ABSTRACTS


THE NAZI PAST Anne C. Shreffler (Harvard University), Moderator

Musicologists’ Attitudes toward the Nazi Past in East and West Germany
Pamela Potter (University of Wisconsin–Madison)

In her article “Berlin Walls: Dahlhaus, Knepler, and Ideologies of Music History,” Anne Shreffler offered us a first glimpse at how the Cold War had ostensibly given rise to conflicting approaches and an atmosphere of mutual mistrust across the wall. Shreffler also revealed, however, that the rhetoric of opposition often obscured the actual similarities shared by the two schools. The goal of my investigation will be to examine further the ideological tensions coloring the field of musicology, with special attention to the differing yet similar approaches in East and West Germany toward writing - and not writing - the history of music in Nazi Germany. 

The two German states approached the cleansing process of denazification quite differently, but both ended up being dominated by scholars who, for differing reasons, avoided investigations of the Nazi past. In the 1970s, a younger generation of West German scholars fought to break the silence but found themselves hindered pragmatically by professional roadblocks and intellectually by their well-meaning but contradictory zeal to fuse Marxist historiography with conservative totalitarian concepts. Young East German scholars, for their part, were just beginning to enjoy the relaxing of ideological restraints and dove head-first into investigations of the music of previously taboo “formalist” composers.

This examination will not only survey the writings but will also draw upon my own experiences conducting research in East and West Germany in the late 1980s. West German scholars urged me to pursue the work they knew would lead to their own professional suicide, while East German musicologists urged me to “accurately” represent their own Marxist narrative. As I experienced further after the Wende, the tendency to juxtapose the Third Reich and the GDR as the “zwei Diktaturen” unfortunately stifled an open dialogue and forestalled a productive confrontation with the Nazi chapter of German music history.


Versions of History and Modes of Reception: Udo Zimmermann’s Two Operas Weisse Rose in East and West Germany
Boris von Haken (Goethe Universität, Frankfurt)

Udo Zimmermann’s opera Weisse Rose, the most widely performed contemporary German opera today, dramatizes the final hours before execution of Hans and Sophie Scholl, leaders of the 
White Rose resistance group, in the Munich-Stadelheim prison. Though some earlier works had been concerned with related stories, it was the first explicit presentation of German resistance against the Nazi regime on the musical stage. The first version of this opera was staged in Dresden, East Germany, in 1967, with a libretto written by Ingo Zimmermann, the composer’s brother. In 1986, three years before German unification, a second revised version had its premiere in Hamburg, West Germany, now with a fully new text by Wolfgang Willaschek. The first East German version of the opera is a montage of dialogues by the Scholls on death row, interrupted by scenic flashbacks. These episodes present a historical account, portraying the Scholls as romantic forerunners of Communist politics. The revised Hamburg version is a non-chronological arrangement of letters, diary entries, and poems. Hans and Sophie cast their minds back to the past, evoking images of longing for nature and only fragmentary images of the Nazi dictatorship. Soon after its premiere in Hamburg, this new version was widely performed in East Germany as well. 

This paper explores this unique case in modern opera history, reconstructing the ways in which the two versions of Weisse Rose aim to represent two different historic identities in a divided Germany. Therefore my main focus is on the performance history and reception of this work in East and West German media.


How to Deal with Exile: Music, Displacement, and Exilforschung in East and West 
Florian Scheding (University of Southampton)

Any postwar history of Germany is a history of two intertwined yet distinct Germanys. The ways in which East and West dealt with the Nazi past and with the issues of exile and displacement is a prime example of how differences between the two were played out ideologically. In this paper, I discuss the extent to which East and West, despite portraying themselves as ostensibly opposite ideologies, initially shared a resistance to dealing with their pasts and ignored the displacements caused by Nazi Germany, and how they eventually revised these positions with very different results.

I begin by examining the theorization of displacement in the field of Exilforschung (exile studies) in East and West Germany, and situate Exilforschung against the background of the Cold War. I argue that the promotion of Exilforschung during the 1960s and 1970s highlights the ways in which both countries found their own but surprisingly similar strategies of belatedly dealing with the Nazi past, playing out political acts aimed at justifying and bolstering their own existence. For example, the tendency for Exilforschung East and West is to focus almost exclusively on the biographies of carefully selected celebrity émigré musicians and intellectuals constructed these as precursors of the respective ideology, while simultaneously silencing refugees with potentially critical voices.

Yet there were differences, and nowhere did Exilforschung differ more than regarding the issue of anti-Semitism. In the East scholars denied classifying Jewish émigrés as “exiles,” reasoning that the Jews had not been politically, but ethnically persecuted. In contrast to this denial, the West precisely emphasized the Jewish victims of the Third Reich, narrating their stories as metaphors of victimhood and tales of apolitical passivity, therefore disempowering their voices. Displacement was woven inextricably into the very fabric of East and West Germany. Emblematically, one refugee (Eisler) composed the Eastern National anthem, another (Schoenberg) became the posthumous father figure of the Western postwar avant-garde; and yet the biography and music of neither sit easily in the narratives of East or West.


The “Fiasco” Revisited: The Legacies of Denazification for Music in a Divided Germany
Toby Thacker (Cardiff University) 

The denazification of music and musicians in Germany after 1945 was profoundly controversial, roundly criticised at the time as a “fiasco” and a “farce” by Allied officials involved and by Germans caught up in the process. After 1948 denazification was largely abandoned, with some embarrassment, and much of the documentary record was either destroyed or classified, leaving an evidential black hole which still exists. Contemporary critics and early historians of denazification criticized it for being inconsistent, unfair, over-bureaucratic, and vindictive. Recent investigations have pointed to numerous individuals, often iconic figures in post-war German musical life, who successfully misled denazification proceedings or avoided investigation altogether.

This paper, although based on archival knowledge of denazification in all four Occupation Zones, will not seek to review how the process was conducted, or to pass judgment on individuals involved, but to explore its larger consequences. It will ask how far denazification achieved its initial goals to get rid of “Nazi music” and to exclude individuals tainted by involvement with Nazism from the public sphere. It will explore whether the approaches pursued in separate Occupation Zones resulted in tangible differences in the reconstructed musical culture of those areas, and after 1949, in a divided Germany.

As two apparently opposed musical cultures emerged in Germany in the 1950s, one predominantly characterized by conformity to Communist dictates of “realism” and “humanism,” the other by ostentatious commitment to musical modernism and an ideal of “cultural freedom,” were the largely silent legacies of denazification still discursively potent? And has the most recent historiography of denazification fundamentally altered our understanding of these cultures? This paper will not attempt to provide final answers to these questions, but to explore avenues for potential understanding and future research.



OTHER AVANT-GARDES Joy H. Calico (Vanderbilt University), Moderator.

Between Stockhausen/Zimmermann and Eisler/Dessau: The Italian Composer Luca Lombardi in the Two Germanies
Jürgen Thym (Eastman School of Music) 

Luca Lombardi (born 1945 in Rome) is a wanderer between different worlds and cultures; his creativity seems to prosper in subjecting himself to the tensions brought on by the most divergent, even contradictory, influences: Italy and Germany, avant-garde and music of political engagement. Cologne and East Berlin were the locales that nurtured his political and musical perspectives around 1970. He studied with Karlheinz Stockhausen and Bernd Alois Zimmermann, was a master student of Paul Dessau and wrote a dissertation on Hanns Eisler. (Later Japan and Israel were added as coordinates that had an impact on his creativity.)

My paper will untangle the career of a composer, who lived, studied, and was performed in both Germanies; who, courageously, went against the grain and stood up for his political and aesthetic ideals in East and West; and who liberated himself from orthodoxies and dogmas by “constructing his freedom” - as he has phrased it - in the 1980s. His compositions and writings will provide evidence of how the Berlin Wall was breached (metaphorically speaking) by an artist whose path, to some extent, can be described as “postmodern” - and yet, is not exhausted by this convenient label. 


The Abstrakte Oper Nr. 1 as Oxymoron and Provocation 
Emily Richmond Pollock (University of California, Berkeley) 

The uproar that followed the 1953 Mannheim premiere of Boris Blacher and Werner Egk’s Abstrakte Oper Nr. 1, gleefully reported throughout Germany as the first good opera scandal to hit in years, brought into stark relief a number of pressing issues that faced experimental opera in the post-war period. The text, set to predominantly light, jazzy music, aims at a kind of avant-garde proto-performance art, using allusive nonsense syllables and conversation fragments to represent archetypal modern emotions and situations without defined characters or a coherent plot. Today, this experiment would hardly count as radical – thanks to the then-nascent move toward greater abstraction in opera staging and the eventual explosion in music-theatrical experimentation later in the twentieth century. But it flummoxed audiences in 1953, and the terms used to try to explain it – “dada,” “avant-garde,” “kabarettisch” – came largely from outside the operatic discourse, showing how far this piece was situated beyond the boundaries of the genre.

Contemporary critics were sharply divided on whether the Abstrakte Oper Nr. 1 was meant in earnest or whether it was merely an over-long stunt. Many found unconvincing the connection Blacher and Egk made between their concept and the abstraction then in vogue in sculpture and painting, and many of those who took its title seriously questioned whether the idea of an “abstract opera” was a contradiction in terms. Defining the Abstrakte Oper as an oxymoron chipped away at the authors’ conceptual gambit and focused scrutiny on the weaknesses of the text and music; the staging, in addition, was subject to harsh criticism because of how it made the piece altogether too concrete. Although the Abstrakte Oper was a failure, the terms of this failure allow us to see with particular explicitness what contemporary critics saw as the limits of opera and of the post-war avant-garde.



MAKING GERMANS Edith Sheffer (Stanford University), Moderator.

How a Socialist Should Hear Music: Listening to Jazz at the East German Akademie der Künste, 1956
Michael Schmidt (University of Texas, Austin): 

In April 1956, many of East Germany’s most prominent and powerful musical figures gathered together in a room at the Academy of the Arts and held a long, detailed discussion on jazz for the Ministry of Culture. Since the late 1940s, official policy had displayed fear and disdain for this increasingly popular form of mass music, which it viewed as a decadent product of late industrial capitalism. Most present at the meeting were bearers of or sympathetic to the state line and were closely tied to the policy of the SED regime; there were, however, two younger, more controversial supporters of jazz who also attended, Reginald Rudorf and Heinz Lukacs. As the other participants receded from the conversation, the conference soon became an acute polemic between Rudorf and the perhaps the most celebrated composer within the GDR, Hanns Eisler. 

More than a simple disagreement over merit, Eisler and Rudorf’s debate reveals a deep division in the way they listened to music. More than individual difference, they represented two larger, contrasting frameworks for understanding, learning, organizing, and producing musical sound. These frameworks—the traditional, Eurocentric art music world of Eisler and the African American-centered popular music universe of Rudorf—increasingly came into contact and conflict over the 1950s as East Germany rebuilt its industrial and technological infrastructure and committed itself to a battle of legitimacy with the West through consumer satisfaction. Taking place at a time when the utopian belief in the achievement of socialism was still alive and real, these two listening systems were also an argument over the correct rules of perception for the new socialist subject.


“Harte gegen Punk”: State Responses to the East German Punk Scene, 1982–1983
Jeff Hayton (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign) 

In August 1983, Erich Mielke, head of the East German State Security, ordered his officers to move Harte gegen Punk.” Calling for state authorities to clamp down violently on the subculture, within a year, the Stasi nearly destroyed the small but vibrant GDR punk scene. Arresting some youths, drafting others into the national army and dumping still more westwards, the regime sought to permanently solve its punk problem in one quick, decisive Aktion. Why after several years of uneasy toleration did the East German regime suddenly turn against punk so forcefully? In my paper, I explore why East German authorities decided to move Harte gegen Punk” by arguing that based on information Eastern authorities were reading in the West German mainstream media about Western punk, as well as a series of provocative articles appearing in the West about Eastern punk in 1982 and 1983, the regime began to see the subculture as a fundamental threat to state socialism and its youth, and in the summer of 1983, felt it finally needed to act decisively “um Eskalation dieser Bewegung zu unterbinden.” The consequences of this mutual citation were significant: driving punks into the Protestant Churches where they sought refuge from state repression, these youths quickly became socialized into the protest politics of the independent peace movement and later helped bring down the SED state. Thus efforts by Eastern authorities to shore up the state’s fragile position by looking westwards for answers, in the end, only worked to destabilize the GDR even further.

Despite being the biggest cultural movement of the Twentieth Century, rock’n’roll and its many genres do not receive the scholarly attention relative to the phenomenon’s enormous cultural and political capital. As a dramatically expressive genre both reflecting and promoting change, popular music in general and punk specifically have been sorely understudied. By grappling with how the GDR state responded to punk, I want to map out more concretely what Christoph Klessmann has suggested is the defining nature of postwar German history: how both German states sought both to distance (Abgrenzung) their mirror twin even if they were nonetheless deeply entangled (Verflechtung) with their opposite other.  I do so with three specific problematics in mind: first, to examine how GDR authorities increasingly looked westwards to solve eastern problems during the 1980s; second, to explore how porous the Berlin Wall was and the role border-crossing played in destabilizing the GDR; and finally, to investigate the role played by cultural production and expression in influencing political decisions. I believe all three concerns will help us better understand life during the 1980s in the GDR.


Music and the Shaping of Emotional Identities: Music Education in East and West Germany, Debates and Practices (1949–1968)
Juliane Brauer (Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin) 

After the founding of the two German states, education specialists had to meet the challenge of renewing the educational systems and paradigms, confronting new social relations. It is noticeable that in this process, mainly in the 1950s and 1960s, national socialist (Nazi) heritage played only a minor role. More important in the debates were the questions about political (in the GDR, more ideological) requirements and the prospect of youth as future citizens. By focusing on the debates around goals and methods in music school education on the one hand and by analyzing newly composed songs for youth on the other hand, this paper will show that music was targeted for use in educating and shaping desirable emotional identity.

On the one side the conceptualization of music education in the GDR close linked to reflections about “artistic education” in the Weimar Republic. This represented music education as medium of holistic human education for shaping minds and hearts, based on ideologically motivated images of humanity and morality. For this reason collective singing as a suitable musical practice for transferring emotions was central in the GDR curricula. Hundreds of new songs were composed with the clear aim of communicating emotions such as patriotism, solidarity or longing for peace.

On the other side of Germany a heated debate emerged in the 1950s about the traditional lines of “artistic education.” This was triggered initially by Theodor Adorno’s critique of the consequences of collective singing in youth groups in the Nazi era, marked by appeals to the emotions. The newer generation of pedagogues therefore asserted a more rational approach to musical masterpieces, which dismissed the emotional impact of music. Both educational concepts mirror specific politically based perspectives of desirable emotional conduct and behavior.



CULTURAL LEGACIES Stephen Hinton (Stanford University), Moderator.

Hindemith, New Bayreuth, and the Ghosts of Weimar
Neil Gregor (University of Southampton)

This paper takes Hindemith’s performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony at the Bayreuth Festival in 1953 as a prism through which to view aspects of the political culture of the early Federal Republic. The festival’s place in competing narratives of the relationship of post-war democracy to the Nazi past is well-known, as is the significance of Furtwängler’s famous account of the same symphony at the re-opening of the festival in July 1951.  Hindemith’s appearance, by contrast, is largely forgotten. The paper sets the contemporary reception of Hindemith’s appearance against the background of the relationship between the Bayreuth circle, musical modernism, and nationalist politics in the 1920s and 1930s, exploring how echoes of the nationalist and anti-Semitic music criticism of the earlier period resonated through press responses to Hindemith in 1953. In doing so it emphasizes that while Hindemith was now far from the enfant-terrible of the avant-garde he had previously been, conservative responses to him in the 1950s were still largely shaped by the culture wars of the Weimar Republic. At the same time it underlines that the early New Bayreuth era should be understood as part of a wider process of cultural transition between the inherited mentalities of Wilhelmine nationalism and the slow liberalising impulses of the 1950s – that elements of a democratic political culture were manifesting themselves even as older racist and nationalist tropes were being rearticulated. Its wider claims thus turn on challenging some of the more prevalent notions of memory and periodization in respect of cultural mentalities before, during, and after Hitler as often articulated precisely through histories of the Bayreuth festival itself.   
  

'Meine Ruh ist hin': Negogiating Romanticism and Its Legacy in Mauricio Kagel's Aus Deutschland
Lydia Rilling (Freie Universität Berlin) 

To write an opera on German Romanticism in West Germany in the politically highly charged 1970s, at first glance, might seem a conservative if not even regressive endeavor. But in the case of Mauricio Kagel’s “opera” Aus Deutschland: Eine Liederoper (1975–80), a closer look reveals different, more complex results.

By assembling more than seventy poems that were set to Romantic Lieder, Kagel revisits the myths of German Romanticism. In 27 scenes, the opera circles around central Romantic topics including yearning and the night. Kagel’s approach to the Lied resembles the idea of his Instrumental Theatre: he makes productive the intrinsic theatricality of that which normally is regarded as non-theatrical.

Kagel’s view on one of the most important eras of German art, that is still prevalent today, is formed by the specific constellation of his experiences. Kagel was raised as the son of Jewish-Russian immigrants in Argentina. At the same time German Romanticism, especially music, had nourished his cultural education from an early age on, and while working on the opera Kagel had already been living in Germany for 20 years. Thus his view gains from the multiplicity of his perspectives, posing himself deliberately an “insider” and “outsider” at the same time. While feeling close to the era, Kagel still decidedly deconstructs Romanticism and its reception. From the perspective of the late 1970s, his view encompasses the dark chapters of German history that followed romaticism. The director Calixto Bieito, in his recent production of the work, has shown what close connections between Romanticism and Nazism can be found within the opera.

Kagel’s opera can be interpreted as his compositional attempt to engage the highly complicated culture and history of his adopted country. In doing so, Kagel fashions an unexpectedly “contemporary” work of art.


The Literary Roots of East German Musical Borrowing
Laura Silverberg (University of Wisconsin–Madison)

The rise of musical quotation, montage, and pastiche in the GDR during the late 1960s and 1970s has attracted considerable scrutiny from scholars on both sides of the Atlantic. Rather than pay homage to the classical heritage, works by composers such as Paul Dessau, Tilo Medek, and Reiner Bredemeyer appear to reinterpret and critique official, party-propagated constructions of the German musical canon. While recent musicological studies on East German musical borrowing have varied in scope and approach, all have interpreted such engagements with tradition as a response to East German cultural politics - deliberate or not. This paper takes a different perspective by showing that the impulse behind the most creative East German practices of musical borrowing extends back to the 1930s and 1940s - that is, to a period predating the founding of the GDR. In particular, East German musical borrowing is heavily indebted to the theoretical writings and literary adaptations of Bertolt Brecht. The kinship between Brecht’s theories of epic theatre and East German musical borrowing is manifest on a number of levels. First, Brecht’s appropriation of the literary heritage - seen in his theatrical adaptations of Shakespeare, Marlowe, Lenz, and others - aimed to force the audience to reflect critically upon bourgeois theatrical tradition. East German composers and critics, who were intimately familiar with Brecht’s writings, stated similar objectives when describing their attitudes toward musical borrowing. Second, Hanns Eisler and Paul Dessau - East Germany’s most prominent composers and teachers - closely collaborated with Brecht, ardently advocated his theories, and frequently deployed techniques of borrowing in their own music long before the 1970s. Third, composers who most actively deployed borrowing techniques, including those who came of age in the GDR, had found early employment in composing for theater. In short, the aesthetics of musical borrowing that tentatively emerged during the 1950s and early 1960s, and which then blossomed in the 1970s and 1980s, had longstanding literary and musical antecedents. The paper concludes with reflections on what this pre-history of musical borrowing might mean for historiographical approaches to the GDR specifically and divided Germany more generally.



OPERA PRODUCTIONS, EAST AND WEST Mary Ann Smart (University of California, Berkeley), Moderator

GDR Feminism in the West: Ruth Berghaus’s Frankfurt Production of Les Troyens 
Johanna Frances Yunker (Stanford University) 

In 1983, East German opera director Ruth Berghaus staged a Frankfurt Opera production of Berlioz’s Les Troyens. Less than a year prior to the opera premiere, also in Frankfurt, East German writer Christa Wolf delivered a series of poetics lectures in which she retold the myth of Kassandra. By portraying Kassandra’s forecasts as the unheard voices of GDR women, Wolf gave a feminist spin to the myth and related it to the social and political situation of East Germany.  Led by Berghaus, the opera’s production team chose to print large selections of Wolf’s Kassandra lecture in the program notes. In so doing, they prepared their audience for the similar feminist approach of Berghaus’s staging. Indeed, by highlighting the suicides of Dido and Cassandra, rather than the heroic trajectory that led from Troy’s fall to Rome’s foundation, Berghaus portrayed the Virgilian narrative as one of female tragedy. Both Eastern and Western reviewers did not miss the feminist overtones of her production, nor did they fail to see the similarities to Wolf’s lectures. Moreover, the connection between the production and the lecture was strengthened by their location in Frankfurt, which allowed for artistic freedom to criticize aspects of GDR society.

In this paper, I will explore Berghaus’s staging and the reception thereof, with a focus on its relation to Wolf’s Kassandra.  In so doing, I will show not only the importance of gender for Berghaus’s work, which has so far received limited scholarly attention, but also her close connections with GDR feminist artists, such as Wolf.  In addition, by focusing on Berghaus’s and Wolf’s choice of Frankfurt to address GDR social issues, I will shed new light on cultural relationships between the divided Germanys and their political implications.


In the Hands of Terrible Infants: Opera and Politics in Divided Berlin
Paul Chaikin (University of Southern California)

In the decades following World War II, both sides of the newly-divided Germany waded into the long and difficult process of coming to terms with the past. Within the relatively cloistered world of opera staging, an imperative for political engagement began to eclipse the old-fashioned, transcendental logic of aesthetic autonomy. In Berlin, the braided legacies of Walter Felsenstein and Bertolt Brecht generated a steady stream of theatrical provocations, while in Bayreuth, Wieland Wagner’s airy productions dispensed with the visual appurtenances of Teutonic pride, leaving little but suggestive emptiness and abstract sets. By the late-1960s, an unincorporated group of directors had inaugurated the avant-garde tradition that we now refer to as Regietheater, or director’s theater.

The word Regietheater is usually invoked with some polemical thrust.  It might be decried as the abrogation of tradition, or promoted as an alternative to the leaden adherence to convention.  Either way, Regietheater is almost always associated with a politically-charged confrontation with history and tradition.  In the years leading up to reunification, radical production values became increasingly associated with current affairs.

In this paper, I hope to show how the outward politicization of opera can be interpreted, in retrospect, as a deceptive shimmer that safeguards an antiquated and relatively static tradition.  In a divided nation that had come to be overwrought with political rhetoric, the operatic canon retained some of its nostalgic warmth precisely because directors were overlaying the naked spirit of the past with a new luster.  Focusing on institutional decisions at two companies on opposite sides of the Berlin Wall—the Deutsche Oper and the Komische Oper—I hope to show how, in this particular situation, politically-committed art became a veil, masking the intractable and impersonal conservativism of the operatic tradition. 


Realism and Allegory: Encoding the Cold War in GDR Opera
Elaine Kelly (University of Edinburgh)

There has been a growing awareness recently of the role that GDR opera played as a point of contact between the two Germanys in the second half of the twentieth century. Joy Calico, in particular, has demonstrated not only the alacrity with which East German opera directors transcended Cold War borders, but also the impact they exerted on the European opera stage in the years following the Wende. Their international success is significant on a number of fronts. It not only undermines perceptions of the cultural insularity of the GDR; it also raises questions about the wider relevance of socialist realist thought. East German opera was situated very clearly within the GDR’s musical discourse. Yet this discourse was by no means as monolithic or restricted as is frequently assumed. On the contrary, as the reception in the West of figures such as Kupfer, Friedrich and Berghaus indicates, the conditions of the GDR resulted in an aesthetic language that had strong resonances with the wider European zeitgeist.

This paper explores the extent to which the influence of GDR opera can be ascribed to its symbiotic relationship with the socio-political transitions of the Cold War. Focusing on the Ring productions of Joachim Herz (Leipzig, 1974-76) and Ruth Berghaus (Frankfurt, 1985-87), it examines the extent to which the two major styles that dominated GDR theater – realism and allegory – encoded not only the changing political climate of the GDR but also more extensive shifts in left-wing cultural thought across Europe. The contrasting aesthetics of Herz and Berghaus are revealing in this context. While Herz’s historical realism represents a culmination of the predilection for master narratives that dominated in the decades immediately after the Second World War, Berghaus’s allegorical style is very much a product of the lateness that was manifest on both sides of the iron curtain in the final decades of the Cold War.



DRAMATIZING DESTRUCTION Emily Richmond Pollock (University of California, Berkeley), Moderator.

Rubble Opera in Postwar Berlin: Boris Blacher’s Die Flut (1946)
Andrew Oster (Haverford College) 


Boris Blacher’s radio opera Die Flut (The Tide) was the earliest opera composed and performed in postwar occupied Germany. In early 1946 Blacher was commissioned by Berliner Rundfunk to compose an opera for radio broadcast - the first time in nearly eight years a radio opera had been commissioned in Germany. Blacher’s terse, thirty-minute score received its first broadcast on December 20, 1946. An updated version of a novella by Guy de Maupassant, Die Flut

presents four protagonists stranded on a partially-submerged shipwreck during high tide. Dire circumstance drives the characters to commit murder, adultery, and theft. The libretto has obvious relevance in Black Market-era Berlin, whose inhabitants took on a mentality of self-preservation and survival. 


A reading of Die Flut does not end with its plot, however. In this paper, I contextualize Blacher’s opera within the larger Trümmer (“rubble”) aesthetic endemic to immediate postwar Germany, especially Berlin. Trümmerliteratur and Trümmerfilme act as creative documents of the day-to-day hardships of hunger, destruction, and rebuilding, yet the aesthetic has yet to be applied to music or opera. Whereas most Trümmer-influenced works merely thematicize the berubbled landscape of Berlin, Blacher’s radio opera is itself a direct result of this trauma. In early 1946, the airwaves were a logistical necessity: they filled the void left by the widespread destruction of Germany’s opera infrastructure. Blacher’s radio opera is therefore both a testament to - and symbol of - wartime destruction. No other genre better reflects the exigencies of the rubble years than radio opera, a displaced victim of bombed-out opera houses. My argument draws on a close reading of the plot and score analysis, as well as a recording of the original 1946 Berliner Rundfunk broadcast.           



Staging the Apocalypse: The Atomic Bomb in B. A. Zimmermann’s Die Soldaten and Les Rondeaux
William Robin (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) 

Die Soldaten, Bernd Alois Zimmermann’s singular opera composed from 1958 to 1965, ends with a bang: pre-recorded screams blare through the opera house, accompanying a video projection of an atomic mushroom cloud. The cataclysmic explosion matches the cataclysm of the opera, a fierce indictment of lecherous military society. But this was not Zimmermann’s first attempt at depicting the atomic bomb on an operatic stage. Directly before composing Die Soldaten, he worked extensively with writer Alphons Silbermann on Les Rondeaux, a free-wheeling adaptation of Ben Jonson’s Elizabethan satire Volpone. Zimmermann, displeased with Silbermann’s work, altered the librettist's optimistic ending to indicate an atomic explosion devastating the entire opera’s cast.

From the late 1950s to mid-60s, intellectuals addressed the atomic bomb in fiction, film, music, and philosophy, both as a delayed reaction to the horrors of Hiroshima and an immediate response to the nuclear threat of the Cold War. This paper will consider Zimmermann’s treatment of the bomb as the ultimate pessimistic critique of society in the context of West German philosophy, focusing on Günther Anders, whose 1957 tract Die Antiquiertheit des Menschen offers a similarly bleak perspective of the world in the atomic age.



MODES OF EXCHANGE Amy C. Beal (University of California, Santa Cruz), Moderator.

Classical Music, Propaganda, and the American Cultural Agenda in West Berlin (1945–1949)
Abby Anderton (University of Michigan) 

With Germany’s unconditional surrender on May 8, 1945, the American Military Government prepared to implement the most ambitious cultural reeducation program it had ever undertaken. As Secretary of War Robert Patterson outlined in a July 12 press conference, all forms of communication and public entertainment in Germany, including radio broadcasts, film screenings, concerts, operas, and theater performances would be carefully monitored, as “All these agencies were used by the Nazis to impress their ideas on the German people. Without the most careful supervision, they might again be employed by die-hard Nazis to continue the struggle against us” (“Abstract from the Acting Secretary of War’s Press Conference,” Records of the Information Control Division). 

The American cultural agenda during the early phase of Berlin’s occupation prioritized censorship and denazification as authorities sought to regulate all aspects of musical culture. Although American policies on music control were largely ineffectual in changing the repertoire of West Berlin ensembles, they did succeed in altering the postwar performative context. Rather than functioning as an instrument of Nazi cultural propaganda, German classical music was reformatted as a deeply humanistic art and one that espoused the ideals of democracy, rather than fascism. The early postwar experience of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, under American cultural officer John Bitter’s guidance, exemplifies the irony of encouraging greater artistic freedom through increased censorship and control. As the primary ensemble residing in the American sector, the Philharmonic would be complicit in its own symbolic domination, to borrow Pierre Bourdieu’s term, by acquiescing to certain American Military Government requirements in order to resume concertizing. By the end of 1947, however, tensions had increased between American and Soviet forces, and Berlin’s cultural life became a new battleground as each occupier vied for the support of German artists and audiences.


The Berlin-Warszawa Express
Andrea F. Bohlman (Harvard University)

During the 1980s, as the Polish Ministry of Culture granted passports more freely to students, Warsaw-based musicians often took advantage of increased possibilities for westward travel by hopping aboard a train to the nearby cities of East and West Berlin. Small groups of musicians travelled to international festivals, joined peaceful protests, and audited lectures at German universities. The experiences of Polish musicians in both Berlins at the end of the Cold War offer a perspective of the divided city from beyond German borders. Musician-activists Antoni Buchner, Krzysztof Knittel, and Jarek Guła left outspoken political activism at home in Warsaw. Instead, music and collegiality lured the individuals at the heart of my presentation to new musical experiences they framed as “independent” from the Polish Opposition. 

This paper features three journeys from Warsaw to Berlin: a young humanitarian activist sought musicological rigor at Carl Dahlhaus’s seminar beginning in 1979; young composers brought the Independent Electroacoustic Music Studio to the Inventionen Festival in 1983 to find an audience for the first Polish computer music, and a small punk circle joined in protest performances at the Zionskirche in 1989. The small-scale musical collaborations encourage an alternative scholarly approach to musical diplomacy in the Cold War, which customarily focuses upon the top-down implementation of cultural policy. Drawing upon ethnographic and archival evidence, I foreground the role musical inspiration, political ideologies, and interpersonal communication played in the musicians’ individual experiences of German culture during a time in which the Federal Republic of Germany, the German Democratic Republic, and the Polish People’s Republic underwent tumultuous political change. The Poles’ movement between Berlin East and West in search of cosmopolitan music making ultimately challenges a static view of divided Berlin and, by extension, a divided Europe at the end of the Cold War.


Ol’ Man River in the Promised Land: Paul Robeson in East Germany
Kira Thurman (University of Rochester) 

In September 2010, SPD politician Thilo Sarrazin made headlines when he published his book, Germany Does Away With Itself, a polemic that denounced immigration and openly questioned Germany’s multicultural society.  Everyone from Angela Merkel to street vendors vehemently criticized Sarrazin’s views and labeled him an out-of-touch racist. Tellingly, many dismissals of Sarrazin’s work shared a common theme: because Sarrazin was from former East Germany, it made perfect sense (to them) that he was a racist. After all, studies have repeatedly shown that anti-black racism, xenophobia, and racially-motivated hate crimes rose sharply in the former East Germany more so than anywhere else after the fall of the Berlin wall.

This presentation aims to enrich our understanding of East Germany’s racial and cultural history through an unlikely source: African American singer Paul Robeson. A proud supporter of socialism who found freedom from racial discrimination in East Germany, Paul Robeson embarked on a tour of the DDR in October 1960 that received praise and accolades in the East German press. However, in this paper, I will argue that Paul Robeson’s tour – deemed a success by Robeson and DDR cultural leaders – reveals a musical and racial disconnect between Robeson and his German audience. Because of Robeson’s intense dedication to exposing racism in the United States, he failed to see racism in a place he held dear – East Germany. In numerous newspaper articles, official reports, and DDR documents, Paul Robeson was exoticized and made racially Other by East Germans. Moreover, East Germans continued to perpetuate myths about musical aesthetics and race in concert reviews and musical treatises, praising Robeson for his “natural musicality” that all blacks seemed to possess and marveling at his accomplishments. Building upon the works of musicologists and historians, my paper will argue that Robeson’s tour gave East Germans an opportunity to discuss race and music in the public sphere, and contributed to important debates on culture and identity in the former DDR.