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Outdoors: Faust

The legend of "Faust" features heavily in classical music

Countless artistic works have been inspired by the Faust legend as presented by Goethe.

In an article in Natural History magazine, Stephen Jay Gould wrote “Goethe features a great confrontation on high when a cloud deposits Faust on the summit of a high mountain range and Mephistopheles, arrives just a moment later.

“In keeping with the local scenery, they begin a fierce argument about rocks—a clash that mirrors (since Goethe was also a geologist) a major debate of early nineteenth century science.”

It seems that the Devil supported the catastrophic theory of major upheaval fueled by great eruptions that fractured the earth’s crust and raised mountains.

Faust responded that the gentle forces of erosion, mostly running water, created the rugged topography of the earth.

If modern geologists are to be believed, in this debate, Faust (and by extension, Goethe) espouse the faulty position that stones were clement, while the Devil’s theory of violent geologic history is closer to currently accepted thought.

Now consider how the Faust legend has given vent to an eruption of operas and orchestral works. Science does influence the arts.

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