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Musical Responses to
the Holocaust
Music in the Holocaust
• Many camps had orchestras, but Jews were
barred when non-Jewish musicians were
• Many composers continued to write in the
concentration camps
• Concerts were given for commandants and
•―There could be no other place where
one could feel the effect of music more
•Theresienstadt was well known for its
rich cultural life
Music from the Holocaust
• Over 70 compositions have
been written in response to
the Holocaust by art music
composers alone
• A large number of these
works have won prizes and
received public attention,
although critics are wary of
Holocaust exploitation by
Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951)
•Austrian composer of
atonal and serial music
•Invented the twelve-tone
•Extremely controversial
musically and politically
•Music was labeled as
―degenerate‖ by Nazis
A Survivor from Warsaw, Op. 46 (1947)
• ―I offer the sacrifice of my art to the Jewish cause. And I
bring my offer enthusiastically, because for me nothing
stands above my people.‖
• The piece depicts a group of Jews at the moment of
deportation and their final resistance to the Nazis by singing
the Shema Yisrael
• Utilizes twelve-tone techniques
• One of the more successful of
his later
• Premiered by an amateur
orchestra in New Mexico
Luigi Nono (1924-1990)
• Italian intellectual and
electronic music
• Influenced greatly by
• Used music to promote
a communist political
Ricorda cosa ti hanno fatto in
Auschwitz (1965)
• Direct response to the
Frankfurt Auschwitz
• The piece was a
reduction of a mass of
material to only what
was necessary
• Space, silence, & fleeting
• Translates literally to
sounds form a haunting
―Remember what they
did to you in Auschwitz‖
• One of many Nono pieces
dealing with social
Steve Reich (b. 1936)
•American pioneer of
minimalist composition
•Began explicitly using
Jewish themes in the 1980s
•Musically seen as
diametrically apposed to
Schoenberg’s twelve-tone
Different Trains (1988)
• Three movement work:
I. America – Before the war
II. Europe – During the war
III. After the war
• Won a Grammy Award in 1989
• Utilizes recorded speech for
melodic material
• One of the first classical
compositions to utilize sampling•Result of a personal revelation
• Recorded by the Kronos Quartetregarding his life as an American
Jew in the 1940s versus the life a
European Jew at the same time
John Zorn (b. 1953)
• American avant-garde
composer, record
producer, and
• Reconnection with his
Jewish identity in the
early 1990s
• Works within many
genres resulting in a
postmodern musical
Kristallnacht (1992)
• Seven movement work:
I. Shtetl (Ghetto Life)
II. Never Again
III. Gahelet (Embers)
IV. Tikkun (Rectification)
V. Tzfia (Looking Ahead)
VI. Gariin (Nucleus—The
New Settlement)
• Combines multiple styles
to create more emotional
• Marks the genesis of
Zorn’s Radical Jewish
Culture series
• Second movement
comes with a warning
from the composer
Liner Notes to Kristallnacht
The Nazi Ideal
The Nazi Reality
Includes short excerpts on Jewish identity by novelist Lynne
Tillman, poet Edmond Jabès, and playwright Richard Foreman
•Music as rebellion against
•Music as remembrance
•Music as personal
testimony and healing
•Music as social