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LECTURE | Music as a Strategy of Cultural Policy in Nazi Germany

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Austrian Cultural Forum Washington

3524 International Court Northwest

Washington, DC 20008

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“Klingendes Bekennen arteigener Daseinsfreude und jahrhundertalten Wehrbauerntumes”: The Functionalization of Music as a Strategy of Cultural Policy in Nazi Germany

In 2011, a public debate questioned the cultural identity of an Austrian province, Tyrol. The Tyrolean public was deeply divided: recent academic outcomes have demonstrated that several cultural events and rituals in Tyrol/Austria, in which particularly music played an important role in their execution, were merely invented or misused by the fascist regime of Nazi Germany and thus, became an unwanted heritage. Accordingly, this lecture tries to determine the role of music as part of the regime’s propaganda strategy to create and articulate national identity.

After the annexation of Austria to the German Third Reich, prominent Tyrolean composers who joined the NSDAP in 1933, gained considerable influence on the cultural reorganization and the nazification of Tyrolean Society. Franz Hofer, the Tyrolean Gauleiter, recognized the importance of music for Austria’s cultural identity: “Klingendes Bekennen arteigener Daseinsfreude und jahrhundertalten Wehrbauerntums!“ („A resounding avowal of a racially pure joy of being and a century old legacy of soldier peasants”). This motto – put on the first page of the Gauliederbuch (Gau songbook) by Gauleiter Hofer – could be read as a program for his cultural policy: exclusion of anything ‘foreign’, especially non-Aryan; emphasis on local ‘earthiness’, on the genuineness of everything representing the unspoilt and racially pure in his notion, focusing on a romantic concept of a rural life.

The analysis and study of music of several prominent Tyrolean composers during the Nazi regime from 1938 to 1945, along with video examples, will give a deep insight into cultural, educational, and identity policy purposes in Tyrol under the rule of Nazi Germany. In conclusion, the lecture will try to deconstruct nationalistic and chauvinistic ideologies in the Nazi-propaganda-strategy.

The event is part of the commemoration series of the ACF Washington to mark one of the most painful and darkest moments in our history, the so-called “Anschluss” of Austria to Nazi-Germany in 1938, and the horrific events that followed.

Bernhard Achhorner studied musicology and anthropology at the University of Innsbruck. His research focuses on the intersections between music and identity, music and politics, as well as intermediality and performance studies. For the academic year of 2017/18 he was a visiting research fellow at the “Center Austria: The Austrian Marshall Plan Center for European Studies” at the University of New Orleans. Currently he is working on the topic of “Inscribed Physicality: Musical Gesture in Manuscripts and Prints” as a research assistant at the University of Innsbruck for the DACH-project Writing Music. Iconic, performative, operative, and material aspects in musical notation(s).

Photo | (c) Bildarchiv des Instituts für Musikwissenschaft, Universität Innsbruck

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Austrian Cultural Forum Washington

3524 International Court Northwest

Washington, DC 20008

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