Beethoven: Nazi Germany – Making Claims, Making Do (Kailee Havrda)

The great Beethoven…but which version? During the first World War, Beethoven was used as a propaganda symbol and with the war ending in very sad terms for Germany it might be expected that Beethoven’s image was tarnished. Nope. He instead was viewed as a tool for Revolution. No matter the view point one took in politics, Beethoven was the symbol you wanted. Except who Beethoven was and what he would have stood for was completely different depending on who you asked. To people on the left side he was this ‘broad and rough,’ aggressive man that would have scared the Bourgeoisie and would would have enlisted in the Revolution without hesitation (pg 90). Yet, to the right he would have been the complete picture of an Aristocrat. Beethoven became a shapeshifter of a man who ultimately was the ideal of Revolution for this time. Plus with the new technology and media of the time, people used every possible resource to get Beethoven’s face out there for everyone to see him and their beliefs. Around the time of the Third Reich, people were practically worshipping Beethoven and quote “fighting tooth and nail to demonstrate that he belonged exclusively to their circle of life.” (pg 142) Beethoven had turned into about 6 different men to different people. It was all the same music from the one man, yet he was taken in so many different ways. Then Hitler came to power and all of that stopped. Beethoven was viewed in one way and under one light, and that light was coming from the right side. People that supported modernism or were Jewish or non-conformers were kicked out because they were ruining the transition to this new age (and it quite frankly, affected a lot of people). The Nazi regime used the many forms of mass media to make sure this version was promoted and more importantly to ensure that without a doubt Beethoven was a PURE German, which meant clarifying his family life. (pg 146). Overall, Beethoven was used throughout time by many people to essentially unite people as one whether that is before or during the Third Reich or after. The only slight issue was whether or not, looking back, the real Beethoven was the uniting factor or was it who people wanted him to be at the time.

  1. There are two most notable parts in the second clip of Beethoven’s Fourth Movement that are soft almost quiet to an explosive intense, in-your-face, sound (6.55 and 15.58). Do you think this was done with a purpose? If so what? And do you think this explosiveness added to his sound and his legacy?
  2. It appears that one of the most notable things about his music is that it is powerful or intense (at least for me). Kurt Weill (page 93) comments that Beethoven’s music was ‘music of freedom’ then goes on to explain why. Would you have to or do you agree with this claim? Did the leftists have a strong claim to say that Beethoven was the ‘eternal rebel’ (pg 92)?
  3. The Nazi regime practically remade Beethoven, not only taking him from a right-winged perspective, but also completely twisting his family history. What do you make of this? What does this show of the Nazis and/or of the people of Germany?
  4. Who was the real Beethoven? It seems that everyone created their own form of Beethoven from how he looked to who he was. And because of this, do you think it started to feel that it no longer was about the music but more so the name, ‘Beethoven’?

Dennis, David B. Beethoven in German Politics: 1870-1989. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996.

The Threepenny Opera

Before I discuss the plot of the opera I wanted to connect it to the theme of satire in the Weimar Republic. I thought that this piece was satirical because it was making light of Germany’s current situation after World WarⅠ, including people’s frustration with the middle class and their control over the government. During this time historically there are many political parties rising to create political unrest, there are high unemployment rates, and there is overall economic distress. Poor conditions like this lead people to leading lives as poor beggars. This opera was geared towards that audience. Taking a form of art that had been historically for the bourgeoisie, and making it affordable and available to a working-class of people. In the film, these themes of unfair class systems and inequality are blatantly seen, at least in my interpretation. To see examples of this we must analyze the plot of the opera. The Threepenny Opera opens with a man, who is introduced as Mackie, walking down the street towards a crowd. In the middle of the crowd another man sings a song about Mackie explaining that he is a wealthy gangster that takes advantage of the poor beggar class (Weill, Kurt.The Threepenny Opera 4:33). As the film continues it is clear that Mackie likes to indulge in things like nice clothing, food, and other luxury items. We see that his gang members fear him, and do his illegal bidding for him. When he prepares to marry Polly he asks one of his men to secure a full wedding outfit for her, and then later we see piles of goods waiting for them at the stables (Weill, Kurt.The Threepenny Opera 27:53). This was interesting to me because the gluttony that we see in this scene perfectly shows the despair between the two classes of people mainly represented in the film, the poor beggars and the wealthy gangsters. Tiger Brown tells Mackie that he must try to stay out of trouble because Polly’s father Peachum wants him arrested. In order to lay low, he goes to the local brothel. Here he runs into Jenny, and she turns him into the police. What I found interesting is that it was Mackie’s old lover who told the police where he was. This shows what people will do desperate times, mimicking the thought process of the Germans during the end of the Weimar Republic era. While Mackie’s in prison, Polly starts a bank with his men, and a huge protest breaks out over outrage surrounding Mackie’s arrest. During the chaos, Jenny offers herself up to the other men in the prison so that they will help Mackie escape. Similar to our readings from last week we see how women fit into the narrative of life in the Weimar Republic in music and film. She, like Lola, uses her body to get what she wants. So, Mackie escapes and he, Tiger Brown, and Peachum all agree that they should give up their old ways and begin banking. This ending seemed a little silly to me because I didn’t think that it fits well with the rest of the plot. The way the opera was structured was interesting though because it was filled with noise, but the music and songs also occurred at significant parts of the film. Overall I found the music to be fun to listen to and catchy. 

Weill, Kurt. YouTube, October 2, 2ⅠⅠ014. https://youtu.be/eUgkrlL8GkE

  1. Do you think that Mackie is representative of the bourgeoisie? If Mackie represents the bourgeoisie, then what do you make of his crimes and corruption? 
  2. Do you think the shots of the building that have messages are significant? (Weill, Kurt. The Threepenny Opera 11:30, 44:03, )
  3. Do you think that the film connects to some of the things we discussed from our reading about the cabaret? If so what do you make of Polly and Jenny? Do they share characteristics with Lola? 
  4. What political messages were apparent in the film if any? 
  5. Do you see any connections between the plot of the film and the political unrest in Germany?

Syllabus Adjustments for Unit II!

Dear Musical Politicians,
Thank you for your great work last week! I gather that some of you are having a very stressful semester. In the interest of continuing to have substantive and penetrating discussions of our materials without overburdening you, I’ve made some adjustments to the reading and listening assignments for the rest of Unit II. Here is what you need to cover over the next two weeks:
Tues, Oct. 1
Kurt Weill, Three-Penny Opera (full film)
Do not read: Michael Kater, Different Drummers

Thurs, Oct. 3
Albrecht Dümling, “The Target of Racial Purity: The ‘Degenerate Music’ Exhibition in Dusseldorf, 1938”
Pamela Potter, “What Is ‘Nazi Music’?,” The Musical Quarterly, 88:3 (Fall 2005), pp. 428-455 [*Please Note! This was originally assigned for Oct. 8. We will read it on Oct 3 instead of Potter’s article “Attempts to Define ‘Germanness’ in Music”] 
“Letter from Furtwängler to Goebbels,” Ten Principles” and “From Hitler’s Speech” in The Arts In Nazi Germany

Tues, Oct. 8
Michael Kater, Composers of the Nazi Era
Note: This is the only reading assignment for this day!

Thurs, Oct. 10
Same as before. For Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, you only need to listen to the 4th movement.

I will go over this with you in class on Tuesday. Thanks again for your hard work, and please let me know if you have any questions.

The Blue Angel

Marissa Whitby

HIS 315

September 25, 2019

The movie stars two main characters Professor Immanuel Rath (Emil Jannings) who is a high well respected educator, and Lola Lola (Marlene Dietrich) a dancer at the local club named The Blue Angel.  It is mainly set in two significant places, one being the professor’s classroom, and the other The Blue Angel. The movie’s plot intensified when the Professor Immanuel Rath (Emil Jannings) finds that his students, specifically Angst, has photos of a cabaret performer named Lola Lola (Marlene Dietrich). The Professor ends up going to this club to find his students and punish them, but instead he found the love of his life, Lola Lola. They both seem to have an interest in each other, which leads to them getting married. The Professor was fired from his job because he was associated with Lola Lola. This leads to a life of selling photos of Lola and and the Professor becoming part of the act. 

1. Through the film, a specific clock is shown that sounds at these points during the film: 7:30, 32:28, 58:08, and 1hr 41 mins. What does this clock symbolize in this film?

2. In Tuesday’s class we read chapters five and six from Jelavich Peters scholarly book Berlin Cabaret. What elements from the book are depicted in the film?

3. In the film it shows two different clowns one in the beginning and one near the end, what do these clowns symbolize? 

4. Throughout the film we see Lola performing in shows singing various songs. Specifically she sings two love songs about finding love, one in the beginning, and the other at the end. What do these songs show about Lola and her relationship with men? 

5. In German culture in the time period of the film, blue did not have the connotation of “sad,” as we know it, instead it meant “dirty”. In the context of the film being called The Blue Angel, with Blue being dirty and Angel signifying Lola, what qualities of Lola does this describe?

Blog Post 09/23/2019 (Callie)

Cabernet music in Germany under the Weimar Republic was so vehemently defined by the censorship of the government that it, as a genre, didn’t ever have a fair chance of recovery (Jelavich, Peter. “Berlin Cabaret”). Much like we saw in the Soviet Union, cabernet music became limited in view and was a tool used to serve the government’s ideological views and goals. I found it interesting that the music seemed to be just as controversial in the Weimar Republic as it was during the Soviet Union, but for differing reasons. In Germany music was controversial because some people thought that upbeat music during the war was not appropriate because of the severity of the times. However, others thought that music proved a good distraction because people needed something that took their mind off of the horrible happenings around them (Jelavich, Peter. “Berlin Cabaret”). The shows were also controversial because they were primarily focused on what was going on at the time, reflecting the travesties of war, but they still had very blatant nationalist undertones. I think that these nationalist views cause music to lose its true purpose, which it to be a truly expressive piece of work. Although I haven’t yet heard any of the cabernets from this time I assume they will be similar to the lackluster musical pieces from the Soviet Union. While these two regimes were different in many ways they both impeded on freedom of expression in music. Artist who were dubbed anti-nationalist weren’t well received. “When the Old Motor Beats in Time Again,” is a perfect example of a non nationalistic piece (Jelavich, Peter. “Berlin Cabaret”). In class I think we should discuss this piece further, and try to talk about why a musical piece like this is so important and what impact it had on society and the artist who created it.

Jelavich, Peter. 1993. Berlin Cabaret. Studies in Cultural History. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press. http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=282596&site=ehost- live.

Sex and Satire in the Weimar Republic

Sydney Kightlinger

HIS 315

September 23, 2019

Emerging out of extreme political turmoil, the Weimar Republic (1919-1933) was a great experiment. With the nation in fractions, most notably from the reading, a decision to pull towards communism like Russia or counteract with a plethora of other ideologies, a great movement of expression appeared. Although there had been cabarets (or nightclubs) in Germany prior to the turn of the century, the use of the stage, during and into the 1920s varied in numerous ways.

To focus on Jelavich ‘s chapter five “Political Satire in the Early Weimar Republic,” the years immediately following the war leading to 1925 lead to a temporary resurgence of the cabaret. Satire infested the acts of the stage due to what as Jelavich attributes to as, “the discrepancies between ideals and realities, that contradiction offered a field that humorists cultivated with ease” (130). However, eventually the satire inclination towards satirical humor began to wan as the living conditions ceased to improve.

For the remainder of the Weimer Republic audiences wanted a spectacle. Revues, or variety shows (which could be salacious), came into fashion because they provided just that. The discussion of whether dancing women, nude or not, lead to a discussion over whether these performers where being hyper sexualized or expressive artists. With all of this commotion, this decade leaves an impact. Let’s discuss how with these questions:

1. What are the complications for artistic society of the politically divided Weimar Republic?

2. Arguably, the artistic enveloped is pushed further after WWI. How did the lack of censorship change the cultural scene?

3. The book briefly mentions a rise of anti-Semitic behavior, how was creative expression used by some to make anti-Semitic statements (Bonus question: Do artists have a responsibility to society to insure they are producing non-bigoted work?)

4. How does authority (or lack of it) shape the Weimar Republic?

5. What role does economics following the war play in the republic’s entertainment consumption?

6. In regard to the law code, what do we think of the regulation of naked women’s bodies in respect to 19th century art?

7. What are the most prominent aspect of American culture that penetrated German art, and how do they effect German sensibilities?

8. In what ways did the cinema and revues work against each other? Is this always the case, or is it the result of a specific market?

9. How is the art of the Weimar Republic a glaring example of modernity? (Is it? The book seems to believe so.)

10. What does marketing kicklines as “purer” than a one-woman show say about the era?

Stalin’s Music Prize

Stalin’s Music Prize was more than just 100,000 roubles awards to the best compositions of that year. Frolova-Walker makes the point that “an elite was already in place” for the musicians and composers because they already could afford basic necessities and luxury goods which is a step over the masses (Frolova-Walker, 12). The most important aspect in historical terms of Stalin’s Music Prize is that the Stalin Prize Committee (KSP) by awarding these prizes clearly illustrated what fit the national agenda of the arts. Stalin’s saying, “national in form, but socialist in content” and the concept of socialist realism were the spoken instructions for what Stalin wanted, but the pieces awarded Stalin’s Music Prize were clear examples of what the KSP thought Stalin wanted.

            Yet, the KSP struggled with deciding between praising ideology and aesthetic. On the one hand, ideology was so easy to laud, but those compositions could easily lack aesthetic. On the other hand, aesthetic pieces were masterfully composed and beautiful to listen to, but those pieces if ideology was not shown through words or tone could easily be construed as “formalist” and “Western” and not Soviet enough. Initially the KSP emphasized aesthetic over ideology because they had more autonomy over their choices and most members were traditionalists (17). As the higher members of Soviet bureaucracy became involved including members of the Politburo, the KSP’s sovereignty was usurped because Stalin’s Music Prize could conveniently be used to send messages to artists and as a propaganda tool. When the KSP’s choices were widened to include music as far back as 1935 for their first awardees, they knew that “it would set in stone the canon of Soviet art, and thereby codify Socialist Realism” (48). It was a momentous task that could not be left up to the autonomy of conservative composers and artists.

  1. What criteria encouraged the KSP (and members of the Soviet bureaucracy) to pick certain pieces over others?
  2. How did the differences of Shostakovich’s pieces and the changing politics of each year affect his ability to be granted an award?
  3. Why did the national republics go from winning barely any awards to becoming a “reliable choice” in 1948? (Frolova-Walker, 180)

Week Four Musical Scandals

Sydney Kightlinger

HIS-315 Blog Post

September 17, 2019

Much like our discussions previously in this unit, the music scandals of the Late Stalin period deal with the issue of what music is good socialist realism? The definition given by the party lacks direction. Arguably, the definition was left intentionally vague so that musician could figure out what soviet music ought to be, and though RAPM had lost their power by the time period we read about today, many of the issues that floated around after the civil war were still very relevant in this post-World War II moment.

In chapter four of Creative Union, however, we get the feeling that for the first time, there starts to be a real push to decide what could be considered “good” art, “Rather, they established the broad contours of a campaign, identified what were considered unacceptable examples of Soviet art, and instructed disciplined and unscathed artists alike to direct their efforts towards fixing newly identified problems,” (Tomoff, 98). As expected, this resulted in what Tomoff refers to “professional politics.” Orgkom used this new urge to align a musical excellence to purse a “purge” in the Composers’ Union, but the attempted works did not work out as intended. Moreover, the Alesksei Ogolevets’ Affair highlighted the lingering issues between party musicians and ambiguous Left musicians.

  • In reference to Tomoff’s assessment of Ogolevets on page 110 and the piece we listened to today, do you think that there is still an emphasis on Western Musical traditional? Granted that the piece we listened to comes after Ogolevets, how do you think these can be weighed against each other?

Moreover, in chapter five, we get this very interesting debate on “formalism.” This is further enhanced with the supplementation of one primary source that Tomoff used in his argument. In “Against Formalistic Tendencies in Soviet Music,” we are presented with a scathing review of the opera, Great Friendship, that the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party calls “feeble and inexpressive” (Sovetskaia muzyka, No. 1 (1948), pp. 3-8) which led to the resolution of four tenets that music and it’s keepers need to adhere to:

1. To condemn the formalistic tendency in Soviet music as against the people and as actually to the liquidation of music.

2. To propose to the Administration of Propaganda and Agitation of the Central Committee and the Committee on the Arts that they endeavor to correct the situation in Soviet music, liquidate the shortcomings set forth in the present resolution of the Central Committee, and ensure the development of Soviet music in the direction of realism.

3. To call upon Soviet composers to become aware of the lofty demands made on musical art by the Soviet people, to clear away everything that weakens our music and hampers its development, to ensure that upsurge of creative work which will advance Soviet musical culture rapidly and lead to the creation of finished works of high quality, worthy of the Soviet people, in every branch of music.

4. To approve organizational measures of the appropriate Party and Soviet organs directed toward the improvement of musical affairs

(Sovetskaia muzyka, No. 1 (1948), pp. 3-8).

  • With these new resolves in mind, how do you think Shostakovich’s Song of the Forests is responding to it? What elements are playing to these new rules? Are there elements that are not in accordance with them?