The Golden Age of Kitsch

Richard Taruskin

in The Danger of Music and Other Anti-Utopian Essays

Published by University of California Press

Published in print December 2008 | ISBN: 9780520249776
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520942790 | DOI:
The Golden Age of Kitsch

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This chapter discusses the Nazi concept of degeneracy in arts and music in Germany, in relation with the release of complete recordings of two operas by record company Decca/London. The record company had released the first complete recordings of operas Jonny spielt auf (Johnny Goes to Town), by Ernst Krenek, and the Das Wunder der Heliane (Heliane's Miracle), by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, as part of a series of releases devoted to the music of German composers who for reasons of race, taste, or politics fell out of favor with the Nazi regime. The Nazi concept of artistic degeneracy was incoherent and opportunistic. The Nazis derived their concept of degeneracy in part from the theories of the nineteenth-century psychiatrist Cesare Lombroso, who sought through science to account for criminal proclivities and thereby to predict them, by identifying the “born criminal” or l'uomo delinquente, as a distinct anthropological “type” with measurable physical and mental “stigmata.” The application of these theories to art and literature was first made by Lombroso's disciple, the Hungarian physician Max Nordau, in a two-volume titled Entartung, which appeared in 1892–93 and went through many printings.

Keywords: Nazi regime; Cesare Lombroso; artistic degeneracy; Max Nordau; Entartung; Germany; Jonny spielt auf; Das Wunder der Heliane

Chapter.  9431 words. 

Subjects: Music Theory and Analysis

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