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Entartete Musik or degenerate music

Parent categories: music - censorship

The Nazis thougth jazz to be degenerate music. Note the German swing countercultural movement. [Jan 2006]

Related: degeneracy - degenerate art - Nazi Germany - Weimar culture

Entartete Musik

Poster for exhibition "Entartete Musik", Duesseldorf, 1938 Entartete Musik

Entartete Musik or degenerate music

Degenerate music was a label applied by the Nazi government in Germany to certain forms of music that it considered to be harmful or decadent. The Nazi government's concern for degenerate music was a part of its larger and more well-known interest in degenerate art. In both cases, the government attempted to isolate, discredit, discourage, or ban the works.

The Nazi government considered several types of music to be degenerate, for several different reasons. Any music that was opposed to the Nazi regime by virtue of its contents or the political views of its composers and performers was considered degenerate. This included works by Jewish and Jewish-origin composers (such as Felix Mendelssohn, Arnold Schoenberg, Gustav Mahler, and Berthold Goldschmidt); works that featured Jewish or African characters (such as those by Ernst Krenek); or works by artists that had shown sympathy for opponents of the Nazi Regime (such as Anton Webern, who had been a moderate supporter of Adolf Hitler but had maintained a friendship with the Jewish composer Schoenberg during his exile from Germany). Modernist music, such as works by Paul Hindemith, Alban Berg, Schoenberg, and Webern, was also considered degenerate. Modernist music was judged to be inferior to previous classical music, and it therefore offended the Nazis' sense of progress and civilization in general and in particular their loyalty to Germany's many great classical composers. In addition, one might speculate that Modernist music's abandonment of structure and form presented a threat, albeit immaterial, to the culture of order and control that fascist regimes such as the Nazi party both developed and relied on. Finally, Jazz music was considered degenerate because of its roots in and association with the African-American culture.

Some works which were later enthusiastically adopted by the Nazi regime, such as the hugely popular Carmina Burana by Carl Orff (1937), were initially described as degenerate by local music critics.

Like degenerate art, examples of degenerate music were displayed in public exhibits in Germany beginning in 1938. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Degenerate_music [May 2006]

A year or so after the opening in Munich of the exhibition "Entartete Kunst" (Degenerate Art), the cultural politicians of the Nazi regime put on another, much less well-known show: this exhibition, entitled "Entartete Musik", was staged in Duesseldorf in 1938. The scientific term "degenerate" was adopted by the Nazis to defame atonal music, jazz arrangements and, above all, works by Jewish composers. The concept of "degeneracy" became fixed to a new norm, namely the ideal of a music dictated by laws of racial origin.

The music branded and decried by the Nazis as being "degenerate" embraces a wide variety of styles, for their single-minded aim was simply to ensure the integrity and pre-eminence of German musical life as a whole, from the most popular operetta through to the avant-garde. Bela Bartok considered the label "Degenerate Music" as a title which did him honour, and, in 1938, he courageously demanded that the Nazi government should include his own compositions in the Duesseldorf exhibition. Most of the musicians affected by this absurd censorship - performers, composers, musicologists and teachers - were forced to emigrate or killed, causing a serious drain of talent in European musical life, the consequences of which have scarcely been recognized or appreciated even today. http://edessa.topo.auth.gr/pub/mp3/Entartete-Musik/ [Mar 2004]

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