Deryck Cooke

Jul 1, 2006 7:03 pm
I agree that Deryck Cooke’s analysis of Wagner’s The Ring of the Nibelung is exhaustive and exhausting, but I am not sure completely convinced that beginner’s should stay away.

If one listen’s with the right frame of mind I think there is a great benefit. Don’t try to remember everything. Don’t worry if you can’t hear all the motifs or their transformation. Just relax. Listen to what he says. Listen to the musical examples. Don’t worry. Don’t expect to get it all, or most, or even some.

I remember the first time I heard his presentation; probably some time in the 1970’s, it had a powerful effect on me. Still, I did not get a lot out of it. I had very little sense of the story of the Ring and had a hard time keeping track of all the Sieglindes, Siegmunds and Siegfrieds. But there was this “Aha!” moment when suddenly I felt I understood what Wagner was trying to do.

The motifs start out simple, grow, change adapt, turn into other motifs and develop in both musical and philosophical complexity as the operas continue. It was similar to the kind of development or variations that you hear in a symphony or any other piece of classical music—with the exception that these themes related to characters, ideas and actions; and their transformation was not just musical but also philosophical, literary and theatrical. It sounds rather basic, but it had never occurred to me before and I was fascinated. Cooke really opened the door to what would become lifelong exploration of Wagner’s Ring.

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~ by severalfourmany on July 1, 2006.

6 Responses to “Deryck Cooke”

  1. Jul 2, 2006 6:59 pm
    Alberich’s taking of the Gold in Scene 1 of Rheingold is probably the most important single act in the Ring Cycle since it starts everything. A question: Do you think Albirech was justified in taking the gold? Was it theft or was it his right?

  2. The thought that an individual’s greed—which upsets the balance of nature and eventually leads the destruction of the world—could possibly be viewed as justified or right is a rather chilling and frightening idea to me.

  3. Jul 26, 2006 10:42 pm
    Wagner on the meaning of the Ring
    But as I think about it, I don’t know if Wagner ever said anything about what the Ring meant. does anyone recall any statements from Wagner as to what it all meant?

  4. This is probably not the answer you were looking for but Wagner clearly had strong opinions about “meaning” and The Ring:

    “…we have arrived at uniting Music so completely with the Drama’s action, that this very marriage enables the action itself to gain that ideal freedom—i.e., release from all necessity of appealing to abstract reflection…”
    Wagner, “Prologue to a Reading of the Götterdammerung

  5. Jul 26, 2006 10:48 pm
    The tree in Hunding’s hut
    Truthfully…and I’ve been thinking about it for more than thirty years…I’ll be darned if I know what the tree in Hunding’s hut stands for.

  6. The tree is the Yggdrasil, the World Ash Tree.

    “In Norse mythology, Yggdrasil (“The Terrible One’s Horse”), also called the World Tree, is the giant ash tree that links and shelters all the worlds.”
    (http://www.pantheon.org/articles/y/yggdrasil.html)

    The Tree is associated with Nature (imagine that) as we can see from comparing the motif for the World Ash Tree with the related and similar motifs for Nature, The Rhine and the Forest Murmurs. The Tree is contrasted with Wotan’s Spear, a man-made tool which has been cut from the World Ash Tree. The Spear motif is very close to an inversion of the Tree motif and represents those things that are opposed to nature—power, law, justice, contracts and agreements.

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