Most German of the Arts: Musicology and Society from the Weimar Republic to the End of Hitler's Reich
McClatchie, Stephen, Canadian University Music Review
Pamela M. Potter. Most German of the Arts: Musicology and Society from the Weimar Republic to the End of Hitler's Reich. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1998. xx, 364 pp. ISBN 0-300-07228-7 (hardcover).
The cover of Karl Grunsky's racist and anti-Semitic Kampf um deutsche Musik! (Stuttgart: Erhard Walther, 1933) provides an apt illustration of the title of Pamela Potter's study of German musicology, Most German of the Arts: a lyre, symbolising Music, is being pulled from a pool of muck and slime by the German Imperial flag. The idea of music being inherently German is an important theme of Potter's work, one she traces from Athanasius Kircher in the seventeenth century through to the works and teachings of exiled German scholars in post-war America. The very act of making such long-term connections is indicative of her overall project: an attempt to reintegrate the role and development of German music(ology) between 1933 and 1945 into the larger historical narrative by uncovering and examining the unmistakable continuities between the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich. Most German of the Arts is in every way a pathbreaking book: an important corrective to silence and obfuscation, and a welcome reconsideration and refocusing of earlier historiographical theses.
The book is not arranged chronologically, but by topic, moving from the general to the specific, and allowing the reader to see the historical continuities most clearly. It begins with an examination of music and society during Weimar and the Third Reich that provides the context for the rest of the work. The next four chapters discuss, respectively: musicology and society during these same years; the discipline and its institutions; its role in the university; and opportunities for musicologists outside of the university during the Nazi era. Their focus is chiefly on institutional and biographical matters, examining the lives and careers of musicologists such as Heinrich Besseler, Friedrich Blume, Hans Joachim Moser, Joseph Müller-Blattau, Helmuth Osthoff, and Arnold Schering. They are followed by chapters on new methodologies, and on attempts to define "Germanness" in music. Finally, a concluding chapter widens the focus once more by examining the denazification process and German musicology after the war.
Too often musicological works written during the years 1933-45 have been treated ahistorically - bracketed off as "Nazi musicology," in an attempt to isolate and dismiss the era as an anomaly. The sanitized New Grove biographical articles on musicologists active during those years are only one obvious symptom of a wider historical trend. Potter does not do this. Her work is characterized by both admirable balance and scrupulous fairness. While certainly laying bare the facts surrounding such eminent personages as Blume or Schering, she is also careful to give credit where credit is due, to say what was, in fact, good about the era. She does not hesitate to point out that in many respects the lives of professional musicians and musicologists improved during the Third Reich. The Nazis alleviated many of the tensions that had splintered professional musical life during Weimar: increasing regionalization and a widening gulf between amateurs and professionals, to the detriment of the latter. They tried to bring music closer to the people by removing or discouraging intellectualisais and virtuosity, and encouraging mass participation - long-term goals of music educators before 1933. Likewise, they encouraged (and manipulated) the growth of the mass media, including the recording industry. Potter clearly demonstrates the erroneousness of earlier historical conceptions of a "totalitarian musical state," which arose both from panicked testimony at denazification trials and older historiographical trends (principally the writings of Michael Meyer). Contrary to received opinion, censorship was not all pervasive, and atonality and jazz continued to play a role. She argues that the biggest change in German musical life - and she does not minimise its impact, both personally and professionally - resulted from the Nazi aim of Entjudung (which she translates accurately, but somewhat unwieldily as "dejewification"), the forced removal of many talented Jewish musicians.
Potter possesses the rare ability to write institutional history in an engaging and fluent manner. She discusses the metamorphosis of the Fürstliches Institut für Musikwissenschaftliche Forschung i.E. zu Bückeberg (founded in 1917), publisher of the Archiv für Musikwissenschaft (1918-26), into the Staatliches Institut für deutsche Musikforschung under the Nazis. It was relocated to Berlin under the auspices of Bernhard Rust's Education Ministry and enjoyed a dominant position in the musical life of the hierarchical Third Reich. For example, all of the existing Denkmäler projects DDT, DTB, DTÖ [after the Anschluß]) were "coordinated" - to use the Nazi term - into Das Erbe deutscher Musik, under the direct control of the Institute. As well, the Institute published the Archiv für Musikforschung (1936-43), and conceived and founded the encyclopaedia project Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, appointing Friedrich Blume as its editor. Potter likewise traces the travails of the Deutsche Musikgesellschaft (also founded in 1917), publisher of the Zeitschrift für Musikwissenschaft (1918-35). Founded during the First World War, the society continued and even intensified its isolationist stance after the war. It was reorganised under Schering in 1933 according to the National Socialist Führerprinzip into the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Musikwissenschaft, but did not thrive under the Nazis. Potter makes it clear, however, that all of this activity creates only a false illusion of extraordinary support for the discipline under the Nazis. While there were indeed significant ties with the regime, in fact most of the "new" entities - such as the Institute, the DGMW, EdM, and various journals - were simply reorganized, and in some cases renamed, old ones.
Turning to musicology in the universities, Potter argues that in many ways musicologists were not typical of university professors during the Weimar era. Musicology was a recent addition to the university, and still maintained strong connection to musical practice. From the infancy of the discipline in the late nineteenth century, musicologists generally assumed multiple roles as scholars, practitioners, and journalists. As a result, musicologists in the university were often more willing to assume the active role in society required by the Nazis than scholars of other disciplines. While it is true that the Nazis largely broke the power of the German university to self rule (for example, the Führerprinzip strengthened the Rektor at the expense of the deans and individual faculty), Potter argues that musicology actually gained in stature during the Third Reich. Finally, she makes two significant points. First, she submits that the alleged "brain drain," resulting from talented Jewish or other undesirable scholars being forced into exile, has been much overstated since the university had in fact long been a conservative institution, with an extensive record of anti-Semitism, sympathy with right-wing parties, desire for strong leadership, and distrust of the Republic. The Nazis simply legitimised long-standing practices and prejudices, and were generally welcomed by many in the university. Second, Potter suggests that despite the post-war eminence of such figures as Willi Apel, Manfred Bukofzer, Alfred Einstein, Karl Geiringer, and Curt Sachs, they likely would never have penetrated the German university hierarchy, even had their careers not been interrupted by exile.
Under the National Socialists, there were new opportunities for musicologists outside of the university. Much of this work took place in the new cultural-political bureaus and organisations of the regime. Under Heinrich Himmler' s SS-" Ahnenerbe" (Ancestral Heritage branch of the SS), musicologists were involved in the recording and transcription of the folk music of "repatriated" German communities. Joseph Goebbels' s Propaganda Ministry had an active music section under Heinz Drewes. Not only did it control the organisation for performers, composers, and music educators (the Reichsmusikkammer), it supervised several important publishing projects, including the Bruckner complete edition. ! 1 ItalsocommissionedDcMiJc/ze Musik und ihre Nachbarn, a collection of essays, edited by Hans Joachim Moser, which amounted to an attempt to "Germanize" through appropriation the music history of recently annexed territory - something of a musicological Lebensraum campaign. !2 The music section of the Amt Rosenberg was directed by Herbert Gerigk. Although it also commissioned and published two musicological series (Klassiker der Tonkunst in ihren Schriften und Briefen; Unsterbliche Tonkunst), as well as numerous publications in support of the Nazi Ostpolitik, it is most (in)famous for the Lexikon der Juden in der Musik, edited by Gerigk and Theophil Stengel. Gerigk' s office also oversaw the Sonderstab Musik, the branch of the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg devoted to music, which required the services of trained musicologists (among them Wolfgang Boetticher) to assist with the seizure of valuable musical manuscripts and instruments from occupied countries. !3 Musicologists were attracted to each of these endeavours for a range of reasons, ranging from ideological conviction and/orprofessional ambition (including the opportunity for rare research opportunities in occupied countries) to the simple need of gainful employment. Potter's account is fascinating for its clear demonstration of the fierce competition for cultural authority in the Third Reich, as these men and their institutions intrigue as much against each other as their supposed foes (the Jews, cultural bolsheviks, etc.). Rivalries between Goebbels (Propaganda Ministry, Reichsmusikkammer), Goring (Prussian Prime Minister), Rust (Education), Rosenberg (Amt Rosenberg), and Robert Ley (Deutsche Arbeitsfront) sometimes push National Socialist cultural politics in strange directions.
The basic conclusion of Potter's two chapters devoted to methodological issues and research preoccupations is that while folk music research and study advanced significantly, "research" on race and the Jewish question was completely useless. In the course of her argument she offers detailed and logical evaluation and criticism of Blume' s Das Rasseproblem in der Musik (1939) and Karl Blessinger's Judentum und Musik (1944). What is perhaps most compelling about this section of the book is how Potter situates these methodological developments within larger debates within the humanities during the first half of the twentieth century. She shows that one cannot really speak of a nazification of musicology at all, because all of these research directions have clear pre-1 933 antecedents arising from post-war attempts to solidify German national identity. What she does identify is a more rhetorical recourse to National Socialist political and racial stances in scholarship. Convincingly, she characterizes the response of musicology to the Nazis as a mixture of opportunism and genuine enthusiasm for National Socialist ideals.
Before turning to the final chapter, this seems as good a time as any to raise my only issue with Potter's excellent study: the question of who is a musicologist. I cannot find a definition in the book, but by the term she seems to mean someone with a doctoral degree in musicology, usually working in academia or as part of the Nazi music bureaucracy. This is indeed generally true, but in the case of Wagner scholarship in particular, I think she is unnecessarily restrictive.4 Although she does briefly discuss the work of musicologist Alfred Lorenz, she does not mention that of Dr. Otto Strobel, the Wagner family archivist and director of the Richard Wagner- Forschungsstätte. Stobel angered the old guard by his uncensored publication of primary documents, and his work with Wagner's musical manuscripts laid the foundation for the Wagner Werk-Verzeichnis and research into Wagner's compositional practice.5 Bayreuth was always rather removed from the musicological establishment, both by location and by ideology, so it is unsurprising that Potter regards it as something apart from the mainstream.
Potter's account of the denazification and heritage of German musicology after World War II in her final chapter is perhaps the most compelling section of the book, as she insists on drawing connections between post-war developments and the growth of the discipline under the Nazis. As is well known, there were many inconsistencies in the denazification process, depending on the occupation zone - the British were notoriously lenient, allowing men like Blume, Boetticher, and Feilerer to resume their careers uncensured; the Americans and French were less so, aiming to reeducate the German people; while the Soviets simply wanted to purge all party members. Individual denazification tribunals in the Western sectors were often left to the Germans themselves, and individuals under scrutiny typically minimised their connection to the regime, and exaggerated events demonstrating resistance, persecution, or apolitical behaviour. Many things were simply swept under the carpet. For me, the most stunning confirmation of the inadequacies of the denazification process was Potter's discovery that in his posthumous denazification in 1947, Alfred Lorenz was only designated as category IV (Mitlaufer, follower) in order that his widow could continue to collect his pension-this despite Lorenz's extensive personal and professional ties to the National Socialists, beginning well before 1933.6 Of course, the changed post-war environment of divided Germany and the Cold War played an important role in aborting the denazification process.
The important continuities in musicological personnel and projects (MGG, Das Erbe deutscher Musik) after 1945 lead Potter to write of only "symbolic gestures of purging German musicology of National Socialist thought or initiative" (p. 256). She points to a continued citation of damaging (racist) literature as authoritative-in bibliographies in the MGG, for example. Perhaps the strongest connection, however, is found in the continued Germanocentric bias to the discipline, the continued assumption of German musical superiority and prowess; musicology could not be denazified, argues Potter, for it had never really been nazified in the first place. In her words: "[h]ow could one separate Nazi ideology from longer intellectual trends influenced by nationalism, völkisch thought, race theories, folklore, social Darwinism, German Idealism, and positivism?" (p. 253). These trends both antedate the Nazis, and, in many cases, survived the collapse of their Reich to continue to shape musicological discourse in the post-war era:
[Émigré scholars] held no compelling reasons to abandon their German identity, their belief in the German intellectual tradition, or their internalization of a long-standing precept of German musicological superiority, nor to hesitate to pass that ideology on to their students in the process of disseminating their knowledge and techniques (p. 260).
This last point may well be uncomfortable for some, but the idea of a "Nazi musicology" is comfort that Potter does not allow. Instead, she unflinchingly insists on drawing connections between the disciplinary battles of musicology (used in the wider, British, sense) in the 1990s and the politicization of scholarship in the 1930s and the 1940s. A reified notion of "Nazi musicology" hinders the assessment of works, by compromised scholars, that may still be of use today. How should such works be treated? A blanket dismissal seems simplistic, for valuable material may be surrounded by racist and ideologically insupportable rhetoric. Likewise, quarantining "Nazi musicology" allows persisting intellectual trends-like Germanocentrism-to remain unscrutinized. By reintegrating musicology during the Third Reich within a longer historical narrative, Potter can present it as something of a cautionary tale, one with relevant lessons for present-day debate: that musicology is inherently politicized; that, accordingly, it is vulnerable to exploitation by political forces, especially during times of intellectual and political transition; that it is affected by socio-economic conditions; and that one should beware of too quick espousal of "politically fashionable modes of thought" (p. 263). This last point is particularly important, not only for its obvious relevance to our own disciplinary battles over "new musicology" (note scare quotes), but also in the wider context of the role of the humanities in the university of the 1990s (in thrall to business models such as demonstrables, outcome-based education, and employment training). The final paragraph of Potter's fascinating and timely book ought to receive wide dissemination in our scholarly journals and societies, our universities, and in the corridors of government:
It is incumbent upon scholars to be wary of directions in scholarship that may gain in popularity because they serve the needs of a particular political agenda. Every new approach must undergo a critical examination, and scholars must resist subscribing to popular trends for the purposes of career advancement. Above all, scholarship must remain sensitive to the exploitation of such trends toward castigating a group arbitrarily designated as a nemesis, regardless of whether that nemesis is defined by race, ethnicity, gender, intellectual orientation, or a set of beliefs (p. 265).
1 For more on this, see Morten Solvik, "The International Bruckner Society and the N.S.D.A.P: A Case Study of Robert Haas and the Critical Edition," The Musical Quarterly 82 ( 1998): 362-82.
2 This unpublished collection of essays is discussed more extensively by Potter in "Musicology under Hitler: New Sources in Context," Journal of the American Musicological Society 49 ( 1996): 70-1 14.
3 The subject is treated more fully in Willem De Vries, Sonderstab Musik: Music Confiscations by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg under the Nazi Occupation of Western Europe, trans. UvA Vertalers and Lee K. Mitzman (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 1996).
4 To be sure, Potter is reacting against an historiographical precedent which indiscriminately labels the work of any journalist, general historian, or other functionary (lawyer, bureaucrat) that happened to deal with music in any way as "musicology." Such a view, which would encompass, for example, the unscholarly but notorious Musik und Rasse of Richard Eichenauer, overstates the role that musicologists had in making policy. This tendency is found especially in the work of Michael Meyer, "The Nazi Musicologist as Myth-Maker in the Third Reich," Journal of Contemporary History 10 (1975): 649-65; "Musicology in the Third Reich: A Gap in Historical Studies," European Studies Review 8 (1978): 349-64; and The Politics of Music in the Third Reich (New York: Peter Lang, 1991).
5 For more on Strobel, see my forthcoming "Wagner Research as Dienst am Volke: The RichardWagner Forschungsstätte, 1933-45."
6 Stephen McClatctae, Analyzing Wagner's Operas: Alfred Lorenz and German Nationalist Ideology (Rochester: University of Rochester Press, 1998), 1-25.
Stephen McClatchie is Associate Professor of Musicology at the University of Regina and the author of Analyzing Wagner's Operas: Alfred Lorenz and German Nationalist Ideology (University of Rochester Press, 1998). He has published articles and reviews in 19th-century Music, Mahler Studies (Cambridge University Press, 1997), Bruckner Studies (Cambridge University Press, 1997), Cambridge Opera Journal, MLA Notes, Canadian University Music Review, and the University of Toronto Quarterly. An article on Hans Rott and the new symphony is forthcoming in Music & Letters.…
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Publication information: Article title: Most German of the Arts: Musicology and Society from the Weimar Republic to the End of Hitler's Reich. Contributors: McClatchie, Stephen - Author. Journal title: Canadian University Music Review. Volume: 20. Issue: 1 Publication date: January 1, 1999. Page number: 161+. © Canadian University Music Society 1998. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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