Nietzsche 6+1: The Weight of Music

Paulo de Assis, Michael Schwab


Between 1854 (when he was aged ten) and 1872, Friedrich Nietzsche wrote a substantial number of musical compositions, including fragmentary pieces for solo piano, several songs, an uncompleted mass, and even a sketched opera. His activity as a composer remains essentially unknown, and his music pieces are rarely performed. A great admirer of Richard Wagner and profoundly influenced by the thought of Arthur Schopenhauer, Nietzsche-the-composer (a very young Nietzsche) understood music as an oceanic field of uncontrolled feelings and emotions, of which the composer was the “medium,” an agent passively dominated by transcendent powers of inspiration and creation. In this sense, Nietzsche’s musical compositions disclose a character and a personality substantially different from the far better known Nietzsche-the-philosopher. Whereas Nietzsche-the-philosopher was a destabilising constructor, the inventor of new images of thought, the active operator of a fundamental redefinition of values, Nietzsche-the-composer appears deeply rooted in and submitted to pre-existing, gregarious values. For Nietzsche, music had the problematic potential of carrying an “oppressive weight”—an expression he openly used to refer to one of his compositions, and, later on, to Wagner’s music in general. This weight he increasingly associated with the idea of “swimming,” to which he proactively opposed the notion of “dancing.” Nietzsche 6+1: The Weight of Music is a two-screen rendition of the performance of Nietzsche 6 at the Tanzquartier Wien, 28 November 2015, in which we present musical compositions by Nietzsche in dialogue with fragments of his texts, with pieces by other composers related to his life, and with reflections on artistic research today.

  • Paulo de Assis, concept and piano
  • Michael Schwab, concept and speaker
  • Marlene Monteiro Freitas, dance
  • Juan Parra Cancino, live electronics
  • Lucia D’Errico, video projection and intertitles
  • Valentin Gloor, pre-recorded voice
  • Setsuko, video editing

Nietzsche6: The Weight of Music


about the author(s)

Paulo de Assis

Paulo de Assis is Fellow Researcher at the Oprpheus Institute, Ghent and  general chair of the DARE conferences. He is an artist-researcher with transdisciplinary interests on Philosophy, French Post-Structuralism, and Epistemology.

He studied Piano with Vitaly Margulis and Alexis Weissenberg (a.o.) and Musicology with Jürg Stenzl and André Richard (a.o.), receiving a PhD and a post-doctoral appointment on the works of Luigi Nono. Commissioned by the Foundation Giorgio Cini (Venice, 2003), he completed Camillo Togni’s Piano concerto—a piece that remained unfinished at the composer’s death.

Between 2009 and 2012 he was Senior Researcher at the Centre for the Aesthetics and Sociology of Music (CESEM) at the University Nova Lisbon and Research Fellow at the Orpheus Research Centre in Music [ORCiM].

For the period 2013-2018 he was granted a European Research Council Starting Grant for the project “Experimentation versus Interpretation: exploring new paths in music performance in the twenty-first century,” hosted at the Orpheus Institute, in Ghent (Belgium). He has authored two books (on the music of Luigi Nono and Camillo Togni) and edited four others (on music notation and on contemporary composers).

info & contact


Orpheus Institute, Ghent, BE


paulo.deassis [AT]


Michael Schwab

Michael Schwab is an artist and artistic researcher who interrogates post-conceptual uses of technology in a variety of media including photography, drawing, printmaking, and installation art. He holds a PhD in photography from the Royal College of Art, London, that focuses on post-conceptual post-photography and artistic research methodology. He is tutor at the Zurich University of the Arts as well as a research fellow at the Orpheus Institute, Ghent, and the University of Applied Arts, Vienna. Currently, he is senior researcher in the ERC-funded research project “MusicExperiment21” and joint project-leader of “Transpositions,” a research project funded by the Austrian Science Fund. He is co-initiator and Editor-in-Chief of JAR, the Journal for Artistic Research. Recent publications include Experimental Systems: Future Knowledge in Artistic Research (Leuven University Press, 2013) and The Exposition of Artistic Research: Publishing Art in Academia (together with Henk Borgdorff; Leiden, 2014)

info & contact


Helsinki University of the Arts, FI
Zurich University of the Arts, CH
Orpheus Institute, Ghent, BE
University of Applied Arts, Vienna, AT


michael.schwab [AT]