The Plastic Arts versus Music: not an Apollonian/Dionysian dichotomy

It is mistaken to associate the Apollonian with image and idol and the Bacchanal with song. These things can, and have been, overthought, especially by one young man. An idol is no more Apollonian, by mere dint of being an idol, than a song is Bacchanal by mere dint of being a song. We can think of many idols and images that appear both in the modern and ancient world as evidence.

Are the bawdy murals depicting Priapus Apollonian? Are the orgies depicted in Hindu Temple relief Apollonian? Is a Jackson Pollock painting Apollonian? But this is not what was being said by a young Nietzsche, who would later be embarrassed by The Birth of Tragedy, only that music, the most emotive medium, is the more Bacchanal. But is this idea even useful?

The story of King Midas receiving Ass’ ears for determining the vulgar, Bacchanal music of Pan better than Apollo’s ordered, celestial music, suggests it is not a meaningful idea. Indeed, it is clear in the Art of the ancients that Apollo is as connected to the Lyre and music as Bacchus.

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The story of King Midas receiving Ass’ ears for determining the vulgar, Bacchanal music of Pan better than Apollo’s ordered, celestial music, suggests it is not a meaningful idea. Indeed, it is clear in the Art of the ancients that Apollo is as connected to the Lyre and music as Bacchus. 

Apollo was first tricked by Mercury into taking the Lyre as his attribute in exchange for the shepherd’s staff. Does this show Apollo’s decline, his reduction into a more Bacchanal form? Is the Lyre, particularly in its first form, as comprised of a turtle shell, a vaginal symbol, while the staff a phallic symbol?  Is this a symbolic castration?  Certainly Biblical use of the harp and staff as symbols will carry sexual connotations as this study explores. Possibly. Though, perhaps it was Apollo, the God of Intelligence, who was the trickster after all.

Though Mercury would steal Apollo’s flock, Apollo, with his Lyre, would become leader of the Muses, of Arts and Sciences.  As we know, nothing leads the flock better than Art, better than AIM. If anyone knew this as well, it was the Greeks, Romans and, of course, the Jews. Consider the contemporary politician, he scarcely controls himself, let alone the flock. One may say, “he who pays the piper calls the tune,” yet if it is Apollo playing his music, we can be assured it is he who has also paid.

Like the image, like the statue, like the parable, music is medium. And we are called to employ them all, rationally, with carefully calculated intent. Would we, Apollonians, deprive ourselves that most powerful propaganda and mating call of music? Would our flock be deprived of music?

It is true that music is a type of intoxication but so, obviously, is Beauty. It is a necessary drunkenness. Likewise, that an enchanting noise or voice is invisible and does not, ostensibly, require physical beauty, is not the full statement of the case. One can often, if not always, approximate physical beauty, femininity, masculinity, age, health or fitness from a voice. Certainly one can approximate race. But more, there are standards for “beauty” in the aural as well as in the physical. The sound and voice too seduces and this is not a degeneration or an innovation of civilization or the city, rather it is primal.

That this race or human type ostensibly sings better than that, is, as with physical beauty, a question of standards and tastes, and, indeed, what is allowed. Indeed, the attractiveness of the Negro voice in song is owed primarily to the repulsiveness of the “unthreatened,” pusillanimity that allowed it into Aryan female ears in the first place, like a taunting challenge unmet. Even a preferable, imposed silence in lieu of this competing voice might be understood as a supremely successful, counter mating song toward this same woman!  Here it is understood who is so powerful so as to have imposed the silence.

The form as well music takes through instruments, whether decent, ordered, beautiful or otherwise, as voice, is bound to the type who produces it. This is why Jazz was promoted, as a promoted mating song. It’s strange this even needs to be stated. As stated elsewhere, obviously a state, run by us, must judiciously control the production of Art and Music.  Certainly, among our genres, we will allow ourselves a music militaristic in tone to remind ourselves of a certain unsurpassable strength, one is foolhardy to provoke. Music after all is merely another form of polite and charming boast.

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It is mistaken as well to believe Apollo is a less passionate God than Bacchus. Rather he is the most passionate by far, containing the greatest stored or potential energy, yet also the most controlled, the most masterful, the must judicious in deploying it. As others have said, the reluctant artist is the greatest. The only question as it concerns medium is: what God do you serve? All our senses, for better or worse, are open to one God as much as the next. Hence it is left to our rational mind to decide and to decide for the rest.

It is mistaken as well to believe Apollo is a less passionate God than Bacchus. Rather he is the most passionate by far, containing the greatest stored or potential energy, yet also the most controlled, the most masterful, the must judicious in deploying it. As others have said, the reluctant artist is the greatest. The only question as it concerns medium is: what God do you serve? All our senses, for better or worse, are open to one God as much as the next. Hence it is left to our rational mind to decide and to decide for the rest.

Talented thinkers will politely excuse themselves from music when they are required to think. But this is obvious. The same thinker does not have someone talk in his ear while he is trying to think, no matter how good a thinker this other person. Nor does he read another book while simultaneously writing his own. Nor are his thoughts better formed by focusing on even a Kouros or Kore. His best thoughts are formed by —surprise— thinking. Instead, this same thinker will occasion to return to music, to remind himself, he has a duty to think. On the other hand, the sculpture may sculpt, at least reasonably well, while listening to music.

 

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