"The affinity of the tragic and the daemonic is the chisel with which to cut in relief the face of many an artist," said Leo Schrade Wednesday night in the first of his Charles Eliot Norton Lectures on "Tragedy in the Art of Music."
Only by shouldering the notion of a personal fate, a daemen, does a man rise above the common level. "Such a belief supplies the stuff of which tragedy is made," he said.
In presenting the themes of his coming lectures, Schrade stressed Greek thought as "the spring of all that was to come" in the history of tragic art. Music and tragedy were one in Greek art; later civilizations annuled this marriage, allowing each to take its own course. But Schrade said that "no humanistic effort could afford its restoration," and, indeed, music drama's attempt was "more imaginary than real."
The impossibility of later uniting music and tragedy under the Greek model, he noted, lay in the ancient idea of fate. Men saw necessity no longer springing from the god Dionysus, but from passion itself; and "with our theme being thus completely recast, it comes to face different considerations." Music then became important to tragedy because its "rhetorics" are "surely the most intimate consort to the presentation of the passions."
While fate, said Schrade, is that which "is sent to man from above" to govern "all vicissitudes of life," it derives both from the artist's temperament and his historical situation. Any personal best can give rise to tragic expressionism, but fate limits the use of such individuality because it dictates to each age a "constellation from which the tragic is to be inferred."
For Schrade, the idea of the fated personal daemon helps clarify "the eternal enigma of the extraordinary man." The visionary gift of the creative artist originates in his acceptance (albeit unconsciously) of this force for which he expends his energies to the limit of his nature. This drive is common to an artist's creativity and work and a stateman's wickedness alike, to both Beethoven and Napoleon; it features an enormous confidence and a wisdom far beyond common men.
The Greeks, Schrade said, wisely bound together their ideas of tragedy and fate, for in the end "nothing short of sophistry will keep them apart as different entities." Tragedy needs "a superior, divine force, fate." The presence of this tragic greatness, he added, has been huffled today by "trifles". Modern music is "more deeply marked by the spirit of the tragic than we are willing to admit."
Miller's seminar unlike the others, will continue throughout the year, with participants in the group taking turns as discussion leader during the biweekly sessions.
Success at Yale
Hoping to expand the seminar program next spring, Mumma reports that Yale instituted a similar program last year and induced over 200 students to enroll. Mumma points to the value of such discussions by relating a statement of Kierkegaard, who once said that if a man were to mention God or human destiny at a formal dinner, the guests would look at him as if he were biting his way through the table. Says Mumma: "Let's start on that table."