There are two Germans who have influenced me greatly. They foresaw the direction things were heading within their own disciplines, ‘panicked’, and devised new responses. The first concerned the destruction of the basis of harmony in music and the second the destruction of the basis of morality. Their solutions had a huge effect on my life and led me in new directions.
Schoenberg foresaw that the increasing dissonance in music was starting to undermine the tonal system which had been developed centuries earlier. He wanted to reintroduce structure to this development and created serialism. This treats all 12 notes equally and institutionalises dissonance whilst creating a cohesive system in which to compose. When I was a youth and first heard this music it really excited me; I had heard nothing like it before. From that moment on my passion changed and I devoted myself to the ‘avant garde’. I became a modernist.
Nietzsche had a ‘moral panic’. He realised that the European Enlightenment had destroyed belief in God or at least shaken the hold the church had on society. He believed that once God was displaced from the central position in a culture, moral values and meaning would lose their ultimate authority. The result would be despair and nihilism.His phrase, “God is dead” expresses his analysis. Nietzsche seemed to both mourn the death of God but also believe in the necessity of killing him. His work attempts to find a new basis for moral values and to re-evaluate the existing ones. Whether he succeeded is less important that the observations he made and the questions he asked. His views had a profound effect on my thinking and led me to believe that my own culture was in a state of collapse. I felt unable to stay and mourn and, by accident, found Ghana. I became a traditionalist.
I wonder if there are other people who devised their own responses to areas of cultural loss?