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Music historiography: music of the GDR – music in the GDR

Music historiography: music of the GDR – music in the GDR


Günter Mayer

This is a welcome opportunity to discuss the phenomenon of the GDR in a more objective and differentiated environment than that which dominated in the years immediately following the bankruptcy of socialism in 1989, and which has pervaded to some extent in recent publications about new music in the GDR.i I want to begin my essay with some moral and philosophical reflections. Interpretations of the GDR in which dictatorship is the central category determining the presentation of facts, in which all life is seen as a ‘dance in chains,’ii offer a decidedly one-sided view of reality. The theoretical reflection and the selection and evaluation of facts is emphatically critical, but condescending and underpinned by a presumptuous certainty. This approach involves a devaluation and de-legalisation of the lived experience of the majority of citizens of the GDR. It is an interpretation in which the attitude of depreciation is predominant. In practice this orientation is an anti-communist one.

At the crux of this argument is a black-and-white polarity of life in the GDR: citizens apparently were forced to choose between adaptation and resistance. This polarity however fails to acknowledge alternative modes of being. It fails to account for those who identified with the politics of the state, for those who were critical of but not necessarily opposed to the state. It is imperative to note here that criticism and resistance are not the same thing. Within the framework of adaptation versus resistance, identification with the GDR is seen, from a moral perspective, as something negative. The same can be said of adaptation. The only positive moral stances are resistance or emigration. Such a framework fails to account for the complexities of the lived experiences of GDR citizens, and obscures the fact that identification, accommodation and criticism often co-existed. Many citizens, for example, simultaneously identified with the general socialist orientation and social and cultural achievements of the state, accommodated themselves to aspects of which they were less enamoured, and were critical of other phenomena within the state. These contradictory relationships have no place in the trend to de-legalise the GDR as a totalitarian rogue state (Unrechtsstaat). It goes without saying that there was politically motivated injustice. This was not however as comprehensive as some advocates of the dictatorship paradigm assert. Even within the party and other state organisations, there was scope for conflicting views and contradictions. Critical Marxist thought was as much as a possibility as critical composition.

The one-dimensional discourse of dictatorship gives rise to another thesis or postulate: that Marxism lost because socialist policy failed. In response to this, it is worth repeating the words of the playwright Heiner Müller. When asked if the demise of the GDR was evidence that Marx had been disproved, he responded that it was not Marx that had been disproved but ‘the experiment to disprove Marx.’ Müller clarified this rather obtuse statement by quoting Marx himself: the experiment to build socialism or a socialist structure in an underdeveloped economy ends in ‘the old shit.’ That, Müller claimed, is ‘what we are now experiencing.’iii In other words, the failure of the attempt to establish socialism in the Soviet Bloc, in what were essentially grossly underdeveloped societies, was inevitable. This does not however negate the relevance of Marxism. Indeed, as an intellectual movement, Marxism is currently enjoying a resurgence,iv and recent attempts to explore the viability of Marxist approaches for musicology have been fruitful.v

It is important to understand that there is a difference between the materialist, dialectical method of Marx, which is primarily concerned with radical critical analysis of historical social contradictions and perspectives of human emancipation, and the dogmatic Marxist-Leninist canon of the SED and other socialist parties, in which Marx was appropriated as an uncritical justification of political party power. Marxism is not a scholastic system but an instrument of investigation and realisation which becomes every more differentiated through social and scientific experience. The method it offers has by no means run its course; on the contrary, it still offers considerable potential for exploring alternative, post-capitalist societies. In the case of this essay, I would like to explore the extent to which a Marxist-orientated approach could assist scholars currently constructing the history of music of and in the GDR



A useful starting point from which to explore the general issues surrounding music historiography is the polemic that emerged between the West German and non-Marxist musicologist Carl Dahlhaus and the leading East-German musicologist, the Marxist Georg Knepler in the late 1970s and early 1980s.vi Against the so-called Marxist ‘scheme’ of base and superstructure (a dogmatic prejudice that assumes that the base is always the causative factor in history), Dahlhaus offered his ‘principle without principles’ (the pluralistic variety of causative factors). Yet Dahlhaus’s polemic was against a vulgar simplified misunderstanding of Marx; Knepler’s approach to the historical-critical method of Marx was far more differentiated.vii



Closer to the real history of music in the GDR is the question of how Marxism was reflected in the activities of leading musicologists of the country. Despite the many articles and books on specific biographical or analytical phenomena, on problems of music culture, music teaching and so on, there was only ever one book published that provided an overview of GDR music history as a whole: Heinz Alfred Brockhaus and Konrad Niemann’s Musikgeschichte der Deutschen Demokratischen Republic 1945-1976.viii Here we find a pseudo-Marxist apologetic use of Marx’s method: music culture is presented as product of the policies of the SED; internal economical and social contradictions and critical issues are glossed over; conservative and affirmative high-art composition is, as usual, given prominence, while the mass phenomena of applied music (theatre, film, TV) and popular music are mentioned only in passing.

Instead of this biased view, and based on our present-day critical analysis, we can say that in the long term the GDR had no chance. In the context of the Cold War it was destroyed by the contradictions arising from its precariously underdeveloped economy. Its economical and political prospects were debilitated both by the predominant anti-communist policies of the rich West on the one hand and the authoritarian policies of the Soviet Union, on which the GDR was dependent both economically and politically, on the other. These issues were compounded by the unrealistic illusions of the ruling party, who tried to impose a paternalistic, pedagogical proto-socialist experiment on a population with a fascist past, who had experienced the end of fascism as a collapse rather than a liberation. Political reality was organised from above and experienced as a top-down imposition instead of a horizontal self-determination. As such, the general political discourse was sharply outlined against the ‘imperialist West,’ and shaped by strenuous attempts to define a ‘socialist alternative,’ a clear political identity, based on one-dimensional anti-modern traditionalism. The SED was continually preoccupied with managing the deficiencies in the production and reproduction of daily life. On the one side, life in the GDR was characterised by an administrative command system; the limitation of free choice over where to live and travel; systems of privileges, commands and penal regulation; disciplinarianism; militarization (such as the so called Kampfgruppen – armed brigades – in factories, offices and even in universities); simplistic black-and-white arguments; aversion to criticism; personality cults; over-estimation of the ruling nomenklatura. Set against this was an anti-fascist policy and education system, and effective international solidarity.

We can find this discourse and specific forms of its development in all levels of the economical, social, cultural and, of course, musical life in the GDR. As part of general policy, musical structures were based on the inherited model of the bourgeois culture of music institutions, with their adapted conservative, classicistic, and paternalistic musical practices (involving composition, concert halls, opera houses, Party music departments, ministries, cultural organisations, music teaching in schools, conservatories, publishing houses, radio stations, and musicology). The reality of music events in GDR can only be understood in this multi-layered context. Events must be deconstructed and reconstructed in relation to the subjects who were involved in them and how they developed under these contradictions. In the end, the political bankruptcy of the GDR had economic causes.

My proposal for a new approach to the writing of GDR music history is that one should differentiate between three levels: compositional-historical, cultural historical and media-historical. I can offer only a brief outline:


1. The compositional-historical approach

This category encompasses music in its broadest sense (both high art and popular) that was composed and performed between 1949 and 1990. It covers music in a variety of genres, in which individuals articulated their experiences both of the economic, political, social and cultural conditions, and the internal and external contradictions of East German ‘real socialism,’ whether critically, regressively or affirmatively. Experiences differed according to genre, from high art to the political song movement, from jazz to dance music, and from rock music to pseudo folk kitsch.

Methodologically the first area of focus should involve advanced high-art music. Scholarly consideration should be given to the small number of composers, who actually engaged in the progressive development of music, who combined a partisan stance together with critical political engagement to result in a specifically GDR brand of authentic new music; that is compositions that are advanced both musically and politically, and which stand up to international comparison. The head of this group was Paul Dessau, who acted variously as a teacher, friend, adviser and conductor to the young composers around him. During the 1960s and 70s this group included Paul Heinz Dittrich, Friedrich Goldmann, Georg Katzer, Friedrich Schenker, Reiner Bredemeyer, Jörg Herchet and Günter Neubert. Not so close to Dessau, but also of significance were Siegfried Matthus, Tilo Medek and Udo Zimmermann. Dessau’s house served as a meeting place for composers from both East and West; Luigi Nono and Hans Werner Henze, with whom Dessau was friendly, were occasional guests. This young or middle generation of composers were characterised by their critical distance from and evaluations of the ruling musical ideology. They demonstrated an increasing commitment to music for music’s sake, which nevertheless reflected fundamental social experiences and contradictions, expressed through the aesthetic process. Composers of this orientation were united in their critical loyalty to the socialist perspective, a loyalty that was characterised by solidarity and communality, a striving for social utility, and a political and musical vigilance of international dimensions. Dessau emphasised time and again that one should become acquainted with everything.ix

In 1990, Frank Schneider formulated these characteristics as specific to East German music, speaking of ‘its rhetorical seriousness, its intensely gestural spirit of contradiction, its relative lack of outward, simply playful experimentation.’x These composers took the risk ‘involved in experimenting in this difficult balance of an attempted unity of a critically enlightened, political conscience and a strong authenticity of aesthetic configuration’ in a different way to those in the Federal Republic.xi ‘It was essentially this group that in the ‘70s rapidly found resonance in West Germany (not so in other western countries) and was resolutely supported.’xii There is growing critical recognition of this advanced sphere of composition; the composers involved have been the subject of increasing attention in new books and dissertations, and many of their works have been carefully analysed.xiii

The next step in this process is to undertake a comparative analysis of compositions of this quality, to explore what are the consistent determinants unifying individual treatments of free-atonal material, and the organisation of a-thematic, a-metric, a-motivic, serial or quasi-serial procedures in open forms. We need to look for phenomena of conventionalisation and compare these works in this context with other compositions in the international sphere.

But from a materialist perspective, it must be acknowledged that the achievements of the small group of composers around Paul Dessau were in no way reflective of the wider compositional scene in the GDR. This was dominated by the some four-hundred composers who were members of the Composers’ Union. This majority of largely mediocre composers must have a place in any new critical music history. Most of the figures in this group engaged in middle-brow composition, involving an extended tonality situated somewhere between Brahms and Hindemith. An analysis of this group should distinguish three things: first, the intended ‘creative’ simplicity, which was conceived as a conscious step back from the new advanced material of the likes of Eisler, and in particular, Dessau; second, the ‘conservative’ simplicity of the mass of mediocre composers;xiv and third, the ‘stupid’ simplicity [Dummheit] in the sector of pseudo folk kitsch, as exemplified in the works of Herbert Roth.

Such an analysis allows for revealing comparisons to be made between the compositions of the multitude of the GDR’s mediocre composers, and the works of their counterparts in capitalist West Germany, and other countries such as Sweden, or Norway, where no doctrine of socialist realism existed. This type of comparative analysis would demonstrate that the so-called ‘socialist realism’ was little more than an ideological fog in the pseudo-reality of official musical life, created by functionaries addressing the few advanced critical composers in the state. Yet these functionaries had little effect on advanced compositional procedures; composers in the 1970s did not react to the repeated empty formulae. The uncritical majority had no difficulties with this so-called ‘realism’: their political affirmative engagement or neutral orientation was disproved musically by themselves.xv And for the popular actors in the sector of pseudo folk kitsch, this doctrine never existed.

In other realms of the GDR’s music sector, in rock and jazz, for instance, or in the song movement from the 1970s, specific phenomena of simplicity involving significant creativity existed. In contrast to contemporary art music, these works found significant acceptance in the wider population, and were particularly popular with young people. As such they are worthy of critical investigation.


2. The cultural-historical approach

Music composed in the GDR represented only a small part of musical experiences in the state. Consequently, we must considered not only the music of the GDR, but also music of other origins, such as classical, modernism and postmodernism, that was performed and recorded in the state. The reorganisation and improvement of musical culture after World War II in the Soviet Occupied Zone and later the GDR was inspired by the traditional left-wing idea that a social revolution should include a cultural revolution; it should bring the treasures of art to the masses as an act of emancipation. The GDR’s authorities included in their definition of treasure a large sector of the classical music heritage, performed in concert halls and opera houses, at festivals and on the radio. Also included were a small number of compositions by figures such as Alan Bush and Benjamin Britten, who passed through the ideological filters.

The most prominent form of music in the GDR was, however, popular music, which came predominantly from Western Europe and the USA and was played in or broadcast into the GDR. The state’s cultural authorities had no control over broadcasts by the western mass-media. An analysis of how this music was received in the GDR, of how the music affected the hearts and minds of the state’s citizens, is long overdue.

If music culture is our theme we need to take into consideration the individual players in GDR musical life: composers, performers, functionaries, music teachers, and listeners. We need to assess their general positions, their preferences, their influence on shaping the objective conditions for the development of musical talents, their needs and pleasures and, on a subjective level, individual musical practices. Music policies were above all conceived with these players in mind; composition, for example, was intended to speak to the masses by being not only accessible but also by building on national traditions. Through such creative activities, it was intended that the historical gap between highbrow and popular music be overcome.

This was an illusion; composers and their music cannot change the objective living-conditions of the masses of workers and peasants. Moreover, the majority of composers were conventionally orientated, in the best cases trying to change the musical life of the people via the framework of the traditional concert institution. Official music-policy was focused on this majority. The very small group of critical and innovative composers exerted virtually no influence. Similarly, officials were neither willing nor able to understand that thousands of rock musicians were also writing innovative music.

Performers focused almost exclusively on either the classical canon from Bach and Handel to Brahms and Mahler, or on various types of folk, dance and kitsch music. The majority had no positive relationship with contemporary music; they were sceptical of the sophisticated, dissonant sounds of both the late-bourgeois ‘formalists’ and those composers in the GDR who attracted official criticism. The Leipzig group ‘Neue Musik Hanns Eisler’, which was inspired by Paul Dessau, was an exception.

Even more conservative was the teaching of music in schools and conservatives. The majority of teachers had to follow the curriculum prescribed by the Ministry of Education. In the case of contemporary music, they were obliged to wait and see which compositions would be accepted officially and into the concert repertoire. As a consequence, the curriculum invariably lagged ten to fifteen years behind actual musical life and teachers were frequently out of step with the musical interests of their pupils. It did not help that teachers were, for the most part, not interested in contemporary music. Suggestions that they engage with their students in the musical life of their towns and regions, that they listen and discuss new music independently of official interpretations were not accepted.xvi There was similarly no impetus to develop new forms of music education for adults.

Functionaries had more influence on the profile of music culture than any other sector of GDR society. They were responsible for decisions regarding the commissioning, performance, production and distribution of music. The power rested with this group; they held the purse strings, and the other players in the musical life of the GDR depended on them. Yet, few functionaries had any significant level of music education, and they were compelled to follow the traditional, conventional, anti-modern orientation of the SED’s official music policy. They represented the biggest obstacle in the way of the evolution of an open, democratic and high-quality music culture.

The listeners, finally, were most interested in mass musical culture. A materialist view of music culture has to take into consideration the fact that musical life was not dominated by the specialised cultures of contemporary art music or hermetic jazz musicians, no more than it was by the conservative brand of classical music promoted by officialdom. On the contrary, the listening practices of the masses were shaped by music from abroad, above all from the Anglo-American music industry. Of course, this constellation differs little from that of capitalist countries. The listening practices of the masses invariably stand in contrast to official attempts to implement a culture dictated by conservative, classical and anti-modern positions and attitudes. Thus, in conclusion, given the social make-up of the GDR’s population, it was simply not possible to build a culture that represented an alternative to the inherited bourgeois institutions of music.

An important topic for research is the economic implication of attempts to institute a socialist and democratic music culture. In the wake of World War II, and when the GDR was first established, measures were taken to make music accessible through affordable concert tickets, to provide music education for all independently of the state, to finance hundreds of orchestras, to organise amateur music-making, to prepare cultural functionaries to take positions in trade unions and cultural organisations, to improve musicological activities and so on. Furthermore, immeasurable resources were spent on the reconstruction of war-destroyed opera houses and concert halls, and on projects such as the complete recorded editions of classical composers. It is hard to quantify the dimensions of this spending, and to determine the extent to which these grandiose visions of culture were sustainable in the long term. They certainly contributed to the economic bankruptcy of the state. We also need to question the validity of these activities; might some still be relevant for the promotion of music culture in current societies?


3. The medial-historical approach

The third category calls into consideration not only the fact that technical media, the predominant means of reproducing and distributing music, exerted an enormous influence on performance and listening; technology also resulted in the mediated production of music recordings. This represents a qualitative change from music in the media to music for the media, a phenomenon that since the 1920s has been called ‘radiogenic’ music. We are currently witnessing how advances in technical, electronic and digitally-mediated production are changing all aspects of technical, economical, political, social, scientific and, of course, cultural practices. This significant and extensive process can be compared with the transition from natural to monetary exchange hundreds of years ago. Furthermore, developments in recording have resulted in a revolution not only in music production itself but also in music culture in general, a revolution that can be compared with that brought about by the evolution of musical notation. The implications of recording for the perception and impact of music are significant. First, recording brings music production back to an aural realm; the primary concern is once again, as with folk music, sound. Second, recording allows for the manipulation or assembly of sound or of actual performances in an empirical way, through aural-based decision making. Third, recording is a medium into which improvisation can be incorporated, and transformed through subsequent production into composition. Fourth, decisions regarding the assembly of sound are concrete and empirical. They can be reached through discussion. The recording process takes place predominantly in the studio, a venue that encourages collaborative work, and particularly collective composition.xvii

Such collective music-making was not restricted to the major electroacoustic studios established after World War II; it has also formed part of the daily experience of musicians and listeners in the broad field of popular music. Profit-seeking developments in technology have made sophisticated recording facilities affordable and thus very accessible. This has enabled those who would never previously have engaged in music making, not to mind learning an instrument or forming a band, to produce and release discs. As such, we are witnessing the potential democratisation both of the technically-mediated production of music and of music culture in general. This has provided the masses with access to new media and to a variety of musical content and form. Thus, democratisation can be understood not merely in terms of distribution but also as a means of instilling the values of classical music into a largely musically-illiterate population. In the context of this understanding we should be better able to uncover the revolutionary, social, political, cultural and aesthetical potential of new media, to reconstruct notions of mass media and mass communication, to analyse the capitalist regulatives of the media industry in general and, more specifically, in relation to sub and counter-cultures of popular music.

From the compositional-historical point of view, the so-called material revolution in the first decades of the twentieth century and the achievements of serialism and aleatory after World War II were of a historic new quality. From the media-historical perspective, these achievements are of less significance; the revolutions were confined to the historical framework of written music, and thus took place within the boundaries of the antiquated traditional institutions of music.

The majority of composers and musicians in the post-war era, not only in the GDR, were oblivious to the historical challenge posed by technology. The potential of music technology was explored by only a handful of composers in electroacoustic studios in the west and by even fewer in the east. Here, composers, both conservative and innovative, continued to work in the medium of notated music, and indeed were encouraged to do so by leading officials.xviii There were proposals to explore the creative potential of applied music, that is to compose more innovative forms for radio, film and television.xix Admittedly technology had significant implications for those engaged in the field of rock music. The media revolution passed the majority of composers, performers and musicologists by, however. Yet, the media revolution had a profound effect on the soundscape of the GDR, which was governed by music from abroad, especially by that distributed by the capitalist music industry. Given that the capacity for music production in the GDR was very low, attempts to safeguard the musical identity of the state by measures such as the impositions of quotas on the amount of foreign music broadcast on radio programmes, dictates regarding what rock musicians could play, and other forms of oppression were ultimately futile. They made no sense and, in the face of the onslaught of music from the west, had no practical effects.

Many historical and theoretical arguments were made in the fields of aesthetics and musicology to describe and to explain the new media-revolution and its political and cultural consequences; proposals were even made to change media policy.xx A central point was the idea that the media could be employed to strengthen the self-identity and sovereignty of the citizens or listeners; it could help to instigate a more realistic socialist-orientated mode of perceiving art, as demonstrated in Peter Weiss’s interpretations of the Pergamon frieze and Kafka in his Aesthetics of Resistance.

In this context, the canon of socialist realist art could have become meaningful in a new way, addressed not only at performers and composers living in the GDR, but also (as Felsenstein demonstrated) to an international community of socialist-orientated artists, readers and listeners. This did not happen. There were minor achievements however. As a result of Georg Katzer’s initiatives in the Akademie der Künste, an electroacoustic studio was established in Berlin in the 1980s. In the field of academic musicology a centre for the study of popular music was founded at the Humboldt University in 1983. It was the first one in either Germany, and still exists under the current directorship of Peter Wicke.xxi



Following the bankruptcy of the GDR and its annexation (Anschluss) by the Federal Republic, the first practical experiment to build a German socialist society, an alternative to bourgeois society and institutions ran aground. There is no question that the GDR has disappeared for good. What has not disappeared, however, is the potential to explore the history of the GDR and its music through contemporary versions of the Marxist orientated historical-materialist dialectical method. Questions should be asked such as did there actually exist, even if only for a short time, true elements of democracy and socialism in the GDR? Could these elements possibly be or become important for critical, democratic and socialist orientated tendencies in the development of sub and counter cultures in the now predominantly capitalist and bourgeois music culture. What has certainly not disappeared is the potential for individuals to compose and perform new music, to perform and listen to music of different historical and geographical origins from a partisan stance that is critical, realistic and pro-socialist.

i See for example ed. Michael Berg, Albrecht von Massow and Nina Noeske, eds, Zwischen Macht und Freiheit. Neue Musik in der DDR (Cologne, Weimar, Vienna: Böhlau Verlag, 2004).


ii Nietzsche cited in Berg, Zwischen Macht und Freiheit, 15.

iii Heiner Müller: >Zuende ist der Versuch, Marx zu widerlegen. Bei Marx gibt es den einfachen Satz: Der Versuch, Sozialismus oder eine sozialistische Struktur auf der Basis einer Mangelwirtschaft aufzubauen, endet in der alten Scheiße. Das ist es, was wir jetzt erleben<, ‘Jetzt ist da eine Einheitssoße. Der Dramatiker Heiner Müller über die Intellektuellen und den Untergang der DDR,’ Der Spiegel, 30 July 1990, 141; Marx/Engels in Die Deutsche Ideologie: >…ist diese Entwicklung der Produktivkräfte […] auch deswegen eine absolut notwendige praktische Voraussetzung, weil ohne sie nur der Mangel verallgemeinert, also mit der Notdurft auch der Streit um das Notwendige wieder beginnen und die ganze alte Scheiße sich herestellen müßte…< (Marx/Engels, MEW 3, 34/35).


iv See for example the work of the international project Historical-Critical Dictionary of Marxism, ed. Wolfgang Fritz Haug (Hamburg: Argument-Verlag, 1994-2008) Vol. 1: Abbau des Staates bis Avantgarde (1994); Vol. 2: Bank bis Dummheit in der Musik (1995); Vol. 3: Ebene bis Extremismus (1997); Vol. 4: Fabel bis Gegenmacht (1999); Vol. 5: Gegenöffentlichkeit bis Hegemonialapparat (2001); Vol. 6.1: Hegemonie bis Imperialismus (2004); Vol. 6.2: Imperium bis Justiz (2004); Vol. 7.1: Kaderpartei bis Klonen (2008).

Even in Moscow a group of post-soviet Marxists is very active, with special journals, conferences and an Internet-Institute ‘Socialism XXI. Century’ (www.alternativy.ru). I have translated one of their books, written a review of their activities and made some critical remarks in response to their concepts. See Günter Mayer and Wolfgang Küttler, ‘Postsowjetischer Marxismus in Russland,’ UTOPIEkreativ, Diskussion sozialistischer Alternativen 201-2 (July-August 2007): 740-63.


v Hans Werner Heister, ‘Perspektiven der Musikwissenschaft,’ Musikwissenschaftlicher Paradigmenwechsel. Zum Stellenwert marxistischer Ansätze in der Musikforschung, ed. Wolfgang Martin Stroh und Günter Mayer (Oldenburg: BIS Verlag, 2000), 345-64.


vi See Carl Dahlhaus, Grundlagen der Musikgeschichte (Cologne: Musikverlag Gerig, 1977); ‘Die Musik des 19. Jahrhunderts,’ Neues Handbuch der Musikwissenschaft, vol. 6, ed. Dahlhaus (Regensburg: Laaber Verlag, 1982); Georg Knepler, Geschichte als Weg zum Musikverständnis (Leipzig: Reclam, 1977); Georg Knepler and Peter Wicke, ‘Das Prinzip der Prinzipienlosigkeit,’ Beiträge zur Musikwissenschaft 21 (1979): 222-8; Georg Knepler, ‘Über die Nützlichkeit marxistischer Kategorien für die Musikhistoriographie. Reflexionen anlässlich des Erscheinens von Carl Dahlhaus’ Die Musik des 19.Jahrhunderts,’ Beiträge zur Musikwissenschaft 24 (1982): 31-42.


vii For further discussion see my essay ‘Musikgeschichte – Musik der DDR – Musik in der DDR?,’ Musikgeschichte schreiben im dritten Jahrtausend: DDR zum Beispiel, ed. Nina Noeske and Matthias Tischer (in press). This essay contains a response to Anne Shreffler’s ‘Berlin Walls: Dahlhaus, Knepler and Ideologies of Music History‚’ The Journal of Musicology 20.4 (2003): 498-525.


viii Berlin: Verlag Neue Musik, 1979.

ix Dieter Boeck, Helga Goetze, Fritz Hennenberg, Günter Mayer, Christa Müller, Max Pommer and Otto Zengel, eds, Paul Dessau. Aus Gesprächen. Erschienen anlässlich des 80. Geburtstages von Paul Dessau (Leipzig: VEB Deutscher Verlag für Musik, 1974), 14


x Frank Schneider, ‘40 Jahre deutsch-deutsche Musik. Versuch einer ilanz,’ hanseatenweg 10, Zeitschrift der Akademie der Künste, 90.2 (1990): 4-29; here 29.

xi Ibid.

xii Schneider, ‘Der andere Weg. Grundzüge einer Musikgeschichte im gespaltenen Deutschland,’ hanseatenweg 10 90.2 (1990): 32-49; here 47. The development of Friedrich Schenker, Georg Katzer, Reiner Bredemeyer, Hermann Keller and Ralf Hoyer since 1990 is discussed in Mayer, ‘Advanced Composition and Critical (Political) Ambition,’ New Music and Aesthetics in the 21st Century: Vol. 5. Critical Composition Today, ed. Claus-Steffen Mahnkopf (Hofheim: Wolke Verlag, 2006), 171-84.


xiii See Nina Noeske, Musikalische Dekonstruktion. Neue Instrumentalmusik in der DDR (Cologne, Weimar, Vienna: Böhlau, 2007); Matthias Tischer, ed., Musik in der DDR: Beiträge zu den Musikverhältnissen eines verschwundenen Staates (Berlin: Kuhn, 2005); Joy Haslam Calico, ‘The Politics of Opera in the German Democratic Republic, 1945-1961 (Ph.D. diss., Duke University, 1999); and Laura Silverberg, ‘The East German Sonderweg to Modern Music, 1956-1971 (Ph.D. diss., University of Pennsylvania, 2007).


xiv The subject of Frank Schneider’s dissertation was the analysis of string quartets, written between 1945 and 1970: ‘Vorsichtig geschätzt, beläuft sich der Gesamtbestand der in der DDR von 1945 bis etwa 1970 komponierten Werke für Streichquartettbesetzung auf etwa ein halbes Tausend. Mit Hilfe allgemein verfügbarer Quellen und auf Grund eigener Recherchen lassen sich etwa 340 Titel von 181 Komponisten nachweisen.’ See Das Streichquartettschaffen in der DDR bis 1970 (Leipzig: Deutscher Verlag für Musik, 1980).


xv For such affirmative, mediocre compositions with the character of political confession Friedrich Goldmann had already by1975 only sarcastic commentaries: dass ‘schon ein oberflächlicher Blick in die Partitur bzw. ein oberflächlicher Höreindruck technisches Präneandertalertum erkennen läßt. Die treuherzigen Beteuerungen, das alles sei doch so gut gemeint und auf die Technik komme es so sehr nicht an, dürften selbst im Kindergarten als Ausreden kaum noch angängig sein. Dann kommt’s halt zu dem unerträglichen Gemengsel aus pseudotonalen Unfug und pseudoavangardistischem Unfug und pseudo, pseudo, pseudo.’ See ‘Nochmals: Von der Unschärfe heutigen Komponierens,’ Beiträge zur Musikwissenschaft 17 (1975): 213-4.


xvi Mayer, ‘Herausforderung der Medien,’ Ästhetik der Kunst, ed. Erwin Pracht (Berlin: Dietz Verlag, 1987).


xvii Chris Cutler, File under Popular. Theoretical and critical writings on music (London: November Books, 1984).


xviii In Italy Luigi Nono gave an early example of a creative technical, musical and political progressive appropriation of electroacoustic music for an alternative model of music culture. (See for instance his La fabbrica illuminata) New models of communication and education with and about music were practised in Italy, where the Communists had authority in certain regions. All this was sceptically observed and not accepted by the nomenklatura and all the other conservative orientated subjects of music-culture.


xix Mayer, ‘Über Praxis und Perspektive des Verhältnisses von Arbeiterklasse und sozialistischer Musikkultur,’: Musik im Übergang von der bürgerlichen zur sozialistischen Musikkultur, ed. Hans-Klaus Jungheinrich und Luca Lombardi (Munich: Damnitz, 1977),146-58.

xx See Mayer, ‘Popular Music in the GDR,’ Journal of Popular Culture 18:3 (1984):145-58; ‘Herausforderung der Medien;’ and ‘Thesen zu Brechts Medienkritik und Medienprogrammatik. Nochmaliger Rückgriff auf Aussprüche – neue Ansprüche auf Eingriffe,’ Brecht 90. Schwierigkeiten mit der Kommunikation? Kulurtheoretische Aspekte der Brechtschen Medienprogrammatik, ed. Inge Gellert und Barbara Wallburg (Berlin: Peter Lang Verlag, 1991), 12-28.


xxi Popular Music was established early on as subject of musicological study. See Peter Wicke, ‘Popmusik – Studie der gesellschaftlichen Funktion einer Musikpraxis. Ein Beitrag zur Ästhetik musikalischer Massenkultur,’ (Ph.D. diss., Humbolt-Universität, 1980); and ‘Populäre Musik als Problem der Musikhistoriographie,’ Beiträge zur Musikwissenschaft 26.3-4 (1984), 208-13; and the survey of popular music provided in my ‘Popular Music in the GDR.’ Initiated by Phillip Tag (Gothenborg), Gerard Kempers (Amsterdam) and David Horn (Exeter) the International Association for the Study of Popular Music was founded in Reggio Emilia in 1983. As the only representative of the socialist bloc, I was elected as chairman for the period from 1983-85. The general secretary was John Shephard, and his assistant Peter Wicke. See Mayer, ed., Aufsätze zur Populären Musik — Sonderpublikation des Forschungszentrums Populäre Musik der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin aus Anlaß des VI. Kongresses der International Association fort the Study of Popular Music (Berlin: Zyankrise Verlag, 1991).

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