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Contents

Music in the Early Twentieth Century

CHAPTER 13 Music and Totalitarian Society

Casella and Respighi (Fascist Italy); Orff, Hindemith, Hartmann (Nazi Germany); Prokofieff and Shostakovich (Soviet Russia)

Chapter:
CHAPTER 13 Music and Totalitarian Society
Source:
MUSIC IN THE EARLY TWENTIETH CENTURY
Author(s):
Richard Taruskin

Richard Taruskin

It is as though mankind had divided itself between those who believe in human omnipotence (who think that everything is possible if one knows how to organize masses for it) and those for whom powerlessness has become the major experience of their lives.1

Hannah Arendt, Origins of Totalitarianism

Is it conceivable that certain historico-political conditions can have a profound and beneficial influence on art? Does it make any sense whatsoever to expect an artistic rebirth to come from a political rebirth? Can the work of a man of politics, however exceptional, influence that most intimate, personal and jealously guarded thing which is artistic creation?

Counter to every Romantic prejudice, our answer to this question is yes.2

Alessandro Pavolini, Critica Fascista (1 November 1926)

Chapter 13 Music and Totalitarian Society

fig. 13-1 Russia, the February Revolution: wives of soldiers and sailors marching on the Duma (parliament).

With the destruction of the great imperial states of Europe, the great political question was what kind of state should replace them. The question was answered in Russia even before the end of the Great War, when the Bolshevik (Communist) party, led by Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (1870–1924), took power, in a coup d’état engineered on 25 October 1917, from the so-called Provisional Government that had been set up by liberal politicians, many of them noblemen, after the Russian revolution in February of that year, which had forced the abdication of the tsar. (The date of Lenin’s coup is given here according to the “Old Style” or Julian calendar, then still used in Russia, which had long since been replaced in the rest of Europe and America by the “New Style” or Gregorian calendar, according to which the date of the coup was 7 November; the new Russian government adopted the New Style in 1918, but continued to celebrate its coming to power as the “October Revolution,” even though the celebrations now took place in November.) The government that emerged from the coup called itself the government of Soviets, after the Russian word for council, the nominal seat of power under the new regime. In 1922, after the victorious conclusion of a civil war through which the Soviet government was able to reconsolidate under its rule most of the territory of the former Russian Empire, the name of the country was changed to Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR or Soviet Union for short). The Soviet Union lasted until 1991, when the power of the Communist Party collapsed and the country fell apart into its constituent republics, which then adopted various forms of government. Its hold of seventy-plus years made the Soviet Union the twentieth century’s most durable totalitarian state.

Citation (MLA):
Richard Taruskin. "Chapter 13 Music and Totalitarian Society." The Oxford History of Western Music. Oxford University Press. New York, USA. n.d. Web. 7 Dec. 2019. <https://www.oxfordwesternmusic.com/view/Volume4/actrade-9780195384840-chapter-013.xml>.
Citation (APA):
Taruskin, R. (n.d.). Chapter 13 Music and Totalitarian Society. In Oxford University Press, Music in the Early Twentieth Century. New York, USA. Retrieved 7 Dec. 2019, from https://www.oxfordwesternmusic.com/view/Volume4/actrade-9780195384840-chapter-013.xml
Citation (Chicago):
Richard Taruskin. "Chapter 13 Music and Totalitarian Society." In Music in the Early Twentieth Century, Oxford University Press. (New York, USA, n.d.). Retrieved 7 Dec. 2019, from https://www.oxfordwesternmusic.com/view/Volume4/actrade-9780195384840-chapter-013.xml
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