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Musical Modernism in the Twentieth Century

Translated by Wojciech Bońkowski


Maciej Gołąb

This book offers a fresh discussion of the methodology of music historiography. So far historiographical methodology has always depended on other fields within humanities (especially on history) to a degree where it moved the focus of its thought away from the musical work’s structure and away from the musical work itself. Musical Modernism in the Twentieth Century looks at musical structures in its cultural context, using different methodological models for the interpretation of the subsequent phases of the twentieth-century musical modernism.
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Chapter 4. Modernism Enslaved


Chapter 4

Modernism Enslaved

1. The Third Reich: Durch deutsches Land marschieren wir!

The third phase of history of European modernism was determined not by artistic events but politics.146 Modernism lost its social subjectivity and became the object of political realignment. The phenomenon of party allegiance of composers as well as their engagement in politics is an important novelty in the history of twentieth-century modernism. Likewise, new legal regulations on one hand were supposed to subordinate artistic life to current home politics and then external military expansion, leading to an export of the new ideology, and on the other, to lay the foundation of normative aesthetics and universalise them. That new ideology poisoned several generations of composers, performers, and listeners. Without delving here into well-known facts from Third Reich history, we shall discuss the legislation that allowed a “sanation” in German-speaking countries of an important part of European modernism.147 The symbolic starting point of that political purge was the major success of Kurt Weill’s and Bertold Brecht’s The Threepenny Opera (1928). That opera crossed the Rubicon of art’s aesthetic function, with the artists becoming the spokesperson of social criticism; Luigi Rognoni argues “Weill and Brecht probed a deep social wound with an unprecedented forcefulness.”148 Fiercely fought off by the Nazi regime, Weill and Brecht, although they were unconscious of the socio-artistic ramifications of their opera, opened the way to a musical language that could be used by a politically suppressed modernism. At the...

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