“Dance of Death”

Glenn Watkins

in Proof through the Night

Published by University of California Press

Published in print December 2002 | ISBN: 9780520231580
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520927896 | DOI:
“Dance of Death”

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The German empire of 1914, an unequal federation of twenty-five constituent states of which Prussia was the strongest, had been forged in the Franco-Prussian War of 1871. For those who most identified with the arts, the term Kultur defined the very essence of the Great War, and its meaning was symbolized by historical figures such as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Immanuel Kant, and Ludwig van Beethoven. Despite the presence of a distinct Viennese School in the world of music from the eighteenth century on, at the outset of the Great War the concept of an independent Austrian state or, more particularly, a Vienna-centered culture—was difficult to identify in light of the multiple nationalities within the Hapsburg monarchy and Austria's cultural and linguistic ties with Germany. In the prewar years, Expressionist poets and musicians, many of whom became furious pacifists once the conflict exploded, set about inventing a new syntax, and the poets recorded their spectral visions of the impending war in numerous verses. This chapter also looks at Arnold Schoenberg's oratorio, Die Jakobsleiter.

Keywords: Germany; Prussia; Austria; Great War; music; poets; Arnold Schoenberg; Die Jakobsleiter

Chapter.  5758 words. 

Subjects: American Music

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