Hear Classical Music Composed by Friedrich Nietzsche: 43 Original Tracks


A philoso­pher per­haps more wide­ly known for his prodi­gious mus­tache than for the vari­eties of his thought, Friedrich Niet­zsche often seems to be mis­read more than read. Even some­one like Michel Fou­cault could gloss over a cru­cial fact about Nietzsche’s body of work: Fou­cault remarked in an unpub­lished inter­view that Nietzsche’s “won­der­ful ideas” were “used by the Nazi Par­ty.” But that use, he neglect­ed to men­tion, came about through a scheme hatched by Nietzsche’s sis­ter, after his men­tal col­lapse and death, to edit, change, and oth­er­wise manip­u­late the thinker’s work in a way The Tele­graph deemed “crim­i­nal.” Fou­cault may not have known the full con­text, but Niet­zsche had about as much sym­pa­thy for fas­cism as he did for Christianity–both rea­sons for his break with com­pos­er Richard Wag­n­er.

What Niet­zsche loved most was music. Even in the wake of this scan­dal, with Niet­zsche ful­ly reha­bil­i­tat­ed at the schol­ar­ly lev­el at least, the philoso­pher is gen­er­al­ly read piece­meal, used to prop up some ide­ol­o­gy or crit­i­cal the­o­ry or anoth­er, a ten­den­cy his anti-sys­tem­at­ic, apho­ris­tic work inspires. A more holis­tic approach yields two impor­tant gen­er­al obser­va­tions: Niet­zsche found the mun­dane work of pol­i­tics and nation­al­ist con­quest, with its trib­al­ism and moral pre­ten­sions, thor­ough­ly dis­taste­ful. Instead, he con­sid­ered the cre­ative work of artists, writ­ers, and musi­cians, as well as sci­en­tists, of para­mount impor­tance.

Niet­zsche almost entered med­i­cine and was him­self an artist: “before he engaged him­self ful­ly as a philoso­pher, he had already cre­at­ed a sub­stan­tial out­put as poet and com­pos­er,” writes Albany Records. In an 1887 let­ter writ­ten three years before his death, Niet­zsche claimed, “There has nev­er been a philoso­pher who has been in essence a musi­cian to such an extent as I am,” though he also admit­ted he “might be a thor­ough­ly unsuc­cess­ful musi­cian.” In any case, he hoped that at least some of his com­po­si­tions would become known and heard as com­ple­men­tary to his philo­soph­i­cal project.

Now seri­ous read­ers of Niet­zsche, or those sim­ply curi­ous about his musi­cian­ship, can hear most of those com­po­si­tions in a Spo­ti­fy playlist above. Per­formed by Cana­di­an musi­cians Lau­ret­ta Alt­man, Wolf­gang Bot­ten­berg, and the Mon­tre­al Orpheus Singers, the music ranges from spright­ly to pen­sive, roman­tic to mourn­ful, and some of it seems to come right out of the Protes­tant hym­nals he grew up with as the son of a Luther­an min­is­ter. Niet­zsche com­posed music through­out his life—a com­plete chronol­o­gy spans the years 1854, when he was only ten, to 1887. See The Niet­zsche Chan­nel for a thor­ough list of pub­lished Niet­zsche record­ings and sheet music. To lis­ten to the music here, you will need to down­load and reg­is­ter for Spo­ti­fy.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

130+ Free Online Phi­los­o­phy Cours­es

The Phi­los­o­phy of Niet­zsche: An Intro­duc­tion by Alain de Bot­ton

A Free Playlist of Music From The Works Of James Joyce (Plus Songs Inspired by the Mod­ernist Author)

The Dig­i­tal Niet­zsche: Down­load Nietzsche’s Major Works as Free eBooks

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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Comments (8)
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  • Danny B.SunDay says:

    What can i say … this is mere bliss to me , that is * i nev­er knew he’d writ­ten such amaz­ing com­po­si­tions thank you for shar­ing , inspir­ing ‚by all means

  • Patricio Yerovi says:

    A través de la músi­ca es como se entiende mejor la dis­pu­ta “inte­ri­or” que tiene con Wag­n­er, éste, al con­trario de Niet­zsche, más músi­co que filó­so­fo… mien­tras Wag­n­er tiene la fuerza de un ven­daval, Niet­zsche tiene la poesía…mientras el uno me impacta con sus luces, el otro me hace volar por alu­ci­nantes laber­in­tos y luego vicev­er­sa…

  • Ricardo says:

    ¿Could you please argu­ment on this state­ment “Fou­cault may not have known the full con­text, but Niet­zsche had about as much sym­pa­thy for fas­cism as he did for Chris­tian­i­ty”?

  • Joseph says:

    Yeah, gee I won­der if Fou­cault did any research on this ran­dom Niet­zsche guy?

    Fou­cault’s entire epis­te­mol­o­gy was over­whelm­ing­ly influ­enced by Niet­zschean phi­los­o­phy. Niet­zsche was the one that the­o­rized geneal­o­gy as method, Fou­cault just applied and devel­oped it. So, yes, I am guess­ing he knew the con­text of his work…

  • Pavel Kozák says:

    Some 20 years ago, I wrote a crit­i­cism about a Niet­zsche’s com­po­si­tions con­cert in Goethe Insti­tute. And sice I had the month already two arti­cles in Har­monie, they denied me to pub­lish this one, which would be the 3rd.

    Have, please, com­pas­sion with this post-term preg­nan­cy of mine…

    I con­sid­ered his musik alike of the com­po­si­tions of Clara Schu­mann and I called it, in my venac­u­lar:

    “Skla­da­tel Friedrich Niet­zsche
    bez kladi­va a biče”

    which is not far from the pos­si­bil­i­ty to express it in Eng­lish, or I will try in Ger­man, too:

    “Kom­pon­ist FN:
    ohne Ham­mer und Peitsche.”

  • joseph says:


  • wsgeorge says:

    Can we please have a more open alter­na­tive? Like YouTube or direct links to .ogg files, instead of Spo­ti­fy?

  • Alistair says:

    “In an 1887 let­ter writ­ten three years before his death…” The author should have writ­ten “before his men­tal break­down.” Niet­zsche died in 1900.

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