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Encyclopedia of the Ring

BRUNO LUSSATO Dear reader, we will highly appreciate your suggestions to improve this translation.


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About the explanation of the Ring by Wagnerian pathology

There are plenty of authors that try to explain the Ring through Wagner's pathological traits. Androgyny and homosexuality, don-juanism mixed with treason, proto-nazi anti-Semitism, sickly selfishness, Oedipus' complex, mental disorder, histrionism, erysipelas, paranoia, megalomania, and sectarian vegetarianism are only some of the courtesies harvested from the repertory of commentators, from the oldest and the most obscure, such as Fuchs, to the most recent and respected, such as Adorno and Gutman. One of Nietzsche's expressions quoted many a time with kindness illustrates their verdict: "Wagner is a neurosis".

Actually, it is much more difficult to define and to label Wagner's neurology and pathology. These failures cannot be dissociated from the exceptional being (in the most straightforward meaning of the adjective) that the artist was. His failures are as personal to him as his genius is, and reach a level where current notions lose most of their meaning. What made his genius made all the accidents of his life and also made the repugnant and pathological traits of his behaviour. This is the most common mistake made by psychiatrists (and intellectuals) that have written about him. With a doctoral and often unpleasant tone of voice, they usually strive more to judge than to understand. They are anxious to pick certain elements from his life and make a quick conclusion that is favourable to their theses. Thus most of their works show very brief and insufficient information: a plentiful of gaps and errors allow for the most improper - and, I must say it, the most shocking interpretations. What disturbs me above all in these works is their almost absolute lack of human sensitiveness, which is even more tragic than their lack of artistic sensitiveness.

These specialists analyse the Wagner case, not because of their LIKE for Wagner's work, or the man Wagner, but because Wagner is famous. In order to understand it is always necessary to identify oneself, at least in certain ways. The Wagner case cannot be simply a (psychoanalytical or) medical case, nor can it be a merely aesthetic case. It is essentially the case of a man, who, aspired by a phenomenal (visionary) call, wants to engage and does engage in a frenzy quest beyond human limits. His case is the case of all the heroes of Knowledge. This is how he spares himself - and can only be spared - ordinary evaluation measures. Anyhow, just like Arthur Adamov wrote in a remarkable article, "pathology does not explain anything... is it too much to ask for respect, for silence?" This quotation by Henri Perruchot dates back to 1955. I simply substituted Wagner for Van Gogh, and madness for neurosis or pathology. Of course there is no need to take this parallelism too literally. I am opposed to any limitation and to any misplaced respect that transforms history into kitsch legend: hagiographic distortions can only harm the understanding of creation, which is the purpose of this work. But criticizing and denigrating is no proof of scientific objectivity. The reading of many passages, those where there is antipathy and repulsion, and where satisfied condescendence thrives, show not so honourable motives. Some have matters to settle with Wagner, and often do it with hateful prejudices shared with other contemporaries.

Many others, like Bryan Magee has showed it, have matters to settle with obscure regions of their personality, imprudently awakened by the strong emotional load of the Ring. By renouncing Wagner, they exorcize what troubles them. Finally, even more others do nothing but show a lot of laziness, glorious ignorance, and this breadth that consists of promoting oneself while denigrating others. The summary reading and the condensed versions of analysed works have been composed with a concern for empathy and even sympathy with the theses of these authors, which does not exclude criticism. But this attitude has limits. When hypocrisy, ignorance and absurdity exceeds limits, they deserve to be made... into a tall story. This is how they continue to instruct the reader in a more distracting and more enriching manner: by making him smile, or reminding him how often nonsense judgements had been made by respected personalities. Here is what calls us to humility.


In 1853, Wagner opposes a poetic and intuitive approach to the political approach of the Ring. He rebels against the attempt to bind the intrigue of the Ring to a political logic. It is true that the myth developed by Wagner is inspired by the history of the XIXth century, as supported by Bernard Shaw. Thus, by losing its characteristics of timelessness, it destroys itself to some extent. The directors who placed the action in the XIXth century emphasize this. Wagner was strongly opposed to this, not because he denied the link between the intrigue and the history of his days, but because he wanted to reserve a margin of ambiguity for the audience. Restraining everything to a logical and totalitarian interpretation destroys the poetry of the Ring.

The composer has warned the reader against a false interpretation of the role of Wotan from the very start. For him, reducing God to a monomaniacal villain is an error. In spite of his failures, Wotan has a certain " class ". The topic of Walhall is not always hollow and pompous. It is the exegesis that wants it this way. On the other hand, it is true that it comes from the topic of the ring, and that it is associated to it. We will keep in mind that these interpretations target only one aspect of the characters and that intuitive likelihood should be taken into account. It often occurs that the perceived center of a painting is not the real one. It is reducing to want to make Wotan into a pure political villain who only cares to keep his power. Even worse, it is to deprive us of the emotion of his good-byes to the Valkyrie, one of the most touching moments of the Ring.

Similarly, in our psychoanalytical interpretation, Sieglinde yields to Siegmund for petty reasons: desire of revenge against Hunding, narcissism and projection of her soul into her twin etc. But to reduce his feeling for Siegmund is to underestimate the tenderness and the authenticity of her love for the hero. And in spite of all the exegeses, the public intuitively feels that the love of the twins is admirable, of the purest and noblest kind. Therefore in the geopolitical interpretation of the Ring, as in all the other exegeses, it is best to favor the simplest explanation, to take into account the points of view of the author when they are expressed in a constant way, and what the music tells us.


An unexpected juxtaposition: The Ring and Guernica

Authors and works could not seem more contrary. On the one hand, Wagner - fuzzy minded monomaniac, isolated from the great artists of his time, dwelling in small-middle-class luxury, ready for any compromise, savagely anti-Semitic and reactionary, and alleged by the Nazis. The Ring - an allegory of a most nationalist Germany, full with warlike clamors and glorifying brutality. On the other hand, Picasso and his sharp-edged wits, friend of the most avant-gardist painters, alive in a neglected simplicity, radically anti-nazi, communist belonging to the Party and militant for peace, acclaimed by intellectual socialists and hated by right-winged conservatives. Guernica - world symbol of fraternity, condemning any violence and any appeal to it. Why then evoke this absurd meeting, quasi Dadaist? Because it is less absurd than it seems, and can bring light and useful answers to the questions which one can have concerning the Ring. It happens that I was the author of a tape for the initiation to Guernica, whose scenario was published at Interéditions.


Its development made me read about all that had been written about it, and determine the essential outlines of this enormous literature. The work that has been carried out allowed me to note striking similarities between one of the most appraised paintings in the history of art and the greatest theatrical work of art ever produced in the Western world.

In addition, having completed the chapter on the racist reading of the Ring, and having swallowed the innumerable theses condemning Wagner, I could not prevent a dizzy feeling shared by many followers of the artist. Even if one admits that the Ring does not contain any dishonoring anti-Semitic allusions, it remains that a seal of infamy marks the author. The reading of Wagner's biographies and most of his writings leave a bitter taste. One wonders whether we have the right to admire a work of art born from so disgusting a heart. This apprehension is reinforced by the Wagner's declaration that designates the Ring as his conception of life, as all that it feels and all that he is! It would be founded if the Ring had been pure music, like the art of escaping. But the strong political and doctrinal content of the Ring, which is as committed as that of Guernica, gives reason to worry. The Ring is as suspect, claimed by those who fustigate Guernica, carting stereotypes and harmful allegories, as Guernica is a beneficial, worthy and human creation, emanating from a generous spirit, standard of all the fights for liberation.

When I considered the relationship between the painter and his painting on the one hand, the musician and his opera on the other, to my amazement, Picasso brought an answer to me. Yes, an artist who is monstrous in certain ways, who is demonic and wretched, can also create a work of art carrying a message that is opposed to his thought.



The development of the musical drama and its realization covered three decades, while those of the painting did not last two months. But this accountancy is illusory. Between the first draft of Guernica and the completed painting, the metamorphoses of the form and contents, the semantic reversals were almost as significant as those that have affected the Ring. The transformations undergone on both sides are of a comparable nature and of the same amplitude. The painting and the musical drama both draw from mythology to denounce contemporary misfortunes. Using powerful images from Crete's archaic myth, then from the mozarabic Spanish Middle Ages, Guernica, political work, denounces cruelty resulting from totalitarian power. In the same way, on the basis of Icelandic Eddas, then of the Germanic medieval songs, the Ring condemns totalitarian power. The genesis of both works highlights personal influences: conflicts with women, the role of the artist and the model, the obsession with death, and the destroying erotism of the established order in background.


Guernica was preceded by works that were conventional through their traditional theme inherited from Cézanne, and resulting in an unexpected revitalization of the great form. The Ring was preceded in the same way by operas on the conventional romantic theme inherited from Weber, and resulting in a radical revaluation of the very great form. Guernica is primarily heterogeneous, combining elements of cubism with elements of mozarabic art and expressionism, and compared with hermetic cubism, even formally passeist. One even finds a perspective contrary to the frontality of rules (since Cézanne), and the symmetrical traditional schemes of construction: pyramids and proportions of the Renaissance. The Ring is just as heterogeneous. It juxtaposes elements of Tristan's chromatism to completely diatonic and "figurative " passages like the song of spring. One even meets there the closed and symmetrical forms of the Grand Opera and the gauged proportions of classical music.


Guernica underwent ceaseless formal transformations intended to integrate disparate elements into a powerful synthesis; in particular, the multiplication of narrow lines connecting disparate elements by a dense and unexpected network of associations. An example is the diagonal that joins together the arrow, the offered hand of the woman, her breasts and the bull's ass. All the same, the message changed and centers of interest shifted. For example, the bull changed function, and the woman disappeared. The Ring also underwent deep formal modifications intended to integrate disparate elements into a powerful synthesis; in particular, the process of leitmotifs connects diachronic and heterogeneous events by a dense and unexpected network of associations. All the same, the message underwent modifications and the centers of interest moved. For example, the emphasis moved from Siegfried to Wotan, and his appearance in the first act of the Valkyrie disappeared.


There is also a parallelism between the attitudes of the artists towards their work. The identity is such as one can describe it once for both Guernica and the Ring. The authors vigorously rose towards a political exploitation of their work and carefully purged it from any allusion to contemporary events. They transported the framework of action in an indefinitely moved back, mythical no man' s land, and multiplied ambiguities. The message was to be primarily symbolic and free from any anecdote. Thus the Bull represented neither Francism, neither tortured Spain, nor the artist himself. Picasso surpassed himself explaining that the bull was none of that, but instead represents an allegory of brutality. Similarly, Alberich is not more of a Jewish banker than Wotan is an upper middle-class man. These are symbols of unlimited greed and search of totalitarian power. Just like the fire that destroys Walhall, the fire that invades the houses of Guernica announces the fate that awaits a corrupted or totalitarian civilization.


One could infinitely enumerate the speculations on both works whose political and ideological range exceeded by far the framework of their respective art. The persistence of the misunderstandings, of the most extravagant exegeses, and their diversion to propagandistic ends reached an exceptional importance for artistic creations. The attitude and the remarks of the creators are not entirely abstract from that; but the responsibility lies more heavily on the blindness, the bad will or the ignorance of the commentators.


But first, let us underline a fact that is very well known, but upon which one often stumbles. Like the Ring, Guernica results from a deep emotional shock, not of a private and sentimental nature, but related to contemporary political events. Picasso had never meddled with politics, especially with regard to his art, but he felt personally committed to the conflict between Fascism and Communism. His implication in the war against Franco and his indignation concerning the massacre of Guernica acted like catalysts to his work of art. One can see it as a vibrating plea against intolerance and cruelty, resulting from dictators' appetite for power. Of course his stance resulted in the impossibility for him to regain his native land, and Malaga in particular.

Wagner enjoyed a comfortable position in Dresden, and had never engaged politically until the events of 1848. Bound to Bakounine, he got involved in the insurrection, and escaped in middle of the night from very heavy imprisonment. The result was a long and painful period of exile. Like Picasso, Wagner was opposed to the political system of his native land. The ideas that gave birth to the creation of the Ring are numerous, but the principal one was a denunciation of the rule of power, money, and barbarism. So both the Ring and its author were very close to Picasso, who traced the first symbols on a blue paper sheet under the blow of indignation. Admittedly, during the years that followed, the political ideas of Wagner underwent a preserving and regressive drift, but the intrigue was by no means affected. Only Marc. A. Weiner could affirm that the music is of extreme right or anti-Semitic, (cf Notes). Thus we must admit that like Guernica, the Ring is of a left-winged and revolutionist inspiration, while carting strong emotions and sexual instincts. These were related to a revolt against middle-class hypocrisy and to the liberation of Man. After this, the ideas of Wagner evolved in a catastrophic way. Admittedly, anti-Semitism and exacerbated nationalism infected many German circles. But Wagner, in particular under the influence of Cosima and then of Wolzogen's " tribe ", was to add more by objectively adhering to one of worst totalitarianisms of history and defending the most virulent anti-Semitism. Thus the Ring was paradoxically in opposition with Nazism, and prophesized its collapse in fire and suicide. But the Nazis, who cared very little for the contents of the poem, loudly proclaimed Wagner's writings.

Like the Jewish detractors of Wagner (Zemlinsky, Gutman, and Weiner among others), Nazi commentators (Wolzogen) projected a posteriori anti-Semitic grid on a work whose creator categorically rejected such assimilation. Picasso evolved in a way that seemed opposite, but was actually parallel. If the reasons that inspired Guernica were noble, founded on the rejection of cruelty and the defense of victims, Picasso gradually became the hostage of a circle of flattering but naive idealists, manipulated by the Komintern through Willy Muenzenberg. (Pinion, Helene Parmelin among others). Endowed with significant financial support, this powerful agent of the Komintern succeeds - as Arthur Koestler recalled it with fear - in convincing the intellectuals that left-winged political ideas generated the best art and literature. After the war it became very difficult for any artist wishing to benefit from the support of the intellectuals, art critics and conservatives not to adhere to Stalinist Communism. It was the time when Jean Paul Sartre, fully aware of the cause, was to drive back with the Kravtchenko suicide, in order not " to despair Billancourt ".

Today is the day of the terrible truth. Not only Stalin, but Lenin, Trotsky and later Beria and his successors committed acts which were used and admitted by Hitler as models for tortures, racist deportations, genocides, with the passive complicity of Western democracies and the active complicity of a militia of committed intellectuals. These "thinkers" stubbornly supported the worst dictatorships and " brain- washed youth ", giving them Mao, Kadhafi, Pol Pot, Castro, Amin Dada etc. as models. Among them was... Picasso. His notoriety was used as guarantor to one of the worst forms of totalitarianism, and this suited everyone. In the beginning he did remove the drawn up fist of the Popular Front from Guernica and formally contradicted communist exegesis. But thereafter he overcame this neutrality: through posters and paintings like " massacres in Korea," he actively engaged in favor of Soviet propaganda.

While ritual lawsuits of denazification and Soviet torturers taking judging torturers Nazis were very successful, the lawsuits in " deléninisation " never took place. This is how powerful the influence of totalitarianism Marxist still is today. One of the reasons of this discrepancy is that Nazism was a dragon groaning with the voice of a dragon, whereas Marxism-Leninism and Communism was a dragon singing with a lamb's, or even a dove's voice. And this dove, painted by Picasso and diffused in the whole world, was used as an alibi to the torturers of Moscow. By looking at the matter in perspective, it is impossible today not to admit the Picasso's responsibility: he was far too lucid not to be unaware of what everyone knew without daring to recognize it. Yet he yielded to the flatteries of Aragon, Eluard, and other prestigious communist intellectuals. This suited his ego and his financial interest. This court, which was as idolatry as the one surrounding Wagner, echoed his notoriety. Just as the Ring had denounced totalitarian nationalism that haunted Wagner's spirit, Guernica prefigured the mass terror that ruled the world with the Nazis just like it did with the Soviet friends of Picasso. Admittedly, Wagner had an excuse: he could not have imagined the Holocaust, and refused to publicly join the anti-Semitic manifestations. One can regard his anti-Semitism as purely theoretical.

Hans von Bülow complained that one had to be circumcised to make one's way in Wagner's circle; but this appears linked to the interest that the Jews represented for his work as persons. If Hitler, Wagner's supposed heir, was to act fifty years after his death, and if one can guess the composer's likely disavowal of the horrors of Nazism, then Lenin and Stalin were well the contemporaries of Picasso. He could not be unaware of Soviet dictatorship, the atrocities of Mao unless he was voluntarily blind. Admittedly, he never made the wretched and inhuman remarks of Wagnerian writings and tirelessly preached for peace, equality and the proletariat. But we know that this good will was a part of the communist vulgate, which was pure hypocrisy. These comments are not here to clear Wagner, but to show that authors of the most vigorous works against dictatorship also adhered to totalitarian ideologies.


Regarding the emotional life of the two creators, we realize that Picasso gains easily wins the prize of ignominy. We sufficiently commented upon Wagner's tares, which were authentic. He has never been compared to Picasso. However, the two men resemble each other like twins. Both had a monstrously exacerbated ego. (Picasso made his last wife call him Monsignor, or " the Sun "). A court of fanatic admirators carefully maintained this ego. The two men shared the same passion for money. The poorer of the two wasted it, become conservative, and was thesauri zed with a sordid avarice by the other one, the Communist. Both had the similarly indelicate ways with their editors, their patrons or their merchants. They both showed uncontested sadism towards the weak and the dependent. (Wagner's attitude of towards Hermann Levi is an example). But above all, these two little men were subject to devouring and perverse sexual instincts. It is known that Wagner coveted the wives of his own benefactors; and towards the end of his life, dwelled in tinsels, scented laces, and pink satin.

Picasso made all the women whom he courted and his family live a true martyrdom. All finished stripped, destroyed, and several of his close relations committed suicide. One of them was Jaqueline Roque, Picasso's Cosima. Contrasting with the sumptuousness of the Wagnerian dress, the painter showed himself in worn-out espadrilles, in pants clearly displaying his attributes, and in torn undershirts. The residence-fortresses where he lived in the end, a kind of Wahnfried, a Walhall kept by wild dogs and bodyguards, protected it from the people whom he scorned. These residences were soiled, mackled, and falsely poor. They reminded of the painter's dressing untidiness, just like the pink satin which covered the walls of the Vendramin palace matched with the gibes of his inside jackets. Essential to his creation, Picasso's environment was the perfect antithesis, the reversed mirror of the one created by Wagner and just as necessary to his genius.

Finally, we must recognize Wagner's merit of decently supporting Minna, taking care of his children and those of Cosima, and to making them live far from all evil. He never showed the sadism and avarice that Picasso had for his close relations. When, soon after the disappearance of Picasso, and after the Pablito's dreadful suicide as a humiliated and rejected grandson, Jaqueline Roque, broken and destroyed, was to commit suicide; Cosima, annihilated by pain, gloriously lived half-century longer than her husband, and her grand sons revived Bayreuth with an admirable energy and talent.


Why this comparison? First of all to put an end to Wagner's diabolisation; and also to show that Picasso, idol of XXth century, has unacceptable moral faults in common with Wagner. Anyone feeling uncomfortable listening to the Ring should deny admiring Guernica! Second, because the behavior of one explains that of the other. One could of course object that many creators are comparable with the two vampire-geniuses, but they are wrong! Neither Shakespeare, neither Molière, neither Goethe, neither Dante, neither Cervantès, neither Bach, neither Beethoven, neither Michel Angel, nor Léonard, proved of such moral faults. No one has claimed artistic superiority and absolute moral legitimacy the way Wagner and Picasso have. No one has been worshiped like that during their life. No one caused as much hatred and devotion, or admiration and denigration, as much as they did. In France between the the two wars saying "this is Wagner" was the equivalent of saying " this is Picasso " until 1970, in other words the best or the worst. It is that no other artist created such a complex work-monument, so profoundly revealing the horror of XXth century, so rich in superimposed symbols, in ambiguity, so full of death and sex, as the Ring and Guernica. No other has been so absorbed, so blood-drained by the birth of great political work, and then by the continuation of his world career.

The book of Marina Picasso "Grandfather" describes the alienation of the artist particularly well. For him, the external world existed only as construction material for a work of blood, violence, terror and erotism. We can assert the same about Wagner, who subordinated all his existence to his musical dramas with fanaticism, and to the Ring in particular. The two men were aware of being geniuses, inspired prophets, and godlike beings that the world was to honor and satisfy in their least whims. And worst is… that they were undoubtedly right!

Prelude of "The Rhine Gold": The Big Bang

In the beginning there was void. Not a void of the non-existence but a void full of potentialities, that of Tao. Already with Beethoven silence, this musical emptiness, was strangely full. Silence between notes, but also silence following the hearing of the big works. Schumann will make the subtlest use of it.

The Ring begins with five minutes of silence. Those that follow the third bell of call of the public and during which nobody is allowed in the room. Auditive silence is associated with visual silence: the total darkness wanted by Wagner. There has resulted from it not only the enfeeblement of the orchestral sound which drove to despair so many conductors, but also and especially the impossibility to follow the text in the libretto, obliging the spectator to learn it by heart. These minutes of visual and musical vacuity are intended to plunge the public into a state of susceptibility close to the Zen. They were for a long time prepared by the isolation in a provincial town without entertainments nor attractions. Besides, The Ring ends symmetrically by long minutes of silence, during which the bewildered public does not yet dare to applaud.

Patrice Chéreau has admirably used the final silence. When the curtain opens, survivors stand facing the room, the ear tightened towards the invisible pit, in the listening of the silence that follows the revelation of redemption by love. They are petrified and as hypnotized. Their silence is contagious, and Chéreau counted the minutes that preceded the thunder of applause (mixed with whistles at the beginning). They were the best witnesses of the public’s approval. The initial silence was cunningly staged by Goetz Friedrich in Bayreuth. The scene opens on an unlimited area where one guesses an imaginary road, which gets lost in the darkness. A whitish cloud floats in a night-and foggy sky. Men in grey raincoats are facing us. They contemplate an unclear silhouette lying on the foreground. Then very slowly they turn away and go away towards the far end of the scene, snatched by the night. The cloud dissipates, and then disappears. The feeling of fear becomes unspeakable when, allowed by the invisibility of the orchestra and the anthracite colour of the front scene, total darkness settles down for good.

The first codon was born: "void". It is designated by musical silence, verbal silence and, in Friedrich's stage setting, by an anguished expectation. It is not mentioned anywhere. For a western critic void is not significant.

And here is. Imperceptibly of the pit the first sound, while on scene springs a glistening laser beam, silence rises. It is the second codon. It is absent in all the catalogs of leitmotive, except that of Holman who designates it as: beginnings. The naming "big-bang" appears to us more suggestive and more just, because it corresponds to the idea of a very dense core, containing all the potentialities and the dimensions of a widening universe. We shall see that this is how appears the prelude of the Rhine Gold. The guide of Carl Waack regards this first sound and the following one as the simple beginning the theme of future "Werden" 1a. "We believe it is a mistake because not only this unknown codon is a separate leitmotivs in itself, strongly recurring and omnipresent, but furthermore it is extremely complex. This is not surprising because it is engenders all the substance of the Ring. This first sound of simple appearance consists of seven fundamental Seeds among which four are explicit: the depth, the pp, at the middle - flat, the still state, and three are implicit: the measure in six times, the period of eight measures or "stature", the générativité.

Big bang. (Codon: the creation, the genesis.)

Seed 1. DEPTH. The sound that appears from the "mystic pit" is the deepest of the orchestra. Basses should tune a semitone below to be able to emit him. Why this depth? Several reasons justify it.

1. As in the creation of Haydn, the light is preceded by the indefinite, by the darkness. The Ring begins with three progressive "fiat lux ": the genesis of music, the genesis of verb, the awakening of gold. The extreme grave indicates darkness, as the pointed indicates light.

2. In a more structural way, a grave sound can engender its pointed harmoniques but not the opposite. The lower the sound, the more its generative potential will be high.


1. When a pianissimo is excessive, it becomes deafening. Like Beethoven, Wagner has particularly used, the expressive properties of the pp. (The first movement of the appassionata finishes ppp). The moments of meditation, of diving in an archaic unconscious is accompanied by an extinction of the sound. (Introspective Story, of Wotan or Hagen's awake dream).

2. The pianissimo allows the best connection with the silence and it strengthens the impression of temporal uncertainty. One is not sure of the precise moment when the Ring begins. The sound does not spring in contrast with void, it emanates from void, it appears from it as an inverted echo. All the authors indicated that the ENTIRE prelude is played p, and that the increase of dynamics results only from that of the number of instruments in activity. Nevertheless, conductors often persist in wanting to end it in a crashing cataract!

Seed 3. Why middle - flat? The answer is difficult to conceive in a time of noise sounds. It goes back up to the debuts of great classical music and calls for concepts that Jazz or the sérialisme have demonetized.

1. First of all for the contemporaries of Bach, the various musical sounds were blazons, which engendered ranges: musical tribes using Wagner's term. There was a tribe of C major, that of F major, and that, badly seen by B minor. These tribes all had their individuality and maintained among them bad or good neighborhood relationships. To go from one to the other one (modulation) was a more or less precarious journey, and certain tribes as certain trips were taboos. Bach with the well-moderated keyboard was necessary to prove that all the tribes had right of citizenship. But his sound demonstration only strengthened the faith that every tribe had in its own characteristics. This postulate had an objective foundation in certain cases, but it was of widely cultural essence. And so flats appeared as sink, and sharps as brilliant. For whom knows how to read the music, the third prelude and the fugue (running away) of the well moderated keyboard, can seem cheerful and clear when one deciphers it as C dièze major (its original tone). For conveniences of decoding, many publishers edit it as B major flat. It seems then sweet and a little bit nostalgic to the pianists. Nevertheless physically, the uttered sounds are strictly the same.

2. But there is better. Every tribe, as one knows it, consists of seven notes: it is the scale, and the inhabitants of the tribe do not all have the same "social" role. The note that opens the range or the blazon is named tonic and appears as a place of rest. The othervpole: the dominant, is comparable to a semi-colon, one can not easily stop the phrase so, and the seventh note from the tonic, by going back up the scale, is called the sensitive. One cannot finish a phrase on it. Relationships between notes of the scale are also codified. Witness to it is the famous tritonus which separates the fourth degree of the scale from the seventh, and which takes on a malefic connotation. One names it "diabolus in musica ". All the motivique system of the Ring is governed by this psychologisation of the seven degrees of the scale and their relation to the tonic.

3.Its position in a given scale confers a character concerning a given note. E, which is a (tonic) place of rest in the range of E major or minor, can appear as highly instable as sensitive in that of major fa. But independently of this relative role, the note acquires an exactly absolved character for many musicians having the absolute ear. For most musicians, sounds have their own individuality, the way that numbers have for adapts of mental calculation. Wagner was a part of it.

Jean Dauwen showed that Guido d' Arezzo, the inventor of the Latin names of notes: C, D, E, F, G, A, B attributed to each one of them symbolic meanings dered from association with the seven colours of the rainbow. C represented the earth and the green colour, D the light and yellow, E the orangy colour and dynamism, F represented red, wealth and the tangible assets, G (purple) the sleep, A (deep blue) death and B, the sinister note in the C scale where it assumes the devil's role in the music, (a degraded greenish blue) represents spectres, beyond. It is difficult for most of us to adhere to these highly subjective associations and I myself had difficulty in taking seriously the "mystic scale" proposed by Arezzo. But I had to yield to the obvious. These correspondences had a very concrete value for a big number of composers, among which Richard Wagner. René Leibowitz, the pope of the dodécaphonisme whom I interrogated on this subject wondered of my doubts. For him it was natural that notes have their own and objective individuality. He explained to me that the intrinsic symbolic value of every note is a cultural foundation, well established in the meaning music. If one wants to decode the Ring, one is obliged well to take into account, in spite of one having it, of the symbolic value of the absolute note. The sword or the giants are in C (earth), the anvil in F (the red colour, the forge) etc.

And the middle - flat? According to this symbolism it arises from the combination of light (the note D: the fiat lux, the awareness) and of the movement (E: dynamism). The first note of the Ring, by its depth engenders potentially its harmoniques, but symbolically the emergence of the consciousness, and the release of a process. E - flat prefigures the ray of light that will illuminate the glaucous depthes of the Rhine and will awaken the gold.

Seed 4. The state of suspension. One of the most striking characteristics of this first sound is its duration. Once installed, it will not leave the orchestra anymore. It is no longuer a musical effect such as a pedal or an ostinato, but a device structuring that one finds in almost all the debuts and the purposes of dramae. Notably in the prelude of the Rhine Gold, all the musical figures, which appear ceaselessly, repeat themselves in the identical, like pieces coming out from a machine tool on a working chain. (The metaphor is literally represented in the second interlude of the Rhine Gold, where the cells of the theme of the forge succeed one another in likelihood. To what can indeed correspond this ostinato? In this case, apparently, it expresses a suspension of time, slowness, an endless and monotonous rehearsal similar to the still waves of the physicist. If, as Wagner suggests to us, we look for the main demonstrations of this musical line in drama, we notice that it is invariably associated to this still state. At the end of the Rhine Gold, there begins a period of seventeen years, during which the Gods remain in Walhall. The prelude of Walküre describes a continuous storm allegory of the perpetual flight of Siegmund; at the end of the drama, the fire turns endlessly during seventeen years around the cliff of Brünnhilde. Also the preludes of Siegfried and the second act of the Twilight of the Gods express the same Seed: the obsessional rumination of Mimer, Fafner and Hagen, awaiting an event. And following this indefinite expectation, prepared by the suspension of time, the accident arises inevitably and immediately: birth the verb, meeting of Siegmund and Sieglinde, raid of Siegfried, Wotan, or Alberich, disturbing a state of slowness. We also notice this feature in the course of action. When false Gunther appears to Brünnhilde, time is suspended and the subjects of the tarnhelm, Gunther and amnesia, follow each other, interrupted with the musical and dramaturgic space before the very brief final outburst. The still state represents so a sort of stase, non-event, a perpetuity. Nowhere as in the first sound is it so impressive.

Seed 5. The measure in six times. One does not hear it in the beginning. Indeed time is "smooth", it is a half-right-hand side for which the beginning is known but which goes on infinitely. Only musicians who follow the beat of the conductor can feel these six times of a tongs. No granulation, no harshness, no phrasing, allows to perceive them at the audition. Eight basses and eight cellos evade with care the bow, which would allow to anticipate a temporal division. The sound is abstract, as electronic, disembodied. Wagner, as one knows, wanted to abolish any concrete presence of the instrument. He wanted an alchemy of monophonic sound, like an orchestra heard behind a barrier. So the first sound (as later in Parsifal) rises from the mystic invisible abyss of the pit, similar to the rustle, which one hears in a shell. But this temporal division exists implicitly. Certainly, the effects will appear only later, but it is settled as the constants of the universe at the beginning of her creation.

What represents 6/8? First of all an ambiguity of which Chopin often took advantage. It can be indeed considered as two times of three tongs (what is the correct shape) or three times of two tongs. But from the beginning the ternaire dominates and does not allow us to forget that in the Middle Age the paradisiac cocoon was represented by a circle, and the circle indicated the measure in six times (the croma). By its balance this measure contrasted with the four times of the half - croma, represented by a semicircle. (Become a C with time). Then, this measure in six times carries a potentially a supple oscillation, an aquatic undulation strengthened by the indicated tempo: Ruhig heitere Bewegung: tranquillo in moto sereno.

Seed 6, the stature. It obsesses classic musicians and for that it reason is loathed by Wagner. It consists in organizing the melody in periods of eight measures, that is twice four measures. The prelude of the Rhine Gold, which should erase any notion of time, illustrates paradoxically in a radical way the tyranny of bar-line (the six times) and of the period of eight measures. (See the structural plan of the prelude). Actually, this grouping is purely imaginary if one considers only the codon of the big bang. This one extends over 124 measures without the slightest variation. Listened separately, it would be impossible to recognize any temporal structuralization. Basses and cellos spin a continuous sound for more than five minutes. The figure 4, the square period, is given as potential key to the development of events.

The third codon: the creative impulse. (Ascending Quinte).

For who does not see the conductor, there arises a new event at the end of an indefinite, totally unpredictable time. We have been careful to the fact that the lowest sound does not appear alone from the big bang. It is accompanied withits superior octave that is the first obtained echo by dividing thevibrating rope by two. In fact the emitted sound contains many other notes, not played, but audible for a very sensitive ear. It is the continuation of natural harmoniques: the D flat (dominant) then the tonic in the superior octave, the G (the médiante). Repeated an octave higher, these three notes, form anarpeggio implicitly contained in the fundamental sound. To develop his axiomatique Wagner could only note the echo on the partition, and make it played by instruments. The first note generated by the first sound is the first harmonique: the octave of B flat. The differentiation begins and produces two new Seeds.

Seed 8. The jump of quinte. If we consider the fundamental octave as an unchanging core for all the duration of the prelude, composed of seven described Seeds, along with the initial space, we can compare the advent of B flat as that of a concentric orbit surrounding the core. A sort of quantum jump occurred. It engenders a virtual interval: the ascending quinte. We say virtual because it is not noted on the partition: no instrument plays at the middle - bémol/B flat. The new sound ignores in a sense the first one who generated it, and it goes on in a still, solitary state, until the end of the prelude. But the ear of the spectator is confused: he hears a jump of ascending quinte. This Seed meets itself in a big number of codons of the Ring, and it always corresponds to a discharge of energy, an impulse towards a decision. It saturates the subjects of the Rhine Gold, the sword, the Rainbow, Siegfried, her bubling energy. In the present context, it represents the first dynamic impulse without which the initial sound would have remained stagnant. This Seed is absent in the other still preludes in state (Walküre, Siegfried).

Seed 9. The orchestral differentiation. Ropes produce a "transparent" sound, warmer and almost abstracted with regard to wood. By giving the second note to bassoons, Wagner creates the notion of orchestral colour and indicates indeed that a new "layer" of sound cells comes to birth. Besides, the evolution is made from the abstract towards the concrete. During this time Seed 7 - that of the squared grouping of measures - becomes explicit. The half-right of the beginning becomes segment limited by the second codon. On the partition the new "layer" arises at the end of a period of 4 measures. But the division in six times of every measure remains still inaudible.

The fourth codon. The evolution (Werden-theme). The first differentiating jump occurred at the end of 4 measures. The following stage arises at the end of 4 ² is 16 measures. The already begun work continues. A new sound layer surrounds the previous one from where it arises. It engenders several Seeds.

Seed 10. The major triad. The new layer consists of two triads succeeding one another in the octave: B flat, E bemol, G, which are, as we have seen, the natural harmoniques contained in the original sound, but "played". This Seed is a constant in classical music. Its natural echo makes us intuitively feel it as an agreement in harmony with the nature. Moreover, the third of its notes strengthens the implicit echo even more: the médiante defines what one calls the major mode which in western expressive music denotes gaiety, euphoria, happiness, plenitude of a natural and harmonious feeling.

Seed 11. The balancing. With the new codon, composed of the seven consecutive notes of the arpeggio of in E - flat major, an internal division of time appears for the first time. One feels the bar-line, and 6/8. The value of notes decreases but furthermore appears a striking disparity engendering a rhythm of balancing, which underlines progress upward. This rhythm splits up the durations 5/8-1/8 - 5/8-1/8 etc. in other words: in .....-/.....-/.....-/....http://ring.mithec.com/..

The Bar-line (represented by/) is clearly perceptible. This codon’s ascending drawing is already clearly recognizable even for whom does not know how to read music. Moreover, it is marked out by a vast bracket, which cements the notes of its arpeggio.

Seed 12. The tuilage. Music lovers know what is a cannon, a superimposing of moved musical sentences. It is difficult to hear simultaneously the agreements that produce the superimposing of the melodic lines and at the same time these last ones. The composer helps the ear of the listener by differentiating at most the melodic lines by the rhythm, the instrumentation, the height and the intervals. It is thus possible to listen clearly to the four voices stacked by cannons or fugues (cannons in the quinte) of Jean Sébastien Bach suitably transcribed for orchestra.

As soon as the codon of seven notes finished its course (of four measures naturally) it repeats itself till the end (still state), thus forming a layer of identical cells. But an unexpected phenomenon occurs. In the measure 20 (16+4) a new layer seems composed of the same codons moved temporarily, then a third layer et cetera, until it forms a stratification of eight superimposed layers. These layers are quite identical but different from one another so as to be never coupled. The shape thus obtained is very different from a cannon, because only one figure infinitely superimposes itself.

A perfectly justified metaphor comes to mind. If one considers the cell which forms the codon as a tile, eight layers appear as a joining of tiles on a roof or bricks in a low wall, a joining ordered in a way so that no tile is in the alignment of the other one. And effectively, it is enough to glance on any page of the prelude: on eight lines of the pages the brackets are there, moved with respect to one another as the tiles of a roof. The tiling is a specific structure, much purer that the cannon and the fugu as far as it protects the economy of the material while developing sound space and by enriching her its harmony.

Seed 13. The jamming. The average listeners’ eye perceives easily on the partition the tiling. But he can rightly wonder if this structure is audible. Now Wagner did all that was in his power to prevent the listener from analyzing the technical process. First of all, the pseudo-cannon is eight voices. To differentiate them is out of reach of any experienced listener. But these voices are not only melodically identical, but furthermore they are situated all at the same height, and they are emitted by an identical instrument. And all this takes place in a grave register, the least appropriate for auditive analysis. But there is worse there. Pursuing the process of differentiation of timbers in the sense of the concrete, the codon is confided to corns, the most carnal, the most vague, the richest in harmonious of instruments. Its auditive characteristics increase the confusion even more.

If one wants to take the game to its extreme limits, it is necessary to imagine oneself in Bayreuth's orchestra pit. The acoustics there is particular: the most total confusion reigns and every musician is deaf to the sounds emitted by the others, relying only on the beat of the conductor to make it. By magic, this noise is suppressed the by sound which covers the orchestra as a conch, and the already undifferentiated sounds of the beginning melt themselves in an imperceptible brilliance echoed by the light skeleton of the amphitheatre, which seems to come from nowhere.

Why work so much to end in the inaudible? We shall have the occasion to return on this important feature of the Ring: codons are not necessarily intended to be perceived clearly. They can exist by themselves, independent from the produced effect on the listener. Charles Rosen has already found this feature in Bach, Beethoven at the end, and in Schumann: some of the partition can be only abstract, inaudible. The reasons are analyzed somewhere else. It remains that the appearance of these new layers of codons leaves a disturbing impression of a gliding, a cellular proliferation, an unresolved sound mass at the same moment mobile and immovable, liquid and dense. This codon is named exactly "evolution" or " nature primitive forms ". It expresses not only the orchestral differentiation, but also the progress forward and upward.

The fifth codon. Waves, embryonic state.

This product of a new alteration appears at the measure 48 ( 16+32 ). The succession of events occurs at increasing intervals. 4 , 4x4 , 4x4x2. (A half-period of eight measures, 2 periods, 4 periods). The new layers appear to cellos and contrast with the corns of the fourth codon. Two new notes appear, (connecting the first five notes of the scale the F and the flat) while the rhythm becomes equal in two groups of three tongs. The tiling of this codon gives an impression of flow, due to the regularity of tongs, and melodious gliding. Visually these tongs look like like waves rising to fall again weakly in the point of origin. Naturally this figure is indefatigably repeated.

The sixth codon. The Rhine. (or the nature).

This subject often associated to the subject of waves derives directly from the codon of evolution. As the previous codon, it connects the first five notes, but by preserving the rhythm of the fourth codon. It appears to winds what gives it a character of solidity with regard to waves rolling on strings. It will be necessary to wait for the measure 80 = 48+32 before the next event. The temporal sequence becomes: 1/2 period of eight measures, two periods, two periods, four periods. This codon plays a very important role in the Ring. It is associated with the Rhine, but altered in minor, it indicates the earth(ground), Erda.

The seventh codon. (Pivot). From the measure 80, the theme of waves accelerates as well as that of the Rhine: tongs become double tongs. Everything at the top of the scale of heights appears a strange figure, unknown by exegetes and nevertheless a dominant. It consists of three notes of the triad: tonic, quinte subordinate, médiante, tonic, quinte lower, médiante etc. infinitely and irregularly repeated. Both notes: quinte subordinate and mediante, flank the tonic which looks like the pivot of a balance. The function of this codon is vague. Acoustically it plays the role of tunnel. It draws attention by its raised register that dominates the orchestra as a sort of roof, while exercising a hypnotic effect. But at the same time it blurs the underlying phenomena, it prevents us from hearing well the acceleration of arpeggios. Moreover, these last ones areless differentiated than the subject of waves, and remind of the first sketches. The jamming, which at the beginning was provoked by the interference of the tiling in the low registers of corns, is here carried out by this musical "lid". During this time the instruments of the orchestra enter, and in the measure 112 ( 80+32 ) it is in full.

Seed 14: the ascending major scale. A period of acceleration of 10 measures (until the measure 122) appears to at measure 112. Then, an important event starts at measure 124. All the notes appear completely, ordered in the shape of a rising major scale of E flat major. The excitement is at its highest but always in a p nuance. Three crescendi of two measures each fall again, the two first ones in p, the second in pp. The whole gives an impression of layers gliding one upon the other. The meaning of the major scale is clear: euphoric rise, emergence towards light, towards consciousness, the natural phenomenon.

Seed 15: the translation. In measure 122 there always occurs an unpublished phenomenon in the history of the music: the entire orchestra "rises" constantly. Simply as the scales join the summit of the high register, others appear in grave extremes. The visual appearance, which gets free of the partition of orchestra, is explicit even for a layman. It an entire mass which is in continuous translation and which gives an auditive impression of elevator or rather than that of a musical escalator. This effect of translation is prefigured musically by Lohengrin's prelude, or by first prelude of the well moderated keyboard (descent towards the depthes) ; by the scene of Parsifal's transformation, where time becomes confused with space, or by numerous interludes of the Ring (among which the famous journey of Siegfried on the Rhine.) In all these cases it accompanies a spatial and dramaturgic transition.

Seed 16. The emergence of the visual dimension (decoration and dramatic art: the aquatic dance of a girl of the Rhine). In this case the measure 122 makes visible what the music communicates to us: waves. The curtain gets up on the mention: " waterfall roam (or in strong current) in the depth of waters ". One of the girls appears in the measure 124 - swimming gracefully in the Rhine around a central cliff  - the point of which reaches the densest and most brilliant region of the current. The third crescendo (measure 126) succeeds in pp of measure 128 which marks the appearance of human voice. Thus in striking short-cut, the music becomes elementary vision in two measures (the water), two supplementary measures introduce the elementary life ( nixes ), finally, during the two last measures of music,  appears the elementary verb.


Taken literally, Wagner's indications are explicit: the curtain gets up only in the 122-nd measure of the prelude. Image is evoked only by music and comes to perfect at the end of its evolution. These indications can be interpreted by several manners giving birth to many options.

1 °)The rigorous and textual observance of the partition has arguments in its favour. Wagner knew what he did and was not ashamed of imposing impossible constraints on the scene directors. Thus he wished that the spectator would be plunged into darkness. This allows a bigger concentration, and, by contrast, an effect of surprise at the hight of the prelude which compensates for the sudden decline of tension of the orchestral tissue: the vision takes over.

2 °) One can carefully suggest the progressive creation of the decor by first showing the greenish diffuse light which by rolling and by becoming clearer, evokes waves circulating from right to left in a shady water. The measure 122 would create the effect of surprise in quite a natural way. It would be enough to follow Wagner's indications and to install the transparency in the low part of the scene. It is the strategy chosen by Patrice Chéreau (who, instead of waves, presents at the same time that the codon "waves" of the clouds which invade the room and disorientate the spectator) and Goetz Friedrich, who creates a visual space which clarifies only in the measure 122, by multiplying laser rays at the same time as multiply the musical cells.

3 °) One can do anything. It is the option of the déconstruction. For example in the CD - VIDEO of Munich's opera, Loge writes on a screen: "once upon a time".