“Without music, life would be a mistake” – Friedrich Nietzsche

Just a nod in the direction of the German philosopher, cultural critic, poet and composer, Friedrich Nietzsche, whom many remember for his declaration “God is dead”.

It’s his 113th birthday today (Nietzsche’s) and is celebrated by the Google Doodle.

Nietzsche made quite an impact on composers during the 1890s. 

Writer on music Donald Mitchell notes that Gustav Mahler was “attracted to the poetic fire of Zarathustra, but repelled by the intellectual core of its writings.”
He also quotes Mahler himself, and adds that he was influenced by Nietzsche’s conception and affirmative approach to nature, which Mahler presented in his Third Symphony using Zarathustra’s roundelay.
Frederick Delius has produced a piece of choral music A Mass of Life based on a text of Thus Spoke Zarathustra, while Richard Strauss (who also based his Also sprach Zarathustra on the same book), was only interested in finishing “another chapter of symphonic autobiography”, but we have him to thank for the popularity of the opening scene in Kubrik’s 2001.

Nietzsche’s most influential works include Beyond Good and Evil, The Birth of Tragedy and The Will to Power.

Nietzsche saw his philosophy as a counter-movement to nihilism through appreciation of art:

Art as the single superior counterforce against all will to negation of life, art as the anti-Christian, anti-Buddhist, anti-Nihilist par excellence.”

Nietzsche suffered a breakdown in 1889 having struggled with mental health issues his whole life. He was placed under the care of his mother and subsequently his sister Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche, who assumed the role of curator of his manuscripts.

Here is some of Nietzsche’s music just in case you thought you had misread the introduction above! Nobody seems to have discovered a transcription for guitar yet! I used to think “Also Sprach Zarathustra” by Strauss might work!

and Staruss’ famous “Zarathustra” discussed by Marin Alsop