From Weimar Republic to Third Reich: Composing agency in changing socio-cultural contexts
Date: 22 October 2009
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
PhD in Sociology
This dissertation interrogates the nature of composers as aesthetic agents re-orienting from the socio-cultural contexts of the Weimar Republic (1919-1932) to those of the Third Reich in Germany (1933-1945). Work in the sociology of culture, sociology of arts and sociology of music has focused on cultural consumption, including music, ...
This dissertation interrogates the nature of composers as aesthetic agents re-orienting from the socio-cultural contexts of the Weimar Republic (1919-1932) to those of the Third Reich in Germany (1933-1945). Work in the sociology of culture, sociology of arts and sociology of music has focused on cultural consumption, including music, as bound up in the reflexive projects by individuals and groups to constitute and reconstitute their social reality. Within my research I focus on the creation of cultural artefacts, in this case ‘works’ in the Western art music tradition, as central to processes of aesthetic agency where composers are engaged in reflexive projects of constituting and reconstituting their social reality and acting within those constructs. To begin the opening historical chaper, ‘Mortification of Modernism’, uses Goffman’s work in Asylums (1968) to contextualize the cultural policies and activities of the Weimar Republic, considered the classical era of modernism, as a home world from which those involved in modernist ventures developed presenting cultures supported by bespoke institutions established in the early post WWI years. During the waning years of the Republic and the rise of National Socialism, these support structures, including the individuals that made up the cooperative networks of modernism, were destroyed removing most connections to the Weimar Republic modernist home world. In the first years of the Third Reich through numerous denunciations, dismissals, policies, etc. the presenting culture of Weimar modernists was mortified through abasements, degradations and humiliations. Having identified – through qualitative mapping of concert programmes, music reviews and festival participation – composers involved in modernist circles in the Weimar Republic, their career paths and compositional outputs were traced throughout the years of the Third Reich to interrogate the aesthetic agency of composers in light of significant situational and perspectival incongruity. The dissertation then considers each of five composers in depth in separate chapters – Paul Hindemith, Rudolf Wagner-Regeny, Ernst Pepping, Heinrich Kaminski and Wolfgang Fortner. The five were selected based on four criteria: a high degree of activity in Weimar modernist circles (festivals, concerts, societies); continued presence in Germany for a significant portion of the Third Reich; continued professional activity as composers during the Third Reich; access to relevant source material both secondary (biographies, reviews, stylistic analyses, etc.) and primary (scores, letters, diaries, authored texts, etc.) from the subjects. The data illumines complex repertoires of adaptive strategies these individuals engaged in – with, through and to musical products – and how music is not only shaped by wider socio-cultural contexts, but how its construction is a primary resource for agents to respond to and structure the socio-cultural contexts around them. Key findings include the constitution of music as resource for showing both complicity with and subversion against the Nazi Kulturpolitik; as a resource for proxy presence in multiple social spaces (private homes, concert halls, opera houses, etc.) affording the construction and dissemination of composer identity and philosophy; as a technology of self for personal therapy; and in total as a resource for weltanschauung - world-building activity where composers construct and re-construct their social realities through musical creation – music as an active tool in and reflexive resource for individual social reality.
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