Short Essay on Nietzsche and Music

As part of the booklet of my latest album Rope Dance (see Store). All the concepts in italics refer to track titles from that album. Click here to read.

Out now ! Rope Dance: Light-Footed Music For All and None. Tap here to buy:, and here to stream:    

Rekto:Verso (97). 29 November 2022. 

Tijdschrift voor Filosofie 82, no.1 (May 2020): 57–92. Doi: 10.2143/TVF.82.1.0000000. Peer-reviewed article on Nietzsche, truth, and improvisation. Language: Dutch (draft in English).

Click here for a link to the PDF.

Keywords: Nietzsche, truth, lies, footing, correctness, art, music, improvisation.

Summary: To Lie Beyond Good and Evil: A Musical Question of Truth (Joris Roelofs)

In this article, I explore the tensions between the notion of truth as fixed, static — and the idea of truth as existing in a constant state of flux. This inquiry elaborates on Nietzsche’s philosophy with my own ideas about musical improvisation. In Nietzsche’s earlier work, truth is an ever-changing, Dionysian “flux of becoming,” something we cannot know. Truth provides nothing fixed. So, if we are to anchor our lives, we must create fixed “truths.” We have an artistic ability to do this, Nietzsche says. We create language and logic, rules and systems, all of which, though life-enhancing, are actually illusions, even lies. The early Nietzsche also proposes that the scientific personality tends to regard these structures as absolute truths. Unlike the scientist, however, the artist doesn’t seek absolute truth. Embracing life as illusion, the artist wants only to create new “truths.” Later, Nietzsche reverses this judgment. In Human, All Too Human, the scientific personality becomes the “free spirit” who gets closer to truth, while the artist regards self-created, fixed “truths” as absolute. Nietzsche posits a reciprocal relation- ship between science and art. Science, bereft of illusion, can be unbearable, while art, without science, is equally untenable. In this article, I expand on Nietzsche’s conception of truth by relating it with the act of musical improvisation — an act that combines science and art. To improvise, I argue, is to search, at every moment, for fluent, ever-changing truth, simultane- ously relying on fixed “truths,” like chords and meter — as well as other musical conventions. In the end, according to Nietzsche, we require scientific truth-seeking and the artistic quest for fixed “truths.” We seek fluidity and fixity; we need both truth and lies.

Pascal Gielen en ik over de politieke waarde van muziek. Klik hier om te lezen.



Hollands Maandblad (July 2022). Essay on Nietzsche’s perspective on improvisation in poetry, in music, and in life. Click here to read.

Opiniestuk over het identiteitsactivisme, en de beperkte opvatting van achterstelling en rechtvaardigheid die daar vanuit gaat. Klik hier om te lezen.


As part of the Rope Dance booklet (see Store). Click here to read. All the words in italics refer to the title tracks on Rope Dance.

As part of the Rope Dance booklet (see Store). All words in italics refer to the title tracks of that album. Click here to read.

Over de spanning tussen vrijheid en veiligheid. Klik hier om te lezen.


In response to the removal of Erik Kessels’ artwork Destroy my Face from a Dutch photo festival, I wrote this article on cancel culture, drawing from Isaiah Berlin’s thought. Click here to read (Dutch only).