Dionysus in the Mosh Pit: Nietzschean Reflections on the Role of Music in Recovering the Tragic Disposition

46 Pages Posted: 20 Jan 2020

See all articles by Thomas Hawley

Thomas Hawley

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Abstract

Friedrich Nietzsche praises the life-affirming properties of ancient Greek tragedy, and places particular emphasis on music therein. Because it arises out of the artistic drive known as the Dionysiac, music plays an important role in tragedy's ability to forestall nihilism and replace it with an affirmative orientation to life despite instances of senseless pain and suffering. The essay begins by specifying the characteristics of Dionysiac music. These include a prominent role played by dissonance and the intoxication engendered thereby, the ability of music to draw us toward each other, the power of music to draw us away from ourselves, and the capacity of music to challenge us at a most basic level. The essay then considers certain kinds of music that share these characteristics today, including examples drawn from heavy metal and the blues. The argument is that recovery of the tragic disposition is a necessary antidote to the nihilistic tendencies of modernity, and that this recovery must in part be grounded in Dionysiac music.

Keywords: Nietzsche, music, Dionysiac, tragic disposition

Suggested Citation

Hawley, Thomas, Dionysus in the Mosh Pit: Nietzschean Reflections on the Role of Music in Recovering the Tragic Disposition. Western Political Science Association 2010 Annual Meeting Paper , Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1580791

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