Nietzsche's Philosophy of Art: The Art Impulse

Nietzsche's Philosophy of Art: The Art Impulse

Nietzschean Art Impulses:

The concept of art impulse is central to Nietzsche’s philosophy on art. In his work The Birth of Tragedy, Nietzsche uses his background in Greek classics to give us metaphors which help to classify and analyze different types of art according to those impulses.

The Dionysian and Apollonian impulses are the first two discussed by Nietzsche, and these impulses are based on the Greek gods whose names they reflect. As such, the Dionysian impulse represents chaos, nature, darkness, and something Nietzsche calls “primal unity” (Albert, Nietzsche 511).

The Apollonian impulse exists in opposition to, but alongside, the Dionysian impulse; so the Apollonian impulse deals with dreams, order rather than chaos, intellect, and the important concept of “principium individuationis” which contrasts with the idea of primal unity (Albert, Nietzsche 503).

Nietzsche Art Style: Head

A third impulse, the Socratic impulse, is introduced later to demonstrate how art has changed with mankind’s development of knowledge and logic.

Nietzsche mainly uses ancient Greek plays to demonstrate the changing of art impulses over time, and argues that ancient greek tragedy is one of the best examples of art with a balance between the Dionysian and Apollonian impulses even though art must show both impulses if it shows either one.


Marc Rebillet's Music:

Marc Rebillet is a music artist who creates songs out of loops. He first creates a loop, and then either sings or plays instruments over that loop, or does both. When finished, the song includes how it was created as part of the song itself.

The style he uses in the song One More Time (2019) demonstrates how Nietzsche’s concept of the Apollonian impulse can emerge from the Dionysian impulse. Marc accomplishes these impulses mainly by creating a rhythmic space and then soloing over it.

Dionysian music tends to be very rhythmic and repetitive, usually even percussive, much like the beginning of Marc’s song One More Time. This is because Dionysian music comes from rhythmic and primitive chants and rituals for the god Dionysus. As Marc Rebillet builds his song, each musical pattern is added in layers in an impromptu fashion according to how Marc feels and what he thinks.

Over time, each of these layers connect with each other and, in a sense, they get lost together into one piece of music instead of individual patterns. This is similar to when Nietzsche mentions “Dionysian emotions… which, as they intensify, cause the subjectives to vanish into complete self-forgetfulness,” because Marc Rebillet is part of the music the whole time as it goes on in time, even if he is just feeling or thinking of what to add next (Albert, Nietzsche 501).

While the music progresses, Marc begins to add more Apollonian elements to the song. Namely, he begins to sing solos. At first, these solos are looped or layered in a repetitive way much like a Dionysian chant; but, Marc still has solos that are not looped or duplicated, and it is through those solos which emerge “out of his state of mystical self-abnegation and oneness” that Marc demonstrates Apollonian impulses emerging from Dionysian impulses. (Albert, Nietzsche 512).

Perhaps a Socratic impulse in Marc’s song would be the usage of technology and certain modern techniques to create polished recordings. Taking that idea to its limit, especially in modern times, many pieces of art may have difficulty avoiding the Socratic impulse.

Even though that Socratic impulse may be hard to ignore or avoid, Marc’s song One More Time still manages to demonstrate the emergence of Apollonian impulses from Dionysian impulses. He demonstrates this emergence with use of progression from repetitive and rhythmic percussive loops, to stepping out and soloing over the repetition.


Our Art

We produce our own unique designs inspired by concepts in philosophies of art from ancient to modern. Some of them are done in the Nietzschean art style, like these, where two sides are juxtaposed. Click the image to see this phone case.

Nietzsche Mushroom



Works Cited

Hofstadter, Albert, et al. Philosophies of Art and Beauty: Selected Readings in Aesthetics from Plato to Heidegger. University of Chicago Press, 1976.


Rebillet, Marc. ONE MORE TIME. YouTube, Apr. 26, 2019. Accessed 7 Mar. 2020.

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