Magazine article Musical Times

Exit Lines

Magazine article Musical Times

Exit Lines

Article excerpt

Driven into paradise: the musical migration from Nazi Germany to the United States

Edited by Reinhold Brinkmann & Christoph Wolff

University of California Press (Berkeley, Los Angeles & London, 1999); xiii, 373pp; $55. ISBN 0 520 21413 7.

The title of this book (borrowed from Schoenberg's charming, double-edged reference to his arrival in Hollywood) tells you that it comes from US academe, where knowing allusions are de rigeur, as do its contents, which, by and large, are erudite displays between academics. They are an offshoot of a conference held at Harvard in 1994, not strictly a proceedings but roughly equivalent and thus suffering from the endemic incoherence of the genre. The two editors have done their best to mitigate this, not least by an introductory essay by one of them, Reinhold Brinkmann, who summarises the 'exile studies' that have proliferated since the 1970s, supplies a bibliography through his Notes, and adds a pointed critique of his own, in the process providing some justification for the book's subtitle. There is a bit more in a second introductory essay by Peter Gay, who describes what it was like for Jews in pre-Nazi Germany and concludes with a predominantly rosy view of how intellectual emigres adapted to the USA. This is the point at which the editors might usefully have placed a factual and shocking contribution by David Josephson, documenting from the pages of the New York Times the ejection from their posts of so many of the famous names of twentieth-century music (starting with Fritz Busch and Carl Ebert, the artistic founders of Glyndebourne), the arrival of most of them in the USA, and the difficulties they encountered and created. But Josephson's essay is left to dangle elsewhere and the book to proceed on its fitful course, not quite sure of where it's going.

Its first stop is a coffee shop hosted by Milton Babbitt, who reminiscences entertainingly about Schoenberg, Sessions, Steuermann, various Schenker acolytes, his own theories et al. As is well known, Babbitt is sometimes economical with plain English:

such conflations of the analeptic and the proleptic, such instances of particularity, transcend musical systems as syncategorematic processes and disambiguations in the common quest for musical mereology.

I could have believed that such a sentence might mean something had he not damaged his credentials by referring to the high C in bar 15 of Mozart's G minor symphony (a Schenkerian 'detail' prompting the sentence) as the 'highest note of the work thus far' - which it isn't. There is no such excuse for skipping the obscure bits in Lydia Goehr's soi-disant philosophical essay, since it is obscure - not so much because of her style but because of the plethora of ifs, tends, suppose thats, which permit her to dodge the clutches of 'reason and logic' and which consign the reader to panting irritation. Her main thesis, I think, is this. Doubleness is the key to it all, deriving from Bloch, who wrote that the exile should see his situation as the result not of divided loyalties but of double loyalties. Doubleness establishes a'space' between the condition of exile and the work created in exile which allows 'us' to make assessments of creativity and recognise the ineffable aesthetic moment, the proof that music is not conditioned by nation and culture like an ordinary language. Here Goehr lets it be known that the full meaning of philosophy resides 'between the lines'. …

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