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Conference Proceeding

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"Music, War, and Commemoration” Panel of the American Historical Association Conference in San Diego, CA, 2010


Recent scholarship on Nazi music policy pays little attention to the main party newspaper, the Völkischer Beobachter, or comparable publications for the general public. Most work concentrates on publications Nazis targeted at expert audiences, in this case music journals. To think our histories of Nazi music politics are complete without comprehensive analysis of the party daily is premature. One learns from this resource precisely what Nazi propagandists wanted average party members and Germans in general, not just top-level officials and scholars, to think—even about music. Therein, we see how contributors placed a Nazi “spin” on music history and composer’s biographies.

Using heretofore untranslated materials, this presentation will fill part of this gap in our historiography of Nazi music policy. It will first detail Völkischer Beobachter coverage of late-nineteenth and early twentieth-century music, which essentially involved determining where music could go after Wagner: committed late Romantics including the Strausses, Bruckner, Wolf, and Pfitzner were pitted against “French diseases” and Mahler’s “psychopathia musikalis.” Thereafter, this presentation will cover “acceptable” alternatives to Weimar decadence that the Völkischer Beobachter posited from the so-called Era of Struggle [Kampfzeit ] through the Third Reich. To answer the problems of musical modernism, the paper supported works of Richard Strauss, Siegfried Wagner, Max Reger, Carl Orff, Paul Graener, and Max von Schillings—though none seemed to truly deserve the mantle of the Bayreuth “Master” himself. With the war, however, the theme most emphasized in Völkischer Beobachter cultural coverage was militarism. The presentation will conclude with a survey of how revered figures such as Bach, Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, and Wagner were scrutinized for indications that they had engaged with or contemplated conflict and combat, demonstrating in their works and biographies that they had “fighting natures” which could serve as inspiration for the German Volk at war.

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A paper presented as part of the "Music, War, and Commemoration” Panel of the 124th Annual Meeting of American Historical Association Conference in San Diego, CA, 2010.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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