Journal Article

Orchestrating Identity: Concerts for the Masses and the Shaping of East German Society

David Tompkins

in German History

Volume 30, issue 3, pages 412-428
Published in print September 2012 | ISSN: 0266-3554
Published online August 2012 | e-ISSN: 1477-089X | DOI:
Orchestrating Identity: Concerts for the Masses and the Shaping of East German Society

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AbstractThis article argues for a central role for music in the creation of an anti-fascist and socialist East German identity in the foundational phase of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) until the late 1950s. It focuses on the organization of the sprawling concert landscape of the early GDR as a key area in which music and politics intersected. Cultural officials undertook two major initiatives in the concert world of the 1950s—a significant expansion of performing ensembles and the establishment of a nationwide, monopolistic concert agency to control concert organization. The resultant concerts blanketed East Germany and encapsulated the party’s goal with respect to music: to present ideologically appropriate works to all members of society on a regular and continuing basis in the interest of shaping the new socialist person. Ensembles and audiences responded to these efforts with both enthusiasm and reluctance, and the success of the regime’s musical initiatives came by the end of the decade to depend on a complex process of contestation and collaboration among cultural officials, musical professionals, and audience members.

Keywords: East Germany, German Democratic Republic, SED, music, concerts, orchestras

Journal Article.  9101 words. 

Subjects: European History

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