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Edinburgh German Yearbook 13: Music in Politics / Politics in Music

Posted: December 12th, 2017 | Filed under: Calls for Papers | No Comments »

Edited by Siobhán Donovan (University College Dublin) and Maria Euchner (University of Edinburgh)

Music and politics have a long history of joining forces, creating powerful results, and enriching and influencing one another along the way. Not only is music often employed for political purposes, but politics can provide composers and musicians with a rich tapestry of material informing their musical explorations.

Music was arguably instrumental in shaping German identity and continues to play a role in the German national imagination today. It has been used for both patriotic and nationalistic purposes – the line separating the two often being very fine – and is manipulated by specific political parties and by musicians to convey political messages and convictions both to the left and the right of the political spectrum. The turbulent history of the German national anthem, and the fact that it is not mentioned in the Grundgesetz, is also testament to the emotional charge that can result from marrying music and politics. During times of war, music – classical, as well as popular – played an important role, both at home and at the front, and was frequently employed as a motivational force, a propaganda tool, or a weapon. Music can create a sense of identity and belonging, and is able to trigger memories that may be either welcome or disturbing.

Music can be perceived as a threat to ruling powers, and even when its production and performance are forbidden, it continues to thrive, often underground. It has the power to create communities of resistance and/or to subvert political systems, as was the case in the Nazi concentration camps during the Third Reich, where music was not only performed but also created. Theresienstadt was a particularly active camp in terms of artistic production: one only has to think of the sixteen performances of Verdi’s Requiem (1874) – a clear Roman-Catholic work – by Jewish prisoners, or Viktor Ullmann’s composition of the opera Der Kaiser von Atlantis (1943/44) about a tyrannical ruler who announces a war of all against all, causing Death to throw in the towel. The Moorsoldatenlied (1933), a protest song against the Nazi oppressors created in Börgermoor, has had a long and successful afterlife, and was recorded as recently as 2012 by the German punk band “Die Toten Hosen.” While German political songs can be traced back at least to the early 19th century, they probably had their heyday in the 1960s and 1970s and were often influenced by the American folk music movement, as well as international political events.

However, popular music is not the only vehicle for conveying political criticism. Especially since the 19th century, opera has been a forum in which composers and/or librettists voice their political opinions and address social concerns. Richard Wagner’s 16-hour tour de force Der Ring des Nibelungen (prem. as a cycle in 1876) is a large-scale project of political criticism, whereas more modest attempts are made in earlier and later operas by Beethoven, Alban Berg, and those resulting from the fruitful collaboration between Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht. Weill’s secular cantata Das Berliner Requiem (1928) to a text by Brecht also deserves mention as an example of classical music with a highly political message.

These are but a few examples of the cross-fertilisation resulting from the close interaction between music and politics in the German-speaking context. This volume seeks to explore the wide scope of this fruitful relationship in the German / Austrian / Swiss context across centuries and across genres. It will be of interest to a variety of academic disciplines: German Studies, Cultural Studies, Musicology, Adaptation Studies, and History.

The editors invite abstracts for articles discussing the interaction between music and politics in the German-speaking context. Articles may focus on a particular work, genre, theme, composer, librettist, songwriter, musician, performer etc. from any historical period right up to the present. Joint submissions are also welcome.

Expressions of interest for contributions of c. 6,000 words are now being sought, and abstracts (of 200-300 words), along with a short biography, should be forwarded to both Siobhán Donovan ([email protected]) and Maria Euchner ([email protected]) by 31 January 2018. We will confirm acceptance of proposed papers by 1 March 2018. Completed articles must be submitted by 31 December 2018, when they will be sent for peer review. The projected publication date is late autumn 2019.

The Edinburgh German Yearbook, launched in 2007, encourages and disseminates lively and open discussion of themes pertinent to German Studies. A full list of previous and current volumes of the Edinburgh German Yearbook is at:


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