Wednesday, 6 February 2008

that hipster, Nietzsche

It has long been claimed by exponents of intellectual history that Friedrich Nietzsche defined, in the waning days of the 19th century, everything that was to come in the 20th. This is presumably because he shared with the 20th century an attitude: hipsterdom. Eryk Salvaggio makes the connection explicit in the MaineCampus:
The history of Nietzsche and his fan-boy relationship with composer Richard Wagner is a familiar tale to anyone who has heard the phrase, "Their first album was better."

This intensity of feeling is crucial to understanding the betrayal felt by snobs and hipsters at a crucial historical moment in the history of indie rock: When Modest Mouse allowed "Float On" to appear in a Volkswagen commercial. Fans decried the band for signing to a major label and using their music to sell cars. It was perceived as a rejection of the values their fans believed in - and suddenly, without any planning or conspiracy - music stores and coffee shops everywhere stopped playing anything the band had ever done.

This, I think, is the heart of Nietzsche's issues with Wagner: Wagner sold out. For Nietzsche, the man who declared that God was dead and saw religion as a system of control, Wagner's return to Christianity is pretty much the equivalent of Dylan playing the Newport Folk Festival with an electric guitar back in '65.
Nietzsche lives.

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