Germany in the Loud Twentieth Century: An Introduction

Germany in the Loud Twentieth Century: An Introduction

Germany in the Loud Twentieth Century: An Introduction

Germany in the Loud Twentieth Century: An Introduction

Synopsis

Germany in the Loud Twentieth Century seeks to understand recent German history and contemporary German culture through its sounds and musics, noises and silences, using the means and modes of the emerging field of Sound Studies. German soundscapes present a particularly fertile field for investigation and understanding, Feiereisen and Hill argue, due to such unique factors in Germany's history as its early and especially cacophonous industrialization, the sheer loudness of its wars, and the possibilities of shared noises in its division and reunification. Organized largely but not strictly chronologically, chapters use the unique contours of the German aural experience to examine how these soundscapes - the sonic environments, the ever-present arrays of noises with which everyone lives - ultimately reveal the possibility of "national" sounds. Together the chapters consider the acoustic national identity of Germany, or the cultural significance of sounds and silence, since the development and rise of sound-recording and sound-disseminating technologies in the early 1900s Chapters draw examples from a remarkably broad range of contexts and historical periods, from the noisy urban spaces at the turn of the twentieth century to battlefields and concert halls to radio and television broadcasting to the hip hop soundscapes of today. As a whole, the book makes a compelling case for the scholarly utility of listening to them. An online "Bonus Track" of teaching materials offers instructors practical tips for classroom use.

Excerpt

Like American children, Germans learn the lyrics of their national anthem in elementary school, but, unlike their American counterparts, not every grown-up remembers each line. A famous incident occurred in 2005 when German singer Sarah Connor was hired for the official opening of the Allianz Arena in Munich to sing the national anthem. When Connor sang “Brüh im Lichte dieses Glückes” (“be scalded in the light of this fortune”) instead of the correct “Blüh im Glanze dieses Glückes” (“bloom in the blessing of this fortune”), sixty-six thousand people in the stadium and eight million people glued to their televisions became ear-witnesses to her memory lapse—but not everyone noticed immediately. For Americans who grow up singing their anthem on a regular basis, this story might seem anomalous, but it reveals an important difference between American and German sound cultures. Germans rarely sing their national anthem, and, when they do so, it is largely at international sporting events, especially the Germans’ favorite pastime Fußball, or soccer. More important, singing the German national anthem is not imbued with the same kind of national pride as in other countries; in fact, for people of some generations, knowing the exact lyrics and singing along loudly is considered overly nationalistic. Without going into detail about German national identity after World War II, as numerous scholars have already done, it remains interesting that the singing of the national anthem—or, rather, the not singing of the anthem—can grant insight into the importance of sound and its connection with national identity.

The significance of the national anthem can be heard when one reflects on recent FIFA World Cups. In 1990, cameras recorded the West German players singing the national anthem, but the microphones revealed that the vast majority of the soccer players were not in fact singing along but only moving their lips in sync to the music. In 1994, 1998, and 2002, the microphones, again, picked up only a general mumbling; distinct words could not . . .

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