We’re happy to announce the third workshop of the quarter on November 8, 2011, at 3:30pm, in Joseph Regenstein Library, Seminar Room 264.
Martha Sprigge, graduate student in Music History and Theory here at the University of Chicago, will be sharing her dissertation work in the form of a chapter draft titled:
“Consecrating a Capital: Paul Dessau’s Grabschriften as Commemorative Rituals”
This chapter charts a dual trajectory of musical and geographical histories that informed the shape of what became East Berlin in the immediate aftermath of World War Two. The years 1945-1951 were a crucial first phase in establishing a political and cultural framework for the response to the Second World War and the Holocaust in the Soviet Occupation Zone (SBZ) and later German Democratic Republic (GDR). Officials and citizens alike constructed competing versions of the recent past ad hoc, because the precise nature of the historical moment after total defeat remained in flux. Yet out of this physical, social and cultural chaos emerged a dogmatic historical narrative in the SBZ, founded on the selective commemoration of the Nazi past. By the time the GDR was established in 1949, a hierarchy of victimhood had been established that prioritized the persecution of “active” Communist anti-fascists over “passive” victims of the Third Reich—those whom the Nazis had persecuted for religious or ethnic reasons. Bolstering this glaringly erroneous historiography was a series of commemorative works that were emphatically ideological; this corpus of works includes Paul Dessau’s Drei Grabschriften (1948– 1951).
Using Drei Grabschriften as a case study, I challenge the ideological singularity of such works. Neither the music, nor the commemorative occasion for which it was composed, could escape the multiple and competing pasts that characterized the immediate postwar years. Instead, these pasts interlocked: just as a plethora of histories converge in postwar Berlin, a nexus of musical influences saturate the Grabschriften. Yet unlike official discourse, musical commemoration presented the opportunity for these multiple, at times competing, histories to coexist. More than cultural bulwarks of a dogmatic political agenda, Dessau’s Grabschriften provided a musical space in which citizens could begin to process the traumas of the immediate postwar years.
Respondent: Marcelle Pierson
For those in the University community with library access, Dessau’s Orchestermusik Nr. 3 is available on the Naxos Music Library. The catalogue number for the recording is 0091822BC or, if you are on campus,
Grabschrift für Lenin is in the final movement; the orchestral introduction to this section starts at 2’35″ on this recording.
(please email firstname.lastname@example.org if there are problems downloading the zipped examples)
Those needing additional assistance to attend this event should contact one of the graduate coordinators, Mary Caldwell (email@example.com) or August Sheehy (firstname.lastname@example.org)