inaugural (German)

The Composer's Official Website


Heinz Winbeck
NAIVITY AND AWARENESS or "The fidgeting in the wheel of time"
- an examination of the conception of music by Johann Heinrich Wackenroders and Theodor W. Adornos -

Lecture on the occasion of the semester opening ceremony of the University of Music Würzburg
on November 7, 1989

Dear students, dear colleagues, ladies, and gentlemen! *
As part of this celebration, newly appointed professors in their specialty introduce themselves: the strings are playing, the winds are blowing, the singer is singing,
... ..
the composer is talking!

Have composers developed into rhetoric specialists, feather foxes, even ideologues in a society in which there is enough talk and writing? Shouldn't your contribution rather counterbalance this? Yes, are they competent at all to perform in an area that is not theirs, that if it were theirs, they might never have become composers? For myself, I can say it anyway, had I even had the "mouth" of an average young person today. What reason would there be to write complex scores if you can bring out everything you want anyway?
Nevertheless, when the composer has to talk, it has nothing to do with a bad re-enactment of someone, even the president of a music academy, but rather the diagnosis of Adorno:

"What is happening musically today has the character of a problem in the undiluted meaning of the word: that of a task to be solved ...".

And since for my predecessor in office, the revered Prof. Bertold Hummel, also in his function as President of this house, the composition class was the icing on the cake at a music college, I would now like to show my colors, albeit one year late, which salt I intend to use. Pious Jews have a custom of Pascha: they take a sip of saltwater in memory of the tears of exile and forced labor - you, who sit in front of me and are used to good Franconian wine, take it in your spirit, symbolically, anyway Take a sip to be prepared for future injustice.

At the beginning of my speech, I would like to pick up on another one that many of you have probably heard: the acceptance speech given by Maximilian Schell by Vaclav Havel on the occasion of the award of the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade on October 15 in the Paulskirche in Frankfurt on the MACHT DES WORTES. Far be it from me to want to continue this impressive speech, but since it still rings in our ears, I would like to ask you whether you could imagine anything remotely comparable in translation into the language of music? It was about the charisma of linguistic terms that set entire generations in motion, their ambivalent nature as a “flash of light” as well as an “arrow of death”, about those responsible for morality, i.e. this reflective speaking, even about "arrogance" and "humility" of terms ... Strange, no one would think of speaking about music in this clear and authoritative manner, despite all the - not least economic power of the music business; And yet we feel, if we are honest, that there is something comparable here, too, despite all the differences in language, only masked by a supermarket of possibilities, some of which seem to be more oriented towards advice from skilled sales strategists than to considerations regarding " Arrogance ”or“ humility ”of a sound, a composition.

This path of thought inevitably leads us to the basic question: What criteria was and is the musical work of art committed? Does man seek in himself or possibly the correction of his being, even the redemption of himself? And how did it get to the point where someone with a knowing smile at the sound of some “discord” would surely state: Aha - a new speaker!

In my search for material, while studying, I came across not only the relevant works by Busoni, Stravinsky, Henze, etc., but also wise words notoriously accompanying music festivals by musicologists and composers - e.g. on the controversial terms “avant-garde” and “postmodern” on the occasion of “revolution in music” in Kassel - rarely gold. Of course, the apocalyptic siren chants by Heinz-Klaus Metzger, for example, make one think: “... composing as a certain negation would be ... the abolition of everything that was ever understood as music. Because in the face of the industrially produced end of the world, only music that is no longer music is still music; while the music that is still music is no longer music. "

What is rising from the memory of the 70s? “There is no God who exists.” While I can understand this sentence as an attempt to express a negative theology, I remain suspicious of “negative musicology”. Gradually I liked it best, like Heinz Holliger, regretting that older composers had remained “mute as fish”, Holderlin quotes: “The quieter, the more utterance”, so that Heinz Winbeck, quoting Heinz Holliger, who said Hölderlin “ The quieter, the more utterance ”quoted, with which the speech that has barely begun could also end immediately!
But since this would hardly be in the sense of this event, if it would also bring joy to one or the other audience, let me now turn to the two authors with whom I found what I was looking for and who only at first glance have nothing to do with each other seem to have: one, Wilhelm Heinrich Wackenroder, spiritual pioneer of early romanticism, the other, Theodor W. Adorno of the 68 student rebellion!

I begin with Wilhelm Heinrich Wackenroder's conception of music, whose life from 1773 to 1798 lasted barely 25 years. He illustrated this in an essay entitled “Of two wonderful languages ​​and their mysterious power”, in the music novella “The strange musical life of the Tonkünstler Joseph Berglinger”, but also in a small, peculiarly modern-looking “Wonderful fairy tale of a naked saint”. Why modern? For this "saint", of whom Wackenroder himself says that we would consider him insane, but that the Orientals would consider him "the strange container of a higher genius", the phenomenon of time is no longer a matter of course, but:

“During his stay, this strange creature had no rest day and night, it always seemed to him that he heard incessantly in his ears the wheel of time making its whirling turn. He could not do anything in front of the din, undertake nothing, the tremendous fear that strained him in perpetual work prevented him from seeing and hearing anything, other than how the terrible wheel turned with a roar, with a tremendous rush of storm winds, and then turned again, that reached up to the stars and across. Like a waterfall of a thousand and a thousand roaring streams that tumbled down from the sky, pouring themselves eternally, eternally without a momentary standstill, without the calm of a second, so it rang in his ears, and all his senses were mightily turned only to his working Fear was more and more gripped and torn into the vortex of wild confusion, the monotonous tones became more and more wildly confused: he could not rest now, but one saw him day and night in the most strenuous, violent movement, like a person who tries is to turn a tremendous wheel. From his broken, wild speech we learned that he felt drawn away from the wheel, that he wanted to help the raging, lightning-fast turnaround with all the effort of his body, so that time would not run the risk of standing still for just a moment. When asked what he was doing, he would scream the words out in a convulsion: You unfortunate ones! don't you hear the rustling wheel of time? and then he turned and worked even harder again so that his sweat flowed to the ground, and with contorted gestures, he laid his hand on his beating heart, as if he wanted to feel whether the great mechanism was in its eternal motion."
Ladies and gentlemen, if the length of the quote has given you the terrible suspicion that the condition of this deplorable person has anything to do with the state of mind of us composers, then you are correct! I only ask you, my dear listeners: why is this man, of whom it is said a little later that he can also be dangerous, not put into custody? I can only guess the answer: because the reverent observer senses within them that he does not hear this “wheel of time”, whose “roaring change” they do, but turns for them, that his “working fear” is also knocking hidden inside them and that something falls away for them too if he goes through this strange struggle. This does not succeed at first, the moonlit night, i.e. the natural mood of all dissolved boundaries, only brings a temporary calm and an all the worse relapse:

"... when the moon suddenly stepped in front of the opening of its dark cave, it suddenly stopped, sank to the ground, tossed around and whined in despair; He also wept bitterly like a child that the sound of the mighty wheel of time would not leave him in peace to do anything, to act, to work and to create on earth. Then he felt a consuming longing for unknown beautiful things; he tried to sit up and move his hands and feet gently and calmly, but to no avail! He was looking for something specific, unknown, something he wanted to grasp and to cling to; he wanted to save himself outside or inside himself but in vain! His weeping and his despair rose to the highest, with a loud roar he jumped up from the earth and turned the mighty, whizzing wheel of time again. "
The sufferings of this man only come to an end when two new components condense and transform the mere natural mood: give it a face in human love and sound in human song. The liberated genius of the poor naked transforms and rises to the sounding spheres: "Traveling caravans were amazed to see the nocturnal miracle apparition, and the lovers imagined they saw the genius of the love of music."

"Love and music" - the escapist utopia of the so-called. The youth culture of the 20th century, which as perhaps the most successful “half or pseudo-ideology” after the West is now also flooding the East: is that what Wackenroder meant? Hardly likely. His 'Joseph Berglinger' is the progenitor of all composer figures in German literature up to 'Adrian Leverkühn' - alias Nietzsche-Schönberg - on whose figure Adorno, as is well known, worked hard during the emigration in Los Angeles! I do not need to go into more detail here on the fact that Thomas Mann did not form the figure of the lonely struggling composer as a symbolic figure of German tragedy and Demonia by chance. In any case, Wackenroder's comparatively simple title figure proves through its failure that neither a pleasurable, primitive stomping along with the wheel of time, be it according to Discomanier, nor a rescue in an allegedly intact subscription concert redemption world is an option for him as a composer. In his downfall, however, it becomes clear - and with this dialectic, we are already very close to Adorno - that a third thing must be kept open beyond the "easy" paths.

So why does this young composer fail? He, who comes out of the tightness of typically North German eighteenth-century conditions characterized only by the mandatory term, initially finds an immeasurable widening of horizons and feelings in the world of music by moving to an “episcopal residence” in the south. But the problem arises from a kind of life balance in the form of a farewell letter, a razor-sharp self-analysis of the person who, like his author, died prematurely. The three states of tension that he cannot resolve are:

1. the discrepancy between "SENSATION" and "MECHANICS", a tension of opposites that we today probably adequately represent with the terms NAIVITY AND CONSCIOUSNESS. The young composer describes the main problem of his studies as follows:
“When I think back to the dreams of my youth, how blissful I was in those dreams! - I said I wanted to keep fantasizing about and let my heart out in works of art, - but how strange and bitter the first years of an apprenticeship came to me! How I felt when I stepped behind the curtain! That all melodies (they had also produced the most heterogeneous and often the most wonderful sensations in me) were now all based on a single, compelling mathematical law! That instead of flying free, I first had to learn to climb around in the awkward scaffolding and cage of art grammar! How I had to torment myself, first with the common scientific understanding of machines, to bring out a real thing before I could think of handling my feelings with the tones! - It was a laborious mechanism. "

In the tension between the musical idea and the “mechanics” of “how to do it”, the problem of TIME instilled in human existence is again painfully perceptible in the antinomy between moment and duration, but at the same time that between intuition and “craft” The intellectual and the material side of the work of art, which Adorno will talk about later. Don't expect this problem to be just one of your studies and be done with the exam! And distrust everyone who pretends to have found a key to solving this problem - even if it is with the help of new and newest technical possibilities!

2. The discrepancy between ART AND SOCIETY. I think it will not be difficult for you to translate the experiences of our protagonist into a present in which what is described here has only, on the one hand, become colossal, shifted, or hidden on the other:

“What happy hours I enjoyed as a boy in the large concert hall! When I sat quietly and unnoticed in a corner, and all the splendor and magnificence enchanted me, and I so ardently wish that these listeners would one day gather for the sake of my works and give their feelings to me! - Now I often sit in this very room and also perform my works, but I feel very different. - That I could imagine that this audience, strutting in gold and silk, would come together to enjoy a work of art, to warm their hearts, to offer their feelings to the artist! ... Of course, the thought is a little comforting that perhaps in some small corner of Germany, where this or that from my hand comes, even if long after my death, there lives another person in whom heaven has such sympathy put to my soul that he can feel from my melodies exactly what I felt when I was writing it down, and what I wanted so much to put into it. A nice idea with which you can be pleasantly mistaken for a while! - The most horrible things are all the other relationships in which the artist is knitted. Of all the disgusting jealousy and malicious demeanor, of all of the petty customs and encounters, of all of the subordination of art to the will of the court; - I resist speaking a word about it - it's all so unworthy and the human soul so degrading that I can't bring a syllable of it across my tongue. A threefold misfortune for music that this art requires so many hands for the work to exist! I gather and lift all my soul to do great work; - and a hundred numb and empty heads are talking, demanding this and that. "

However, it is by no means the glorification of a lonely artistic personality at the expense of so-called “ordinary” people that Wackenroder strives for, on the contrary, Berglinger suffers no less from the “bloatedness” of successful colleagues and asserts: “Truly, art is what you revere must, not the artist. ”This“ weak instrument ”ultimately gets the fatal blow from the third, bitterest of all antinomies:

3. the between ART AND MORAL or RESPONSIBILITY in the human area. On the deathbed of his father, who in vain would have wanted to turn his son into a helper for humanity and something sensible, a doctor, given the depraved siblings whom he has more or less left to their fate, his life energy experiences a bloodletting from which he does not more recovered. But he stretches out for one last effort:

“He was supposed to make new passion music for the upcoming Easter, which his jealous rivals were very eager for. But bright rivers of tears broke out from him whenever he wanted to sit down to work; he could not save himself from his torn heart. It lay deeply depressed and buried under the slag of this earth. At last, he tore himself open with violence, and stretched his arms up to heaven with the hottest desire; he filled his mind with the highest poetry, with loud, exultant singing, and wrote down with wonderful enthusiasm, but always with violent emotions, a piece of passion music, which with its penetrating melodies and all the pains of suffering in itself forever will remain a masterpiece. His soul was like a sick person who, in a wonderful paroxysm, shows greater strength than a healthy person. But after he had performed the oratorio on a holy day in the cathedral with the greatest tension and heat, he felt quite weak and slack. A nervous weakness attacked all its fibers like a bad rope; - he was ailing for a while and died not long afterward in the prime of his years."
I have little more to add to Wackenroder's words. You must have understood why I gave you so much space: we find it difficult today to express these relationships so naturally and precisely, so “naively” and “consciously”. I would just like to ask the question: Is that why we have been looking at the romantic ideal of art as dead for some time, putting it aside with a cynical, compassionate smile because we believe we are escaping the antinomies outlined here? But if these are not fundamentally connected with the human condition, so that avoiding it would mean that the artist becomes an autistic player who, with the help of his elbows, has managed to occupy a few meters on the playground of the cultural industry for his self-expression? What connection exists between this exposure, this image of a man and the level, the quality of the music that was created during this time?

So that you don't believe that a wistful retrospective is being spoken here, we now turn to the Alban Berg student, composer, music theorist, philosopher, and most prominent representative of the so-called "Frankfurt School", which is known to be a critical reality in the Federal Republic of Germany Subject to analysis, Theodor W. Adorno. For right-wing circles, his name was until recently the literal “red cloth”, a synonym for all the dangers associated with the word “overthrow”. The revolutionary students he woke up could only shake their heads at their teacher when, using an Eichendorff poem, for example, he tried to defend his concept of art against this new variant of cultural barbarism. Interestingly, even today - 20 years after Adorno's death, his name is particularly popular as a bone of contention - I am not so sure whether those who prefer to refer to him would also be recognized by him as his "heirs". But make your picture, I would like to allow you to do so. Let me just add a variant of the answer to the question “Who was Theodor W. Adorno?” which I am sure you will not find in a feature section because I have seen it myself:

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