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The rhythmic hammering of Nibelheim slaves is heard twice in Rheingold: first in the interlude when Wotan and Loge descend to Nibelheim, and again when they depart with Alberich as their captive. The rhythms are precisely notated by Wagner, and you would think that anyone with the slightest dramatic or musical perception would grasp, simply by looking at the score, what he was after. Yet I have never seen a theater production which attempted to meet his wishes. Sometimes you get fobbed off with a sort of electronic compromise; sometimes you get a tinkling sound made by a few people beating metal bars together; but you never get the firm, frightening sound of eighteen anvils hit with rhythmical precision and building into a deafening assault on the nerves which, to quote [Ernest] Newman from a different context, should "approach the threshold of pain". Of course it could be done in the theater; I imagine the reason for its absence is that although Wagner made it quite clear that he wanted a primitive noise for dramatic reasons, most conductors cannot abide noise of any sort. Their instincts tell them that it is unmusical, and so they skirt the problem by making it as inconspicuous, and as inoffensive, as possible. (They cannot, however, omit it altogether, for the anvils have