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A National Acoustics

Music and Mass Publicity in Weimar and Nazi Germany

2005
Author:

Brian Currid

A National Acoustics

A critical account of music, mass culture, and the technologies of national imagination

In A National Acoustics, Brian Currid investigates the transformations of music in mass culture from the Weimar Republic to the end of the Nazi regime. Currid illustrates the contradictions between Germany's social and cultural histories and how the technologies of recording were vital to the emergence of a national imaginary and exposed the fault lines in the contested terrain of mass communication.

Brian Currid's study of popular music is a very welcome addition with significant implications for musicology.

Bryan Gilliam, Duke University

A sound track of Germany in the early twentieth century might conjure military music and the voice of Adolf Hitler rising above a cheering crowd. In A National Acoustics, Brian Currid challenges this reductive characterization by investigating the transformations of music in mass culture from the Weimar Republic to the end of the Nazi regime.

Offering a nuanced analysis of how publicity was constructed through radio programming, print media, popular song, and film, Currid examines how German citizens developed an emotional investment in the nation and other forms of collectivity that were tied to the sonic experience. Reading in detail popular genres of music—the Schlager (or “hit”), so-called gypsy music, and jazz—he offers a complex view of how they played a part in the creation of German culture.

A National Acoustics contributes to a new understanding of what constitutes the public sphere. In doing so, it illustrates the contradictions between Germany’s social and cultural histories and how the technologies of recording not only were vital to the emergence of a national imaginary but also exposed the fault lines in the contested terrain of mass communication.

A National Acoustics

Brian Currid is an independent scholar who lives in Berlin.

A National Acoustics

Brian Currid's study of popular music is a very welcome addition with significant implications for musicology.

Bryan Gilliam, Duke University

National Acoustics is an instructive and broadly useful book. Rooted in both empirical analysis and nuanced theory, this interdisciplinary work will be welcomed by scholars in many fields. Currid utilizes a variety of sources—writing about mass culture and music, advertisements in illustrated journals, films, and music itself—to paint a rich picture of music as a mass culture.

German Studies Review

Currid presents many interesting issues and indeed different perspectives. The book can be a very interesting read for anyone interested in an unprejudiced view on the on the German music- and media-scape during the Weimar and Nazi era.

Popular Music

A National Acoustics is an important and original contribution, first for its endeavor to deconstruct common assumptions about Nazi mechanism of thought-control, and second for its fresh examination of the media of the 1920s and 1930s through the complex interplay of music, radio, film, journalism, and advertising. Currid has opened a vast terrain and established important methodological models for future examinations of music and media.

Monatschefte

With A National Acoustics, Brian Currid upends some of the more stubborn clichés concerning musical mass culture in Germany during the first half of the 20th century. A nuanced and exemplary account.

German Quarterly

A National Acoustics

Contents

Acknowledgments

Introduction: German Sounds, Sounding German, and the Acoustics of Publicity

1. Radio, Mass Publicity, and National Fantasy
2. The Schlagerand the Singer Film: Organs of Experience and the History of Subjectivity
3. “Musik” and “Musick”: “Opus Music” and Mass Culture
4. “Songs the Gypsy Plays for Us”: Racial Fantasy, Music, and the State

Notes
Bibliography

Index