders with Egyptian Mother Goddess in the annalistic tradition; the Graeco-Roman female Trinity ranged around mother Necessity is a precursor of Wagner's Norns; Pythagorean astrological and number symbolism, heroic historiography and figures of classical myth are subsumed into the overarching system of Neoplatonic cosmography. The numerological 1, 3, 7, 8 and 12 are brought into relation with the 'music of the spheres' through one-to-one correspondence with every technical element of music known at the time:(30) 1 (the note), 3 (the triad),(31) the seven notes of the diatonic scale, the octave and the twelve chromatic notes, from whose permutations and combinations come heavenly music.
Neoplatonic assumptions also endowed musical pageant and opera with philosophical portentousness similar to that in Wagner. In his discussion of the ballet Circe, ou le Balet comique de la Royne, Donington points to a Neoplatonic programme, staging, libretto and interpretation. The librettist, the Sieur de La Chesnaye, interprets Circe as
'the revolution of the year; following the revolution of the sun' the four nymphs are four forms of vegetation; Ulysses on his wanderings is 'time, which never stops'; his companions are 'the past and the present'; his four children by Circe are 'the four seasons'; and his eventual death by a fish-bone arrow-head shows the sun passing through Sagittarius to end the year at the sign of the zodiac 'half fish and half ram.' This last seems somewhat idiosyncratic astrology; but it leads on smoothly enough into a 'moral allegory' on the same Neoplatonic lines as Conti, with Circe as 'man's nature' (because 'desire and lust come to animals through heat and moisture') and with Ulysses as 'that part of the soul capable of reason'.(32)
That Wagner worked similar assumptions into his daemons and deities is evident from statements recorded in Cosima's diaries, his published writings and his scores. In Tannhauser the Goddess Venus fulfils the same function as Circe,(33) while Isolde acquires Cytherean sea-foam (Tristan, Act III).(34) Donington cites La Chesnaye's neo-astrological interpretation as a 'curious anticipation of the scientific materialism of the ensuing age', because he interpreted 'Circe and Ulysses as what would later have been called a seasonal or vegetation myth'.(35) Here again, multiple levels of interpretation - scientific (natural cycles), astrological and moral-allegorical - are recapitulated by Wagner's poetic moves whereby saga surface, mythical deep structure, Neoplatonic poetic imagery, overtly astrological tonal organization and pre-Darwinian evolutionary thinking are used not to permit anything but to reinforce cosmological coherence. Finally, taking his cue from Wagner, Jung and the post-Jungians, Donington conflates historiography, Graeco-Roman myth and Neoplatonic philosophy into the coherence of the psychological archetypes.(36)
The Neoplatonic imprint in Wagner extends from Tannhauser and Lohengrin through the Ring dramas to Parsifal, and may best be appreciated by a comparison of the philosophical and cosmological preoccupations of the early Neoplatonic precursors of opera (and their symbolic staging) with later, Wagnerian, products. Donington cites the Renaissance mythologist Natale Conti's interpretation of Circe. She is
'daughter of the sun, and of Perseis daughter of Ocean, because desire (libido) occurs in animals from moisture and heat'; and 'if this dominates us, it imprints the vices of beasts in our souls, and acts together with the aspects of the stars, and conspires with them, of which some draw us to Venus and to copulations, others to anger, cruelty and every depravity, whence if anyone submits to these passions (cupiditatibus), he is fabled as changed by Circe into some animal form by means of sorcery' according as his stars ordain, and unless divine mercy intervenes.(37)
Similar preoccupations may be observed in Wagner's projections of a Tannhauser torn between the images of Venus and Elisabeth; and, if Tristan and Parsifal are considered together as more elaborate workings-out of the archetype of desire, may even be said to characterize the composer's final philosophical speculations.
The utility of the Neoplatonic framework for Wagner's cosmologizing purposes may be appreciated when we contemplate the syncretistic capabilities of this philosophy. For instance, the Neoplatonic evaluation of Circe-Venus as chaos and 'ocean's daughter' coheres with Graeco-Roman, astrological, alchemistic, folkloric and Christian formulations. The 'Circe' element is represented by Wagner's oceanic Rhine Daughters, who are endowed with the mermaid's 'devouring' potential (Hagen's drowning). Jung comments that
the mythological Great Mothers are usually a danger to their sons. Jeremias mentions a fish representation ... showing one fish devouring the other. The name of the largest star in the constellation known as the Southern Fish - Fomalhaut, 'the fish's mouth' - might be interpreted in this sense, just as in fish symbolism every conceivable form of devouting concupiscentia is attributed to fishes, which are said to be 'ambitious, libidinous, voracious, avaricious, lascivious' - in short, an emblem of the vanity of the world and of earthly pleasures ('voluptas terrena'). They owe these bad qualities most of all to their relationship with the mother- and love-goddesses Ishtar, Astarte, Atargatis, or Aphrodite. As the planet Venus, she has her 'exaltatio' in the zodiacal sign of the fishes.(38)
Such cosmological speculations are confirmed in Wagner's Venus and Rhine Daughters, who personify the chaotic waters. The Cytherean imprint upon the latter may thus be referenced to Neoplatonic astrology, in which Venus and Fish conjoin at the locus of the concupiscentia.
'ANCESTOR OF ALL THE GODS'
To demonstrate such multiple coherences in Wagner's tonal representations, we will focus upon the advent of Alberich, in B fiat, into the chaotic E flat major waters. Darcy describes the tonal treatment of Alberich's arrival in terms of the Nibelung's 'negation of the Rhinedaughters' joyful tonicization of their dominant', a negation effected by inflection towards the darker waters of the mediant via the 'gradual accumulation of awkward grace-notes, coupled with the downward pull from B flat major to G minor', thereby creating a 'tonal darkening'.(39) Alberich's move to B flat is thus fundamental to Wagner's concept, and B fiat and E flat thus assert their equal status as 'chaos keys'. Bailey notes that the first sketch of the Prelude to Siegfried begins with the Nibelung rhythm in B flat minor: 'I am content to believe that this Prelude, without its introduction, is in fact the earliest music conceived for the Ring as we know it';(40) while Darcy points to sketches for Siegfrieds Tod dating from July or August 1850, showing that the E flat minor tonality was already associated with the Norns: 'In transferring to the Rhinedaughters certain musical gestures conceived in connection with the Norns, Wagner wished to underscore musically a dramatic parallelism between these two sets of sisters'.(41) Implicit, then, in Wagner's musical representations of chaos was not only the 'Ur-tonality' of E flat major but also its release through B flat major/minor.
Bailey attributes great formal significance to the composer's early identification of B flat minor with the Nibelungs:
The tonal association of B flat minor with the Nibelungs thus begins with the early conception of this Prelude, and it affects not only the opening of the later Siegfried, but also the short scene towards the end of Act II for Alberich and Mime, as well as the initial scene in Act II of Gotterdammerung for Alberich and Hagen, and the central Nibelheim scene in Das Rheingold. This use of B flat minor in Das Rheingold undoubtedly suggested D[flat], major as the most obvious contrasting tonality for the framing scenes which take place before Valhalla, since a related, not a foreign key, was required here. Wotan and Alberich, the central protagonists of these three scenes, are to some extent analogues of each other; Wagner reflects that relationship by his reference to them in the poem as Lichtalbe and Schwarzalbe respectively.(42)
Yet although Darcy adequately describes the simple move by which Alberich commandeers E flat's dominant via control of its own relative minor, and Bailey demonstrates the priority of the two keys in Wagner's tonal calculations, neither stresses that in the final version Alberich's initial key is major, or discusses the tonal means by which the Rhine Daughters impose the minor mode upon their commandeered dominant. This move is presaged by the first recognizable appearance of the 'Woe' motif, which takes the form of accented C flat major triads lancing down upon the dwarf's newly acquired key of B flat major (Ex. 1). Here, the Nibelung's key is momentarily repossessed as the Rhine Daughters' dominant in response to his infatuated gazing. The key of C flat is thus from the beginning a painful affliction to Alberich. Soon this 'painful awakening' (Flosshilde's 'Wie billig am Ende vom Lied') stabs the exasperated gnome via the mermaid's C flat of sexual falseness and drives him into a savagely confirmed B flat minor (Ex. 2). Here the 'Woe' chord of C flat reappears as a deceptive cadential resolution from E flat major (bar 3) darkened to E flat minor (bar 7). The sequence on 'O Schmerz!' confirms the minor and reapproaches the key of C flat via E flat minor (bar 7) and D flat minor (bar 8). This tonal/poetic sequence coheres with Wagner's observation that 'awakening is closely allied to woe'.(43) Both E flat minor and D flat minor are tonicized through [ii.sup.[flat]7/5]-V progressions, a strong indicator of the C flat tonality associated with sexual woe. The activity of C flat darkens both E flat major (Rhine Daughters) and B flat major (Alberich) to their respective minors.
That Wagner should so painstakingly construct B flat minor suggests that Alberich's native key is major and its minor a psychological deformation and that every key choice is coherent with the other key choices surrounding it. Thus we argue that, although B flat minor appears in Wagner's early sketches as if it were a given of associative tonality, it is in fact derivative of the more primary concept: the emergence of the dominant major out of an Ur-tonality of E flat major and its transformation into the minor via the imposition of a specifically sexual trauma.(44) It is only by virtue of this traumatized minor that Alberich acquires the right to face heaven and challenge its meaning (B flat minor, relative of D flat major) - the Promethean prerogative of heroic suffering. Wagner thus locates Promethean struggle, tonally, within the sexual wound.
The polar relationship between Alberich and Wotan discussed by Bailey is, as Magee has pointed out, Wagner's original mythical decision, and cannot be traced to his Norse sources, in which the parallel does not appear. Thus 'only partial assistance was available if Wagner was seeking reassurance for his initiative from some external
[Musical Text Omitted]
[Musical Text Omitted]
authority'.(45) We cannot, then, fall back on a theory of simple derivation from the Norse originals or from the scholarship available to Wagner through his researches into myth. Understanding the B flat minor/D flat major relationship embodied in the polar figures of Schwartz- and Licht-Alberich requires a broader inquiry.
The coherence of this relationship can be found not on the horizontal axis of Norse saga but on the vertical axis of classical myth. In fact, Bailey's textual argument for the priority of B flat minor and the derivative nature of the five-flat Valhalla key of D flat major is coherent with Wagner's own discussion of Wotan's mythical lineage. In 'The Wibelungen', Wagner locates the dynamic essence of Nature (E flat) through which man appears and develops in the direction of self-consciousness (B flat major/minor) in the primordial conflict between the sun-god and the 'dragon of Ur-Chaotic night', which sets in motion the 'eternal alteration of day and night, summer and winter', the rotational periodicity of the terrestrial globe and all it contains. Wagner defines his master architect of the heavenly city (D flat) as 'the quintessence of this constant motion, thus of life'.(46) With respect to patriarchal authority, however, Wotan is again derivative and not primary. Wagner identifies Wotan with Zeus(47) and describes the basis of his claim to power:
Though his nature marked him as the highest god, and as such he needs must take the place of father to the other deities, yet was he in no wise an historically older god, but sprang into existence from man's later, higher consciousness of self; consequently he is more abstract than the older Nature-god whilst the latter is more corporeal and, so to phrase it, more personally inborn in man.(48)
Here, Wagner is vague as to the character of the 'older Nature-god', who in context must be Siegfried, or the sun, or both. The later refinements of his mythical inscape cited by Bailey show that a different development has taken place. Now the 'older Nature-god' is specifically identified as Alberich himself. Many clues to the mythical origin of the Wotan-Alberich axis are scattered throughout the Ring text: in Act I scene 2 of Siegfried, Mime confesses to the Wanderer, 'much have you told me of the hive at the earth's navel' (Nibelheim - the 'Erde Nabelnest'); while both Wotan, and the Norns (in the Vorspiel to Gotterdammerung), declare that 'He holds [his Spear] to sway the world' ('den hielt er als Haft der Welt'). The 'earth's navel' (at the centre of the flat disc of the earth) and the 'axis of the world' (the spindle passing through that navel) cohere cosmologically at the 'cosmic mountain'. Mircea Eliade notes that
the mountain occurs among the images that express the connection between heaven and earth; hence it was believed to be the centre of the world. And in a number of cultures we do in fact hear of such mountains, real or mythical, situated at the center of the world ... the 'navel of the earth'.(49)
Mime and the Wanderer concur that the axis grasped by Wotan embraces zenith and nadir, Valhalla and Nibelheim.
Bailey suggests that the association between the two five-flat keys is 'between Valhalla and Nibelheim - for D flat is not specifically associated with Wotan throughout the cycle, and B flat minor ... relates to the Nibelungs in general and evolved from the opening of Der junge Siegfried, where Alberich does not even appear'.(50) He argues that the link is therefore geographical,(51) a position which is supported not only by the score and 'The Wibelungen' but also in worldwide mythical parallels.(52) Thus, in Babylon
the city had been built on baab apsii, 'the Gate of Apsuu,' apsuu being the name for the waters of chaos before Creation. The same tradition is found among the Hebrews ... the apsuu, the tehoom symbolize the chaos of waters, the preformal modality of cosmic matter, and, at the same time, the world of death, of all that precedes and follows life ... the watery chaos that preceded Creation at the same time symbolizes the retrogression to the formless that follows on death, return to the larval modality of existence.(53) From one point of view, the lower regions can be homologized to the unknown and desert regions that surround the inhabited territory; the underworld, over which our cosmos is firmly established, corresponds to the chaos that extends to its frontiers.(54)
Quintessential zenith is expressed in Valhalla, whose iconic signature is D flat major (five flats).(55) Thus Wotan comprises zenith (Valhalla) and 'fiveness' (D flat major), while Alberich complements his traumatic minor-key fiveness with nadir (Nibelheim). Wagner defines these qualities as the product of endless rotation proceeding from the chaotic beginnings of time. Wotan's 'higher consciousness' is endowed with the quintessential quality which appears in primitive form, in B flat minor, in the Nibelung. Bailey's evidence confirms the coherence of B flat minor with respect both to the sequencing of Wagner's key choices and his definitions of their psychological and mythical import.
Moreover, Jung's comments on the 'quintessence' in dreams confirm Wagner's understanding of the meaning of the symbolic five, which
breaks down the original chaotic unity into the four elements and then combines them again into a higher unity. Unity is represented by a circle and the four elements by a square. The production of one from the four is the process of distillation and sublimation which takes the so-called 'circular' form: the distillate is subjected to sundry distillations so that the 'soul' or 'spirit' shall be extracted in the perfect state. This product is generally called the 'quintessence'.(56)
The square is psychologically cognate with city or temple:
the Eastern ... mandalas usually contain a square ground-plan of the stupa. We can see from the mandalas constructed in solid form that it is really the plan of a building. The square also conveys the idea of a house or temple, or of an inner walled space.(57)
Ritual, circulation around this square, as by pilgrims around the stupa, focuses the collective imagination upon the image of the temple and locates it at the centre of the encapsulating circle. Such rotation is, moreover, asymmetrical with respect to direction:
according to the ritual, stupas must always be circumambulated to the right, because a leftward motion is evil. The left, the 'sinister' side, is the unconscious side. Therefore a leftward movement is equivalent to a movement in the direction of the unconscious, while a movement to the right is 'correct', and aims at consciousness.(58)
This again coheres with cross-cultural understanding of the 'sacred five', as in Bali, where
the square constructed from a central point is an imago mundi. The division of the village into four sections - which incidentally implies a similar division of the community - corresponds to the division of the universe into four horizons. A space is often left empty in the middle of the village; there the ceremonial house will later be built, with its roof symbolically representing heaven (heaven is sometimes indicated by the top of a tree or by the image of the mountain). At the other end of the same perpendicular axis lies the world of the dead, symbolized by certain animals (snake, crocodile, etc.) or by ideograms symbolizing darkness.(59)
This sacred tree may also be a spear or a pole. For example, among the Arunta the divine being Numbakula
fashioned the sacred pole ... and after anointing it with blood, climbed it and disappeared into the sky. This pole represents a cosmic axis, for it is around the sacred pole that territory becomes habitable, hence is transformed into a world.(60)
The Nibelheim (B flat minor) - Valhalla (D flat major) axis demonstrates multiple levels of coherence through Wagner's essay 'The Wibelungen', his librettos, the sequence of his key choices and its network of mythical - tonal associations in world myth and dream imagery. Wagner's derivation of the quintessential highest god from the ceaseless rotation of the elements under the chaotic impetus of world struggle against the Ur-Chaotic dragon, and the working-out of this concept by means of a purely tonal argument, endow each previously abstract musical element with a specific mythical significance within a dynamic of struggle from unconsciousness to self-consciousness.
Within this process of distillation through which the keys are individuated as poetic entities, every constituent tonal object receives a psychological coherence with respect to its total context. The circulatio proceeds in a dominant ('correct', conscious, good) direction which relegates to the subdominant a secondary, retrogressive and unconscious character.(61) The circle of fifths thereby acquires mythical coherence as an expression of the rotation of the heavens, in particular the course of the Sun and its hero-god, whose dynamic is towards the dominant, whose path is away from Chaos, winter and night and towards Cosmos, summer and day. His zenith is D flat major, an iconic sign appropriated by Wotan well after this circulatory process has been initiated by an older, nature-bound god now firmly identified with the primordial, chaotic substance. The world axis posited between B flat minor and D flat major thus suggests the psychological steps through which Wagner began to poeticize not only his associative keys but also the modulatory moves by which they are connected and ever more precisely differentiated. Once more we see 'cosmos out of chaos'.
The coherence of the Licht-Schwarzalben pairing is thus to be found at the vertical - that is, the classical - mythological - axis. This locates our enquiry into Alberich's 'chaotic' attributes within the Graeco-Roman frame of reference, which also recognized a chaotic watery region within which was to be found a phallic naturegod, arising at the beginning of time. Here the image of the 'cosmic egg' becomes prominent; for Wagner's image of a primordial, watery chaos, presided over by the sign of three flats (molle = soft, yielding, feminine) and preceding the terrestrial division of night and day (waking and sleeping gold in the waters), is a thoroughly Graeco-Roman conception. Citing the tomb paintings of the Villa Pomphili, J. J. Bachofen reports that the cosmic egg appeared in a prominent triune variant (three eggs, not one) in the mortuary symbolism of the Roman tombs:
In religion the egg is a symbol of the material source of all things, of the ... beginning of creation. The material source of things, which brings forth all life from out of itself, comprises both the light and dark side of nature.(62)
In fact, the configuration literally defined the Roman circus games. The connection between the waters and the funerary eggs is strengthened by the fact that the eggs were often replaced in the paraphernalia of the circus by fish or dolphins, with which they were symbolically equivalent. Discussing the identity between the eggs and dolphins, Bachofen notes that both were 'the animals of the generative Neptune':(63)
The form of the egg is likened to that of the cosmos. Heaven and earth are the product of the two halves of the egg. In this unfolding the black half becomes the earth, the white half becomes heaven; the black half is the female-material principle, and the white half is the male-incorporated potency. But once separated, these parts which were formerly one never cease yearning to be reunited ... the longing of the two halves of the egg for reunion gives rise to the genesis of all things, to the eternal stream of becoming and to the equally powerful contrary stream of passing away.(64)
This is Wagner's 'eternal alteration of day and night, summer and winter'. Bachofen's elaboration of the Circus eggs sings in the mode of freedom from confinement:
The racing quadriga becomes an image of birth from the egg. As the bird shatters the shell of its egg and, freed from its confinement, tries the strength of its wings, so the chariot storms forth from the restraining carceres in impatient winged flight ... the creation that lay dormant in this germ of all things now issues visibly from the opened shell, and in this creation everything is restless, eternal motion.(65)
Thus Bachofen notes that in Rome the Neptunian Circus, 'dedicated to material energy' and connected with the funeral rites for dead heroes, also embodies the 'place of both life and death'. He adds: 'From this idea arises a higher conception, that of deification, apotheosis ... The supreme idea of the Circus relief was, then, that the deceased had passed into the company of the gods and donned the garment of immortality'.(66)
Thus, as E flat major and its dominant B flat emerge in a dream from the circle of fifths to initiate the tonal archetype of the Great Round of birth, death and rebirth, so in the Circus races the primal figures of Neptune and Mars enact their archetypal drama within the 'great wheel', symbolizing the eternal cycle of life and death:
Running within sight of the river, the horses became images of the water, symbols of the god. The river bordered the race track, while swords, representations of the god, were implanted in the ground as metae. Mars himself looked on at the games. Horse, chariot, and wheel stood in a Neptunian relation to water. The victorious right-hand horse was sacrificed to the god. The bleeding trunk was fastened to the wall of the regia and adorned with rings of bread ... which in turn were marked with the sign of the wheel.(67)
Wheel and springtime vegetation are connected, as in the Consolatio ad Apollonium from Plutarch's Moralia:
The race of mortals moves like the realm of plants Forever in a circle. One flowers into life, While the other dies and is mown down.(68)
In this connection Bachofen refers to a 'subterranean deity' whose worship, under the name Mars Gradivus ('Striding Mars'), was implied by the circus ritual. Like Alberich, Mars was intimately connected to the chaotic waters:
Beside the primordial female egg stands a chthonian male god who works in the moist depths of matter. He represents the awakening principle and is hidden in the darkness of the earth ... a god of hidden counsels, a demon of the phallic power from which Murcia awaits fecundation. Subterranean is his altar, Neptunian his nature; his physical foundation is the moisture that permeates the depths.(69)
This Roman Mars is imagined as owing his birth to Neptune. This connection leaves its traces in Neoplatonic astrology, where Aries (Mars, spring equinox) is born from Pisces (Neptune, winter) - and in the Ring, where the martial Nibelung first appears in the river depths. Mars's inscape, then, is a conjunction of Water and Earth: the 'moist depths of matter'. As befitting his Neptunian origins, Mars was to be found on the riverbank, 'eminently the possession of the god', and the border between Water and Earth.(70)
To summarize, Wagner's tonalization of Alberich in B flat minor demonstrates mythical coherence with his prior assignment of the Rhine Daughters to E flat, which it 'dominates' by tonal definition.(71) Wagner endows his chthonic-phallic Alberich with Bachofen's martial 'awakening principle' via the motif of sexual awakening, which the composer connects both with Das Rheingold's first significant modulation, the move from E flat major to B flat major which announces the dwarf's appearance, and his rapid appropriation of the latter's relative minor. Bachofen's assignment of 'awakening' to the subterranean Mars coheres with Wagner's comment that awakening is closely allied to woe. Thus B flat minor subliminates this archetypical masculine wound into a denial of the feminine, a lust for power and a turn to martial means to satisfy it.
A SULPHUR BRAND IN THE WATER'S SURGE
Alberich's imagery includes a further subterranean attribute: in the opening scene of Das Rheingold, Wellgunde refers to him as 'swarthy, spotted, and sulphury dwarf' ('schwefelge Zwerg'), Flosshilde calls him 'passion's blaze' and Woglinde 'a sulphurbrand ["Schwefelbrand"] in the water's surge, in lover's frenzy hissing loud!' Alberich is a sulphur associated with the chaotic waters. In the following scene, when Wotan asks Loge the way to the Nibelung's realm, the trickster suggests a path either through 'the Rhine' or through the 'sulphur cleft' ('Schwefelkluft'). One can therefore enter the dwarf kingdom through water or sulphur. Nibelheim is itself characterized by 'sulphurous vapours' ('Schwefeldampf').
Such references to sulphur, which at first seem mere bits of Nibelung local colour, pivot Alberich from myth to alchemy, in which the waters of creation are connected or synonymous with the 'Sulphur which is called Mars'.(72) Sulphur is Mars, and both mean Fire. As Jung notes, 'Sulphur is a destructive fire "kindled by the invisible sun", and this sun is the...much sought-after and highly praised philosophical gold, indeed the goal of the whole work'.(73) This coheres with the Nibelung's passionate obsession with the golden sun in the waters, the original sin from which all other developments ultimately arise.
A deeper point of coherence is the effect of Sulphur upon the macrocosm: 'Above all, it burns and consumes. "The little power of Sulphur is sufficient to consume a strong body." The "strong body" is the sun, as is clear from the saying "Sulphur blackens the sun and consumes it".'(74) Sulphur is fiery and possesses magical destructive powers: '[Sulphur's] fiery nature is unanimously stressed, though this fieriness does not consist merely in its combustibility but in its occult fiery nature'.(75) In Wagnerian terms, the golden ring is refined through the occult intervention of the martial Alberich, who is Sulphur. Such occult properties are related to Sulphur's masculine potency, which is why Wagner pairs the phrases 'passion's blaze' and 'sulphur-brand' in connection with the amorous dwarf. Alberich is not only a phallic potency but also its first and most archetypal expression. Likewise, for the alchemist Gerhard Dorn 'the male and universal seed, the first and most potent, is the solar sulphur, the first part and most potent cause of all generation'.(76) Alberich's sulphurous attributes are embarrassingly clear in the dwarf's phallic pursuit of the Rhine Daughters (Das Rheingold, Scene 1): 'Through all my frame what passionate fire now burns and glows! Rage and longing, fierce and mighty, lash me to madness!' Here rage ('Wuth') and love ('Minne') impress the martial signature upon subsequent wooing in B flat major, for which Alberich's example becomes an archetypal model.
The 'blackening of the sun' proceeds by means of Alberich's curse, which transforms the ring's brightness (C major) into darkness. In Scene 4 of Das Rheingold, the 'Curse' motif appears in B minor, described by Beethoven as the 'black key', and an artefact of the primordial C flat stabbing of the disillusioned Nibelung.(77) Thus both Alberich and the gold proceed from the chaos via an 'invisible sun', which explains the efficacy of his curse, the expression of a sulphurous residue in the gold or the clinging of original sin in the body of man, who 'from the beginning was sulphur'.(78) This, as Bachofen confirms, is also said of Mars. The dwarf's primordiality thus coheres with his identification as the 'earlier, Nature-god' foil to the more psychologically differentiated Wotan; with the chaotic concept which decrees that B flat minor is the fated mate to the chaotic E flat; and with the Roman 'Striding Mars'. Sulphur is an image of 'original sin', a significance central to Alberich, whose theft of the 'sun in the waters' is, according to Wagner, the cause of the web of corruption that eventually brings the world cycle to a fiery end.
As fire, sulphur both consumes and illuminates, a quality encrypted into Alberich's very name.(79) The reddish Nibelung fires conserve both the hellish and the illuminating qualities; like Mars, sulphur is imagined as both black and reddish: 'The red variety is thought of as masculine, and under this aspect it represents the gold or Sol'.(80) That Alberich is of this masculine 'red' variety of sulphur is evident not only from the dwarf's phallic potency but also from the fact that his magic gold is always described as 'ruddy' ('rothes'): Loge refers to his 'rothes Gold'; Fafner to the 'Rheingold licht und roth' and 'des Nibelungen rothes Gold'. Wotan again refers to its 'ruddy glow' ('rothes Glanz'), a quality shared by Alberich's fire kingdom, which is lit with a 'dark redness' ('dunkelroter').
Alberich's martial sulphurousness is thus both a mythical and an alchemistic imprint. This is an orthodox pairing with a millennial history, and Eliade points to the belief, extending from its beginning in the earliest mining traditions to the hermetic speculations of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, that
ores are generated by the union of two principles, sulphur and mercury ... the ore of gold, as might be expected, grows under the influence of the sun. 'According to the opinions of the Sages, gold is engendered from a sulphur, the clearest possible, and properly rectified and purified in the earth.'(81)
Jung writes that '[sulphur] was called the prima materia of Sol, Sol being naturally understood as the gold. As a matter of fact, sulphur was sometimes identified with gold Sol therefore derives from sulphur'(82) as, in Wagner, the golden ring derives from Alberich. Jung quotes the opinion of the alchemist Johannes Bracheschus of Brixen, a contemporary of Paracelsus, for whom Mars was synonymous with the '"Daemogorgon," "ancestor of all the gods of the Gentiles." "Surrounded on all sides by thick clouds and darkness, he walks in the midmost bowels of the earth, and is there hidden ... not begotten of any, but eternal and the father of all things" ... a "shapeless chimaera" ... god of earth, a terrible god, and iron.'(83) The alchemistic 'Mars in the Earth' thus coheres with Mars Gradivus in primordiality and character. Since Mars originates from the Water, which is Neptune, the alchemists interpreted his origin as an allusion to the heavenly passage from the chaotic fish to the spring equinox, which the sages had placed under the rulership of the phallic god of War. Thus the alchemist can 'take the stone [that is, the gold] only after the sun's entry into Aries',(84) just as Alberich can take the gold only after a modulation into B flat. This is to say that the Arcanum (treasure, stone, gold) can be seized only at the moment of the birth of spring, or, indeed, that the magical power of the gold is the birth of spring. On this subject, Jung says: 'in the spring all the forces of life are in a state of festive exaltation, and the opus alchymicum should also begin in the spring (already in the month of Aries, whose ruler is Mars)'.(85) Wagner also understood that his own opus alchymicum, the Ring, could begin only with Alberich's defining of the dominant of the chaotic E flat and his theft of the Rhinegold.
Sulphur shares Alberich's compulsion to assail the power of love: 'Sulphur is the thief who comes between true lovers'.(86) The 'thief' of the Rhinegold comes between Brunnhilde and Siegfried with ruinous results. The dual motifs of theft and wooing cohere most obviously on the level of alchemy The phallic Alberich's primordial theft is essentially sexual in nature: it is a rape. Significantly, even in more benign B flat wooings, sexuality is depicted in martial imagery, as in Siegmund's Spring Song.
PRIME MOVER OF THE WHEEL
As Lord of the Ring, Alberich has the honour of being the initiator of the cosmological transformations of the Ring cycle. In the alchemical drama this role was played by sulphur, which has a unique relationship with the circle. Quoting from Jacob Boehme's De signature rerum, Jung writes that Sulphur is 'a "spiritual gold" ... and at the same time the "prime mover that turns the wheel and axle in a circle." '(87) It is thus Alberich's 'sulphur nature' that endows him with his occult talent for transmuting the gold into the circular ring It is now possible to understand the ease with which Wagner could substitute sulphur-dwarf for sun-god as Wotan's chaos-born counterpart. The substitution is an artefact of Neoplatonic and alchemistic imagery in the articulation of his cosmological poetic aims. In alchemy, as in Wagner, sulphur is the agent which 'perfects' the gold, a process which is represented as the birth of cosmos from chaos, spring from winter, consciousness from unconsciousness. This is the circulatio described in 'The Wibelungen' and which, as we have already remarked, coheres on the levels of dream symbolism and Graeco-Roman myth. It is also a central concept of the German mystic Jakob Boehme, whom Wagner compared with Goethe.(88) Jung quotes Boehme:
'the form of the birth is as a revolving wheel, which Mercurius makes in the sulphur.' The 'birth' is the 'golden child' ... whose 'work-master' is Mercurius. Mercurius himself is the 'fiery wheel of the essence' in the form of a serpent.(89)
Thus the sulphurous Nibelung 'task-master' (Das Rheingold, Scene 3) holds the fiery circle and becomes a monster snake. Sulphur does this too, for 'as a chthonic being [sulphur] has close affinities with the dragon, which is called "our secret sulphur." In that form it is also the aqua divina, symbolized by the uroboros.'(90) The sulphurous Nibelung likewise possesses a secret: 'A rune of magic makes the gold a ring. No one knows it; but he can use the spell who blessed love forswears' (Das Rheingold, Scene 2). The dragon-ring is barely distinguishable from the uroboros, the tail-eating and worlden circling Serpent. Thus it begets itself (bearing creation out of chaos) and devours itself (returning creation to chaos once more): the ring's life coincides with the world cycle of the gods. Wagner's incorporation of Schopenhauer's philosophy of the selfannihilating Will gives Boehme's cosmic wheel - the self-defeating wheel of nature - yet further resonance.
Sulphur-fire also illuminates, which again aligns it with the spirit world ('Lichtalben'); thus, 'sulphur is a "Lucifer" or "Phosphorus" [light-bringer]'.(91) As previously suggested, this may be reflected in the name Alberich (whiteness). Alberich's paradoxical epithet 'black' (Schwarz-Alberich) is again a sulphurous quality, for the alchemists regarded phosphorescent sulphur as 'the exceedingly black devil of hell'.(92) The image of 'dark light' also coheres with the Nibelung key as 'woeful awakening'. Sulphur thus implies 'sparks' such as those which Loge descries on the threshold of Nibelheim (Das Rheingold, Scene 3). Perhaps these 'sparks' are the Nibelungs themselves, since, as bits of fire (sulphur = fire) and as dwarfs, they symbolize 'the smallest thing', the 'point': 'Just as earth corresponds to the triangle and water to the line, so fire corresponds to the point. Democritus stresses that fire consists of "fiery globules".'(93) In Tantric philosophy, too, the fiery, world-engendering point (bindu) is called a 'dwarf'. This hellish quality relates to its subterranean origin, for, like Alberich, Sulphur is an underworld spirit found 'below'. As the 'soul of metals' or, indeed, of nature, the ring corresponds to the anima mundi, the 'soul of the world'. This world soul is spherical, as Plato's 'original man' was in the shape of a sphere,(94) and it
revolves with the world wheel, whose hub is the pole ... The anima mundi is really the motor of the heavens. The wheel of the starry universe is reflected in the horoscope, called the 'thema' of birth ... the firmament looks like a wheel turning, and the astronomer Nigidius is said to have received the name Figulus ('potter') because the wheel of heaven turns like a potter's wheel.(95)
Since Alberich (B flat minor) sets the circle of fifths spinning towards the dominant from its position of stasis (E flat major), this honour accrues to him as well. Within this tonal circle, Alberich's B flat occupies a cardinal position, for within it is subsumed the complex of associations within which the mystic forces of creation and destruction are visualized.
As sulphurous points, the Nibelungs correspond to 'part-souls' under the dominion of the central 'point', the ring, wielded by Alberich, the archetype of Sulphur. This hierarchical relationship of the fiery many to the fiery One is often depicted in alchemy, as in Wagner's Ring, as a state of bondage. Thus
the point is identical with ... scintilla, the 'little soul-spark' of Meister Eckhart ... Hippolytus says that in the doctrine of the Sethians the darkness 'held the brightness and the sparks of light in thrall,' and that this 'smallest of sparks' was finely mingled in the dark waters below.(96)
Mime reports a similar situation from Nibelheim, in his minion G minor: 'By evil craft Alberich moulded, from yellow gold of the Rhine, a ring: at its mighty spell we tremble in wonder; by that now he enthrals the Nibelungs' darksome host' (Das Rheingold, Scene 3). The bondage motif runs through the alchemistic chronicles of Sulphur. Jung points to the treatise 'De sulphure', in which Sulphur, like Tannhauser, is held prisoner in the Grove of Venus (Venus is reputed to be his own mother).(97) It is thus evident how closely the dwarf is related, outward appearance notwithstanding, to the Rhine Daughters - as well as to the dragon, which may be why his ring passes to him from the former and is passed in turn to the latter. As we have seen, sulphur was imagined to be similarly related to the waters, or even to be the chaotic waters to which he returns. This latter is accomplished by the torture of the original watery chaos, from which the treasure was wrested by the power of a sulphurous fire:
beginning with the treatises of Democritus and Komarious, which are assigned to the first century A.D., alchemy, until well into the eighteenth century, was very largely concerned with the miraculous water, the aqua divina or permanens, which was extracted from the lapis (the Stone), or prima materia, through the torment of the fire.(98)
The motif of torture connects the sulphurous fire with hella. Finally, as Alberich is bound by Wotan, so Sulphur is held prisoner by Saturn, who introduces himself as 'the governor of the prison'.(99) But 'Light Alberich' (Wotan) is likewise, as we have pointed out, equally bound by the goddess of Love, thus revealing a perhaps unsuspected 'sulphurousness' of his own.
Alberich's relationship with the mercurial Loge is likewise sulphurous. In alchemy, Sulphur and Mercury were brothers, friends, brother and sister, or paired in such phrases as 'our fire, our Mercurius, our sulphur'. They have an 'intimate connection'.(100) This ambiguity is a function of the binary motif that informs both elements, which tend to split into parallel figures both in Wagner and in alchemy. Both are shape-shifters associated with the dragon: it will be recalled that, in the Eddas, Odin bound the Fire-god to Yggdrasil in the form of a serpent. Both Alberich and Loge are fire spirits. Loge says, 'Kith to thee am I, and once was kind', an attempt at intimacy which the dwarf mockingly rejects: 'On light-elves does Loge now smile, crafty rogue? Art thou, false one, their friend, as my friend once thou were?' (Das Rheingold, Scene 3).
Alberich's binary and 'sulphurous' key is also associated with Loge's bondage to Wotan and the Fire God's desire for freedom: 'From his galling fetters freedom to win, [Loge] gnawed the runes of the shaft' (Gotterdammerung, Vorspiel). Hagen, too, chafes under the restraints of authority in the person of his B flat brother, King Gunther:(101) 'Base though ye deem him, ye yet shall all serve the Nibelung's Son!' (Gotterdammerung, Act I scene 1). These episodes recall the use of B flat to free oneself from confinement, as in Siegfried's song of freedom (Siegfried, Act I scene 1) and analogous examples.
The relationship of the 'sulphur-brand' to the egg suggests another characteristic familiar to everyone who has handled rotten eggs: they stink. Sulphur is the corrupter of the egg:
It causes or signifies the putrefactio ... Its 'putrefying' effect is also understood as its ability to 'corrupt.' Sulphur is the 'cause of imperfection in all metals,' the 'corrupter of perfection,"causing the blackness in every operation,"too much sulphurousness is the cause of corruption,' it is 'bad and not well mixed,' of an 'evil, stinking odour and of feeble strength'.(102)
This last ties in with Alberich's self-evaluation: 'I have but feeble strength to fight the foe' (Gotterdammerung, Act II scene 1). Nevertheless, his curse is sufficient to kill the solar Siegfried but, more important, to render him corrupt. Sulphurous Alberich is thus both serpent and corrupter, a Wagnerian version of Eden's primordial serpent. It is the ring's corrupting power that Wotan most fears: as he explains to Brunnhilde, under the compulsion of the ring's spell the god's own heroes would betray him and, under the magical fixation of the gold, fight for the Nibelung instead (Die Walkure, Act II scene 4). Alberich's domination motif recapitulates its alchemistic model in sometimes astounding detail. For Paracelsus, Sulphur-Mars was small, hard and heavy and signified the 'dwarf' or the 'inferior man': 'It is very difficult and laborious for a prince or a king to be produced out of an unfit and common man. But Mars acquires dominion with a strong and pugnacious hand, and seizes on the position of the king.'(103) The great alchemist warns, however, against the danger that Mars lose his lordship to cunning: '[Mars] should, however, be on his guard against snares, that he be not led captive suddenly and unexpectedly'.(104) Paracelsus alludes to Mars captured a-wooing in Vulcan's invisible net.(105) Loge offers an identical caution to Alberich, who would have done well to heed it, as his netting by Wotan and Loge demonstrates.
Such ill treatment makes sulphurous Mars vengeful, and, again like Alberich, he is liable to take revenge through his sons: 'Would one be surprised, then, if in righteous indignation Mars bade his sons kill that allotter, or keep up continual strife with him?'(106) Alberich agrees with this strategy, as when, in Act II scene 1 of Gotterdammerung, he goads his son to vengeance against Wotan, the dwarf's erstwhile captor: 'I fostered thee fearless for this; that against heroes safe thou shouldst hold me'; and 'I bred in Hagen deadly hatred; 'tis his to avenge me'. Here, sulphurous Alberich coheres with his alchemistic counterpart's personal and family history.
In summary, Alberich suffers conflations with every parallel figure in the Graeco Roman pantheon, the traditions of mining cults, popular folklore concerning the generation of metals in the earth, alchemy and astrology. Alberich's function as 'ringmaker' (and for Wagner the ring was the world) is overdetermined at every level of his mythical deep structure. Through the complex network of mutually coherent imagery commanded by its central protagonist, the associated keys of B flat major, B flat minor and G minor become characterized by means of a host of poetic entailments deriving from fire, Mars, Hades, spring and sulphur. This network is directed by its central Nibelung archetype, Wagner's composite god-daemon.
1 Letter of 25 January 1854 to August Rockel, given in Robert Donington, Wagner's 'Ring' and its Symbols: the Myth and the Music, London, 1963, p. 17.
2 Elizabeth Magee discusses Wagner's treatment of Siegfried in terms of solar myth: 'the sun-god concept of Siegfried was among Wagner's earliest and the one he in turn believed to be of the greatest antiquity. In Die Wibelungen ... Wagner had written of "the oldest significance of the myth, in which Siegfried is revealed as a light- or sun-god"' (Richard Wagner and the Nibelungs, Oxford, 1990, pp. 143-5). Magee also notes that earlier concepts linking Siegfried with the light-god Baldur, though dropped, left such traces as the association of 'light-imagery' with C major, which accrue to Siegfried through such passages as Brunnhilde's 'O conquering Light!' (Siegfried, Act III scene 3) and 'Like rays of sunshine streameth his light' (Gotterdammerung, Act III scene 3) (ibid., p. 130). Magee's arguments confirm these as leftover 'Baldur-traces', conflated into the Siegfried we know. One of the most persistent of Wagner's compositional techniques was his systematic association of mythical images with specific keys.
3 Warren Darcy, 'Creatio ex Nihilo: the Genesis, Structure, and Meaning of the Rheingold Prelude', 19th Century Music, xiii (1989-90), 79-100, at p. 93. See also idem, Wagner's 'Das Rheingold', Oxford, 1993.
4 Richard Wagner, 'Beethoven', in idem, Actors and Singers, trans. William Ashton Ellis (1896), Lincoln, Nebraska, & London, 1995, pp. 57-126.
5 Robert W. Gutman, Richard Wagner: the Man, his Mind, and his Music, New York, 1968, p. 120.
6 Georges Dumezil, Gods of the Ancient Northmen, ed. Einar Haugen, Berkeley, Los Angeles & London, 1973, p. xiv. To this tradition Wagner could add Christian historicism, concerning which the composer was of two minds. Wagner's first successful opera, Rienzi, explores the Roman scenario; Tannhauser imports the Roman Venus on to the stage and pits her against a virginal Christian saint; Lohengrin (Act II) shows pagan gods surviving into Christian times as resentful nature spirits (this suggests the Wotan cult that arose in Germany in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries). These moves were subsumed into a larger coherence in the Ring dramas. In Parsifal, Wagner's creation of a Grail religion based on alchemistic poetic themes indicated his re-evaluation of the Christian myth, and carried the alchemistic tendencies of the Ring to their logical conclusion.
7 Gutman, Richard Wagner, p. 121.
8 In his Wagner's 'Ring' and its Symbols.
9 Darcy, 'Creatio ex Nihilo', loc. cit.
10 Cosima Wagner's Diaries, ed. Martin Gregor-Dellin & Dietrich Mack, trans. Geoffrey Skelton, i (London, 1978), 127 (entry of 17 July 1869).
11 Described in Richard Wagner, My Life, trans. Andrew Gray, ed. Mary Whittall, Cambridge, 1983, p. 499. Labelling it 'The Controversy' to suggest importance, Darcy cites some speculative opinion that the dream may be fraudulent (Wagner's 'Das Rheingold', pp. 63-8). But Wagner's chaotic water dream is psychologically unexceptional, particularly when the dreamer has been preoccupied with primal beginnings. Jung analyses the dreams of the alchemist Zosimos of Panopolis, who is granted a vision of Creation embodied in the sacrifice of the priest Ion, 'in accordance with the laws of harmony', out of whose dismembered body the waters of life flow in a creative flood. '"Full of fear I awoke from sleep, and I thought to myself, 'Is not this the composition of the waters?"' (Carl Gustav Jung, 'The Visions of Zosimos', in idem, Alchemical Studies, trans. R. F. C. Hull, ed. Herbert Read, Michael Fordham, Gerhard Adler & William Mcguire, Princeton, 1964, [sections] 85-7). One could hardly fabricate a better parallel to Wagner's dream. All translations of Jung mentioned in this article were prepared by the editorial team cited above.
12 Carl Gustav Carus, Psyche, trans. Renata Welch, ed. Carlos Drake, A. K. Donoghue, Thomas Logan & Murray Stein, New York, 1970, pp. 57-8.
13 Ibid., p. 1.
14 Cosima Wagner's Diaries, i. 193 (entry of 25 February 1870).
15 Ibid., p. 208 (entry of 9 April 1870). Wagner's exposure to Platonic philosophy was broad. He read the Alcibiades II, Apology, Charmidex, Cratylus, Critias, Phaedrus and the Timaeus, among others. He criticized Plato's metaphysics, calling the Timaeus 'not profound metaphysics but artistry one expects from the Greeks ... in Plato it is the artist and not the philosopher who enchants us. Behind all the fantasies of the Indians there lies a deep philosophy, in them it seems that proper knowledge can only be won through these fantasies' (ibid., p. 729 (entry of 4 February 1874)). To Wagner, Plato is a 'fellow artist' and their common ground the 'theatre of the world' of the Neoplatonic academies.
16 Cosima Wagner's Diaries, ii (London, 1980), 116 (entry of 18 July 1878).
17 Eugenio Garin, Astrology in the Renaissance: the Zodiac of Life, London, 1983, p. 66. The Neoplatonists were acknowledged by Jung and the post-Jungian archetypal psychologists Hillman, Corbin and their colleagues as forefathers of the psychology of the unconscious. See, for example, James Hillman, Archetypal Psychology: a Brief Account, Dallas, 1978.
18 Cosima Wagner's Diaries, it. 67 (entry of 29 April 1878). Our italics.
19 Ibid., p. 15 (entry of 2 January 1878). Wagner generalized from his own experience: as Karl Kropfinger has noted, 'As Wagner envisaged it, the creative musician turns into a sleep-walking clairvoyant, and the "essence of things" in its most direct manifestation then grows on him as a kind of dream-image' (Wagner and Beethoven: Richard Wagner's Reception of Beethoven, trans. Peter Palmer, Cambridge, 1991, p. 133).
20 For a discussion of the formative significance of Renaissance Neoplatonism upon opera, see Robert Donington, The Rise of Opera, London, 1981, pp. 32-9, 120-25.
21 Michael J. B. Allen, The Platonism of Marsilio Ficino: a Study of his Phaedrus Commentary, its Sources and Genesis, Berkeley & London, 1984, pp. 25-9. For a translation of Ficino's text, see idem, Marsilio Ficino and the Phaedran Charioteer: Introduction, Texts, Translation, Berkeley & London, 1985, pp. 138-41. The image of conjuring daemons by a magical song is quintessentially Wagnerian. In his remarkable study of music, magic and Neoplatonism in the Renaissance, Tomlinson remarks that 'it is a long step from viewing magical music as a phantasm made by a demonic mechanism to viewing it as a demon itself. Allen takes this step confidently, declaring that in De vita Ficino broached the possibility "that we 'make' demons by 'making' music" ... Perhaps Allen's confidence outstrips Ficino's own here; but it is difficult to see what place we might find in Ficino's cosmos for the airy, rational, musical animal that he describes in De vita coditus comparanda unless we rank it among the demons, airy animals par excellence. We must finally agree with Allen, I think, that at least for a moment in this work Ficino conceived of his magical songs - of the al-Kindian airy phantasms produced by his musician's imagination - as demons' (Gary Tomlinson, Music in Renaissance Magic: Toward a Historiography of Others, Chicago & London, 1988, p. 125). Tomlinson might therefore also concur in recognizing a 'Ficinan' inspiration in Wagner's tonal daemons.
22 See, for example, Allen, Marsilio Ficino and the Phaedran Charioteer, pp. 7, 12. In Ficino as in Wagner, the 'hero' is distilled from the twelvefold circle (of spheres, of fifths): 'The stars' souls and the invisible spirits distributed through the twelve spheres follow the twelve leaders. These spirits are called particular leaders, gods, demons, and heroes' (ibid., p. 112). The idea transcends Ficino or even Neoplatonism as such. Thus the English astronomer, mathematician and occultist John Dee (1527-1608) 'likens the universe to a lyre, whose harmonious relations of notes and chords best exemplifies the way in which the infinite variety of the parts of the universe are interrelated among themselves in an accord and unity, so that occurrences in one part influence all other parts through sympathy, or consonance, and antipathy, or dissonance' (Nicholas H. Clulee, John Dee's Natural Philosophy: between Science and Religion, London & New York, 1988, pp. 43-4). We are close here to Wagner's vivified tonal spirits animated by the 'Necessary Law of Love'.
23 Allen, The Platonism of Marsilio Ficino, p. 23-5, 162-5. Again, 'song is almost nothing but another [daemonic] spirit' (ibid., p. 26). Thus 'the demon takes "the concept to be imagined" (conceptum imaginabilem) ... and physically conveys it to Socrates' mind's ear. We are at the junction of musical theory and what we might call the theory of auditory intuition (rather than auditory hallucination)' (ibid., p. 27). Here, as in Wagner, 'daemons of tone' act as conduits for inspiration, particularly of Platonic ideas.
24 Cosima Wagner's Diaries, i. 116 (entry of 28 June 1869).
25 The notion of tonal constellations goes back at least to the eighteenth century, and Ratner cites the 'older system of church modes, in which the tonic was a "sun" surrounded by a constellation of closely related degrees' (Leonard G. Rather, Classical Music: Expression, Form, and Style, New York, 1980, p. 48). Wagner shared this frame of reference, as Cosima recorded in connection with Bach's fugues: 'R. comes to the subject of Bach's fugues, in most of which there is hardly ever a modulation: "It is like a cosmic system, which moves according to eternal laws, without feeling; the sorrows of the world are indeed reflected in it, but not in the same way as in other music"' (Cosima Wagner's Diaries, ii. 90 (entry of 9 June 1878)). For a discussion of 'tone zodiacs' and other cosmological tonal encryptions, see Hans Erhard Lauer, 'The Evolution of Music through Changes in Tone-Systems', in Cosmic Music: Musical Keys to the Interpretation of Reality, ed. Joscelyn Godwin, Rochester, Vermont, 1989, pp. 168-225.
26 Richard Wagner, Opera and Drama, trans. William Ashton Ellis (1895), Lincoln, Nebraska, & London, 1995, p. 291.
27 Garin, Astrology in the Renaissance, pp. 75-6. Our italics.
28 As Garin notes: 'Astrology and religion, astrology and politics, astrology and propaganda, but also astrology and medicine, and astrology and science: a philosophy of history, a conception of reality, a fatalistic naturalism and an astral cult - astrology was all this and more. The value of the Renaissance debate was to reveal the multiplicity of themes which came together at that time, as it analyzed their contrasts and unveiled the insoluble internal contradictions, and all this precisely at the time when the study of the humanists, with its return to the ancient world, seemed to bring new life to the infinite astral divinities' (ibid., pp. 24-5).
29 Donington, The Rise of Opera, pp. 63-4.
30 Neoplatonism was one of the foundations of Renaissance music theory. Thus 'mundane music is threefold, one part consists of the elements of weights, numbers, and measurement, found in both their individual states and also mutually intermingled in composition and proportion; another part consists of planets as they are seen in relation to their position, movement, and nature; and another consists of temporal values, as in years, months, and days, in the change and alternation of spring, summer, autumn, winter, of night and day, and of the waxing and waning of the moon' (Johannes Cochlaeus, Tetracordum musices (1511), trans. Clement A. Miller, New York, 1970, p. 20).
31 The relationship of the number 3 is referenced to the triad, as in George Herbert's (1593-1633) poem 'Easter': 'Or since all Music is but three parts vied, / and multiplied; / O let thy blessed Spirit bear a part, / and make up our defects with his sweet art'. In his setting of this poem as one of the Five Mystical Songs, Vaughan Williams employs the symbolism of three flats and one sharp ([sharp] = Get. 'Kreutz', 'cross'), to quantify the symbolic proportions, 'three parts + Spirit', that is, 3 + 1 = 4.
32 Donington, The Rise of Opera, p. 59. Donington quotes from Natale Conti (Natalis Comes), Mythologiae sire Explicationis fabularum libri decem, Venice, 1567, Bk. VI, Chap. 6, 'De Circe', pp. 374-80. Compare Wagner's interpretation of Wotan in 'The Wibelungen' as the 'quintessence of constant motion' of the sun in its ceaseless battle with the dragon of chaos, discussed on pages 86-9, below.
33 A 'sinister enchantress', Circe is surrounded by mythical courtiers who include 'the usual legendary complement of classical Greek divinities, sirens, tritons, dryads, satyrs, nymphs [and] shepherds' (Donington, The Rise of Opera, p. 53). Compare Wagner's stage direction for Act I scene 1 of Tannhauser: 'HILL OF VENUS. A wide cave, bending at the back towards the right side, where it appears to be indefinitely prolonged. In the furthest visible background a bluish lake is seen, in which Naiads are bathing; on its undulating banks Sirens are reclining ... Venus is extended on a couch; before her, in a half-kneeling attitude, is Tannhauser, his head sunk on her knees. The whole cave is illuminated by a rosy light. The centre of the stage is occupied by a group of dancing Nymphs; there are mounds at the sides of the cave, where tender couples are reclining, some of whom join the dances of the Nymphs in the course of the scene.' All translations of Wagner's stage directions and librettos are taken basically from the relevant Schirmer vocal score.
34 The continuity of concept between the E major Venus and Isolde may be seen by considering the single instance of an E major key-signature in Tristan - Tristan's hallucination of Isolde: 'Full of grace and loving mildness, Floating o'er the ocean's wildness? By billows of flowers lightly lifted, Gently toward the land she's drifted' (Act III). This is a transparent appeal to the imagery of the birth of Venus in the sea foam.
35 Donington, The Rise of Opera, p. 59. Donington comments on the 'Tannhgauserian' opinion of 'Sieur Gordon, a Scotsman, chamberlain to the King': ' "the sea naturally nourishes and produces that which maintains and excites sensuality: and from that the poets have reigned that Venus rose from the sea." Venus and Circe were frequently equated by Neoplatonists, both in positive aspects as desire for virtue, and in negative aspect as desire for sensuality (or rather, as an entanglement with inordinate sensuality, since in Platonic doctrine, sensuality itself is in no way vicious, but is merely a stage of development on the journey from earthly to heavenly preoccupations, with which, though it is not in itself harmful, one should not get caught up indefinitely)' (ibid., pp. 60-61).
36 'Directly shall we find the earliest operas inheriting the Neoplatonic vision ... the spheres and the stars, with their fateful influence upon the souls of men; the souls of the stars themselves, and the soul of the world; the intellect and the body of man; the angels above him and the beasts below ... none of this would have been taken literally as scientific astronomy or cosmology by any informed Neoplatonist of the late renaissance. But as a kind of intuitively expressed psychology, it was taken seriously' (ibid., p. 61). Post-Jungians such as Hillman developed their psychology out of precisely this Neoplatonicizing move.
37 Ibid., p. 60. This passage would make an admirably concise summary of Tannhauser.
38 Jung, Aion, Princeton, 1964, [section] 174. The concupiscentia is lunar, as in alchemy and Neoplatonic astrology, in which 'the appetites, as "potentiae sensuales", pertain to the sphere of the moon; they are anger (ira) and desire (libido) or, in a word, concupiscentia. The passions are designated by animals because we have these things in common with them' (Jung, Mysterium coniunctionis, Princeton, 1964, [section] 171). As mistress of the tides, the moon is associated with the ocean.
39 Darcy, Wagner's 'Das Rheingold', p. 97.
40 Robert Bailey, 'The Structure of the Ring and its Evolution', 19th Century Music, i (1977-8), 48-61, at p. 53.
41 Darcy, 'Creatio ex Nihilo', p. 82.
42 Bailey, 'The Structure of the Ring and its Evolution', p. 54.
43 Cosima Wagner's Diaries, i. 123 (entry of 9 July 1869).
44 Later usage of G minor and B fiat minor supports the point. Alberich commandeers B flat major and minor while the relative minor G is handed down to little brother Mime (as in Scene 3 of Das Rheingold); the latter is thus 'a minor relative of B flat'. Thus G minor and B flat minor both mean 'Nibelung', but the keys are able to be rationalized only via the shared B flat major. Since this article involves discussion of associative or, more correctly, lexical key, we should briefly summarize our theoretical assumptions. Darcy gives cautious support to 'four independent tonal theories at work in Wagner's music ... "Classical tonality" is simply the traditional tonic-dominant tonality as defined by Heinrich Schenker. "Lexical tonality" involves the consistent association of specific keys with particular dramatic symbols or ideas ... these keys function as musical signs. "Expressive tonality" employs structural progression by ascending or descending whole tones or semitones ... which in turn reflects some aspect of the dramatic situation. "Directional tonality" features an interplay between two different tonal centres, both of which can function as tonic (the so-called "double tonic complex") ... the tonal structure of the Ring is marked by the interaction of these four tonal principles' (Wagner's 'Das Rheingold', p. 52). Instead, we suggest the sufficiency of the grammatical application of classical harmonic syntax (as defined by Beethoven and Wagner, not necessarily by Schenker) on lexical keys definable by harmonic analysis (see, for example, Leland Smith, A Handbook of Harmonic Analysis, Palo Alto, California, 1979, especially his analysis of the Prelude to Tristan, pp. 142-66).
45 Magee, Richard Wagner and the Nibelungs, p. 137.
46 Richard Wagner, 'The Wibelungen', in idem, 'A Pilgrimage to Beethoven' and Other Essays, trans. William Ashton Ellis (1898), Lincoln, Nebraska, & London, 1994, p. 275.
47' Dumezil criticizes the scholarship that made Wagner's mythical conflation possible as 'the abyss of disgrace where the studies of "comparative mythology" had sunk in reaction to the generous illusions and intelligent excesses of the school of Max Muller' (Gods of the Ancient Northmen, p. 35). On the other hand, Wagner's mythical conflations were culturally orthodox for their time and place. Speaking of the Wotan cult that spread over Germany in the early twentieth century, Jung writes that its followers were 'anticipated by Nietzsche, Schuler, Stefan George, and Ludwig Klages. The literary traditions of the Rhineland and the country south of the Main have a classical stamp that cannot be easily gotten rid of; every interpretation of intoxication and exuberance is apt to be taken back to classical models, to Dionysus, to the puer aeternus and to the cosmogonic Eros' (Jung, 'Wotan', in idem, Civilization in Transition, Princeton, 1964, [section] 375). The point is not to pass judgement on the mythological propriety of Wagner's equating of Wotan and Zeus but to recognize the profound effect of this move on his poetic imagery and choices regarding key association.
48 Wagner, 'The Wibelungen', p. 275.
49 Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane: the Nature of Religion, New York, 1968, p. 38. The world axis from the ballet Circe shows this image to be central to the cosmology that gave rise to opera.
50 Bailey, 'The Structure of the Ring and its Evolution', p. 54 n. If so, however, B flat minor is not treated as an arbitrary associative given but is dramatically rationalized to lend tonal coherence to a specific sequence of dramatic and psychological developments (described herein).
51 Since psyche = tonality, modulation becomes simultaneously psychological and positional. Thus 'landscape' = 'inscape'.
52 Eliade cites three points of coherence between the axis of the world and the world's navel: '(a) holy sites and sanctuaries are believed to be situated at the center of the world; (b) temples are replicas of the cosmic mountain and hence constitute the pre-eminent "link" between earth and heaven; (c) the foundations of temples descend deep into the lower regions' (The Sacred and the Profane, p. 39).
53 Wagner describes the Nibelungs as 'worms in a dead body' ('The Nibelung Myth as Sketch for a Drama', in idem, 'A Pilgrimage to Beethoven' and Other Essays, p. 301).
54 Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane, pp. 41-2. Eliade notes the commonality of concept in the Babylonian and Hebrew accounts of the three cosmic regions, heaven, earth and hell: 'But it is always Babylon that is the scene of the connection between the earth and the lower regions, for the city had been built upon bab apsi, the "Gate of the Apsu" - apsu designating the waters of chaos before the Creation. We find the same tradition among the Hebrews. The rock of Jerusalem reached deep into the subterranean waters (tehom). The Mishnah says that the Temple is situated exactly above the tehom (Hebrew equivalent of apsu)' (idem, Cosmos and History: the Myth of the Eternal Return, New York, 1959, p. 15).
55 The idea that the key of D flat major represents height is not unique to Wagner. Beethoven imagines D flat as a 'lofty' key in his comment that Klopstock 'always begins far too high up above his audience. With him it is always maestoso D flat major! Isn't that so?' (given in Paul Mies, Beethoven's Sketches: an Analysis of his Style Based on a Study of his Sketchbooks, trans. Dori L. Mackinnon, London, 1929; repr. New York, 1974, p. 174). Again, Wagner's pairing of the god (D flat major) and the anti-god (B flat minor) is coherent with nineteenth-century musicology's evaluations of the poetic meaning of these keys. Thus Gustav Schilling observed: 'The pure chord of D flat major has only to ring out, and the sensitive soul will see itself, as it were, surrounded by pure luminous spiritual creatures ... The key ... appears here only as a splendid and glistening, as it were, heavenly and beautifully decorated structure or as a transparent garment, showing off the beautiful forms still more beautifully, in which the actual art work as such is elevated, or with which it is wrapped up to its most exalted perfection' (Schilling, Universal-Lexikon der Tonkunst (1835-6), given in Rita Steblin, A History of Key Characteristics in the Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries, Ann Arbor, 1983, p. 233. Our italics). On the contrary, as Schilling noted, 'in its psychical respect [the impious B flat minor] is obviously a quaint creature who, often wrapped up in the garment of night, and always somewhat surly and at odds with everything it sees, very seldom takes on a friendly, pleasant countenance. A mocking against God and the whole world, discontent with one-self so that one prepares to commit suicide ... all sound in its ponderous chords, which appear as if brought forth from the deepest depths of gloomy, depressed melancholy and insistently impart to the foreign breast the terrifying horror of impenetrable darkness ... this key also includes scorn and derision against all truth and virtue, malice, spite, and the doings of a heart incapable of all nobler feelings in its radius' (given in ibid., p. 302).
56 Jung, Psychology and Alchemy, Princeton, 1968, [section] 165.
57 Ibid., [section] 166.
58 Loc. cit.
59 Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane, pp. 45-6. Hence Alberich's transfiguration into a giant snake ('Riesenschlange').
60 Ibid., p. 33. Similarly, 'for the pole to be broken denotes catastrophe; it is like the "end of the world," reversion to chaos ... once, when the pole was broken, the entire clan ... lay down and ... waited for death' (ibid., p. 38).
61 Wagner's retention of traditional 'bad' (subdominant) vs. 'good' (dominant) orientation is best seen in passages in which unvarying dominant or subdominant motion is maintained. The former is exemplified in the last bars of Parsifal ('Erlosung der Erloser'), which asserts a sixfold dominant progression from D major to A flat major in the context of Parsifal's heroic (Lex: D = hero) rectification of the Grail (Lex: A flat = Grail). Here steady, major-key dominant progressions give 'maximum rightness'. By contrast, Alberich's curse in Scene 4 of Das Rheingold maintains unremitting subdominant progressions from B minor (Lex: b = daemon, enemy) through E, A, D, F and B flat minors, giving 'maximum wrongness'. An intermediate case in which dominant motion is maintained with consistently minor tonic roots is the first half of Mime's narrative of Sieglinde's death ('Einst lag wimmernd ein Weib da drausen im wilden Wald; zur Hohle half ich ihr her: am warmen Herd sie zu huten') from Act I scene I of Siegfried, beginning in C (minor implied), passing through G, D, A, E and B minors and arriving in F sharp major. Since this is the 'heroic night journey' which rescues Sieglinde's unborn child, the journey is 'good, correct' though 'hard'. For a more detailed analysis, see Jonathan C. Petty, 'Sieglinde's "Long Day's Journey Into Night" ', The Opera Journal, xxx/2 (June 1997), 11-35.
62 'The Three Mystery Eggs', in Myth, Religion, and Mother Right: Selected Writings of J. J. Bachofen, trans. Ralph Manheim, Princeton, 1967, pp. 25-6. That Wagner was familiar with Bachofen is documented by Cosima: '(R) showed me Prof. Bachofen's Tanaquil and said how interesting it was to pursue Oriental traces in Rome' (Cosima Wagner's Diaries, i. 595 (entry of 17 February 1873)). The comment typifies Wagner's comparative-synthetic approach to his researches and art.
63 Bachofen, 'The Three Mystery Eggs', p. 32. The equation of 'Neptune' with 'Waters' coheres with Flosshilde's: 'Our father warned us' (Das Rheingold, Scene 1), where 'father' in this context can only mean 'Rhine'. The allusion to a primordial River God completes the functional trilogy of Zeus/Poseidon/Hades (Mars) via Wotan/(River God)/Alberich. This relationship remains undeveloped dramatically.
64 Ibid., pp. 28-9.
65 Ibid., pp. 32-3. Compare Siegfried's 'Wie der Fisch froh in der Fluth schwimmt, Wie der Fink frei sich davon schwingt, Flie ich von hier, Fluthe davon, wie der Wind Uber'n Wald weh ich dahin' ('As the fish fleetly in flood swims, as the finch freely in sky soars, so hence I fly, floating away, like the wind o'er the woods wafted afar' (Siegfried, Act I scene 1) in B flat major. Here the impulse of B flat to break free from imprisonment in C minor mirrors that of Siegfried's father, who used the same key to free Sieglinde from the imprisoning C minor of Hunding's hut (Die Walkure, Act I scene 3).
66 Ibid., p. 39.
67 Loc. cit.
68 Given in Bachofen, 'The Three Mystery Eggs', p. 28.
69 Bachofen, 'The Eggs at the Circus', from 'An Essay in Ancient Mortuary Symbolism' (1859), in Myth, Religion, and Mother Right, p. 36. Some of Alberich's 'hidden counsels' are disclosed in his nocturnal parley with his son Hagen (Gotterdammerung, Act II scene 2).
70 Ibid., p. 37.
71 This parallels Alberich's seizure of B flat as a base from which to dominate the E flat Rhine Daughters. Here dominant key = dominant power. Darcy misses the systematic nature of Wagner's dominance motif: 'B flat is, of course, the dominant of E flat, the Nature-key. In Die Walkure, B flat will become associated with the love of Siegmund and Sieglinde, suggesting that the power of love is beginning to displace the love of power' (Wagner's 'Das Rheingold', p. 208 n.). The Brutus-like symmetries do not follow from their assumptions. The Spring Song's pastoral metre acts in poetic counterpoint to the martial content, thereby endowing Spring with a feeling-tone reminiscent of the impregnating Mars Gradivus, 'whose footfalls conferred fruitfulness on the soil' (Bachofen, Myth, Religion and Mother Right, loc. cit.) Wagner's text reads: 'Mit zarter Waffen Zier beswingt er die Welt; Winter und Sturm wichen der starken Wehr; wohl musste den tapfern Streichen die strenge Thure auch weichen, die trotzig und starr uns tremte von ihm' ('With gentle weapons' charms he forces the world; Winter and Storm yield to his strong attack: assailed by his hardy strokes now the doors are shattered that, fast and defiant, once held us parted from him') (Die Walkure, Act I scene 3). Siegmund's warlike Spring Song sweeps Sieglinde off her feet, so that she reclines in the feminized E flat to gaze upon the god of her heart ('Du bist der Lenz'). The tonal point is that, when you want to seduce a woman with aggression, you seize control of her dominant. Contrarily, when Siegfried confesses 'I am but Brunnhilde's arm' he surrenders the B flat major of his earlier martial feats to the Great Female's E flat, recapitulating the move by which Alberich's infatuation temporarily re-subordinated his dominant primacy back to V7 in E flat major.
72 Jung, 'Paracelsus as a Spiritual Phenomenon', in idem, Alchemical Studies, [section] 176 n.
73 Idem, Mysterium coniunctinis, [section] 126.
74 Ibid., [section] 138. Jung quotes from the compendium Turba philosophorum, ed. Julius Ruska, Berlin, 1931, p. 125 1.10.
75 Loc. cit.
76 Ibid., [section] 137. Jung quotes from Gerhard Dorn's 'Physica trisnegestri', in the anthology Theatrum chemicum, Strasbourg, 1613, p. 423.
77 For 'black key', see Gustav Nottebohm, Zweite Beethoveniana: Nachgelassene Aufsatze, ed. Eusebius Mandyczewski, Leipzig, 1887, p. 326. Wagner's construction of C flat associations from B flat minor is relevant to theoretical evaluations of certain keys as 'associative' and others as mere 'expressive' shifts (discussed by Darcy in Wagner's 'Das Rheingold', pp. 49-55). Bailey claims that the F sharp minor tonality of the 'Todesverkundigung' scene is chosen 'undoubtedly because it is equidistant from the D minor framing the first two acts of the opera and the B flat minor of the contrasting episode within the scene itself' ('The Structure of the Ring and its Evolution', p. 57.) But although F sharp minor is equidistant from B flat and D, so is C minor. If geometric thinking is behind the key choice, the reason why Wagner chose one over the other is not discussed. On the other hand, Bailey notes that B flat was 'already determined by the B flat of the secondary episode in the latter part of Act I, which includes the so-called Spring Song' (ibid., pp. 55-6). D minor, not an associative key, is derived from an ' "expressive" shift in tonality' from D flat major, which is an associative key (ibid., p. 55). For Darcy, B flat minor 'is ... associated with Alberich and the Nibelungs, while an 'expressive' semitonal descent to the A major of Episode 13 suggests the dwarf's downfall' (Wagner's 'Das Rheingold', p. 164). Thus sometimes Wagner chooses keys because they are associative; or because they have a geometric proportion to other keys whether associative or not; or because while not themselves associative they produce 'expressive shifts' of associative keys. What coherence such procedures are intended to impart to listeners remains unexplained. We suggest instead that Wagner's constructions of specific associative continuations from prior associations (such as C flat from B flat) demonstrate that these shifts are themselves associative.
78 Jung, Mysterium coniunctionis, [section] 126.
79 Albe = white, from Lat. albus, 'white'; hence Eng. 'albescent', 'albino', 'Albion' (white cliffs) etc. Since E flat major = the 'cosmic egg', Alberich becomes associated with this egg's whiteness (its albumen).
80 Jung, Mysterium coniunctionis, [section] 135.
81 Mircea Eliade, The Forge and the Crucible: the Origins and Structures of Alchemy, trans. Stephen Corrin, New York, 1962, pp. 48-9.
82 Jung, Mysterium coniunctionis, [section] 134.
83 Jung, 'Paracelsus as a Spiritual Phenomenon', [section] 176 n. Jung quotes from Johannes Bracheschus's 'Lignum vitae', published in Bibliotheca chemica curiosa, ed. Joannes Jacobus Mangetus, Geneva, 1702.
84 Bracheschus, 'Lignum vitae', given in Jung, 'Paracelsus as a Spiritual Phenomenon', loc. cit.
85 Jung, 'Paracelsus as a Spiritual Phenomenon', [section] 193.
86 St Thomas Aquinas, Aurora consurgens, ed. Marie-Louise yon Franz, London, 1966, p. 274. The sexualized nature of sulphur in the alchemistic tradition and popular folklore explains Iago's allusion: 'Dangerous conceits are in their natures poisons, Which, at the first, are scarce found to distaste, But, with a little act upon the blood, Burn like the mines of sulphur' (Othello, Act II scene 3). The reference is to Othello's jealousy. Here Iago presents himself as an emissary of sulphur, or even as sulphur himself.
87 Jung, Psychology and Alchemy, [section] 215.
88 Cosima Wagner's Diaries, i. 377 (entry of 16 June 1871). Wagner may be seen as mainstream within the so-called 'mystical' trends of German culture represented by Boehme with respect, for instance, to his cosmologizing of dramatic music, which likewise links him to Milton and William Blake: 'The need felt by the German romanticists for a new, Christian mythology, had been supplied, in great measure, by Boehme ... in the English-speaking world, the Christian mythology of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries came from the study of Milton, rather than from the study of the Bible ... What Boehme did for the romanticists of Germany in this respect, Milton has done for the English-speaking world' (Margaret Lewis Bailey, Milton and Jakob Boehme: a Study of German Mysticism in Seventeenth-Century England, New York & Oxford, 1914, pp. 176-7).
89 Jung, Psychology and Alchemy, [section] 215. Here 'Mercurius' represents the spirit genius of the alchemistic art. Since he is himself the uroboros, the implication here is that the seemingly initiatory Sulphur acts in turn in response to a higher necessity identified with the ultimate 'nature of things'.
90 Jung, Mysterium coniunctionis, [section] 135. For the chthonic dragon, see Johann Daniel Mylius, Philosophia reformata, Frankfurt, 1622, p. 104; for aqua divina, see ibid., p. 179.
91 Jung, Mysterium coniunctionis, [section] 139.
92 Ibid., [section] 139 n.
93 Ibid., [section] 41.
94 'A suitable shape for a living being that was to contain within itself all living beings would be a figure that contains all possible figures within itself. Therefore [the Demiurge] turned it into a rounded spherical shape, with the extremes equidistant in all directions from the centre, a figure that has the greatest degree of completeness and uniformity, as he judged uniformity to be incalculably superior to its opposite' (Plato, Timaeus, trans. & ed. H. D. P. Lee, Harmondsworth, 1965, pp. 44-5). On the other hand, Hanslick mocked such Platonic analogies in the following terms: 'many aestheticians consider that musical enjoyment can be adequately explained in terms of regularity and symmetry. But no beauty, least of all musical beauty, has ever consisted entirely in these ... Most recently Oersted has expounded this Platonic view in connection with music by means of the example of the circle, for which he claims positive beauty. We may suppose that he had no firsthand experience of such an atrocity as an entirely circular composition' (Eduard Hanslick, On the Musically Beautiful, trans. Geoffrey Payzant, Indianapolis, 1986, pp. 40-41).
95 Jung, Aion, [section]212.
96 Jung, Mysterium coniunctionis, [section]42. Jung quotes from Hippolytus, Elenchos (Refutatio omnium haeresium), ed. Paul Wenland in Hippolytus: Werke, iii (Leipzig, 1916).
97 Ibid., [section] 140.
98 Jung, 'The Visions of Zosimos', [section] 89. Our italics.
99 Jung, Mysterium coniunctionis, loc. cit.
100 Ibid., [sections] 135-6.
101 Gunther's association with B flat is suggested not only by its use as the Gibichungs' tonal homestead ('O hero, gladly greet the halls where dwelt my fathers'), Siegfried's impetuous proposal to win Brunnhilde for the king and the oath of 'blood brotherhood' that follows; it is responsible, too, for some interesting modulatory fine-tuning, as when Hagen's conversation with Gunther (Gotterdammerung, Act I scene 1), otherwise in his own characteristic key orb minor, makes a sharp two-bar detour into B flat to deliver the phrase 'she who gave us birth, Grimhilde'. This 'wild' modulation, like many others, shows that tonal distance is no object where the poetic image calls for its 'natural' key. It is in fact this kind of associative tonal fluctuation in response to the imaginal requirements of the text that gives to Wagner's mature works much of their unique tonal style.
102 Jung, Mysterium coniunctionis, [section] 138. Jung quotes from Mylius, Philosophia reformata, pp. 61-3.
103 Paracelsus, 'Coelum Philosophorum', Pt. I, in The Hermetic and Alchemical Writings of Paracelsus, ed. Arthur Edward Waite, Berkeley, 1976, p. 7.
104 Loc. cit.
105 For the sexual innuendo, see for example Homer, Odyssey, Bk. VIII, trans. E. V. Rieu, Harmondsworth, 1955, pp. 128-32.
106 Paracelsus, 'Coelum Philosophorum', ed. Waite, p. 190.
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Title Annotation:||German composer Richard Wagner|
|Author:||Petty, Jonathan Christian; Tuttle, Marshall|
|Publication:||Music & Letters|
|Date:||Feb 1, 1998|
|Previous Article:||The meaning of Morell's libretto of 'Judas Maccabaeus.'|
|Next Article:||The Organist as Scholar: Essays in Memory of Russell Sanders.|