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Protest Song in East and West Germany since the 1960s

Protest Song in East and West Germany since the 1960s

Edited by David Robb
Volume: 12
Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 328
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  • Book Info
    Protest Song in East and West Germany since the 1960s
    Book Description:

    The modern German political song is a hybrid of high and low culture. With its roots in the birth of mass culture in the 1920s, it employs communicative strategies of popular song. Yet its tendencies toward philosophical, poetic, and musical sophistication reveal intellectual aspirations. This volume looks at the influence of revolutionary artistic traditions in the lyrics and music of the 'Liedermacher' of east and west Germany: the rediscovery of the revolutionary songs of 1848 by the 1960s West German folk revival, the use of the profane "carnivalesque" street-ballad tradition by Wolf Biermann and the GDR duo Wenzel & Mensching, the influence of 1920s artistic experimentation on 'Liedermacher' such as Konstantin Wecker, and the legacy of Hanns Eisler's revolutionary song theory. The book also provides an insider perspective on the countercultural scenes of the two Germanys, examining the conditions in which political songs were written and performed. In view of the decline of the political song form since the fall of communism, the book ends with a look at German avant-garde techno's attempt to create a music that challenges conventional cultural perceptions and attitudes. CONTRIBUTORS: DAVID ROBB, ECKARD HOLLER, ANNETTE BLÜHDORN, PETER THOMPSON. David Robb is Senior Lecturer in German Studies at the Queen's University of Belfast.

    eISBN: 978-1-57113-690-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
    D. R.
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)
    David Robb

    From the 1960s through the 1980s the German political song enjoyed substantial popularity in both the Federal Republic and the German Democratic Republic. In West Germany in the early 1960s the influence of the new American and British folk and protest song movement inspired members of the Jugendbewegung to rediscover a democratic German folk-song tradition that had been stamped out under Nazi jackboots (“Stiefel in den Dreck gestampft”), as Franz Josef Degenhardt expressed it in the song “Die alten Lieder.” This tradition had been documented in Wolfgang Steinitz’s two-volume song collection, Deutsche Volkslieder demokratischen Charakters aus sechs Jahrhunderten, which had...

  5. 1: The Reception of Vormärz and 1848 Revolutionary Song in West Germany and the GDR
    (pp. 11-34)
    David Robb

    For the folk and protest song movements of both East and West Germany, the song heritage of the Vormärz and the revolution of 1848 was a point of cultural and historical identification. Two clear narratives emerge in these songs: first, that of rebellion linked to utopian idealism, and second, that of defeat and retreat. Within these two general narratives are several sub-categories of songs, for example, parodies of authority, songs of poverty and unemployment, soldiers’ songs, songs demanding German unification, and songs of emigration. Almost 120 years after they were first composed, played, and sung, the Vormärz and 1848 songs...

  6. 2: Mühsam, Brecht, Eisler, and the Twentieth-Century Revolutionary Heritage
    (pp. 35-66)
    David Robb

    In March 1873, two years after German unification, Georg Herwegh wrote the poem “Achtzehnter März” for the twenty-fifth anniversary of the 1848 revolution in Vienna. The poem laments the revolution’s failure while simultaneously prophesizing that its legacy would live on in future revolutions:

    Achtzehnhundert vierzig und acht,

    Als im Lenze das Eis gekracht,

    Tage des Februars, Tage des Märzen,

    Waren es nicht Proletarierherzen,

    Die voll Hoffnung zuerst erwacht,

    Achtzehnhundert vierzig und acht?

    Achtzehnhundert vierzig und acht,

    Als du dich lange genug bedacht,

    Mutter Germania, glücklich verpreußte,

    Waren es nicht Proletarierfäuste,

    Die sich ans Werk der Befreiung gemacht?

    Achtzehnhundert vierzig und...

  7. 3: Narrative Role-Play as Communication Strategy in German Protest Song
    (pp. 67-96)
    David Robb

    Of all the communicative strategies the twentieth century political song has employed, one of the most creative and effective has been that of narrative role-play. It provides a good example of how Gebrauchslyrik (as discussed in chapter two) has functioned by playing to the knowledge and cultural styles and tastes of a target audience. With the term narrative role-play I mean, first, variations on the literary Rollengedicht or dramatic monologue, in which the singer assumes an identifiable role, impersonating the language, mannerisms, and characteristics of known social types. An example of this is Franz Josef Degenhardt, who, as a representative...

  8. 4: The Burg Waldeck Festivals, 1964–1969
    (pp. 97-132)
    Eckard Holler

    At the universities of the Federal Republic in the first half of the 1960s there was a widespread type of student that was non-conformist, had a strong aspiration for independence, and was less interested in a bourgeois career than a self-determined life — preferably as a free artist and bohemian. The style for males was smoking a pipe, sporting a beard, and wearing parkas and long scarves in winter, jeans and wooden clogs in summer; for female students it was long hair, pullovers, and trousers. A preoccupation with the Nazi past led to far-reaching conflicts within families and an inner...

  9. 5: The Folk and Liedermacher Scene in the Federal Republic in the 1970s and 1980s
    (pp. 133-168)
    Eckard Holler

    The protagonists of the student movement underwent a process of politicization during the events of 1968/1969. A profound change in behavior and consciousness took place, which in turn influenced perspectives on careers and life in general. What had been a naïve nonconformity prior to 1968 became a more radical opposition as a result of the head-on conflict with the state. Student opposition was additionally given a sharper focus by the study of philosophy, particularly Marxism. The short euphoria of revolution, however, was followed by the hangover of political defeat. Some reacted to this by becoming dropouts or members of the...

  10. 6: Konstantin Wecker: Political Songs between Anarchy and Humanity
    (pp. 169-198)
    Annette Blühdorn

    When in 1977 the Bavarian singer-songwriter Konstantin Wecker (born 1947) made his breakthrough with his song “Willy,” he was at once categorized as a political singer, following in the footsteps of the singer-songwriters of the student movement. As a result, political parties of the left tried to monopolize him, while for the right-wing scene he developed into “eine Haßfigur.”¹ “Willy,” a talking-blues about the death of a young man who was killed during an argument with neo-Nazis, has always been regarded as a political song.² However, Wecker himself has quite a different view of “Willy.” The song, he declares, relates...

  11. 7: Wolf Biermann: Die Heimat ist weit
    (pp. 199-226)
    Peter Thompson

    Wolf Biermann remains perhaps the best-known and most influential political song-maker in German history: a central figure against whom all other political songwriters must be measured, both lyrically and musically.¹ Peter Graves has commented that “his poetry has a compelling verve and an infectious candor, a power to sting and to challenge, as well as to amuse.”² As Sabine Brandt has also said, his “Gedichte mobilisieren das Hirn, seine Lieder auch das Herz. Sie ergreifen den Menschen total [. . .].”³ For many he was the best example of what David Bathrick has called the almost libidinal attraction of communism...

  12. 8: Political song in the GDR: The Cat-and-Mouse Game with Censorship and Institutions
    (pp. 227-254)
    David Robb

    Media assessments have often projected an erroneous, undialectical image of the GDR political song scene in which art and creativity were simply sacrificed to censorship. On the one hand there are Wolf Biermann, Bettina Wegner, Gerulf Pannach, and Stephan Krawczyk who were banned and — albeit under varying circumstances — forced to leave the GDR for the West. On the other hand there is the Oktoberklub, showpiece of the FDJ-Singebewegung, which performed for years in the ideological service of the state. But just as in the GDR literature scene, the reality of the Liedermacher was more contradictory. Between the dissidents...

  13. 9: The Demise of Political Song and the New Discourse of Techno in the Berlin Republic
    (pp. 255-278)
    David Robb

    Holger Bӧning, in his 2004 book Der Traum von einer Sache: Aufstieg und Fall der Utopien im politischen Lied der Bundesrepublik und der DDR, writes that the respective conditions in the two German states gave rise to a particular counterculture (“Gegenöffentlichkeit”) in which the political song prospered — in the 1960s in West Germany and from the 1960s up until 1989 in the GDR.¹ It resulted from a situation in which mainstream political and cultural discourse was thoroughly at odds with unofficial discourse, that is, the opinions and debates of the people. One could argue that by the mid to...

  14. Works Cited
    (pp. 279-300)
  15. Notes on the Editor and Contributors
    (pp. 301-302)
  16. Index
    (pp. 303-320)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 321-321)