Literature, Music, Theatre?

The Performative Aspect of Rammstein’s Musical Activity

by Agnieszka Bagińska (Author)
©2022 Monographs 342 Pages


The aim of my work was to show the performative nature of the stage performances of the musical group Rammstein. Due to their amazing nature, the group's shows can be treated as artistic performances. In my dissertation, I will determine whether there is an increased impact on the viewer by artistic means, throwing them out of the passive attitude of the observer and encouraging them to take action within the spectacle in real time. This interaction is possible and closely related to the acts of communication that can be transmitted through a specific communication channel or, as in the case of stage implementation, connect them with each other. So far, there has been no publication that deals with such an analysis of Rammstein’s concerts.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. Research direction and literature methodology
  • 2.1. Interdisciplinarity and comparative studies
  • 2.2. The analysis regarding the interaction of literature, music and theatre
  • 2.3. The research method and tools
  • 3. Performative turn in the context of other research turns
  • 3.1. Performative turn: Performativity and performance
  • 3.2. From John L. Austin to Judith Butler: Mainstream performative research
  • 3.3. Ritual – Theatre – Performance: Performance research in terms of Victor Turner
  • 3.4. Concepts of stage performativity
  • 3.5. Communication on performance stages
  • 3.6. Performative character of stage performances
  • 3.7. Staging frame and its elements
  • 3.8. The rock scene of the Rammstein music band
  • 4. Literature review on the performative character of stage shows by music bands
  • 5. Analysis of the elements of the staging frame of Rammstein’s stage performances
  • 5.1. Song analysis “Intro”
  • 5.1.1. Performativity in the song “Intro”
  • 5.2. Song analysis Sonne/Sun
  • 5.2.1. Performativity in the song “Sonne”
  • 5.3. Song analysis: “Wollt Ihr das Bett in Flammen sehen?/Do you want to see the bed in flames?”
  • 5.3.1. Performativity in the song “Wollt Ihr das Bett in Flammen sehen”
  • 5.4. Song analysis, “Keine Lust/No desire”
  • 5.4.1. Performativity in the song “Keine Lust”
  • 5.5. Song analysis “Sehnsucht/Longing”
  • 5.5.1. Performativity in the song “Sehnsucht”
  • 5.6. Song analysis: “Asche zu Asche/Ashes to ashes”
  • 5.6.1. Performativity in the song “Asche zu Asche”
  • 5.7. Song analysis “Feuer Frei/Fire Free!”
  • 5.7.1. Performativity in the song “Feuer Frei”
  • 5.8. Song analysis “Mutter/Mother”
  • 5.8.1. Performativity in the song “Mutter”
  • 5.9. Song analysis “Mein Teil/My part”
  • 5.9.1. Performativity in the song “Mein Teil”
  • 5.10. Song analysis “Du riechts so gut/You smell so good”
  • 5.10.1. Performativity in the song “Du riechts so gut”
  • 5.11. Song analysis “Links 2-3-4/Left 2,3,4”
  • 5.11.1. Performativity in the song “Links 2-3-4”
  • 5.12. Song analysis “Du hast/You Have”
  • 5.12.1. Performativity in the song “Du hast”
  • 5.13. Song analysis “Heifisch/Shark”
  • 5.13.1. Performativity in the song “Heifisch”
  • 5.14. Song analysis “Bück dich/Bend down”
  • 5.14.1. Performativity in the song “Bück dich”
  • 5.15. Song analysis of “Mann gegen Mann/Man against Man”
  • 5.15.1. Performativity in the song “Mann gegen Mann”
  • 5.16. Song analysis “Ohne Dich/Without you”
  • 5.16.1. Performativity in the song “Ohne dich”
  • 5.17. Song analysis “Mein Herz brennt/My heart burns”
  • 5.17.1. Performativity in the song “Mein Herz brennt”
  • 5.18. Song analysis “Amerika/America”
  • 5.18.1. Performativity in the song “Amerika”
  • 5.19. Song analysis “Ich Will/I want”
  • 5.19.1. Performativity in the song “Ich will/I want”
  • 5.20. Song analysis “Engel/Angel”
  • 5.20.1. Performativity in the song “Engel”
  • 5.21. Song analysis “Pussy/Pussy”
  • 5.21.1. Performativity in the song “Pussy”
  • 5.22. Song analysis “Frühling in Paris/Spring in Paris”
  • 5.22.1. Performativity in the song “Frühling in Paris”
  • 6. Summary and conclusions
  • 7. Sources
  • 7.1. Primary literature:
  • 7.2. Secondary literature:
  • 7.3. Other sources:
  • Index of Names
  • Series Index

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1. Introduction1

The following dissertation seeks to answer the following research question: Is the stage performance of the German band ‘Rammstein’ performative in nature? Performative can be defined as a performance which has an active influence on the perceiver through the use of artistic aids; a performance which turns a passive observer into an energetic one absorbed by the show and encourages the audience to actively take part in the spectacle all around them.

The research problem of the following dissertation is interdisciplinary in nature, so I have chosen to use the comparative research as my study method. Comparative literature is a literature analysis, which covers a vast cultural background (cf. Hejmej, Interdisciplinarity (Interdyscyplinarność), 2007, p. 53). To determine my research method, I will use the cultural analysis (cultural turn). According to this analysis, any literary text is better known as a cultural text (cf. Burzyńska/Markowski, Theories (Teorie), 2006, p. 54).2 During the text analysis regarding the cultural background, all work done by human persons is considered. Cultural texts are, on the one hand, pieces of written work; such as an article, novel or poem but, on the other hand, such texts may also appear in visual form, audio, virtual, audio-visual, or even as multimedia, representing the culture of various societies. Therefore, the subject of my analysis deals with the comparative research of both text and culture.

Due to the fact that my dissertation will cover a variety of cultural topics, such as the stage performance, the analysis of empirical work has a strong connection with the communication process. Communication occurs when a message is conveyed through a range of information exchange channels; in the case of stage performance, they are all mixed together. Artists are able to convey their message not only verbally, by the means of song’s lyrics or articulation, but also with the help of gesticulation or movement on the stage. The final message is strengthened by the ←9 | 10→elements of stage performance, such as masks, props or pyrotechnic displays. The main aspects of the following dissertation, which will help to analyse the empirical work, are the musical setting, verbal and nonverbal behaviour, as well as the stage performance. Since Rammstein’s show are so complex, it should also be considered as an artistic performance.

In chapter 1, I will introduce the theories and methodology that discuss modern society’s approach to comparative research, its interdisciplinary nature, and the perception of cultural texts. Also in this chapter, I will contextualize this work by situating it within the intersection of the fields of literature, music and theatre. Often these three fields are discussed separately – in this work, I will look at their intersection, as can be found in Rammstein’s stage performances, as will be discussed in further detail in chapter 3. In this chapter, I will also provide some information about how the term “performative” came to be; I will explain such concepts as performance and performative acts; and last but not least, I will describe the main streams of performative research, choosing one of them as predominant in my thesis. In this dissertation, I will employ Victor Turner’s ritual-analytic methodology to analyse Rammstein’s performance. Since the main source of my analysis is the band’s live concert footage, I will focus on the elements involved in the communication process and discuss their meaning in chapter 3. Furthermore, I will delineate the analysis by taking into account not only verbal and nonverbal communication, but also the sound effects, stage performance and cinematic effects as well. In chapter 4, I will describe the results of the analysis, considering performative activities in music, since no research has ever been done regarding Rammstein’s work. Referring to the aforementioned interpersonal communication types, my main research tool is a method used to analyse stage performance and various stage details such as costumes, props, lighting and stage movement. At the end of the chapter, I will propose the graph depicting communication process, which is essential for the analysis.

The fifth chapter consists of an analysis regarding the empirical work. The main source for the research will be live footage of their stage performances (a few selected that fit the subject). To analyse this material, I am going to investigate the verbal, nonverbal communication, lighting and stage effects regarding the elements of Rammstein’s performance. I will explore how artists modify communication on various occasions, and whether the audience takes part in such an action. Such analysis provides a complete picture of the artists’ work on stage and the viewers’ reaction, which in turn helps define whether Rammstein’s live concerts are performative in nature.

In the final chapter, I will summarize the results and discuss how they should be interpreted. The findings will allow me to verify whether the chosen research trail validates the hypothesis formulated in the title of this dissertation.

1 This dissertation was translated by Agnieszka Bagińska (the author).

2 A literary work is a verbal, written (most often) or oral text (e.g. Homer’s epics, works from the folklore circle (e.g. legends, songs), shaped by means of the language at its disposal, in an artistic way. Its defining qualities lie in the fact that it responds to the aesthetic expectations of the recipients. (“A literary work is a verbal text, written (in most cases) or oral (e.g., Homer’s epics, works of folklore: e.g., legends, songs), shaped in an artistic way by means offered by language. Its special character hinges upon the fact that it responds to the aesthetic expectations of the audience”) (Sławiński, Dictionary (Słownik), 1994, p. 528). Thus, a literary text is treated as a graphic or oral artistic statement, one of the main features of which is the transmission of certain content (cf. Sierotwiński, Dictionary (Słowinik), 1970, p. 324).

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2. Research direction and literature methodology

2.1. Interdisciplinarity and comparative studies

The research problem of the following dissertation can be situated within comparative literature studies The field’s interdisciplinary nature contributes to research within literary studies and its analysis enables it to be “one of the discourses and one of the elements of cultural reality”1 (Hejmej, Music (Muzyka), 2012, p. 81). Comparative literature covers not only such fields of knowledge as literature, music or theatre, but also includes fields that study human behaviour such as psychology, sociology or science communication. Comparative literature, in the words of Stanisław Balbus, aside from poetics and rhetoric, is probably one of the oldest branches within literary studies. At first, the field developed as an “domain of confrontation,” that is, through comparison and contrast of the critical reception, similarities and differences, interdependence and relationships of various national literary works (cf. Balbus, Intersemiotyczność, 2004, p. 14). Later on, comparative literature widened its domain by integrating other fields. Such a favourable climate for the interdisciplinary research developed in the 1970’s, after Henry Remak widened the definition of comparative literature. Remak defined it as the relationship between literature and “other fields of knowledge and consciousness” (cf. Wasilewska-Chmura, Space (Przestrzeń), 2011, p. 20).2 He suggested that comparative literature should include literary analysis that goes beyond the borders of individual countries. Remak encouraged researchers to examine the relationship between literature and other disciplines of knowledge and consciousness, such as art (e.g. music, theatre), philosophy and history on the one side and social sciences on the other (cf. Hejmej, Music (Muzyka), 2012, p. 94).

The debate regarding interdisciplinary studies has continued into current research within comparative literature studies. Problems have cropped up in field of modern literary studies, which in turn has created various attempts by researchers to explain the correlation between comparative literature and interdisciplinary studies. Some comparative literature experts – sometimes referred ←11 | 12→to as pragmatists – lobby for interdisciplinary comparative literature to be considered as an important sub-discipline of comparative literature. Others – sometimes referred to as theoreticians – assume that comparative literature is entirely interdisciplinary in nature. Theoreticians consider comparative literature to be in its very essence interdisciplinary, because they define it as a metascience that employs metatheory, that is, comparative literature compares a variety of texts and materials beyond the traditional confines of literary studies and employs theories from multiple disciplines. This is why they also refer to comparative literature as metaliterary studies., or in some instances – by limiting oneself to, for example, a traditional comparative literature – meta-literary-studies.3 Another group of experts – sometimes referred to as relativists – differentiate themselves from the other two groups, because they discredit the idea of interdisciplinary research; relativists avoid defining various disciplines as separate areas of study, because they believe that any research one undertakes already employs a variety of fields of knowledge and is interrelated. That is why they believe the term interdisciplinary to be non-existent, because every area of research contains within itself other disciplines. (cf. ibid., pp. 89, 90).

Regardless of the differing viewpoints concerning the question of interdisciplinarity, all comparative research debates can be summarized by the statement that “in current research, interdisciplinarity is an immanent part of literary studies and cultural studies” (ibid., p. 9). My dissertation will focus, however, on the newest breakthrough in comparative literature – the cultural breakthrough, also referred to as the cultural turn – leads to a vital reassessment of assumptions in the field and at the same time introduces new areas of research.4 Those questions arise from “treating literature as one of many sciences, or as one of many elements of cultural reality, or, to put it differently, deviate from literature-centrism towards the cultural-centrism” (ibid., pp. 99, 100).

The aforementioned changes in the field of comparative literature have in turn lead to a separation of two areas of study, interdisciplinary comparative studies and cultural comparative studies. Cultural comparative literature is much more diverse than interdisciplinary comparative literature as “It covers the current translation studies, ethnic and post-colonial studies, feminism studies, gender ones and the “queer” studies, as well as, cultural identity, or the so called, performative studies (ibid., p. 71). Thus, cultural analysis is also expanding the domain of literary analysis and is changing the way people think of literature: “now, almost anything that can be studied as literature and can become a potential area of analysis, such as popular literature, popular music lyrics, tourism, football matches, ←12 | 13→advertisement, pornography etc.” (cf. Burzyńska/Markowski, Theories (Teorie), 2006, p. 521). Thus, “literary texts are not separate from culture, rather, the texts themselves are cultural products” (ibid., p. 522). Ryszard Nycz mentions the cultural theory of literature, which supports the notion that literary theory should be developed by respecting the cultural context of a literary work. At the same time, however, the theory advises against including perspectives that may threaten its operational effectiveness or distinctiveness. Nycz also recommends being open to new perspectives on research on culture and/or the fine arts (cf. Nycz/Walas, Cultural (Kulturowa), 2012, p. 20). As a result, it overcomes previous research limitations, such as the one-dimensional approach to literary theory and the marginalization of research within the field of literary studies. Furthermore, this approach creates new opportunities for research and its methodologies, because researchers are able to draw on a variety of materials that lie outside of the traditional boundaries of comparative literature. This new approach has been defined as performative studies (cf. Ibid., pp. 20, 21).


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2022 (September)
Rammstein performativity theatre comparative studies interdisciplinarity stage performance
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2022. 342 pp., 23 fig. b/w

Biographical notes

Agnieszka Bagińska (Author)

Agnieszka Bagińska obtained her PhD at the Institute of German Studies and at the University of Warsaw, Poland In her research, she deals with topics related to German-language theater, cinema, audiovisual arts and contemporary popular music. With particular interest, she verifies the possibilities of applying qualitative methods in humanities research.


Title: Literature, Music, Theatre?
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343 pages