Writing for CBC Wartime Radio Drama: John Weinzweig, Socialism, and the Twelve-Tone Dilemma

By Sumner, Carolyne | Intersections, January 1, 2016 | Go to article overview

Writing for CBC Wartime Radio Drama: John Weinzweig, Socialism, and the Twelve-Tone Dilemma


Sumner, Carolyne, Intersections


In 1941, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation hired composer John Weinzweig to write original background music for wartime radio drama. As the first composer hired by the CBC for this purpose, Weinzweig had the unique and vital role of pioneering the genre of radio docudrama music in Canada. Scholars including Udo Kasemets and Elaine Keillor have briefly examined his compositions for radio, calling attention to his use of the twelve-tone technique in these works. Despite their claims, however, a closer examination of Weinzweig's manuscript scores for the CBC radio drama series New Homes for Old (1941) reveals that he uses a modified technique that differs from the twelve-tone approach and modernist language he uses in his concert music of the time. Although his decision to modify his serial approach in his radio works may have been prompted by a variety of circumstances, I believe that Weinzweig's engagement with leftist political ideals during the 1930s and 1940s was an important contributing factor.

Thus, in my article, I will frame Weinzweig's early career at the CBC in light of Canada's socio-political climate and the rise of leftist political movements, notably the Popular Front, during the interwar period. Drawing upon archival material, including original manuscript scores, radio scripts, program schedules, recordings, and biographical documents, I will suggest that Weinzweig's personal, artistic, and political ties with the radical left may have encouraged him to modify his modernist and serial language in these works in favour of a more accessible and simplified musical language that embodied the cultural, political, and aesthetic ideals of leftist socialism, while also embracing the populist values perpetuated by the Popular Front movement. In doing so, I propose that Weinzweig uses radio drama as an artistic outlet to express his leftist political ideals during the war.1

RADIO DRAMA IN CANADA

A popular form of entertainment that flourished in Canada during the early 1920s, radio drama is a theatrical medium that combines the musical, theatrical, and literary arts and was created specifically for the art of radio broadcasting. During the Second World War, the production of radio drama in Canada increased significantly as the CBC began producing several popular new wartime radio dramas. These dramas lauded the Canadian war effort and were produced by the CBC in the hopes of maintaining civilian morale on the home front. As a result, many articulated strong patriotic, militaristic, and nationalist themes and were used as wartime propaganda by both the CBC and the government to promote national unity, boost morale, and educate Canadians about the war effort.2

Although radio drama became an important tool for disseminating wartime propaganda, it also became a significant socio-political outlet for wartime artists as well. Notably, the increased production of radio drama offered new creative opportunities for young Canadian artists and composers such as Weinzweig; working for the CBC not only offered them artistic and financial support, but it also granted them access to a national audience for their creative works. More importantly, however, it provided them with a new platform through which they could express, communicate, and disseminate their own socio-political views during the war.

As a radio drama composer, Weinzweig wrote over one hundred scores for several CBC wartime radio docudrama series, including Brothers in Arms, Canada Marches, Comrade in Arms, Our Canada, and The British Empire Series.3 His first radio commission, New Homes for Old, was written by CBC scriptwriter Alistair Grosart and produced by Ian Smith. It is an eleven-week series that depicts the lives of European immigrants who fled to Canada during the war. Based on factual accounts, this series ultimately explores the experiences, traditions, and aspirations of these "new Canadians" who immigrated from countries including Czechoslovakia, Russia, Germany, Ukraine, Poland, Austria, and the Netherlands. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Writing for CBC Wartime Radio Drama: John Weinzweig, Socialism, and the Twelve-Tone Dilemma
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.