World War II was not only a global military conflict: it was also a globally-fought cultural war in which music played an important role in positioning
friendly or enemy nations in relation each to the other. Music from Eastern Europe provided a particularly rich cultural field for the construction of cultural and national identities. Not only did American engagement with this part of the world map local immigrant geographies onto transatlantic battlefields (and vice versa); it also needed to contend with complex geopolitical situations as they unfolded between 1939 and 1945. A third dimension to this multifaceted cultural matrix was the strong presence in American concert life since the nineteenth century of performers and repertoire from Eastern Europe. Last but not least in the constellation of musicians with Eastern European ties were such second-generation Americans as Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, and Yehudi Menuhin. This essay first addresses the imaginary geographies of Eastern-European folksong in American concert halls before exploring the symbolic representation of Allied nations – in particular with respect to Polish, Czech, and Russian music – during the war. A brief epilogue discusses the construction of national identity of such second-generation Americans as Aaron Copland and his contemporaries.
An abundance of books and studies have been written about twentieth-century Romanian music, focusing on aspects of style, aesthetics and analytics,
and on the histories of concert, operatic and educational institutions. The so volatile connexion between ideology and music has hitherto been dealt with only fleetingly, however. More often than not it has been deliberately avoided. In the period when music criticism and musicology had to find ways of getting past the censorship of one or another totalitarian regime (throughout the second half of the last century), those who wrote about music were wont to seek euphemisms and to avoid danger. In any event, the transition period between inter-war modernity and post-war socialist realism, the years leading up to the Second World War, have been little researched. We know what major musical works appeared in this period, but researchers have yet to turn the spotlight on the context in which these works were composed, on the political passions and opportunism reflected in musical scores placed in the service of totalitarian regimes that were very different and sometimes very similar: the regimes of King Carol II, the Iron Guard, Marshal Antonescu, and finally the communists. I therefore here propose brief overview that will serve as an invitation for more detailed research: a selection of information from the history of the Society of Romanian Composers, the press of the times (Universul literar and Cuvântul), and the works of Nello Manzatti (Ion Mânzatu).
The idea of music as a progressive force cannot be separated from its complete reorientation with the formation of bourgeois society since the eighteenth century. This “project of modernity” for the “self-assurance” and “self-founding” of man, which Jürgen Habermas intended to rescue as unfinished in 1980, stood out from the Enlightenment under the premises of secularization, the belief in progress, rationality and autonomy. The belief in progress has played a particularly important role in the world picture of Western modernity and influenced
the history of music in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Compared to the notion of a “world literacy”, regional culture fell to a provincial phenomenon, which did not seem worthy of the attention of advanced, educated, higher spirits. The negative consequences of this attitude are seldom addressed, especially the spiritual world war of the national music cultures, which still rages
to this day. It makes use of theoretical and aesthetic constructions which draw their claim to validity from an “emphatic art science”.
Like in the other state communist countries, in Serbia (then in the frame of Yugoslavia) a discontinuity was created between the pre- and post-WW2 composed music. The imposed doctrine of Socialist realism didn’t affect all active composers in the same way; generally speaking, those having been more modernistic oriented before the war experienced more difficulties to adapt to the new ideological precepts. Socialist realism however didn’t appear completely unprepared in Serbia because in pre-war times there had been attempts,
however rare, to follow the Soviet Party line in the field of music composition. So a quite weak continuity could be discerned between the works of composers who were communists before the war, such as Vojislav Vučković (1910-1942), who after having composed several modernist works influenced by the ideas of Arnold Schoenberg and Alois Hába, began to simplify his idiom and introduced socially critical themes. The majority of Serbian composers were however confused as to the ways of implementing the new rulers’ demands. The relative shortness of the Socialist realist period – approximately
four-five years, followed by several more years of its gradual diminishing of importance due to the political U-turn of 1948-1949 – was to blame for the great majority of the Serbian composers having been unprepared for the reception of the post-war international avant-garde music, at the time when it became acceptable to join the current Western trends (around 1960). So, it could be claimed that although Socialist realism served as a bridge between the pre- and post-war Serbian music, it also proved to be a serious cause of discontinuity in the development of the national music, whose effects took more than two decades (until around 1965) to be overcome.
Verluste des ukrainischen Musiklebens in der Periode der „Hingerichteten Renaissance“: 1930er Jahre und nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg
The essay describes the tragic events of the Ukrainian musical culture in the period of Stalin’s terror. The author explains – from a social and political perspective – the reasons why Ukrainian art and the Ukrainian intelligentsia had been subjected to repression. Most of the prominent artists were murdered; other examples of reprisal are considered, against the director, actor, public figure Les Kurbas, and against choreographer, composer, manager Vasyl Verkhovynets. The cruel extinction of blind kobza-players under Kharkiv is also described.
Even after World War II, repressions against Ukrainian artists hadn’t been stopped, as we find out from the case of the composer Vasyl Barvinsky.
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