Also sprach Zarathustra (“Thus spoke Zarathustra”) is a symphonic poem composed in 1896 by Richard Strauss. As can be quickly determined from the name, the musician draws inspiration from the eponymous philosophical essay by Friedrich Nietzsche, father of the controversial—and often misinterpreted—concept of Übermensch (or “overhuman”). Strauss’ composition tries to set this feeling of power and success to music by synthesizing the past and present. In fact, the second movement, titled Von den Hinterweltlern (“Of the Backworldsmen”), quotes the Gregorian chant Credo in unum Deum! However, the most famous movement of the whole symphony is the introduction, made popular to the general public by Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey, and by many others. Here, Strauss sets to music the sun’s rays behind the mountain, the Creation, and the advent of the overhuman; in brief, the impetus of life! Perhaps his most clever innovation was to finish the last movement with the first note of the introduction, as if Strauss wanted to recall the nietzschean idea of the “eternal return!”

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Repeated three times in crescendo, a grandiose and formidable fanfare opens Strauss’ Also sprach Zarathustra: it is the sunrise that progressively illuminates the dizzying reaches of thought in Friedrich Nietzsche’s mind! Made famous to the general public by Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey, the introduction of this symphonic poem has been read as the musical representation of the nietzsche aphorism: “The Individual is sunk in the World and the World is sunk in the Individual.” Here is an anecdote for the cinephiles: in the credits of his film, Stanley Kubrick credited the interpretation of Strauss’ Also sprach Zarathustra played by the Wiener Philharmoniker with Karl Böhm, but during post-production, he replaced it with Karajan’s version, which he did not have the rights to! We could say that the filmmaker took up the nietzschean definition of overhuman such as it is described in Dostoievsky’s Crime and Punishment: “[...] an extraordinary man has the right… that is not an official right, but an inner right to decide his own conscience to overstep… certain obstacles, and only in case it is essential for the practical fulfillment of his idea [...]”. The best interpretations of Strauss’ Also sprach Zarathustra can be found on!