Centre for Music Studies academics present papers at the Radical Music History Symposium in Helsinki
The Cold War in Germany as Ideological Weapon for Anti-Modernists (abstract)
In the last decade-and-a-half, there has been a marked increase in historical scholarship and other writing dealing with music during the Cold War, including the work of Francis Stonor Saunders, Peter Schmelz, Danielle Fossler-Lussier, Richard Taruskin, Alex Ross, and others. A recurrent feature of this body of work concerns the occupation of Germany after 1945 and a little later the role of the CIA-funded Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF) in sponsoring some new music events. This has been used to fuel an argument which maintains that post-1945 musical modernism emerged primarily as a by-product of the Cold War, in particular promoting an ideal of musical abstraction in opposition to Zhdanovite attacks on musical 'formalism' and subsequent demands for socialist realist composition in the Eastern Bloc.
This historical view, which is then employed in the service of a view which maintains that such music remains of little more than historical interest, has in my view been insufficiently challenged. In this paper, I critically investigate some of the primary claims made in this body of work against much data gleaned from detailed and original archival work in Germany in particular. Specifically, I look briefly at the real nature of the US and other occupying forces' role in the creation of new music institutions in Germany, contest the notion that the CCF was as significant a force in the development of post-1945 new music as is sometimes claimed and consider its rather marginal role in the development of this music and its infrastructure. I argue for a much more nuanced view of this period in history, rejecting as a primary model either the Stunde null or the anti-Zhdanovite interpretation, and argue instead for the importance of the concept of music's needing to 'catch up' and reinvigorate some of the aesthetics prevalent during the Weimar Republic.