Angst is a German word for fear or anxiety. It is used in English to describe a more intense feeling of internal emotional strife. A different but related meaning is attributed to Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard (1813–1855). Kierkegaard used the word angst (Danish, meaning "dread") to describe a profound and deep-seated spiritual condition of insecurity and despair in the free human being. Where the animal is a slave to its God-given instincts but always confident in its own actions, Kierkegaard believed that the freedom given to mankind leaves the human in a constant fear of failing its responsibilities to God. Kierkegaard's concept of angst is considered to be an important stepping stone for 20th-century existentialism.
While Kierkegaard's feeling of angst is fear of actual responsibility to God, in modern use, angst is broadened to include general frustration associated with the conflict between actual responsibilities to self, one's principles, and others (possibly including God). Still, the angst in alternative music may be more accessible to most audiences than the esoteric tradition of existentialism. The term "angst" is now widely used with a negative and derisive connotation that mocks the expression of a common adolecent experience of malaise, possibly brought on by the physiological changes of puberty, in "whiney", melancholy music. See emo.
See also: List of English words of German origin, anxiety, suffering, anomie, ennui.
Angst in Contemporary Music
Angst, in contemporary connotative use, most often describes the intense frustration and other related emotions of teenagers and the mood of the music with which they identify. Punk rock, grunge, rock and roll, and virtually any Alternative Rock dramatically combining elements of discord, melancholy and excitement may be said to assert angst. There is an obvious connection to this music and the various subjugation of its proponent youth or racial or sociopolitical minority subculture.
Angst was probably first discussed in relation to contemporary music in the mid to late 1980s and 1990s. In the 1980s "teen angst" was expressed in music to a certain extent in the rise of "punk", but the word "angst" is currently more associated with, and was probably first used in reference to, the grunge movement and the band Nirvana.
Angst is also the name of a supermarket chain operating in Bucharest, Romania. For more information, see Angst (supermarket).
Angst is also an album by KMFDM. For more information, see Angst (album) (It is also an album by Lacrimosa)