Composing the Canon in the German Democratic Republic: Narratives of Nineteenth-Century Music

Research output: Book/ReportBook

Abstract

National identity in the German Democratic Republic was heavily predicated on the past. The state was posited as the second German Enlightenment, and socialism as the culmination of a legacy of rational thought dating back to the French Revolution. Nineteenth-century music featured prominently in this foundation myth. A heritage of classical realism originating with Beethoven was heralded as the precursor to socialist realism. Romanticism, in contrast, was identified as the locus for the irrationalism that had led to fascism and capitalism. This book charts the reception of this canon in the GDR. It explores the role that the musical heritage played in the construction of East German socialism, and demonstrates how the changing landscape of canon reception in later decades anticipated the GDR’s demise. As the GDR stagnated, disillusioned intellectuals deconstructed the socialist canon’s unifying narratives, and positioned it firmly within a discourse of late socialism. The book considers processes of canon formation in a variety of contexts, including musicology, composition, opera, literature, and film. It draws on a broad range of primary sources, and combines empirical archival research with conceptual methodologies adapted from discourse theory, theories of nationalism, and theories of lateness, both artistic and political. The resulting study illuminates not only the nuances of musical thought in the GDR, it also reveals the extent to which the state’s aesthetic discourse encoded a trajectory of societal ascent and decline.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages264
ISBN (Electronic)9780199998104, 9780199394371
ISBN (Print)9780199998098
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 23 Oct 2014

Keywords

  • canon
  • nineteenth-century music
  • nationalism
  • socialism
  • late socialism
  • lateness

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