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Music in the Late Twentieth Century


CHAPTER 1 Starting from Scratch
Richard Taruskin

Although Boulez cast them all as hypotheticals, some of the new extensions of serialism he was proposing had already been put into practice by 1952, both by Boulez himself and by some of the other musicians who had been meeting every summer at a unique institution that had been set up in 1946 in Darmstadt, a town located in the state of Hessen in central Germany, which is to say in the American zone of occupation. These International Summer Courses for New Music (Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik) were founded by Wolfgang Steinecke (1910–61), a music critic, and Wolfgang Fortner (1907–87), a composer, first with the permission, later with the active financial backing of the United States military government as channeled through Everett Helm (1913–99), an American composer and musicologist who held the position of chief music officer with the Theater and Music Branch of the American Military Government. (Fortner, who had been active and successful throughout the Nazi period but was now an ardent “post-Schoenbergian,” was perhaps the most conspicuous of those seeking cover in the “zero hour” myth.) The courses had two main goals: first, to propagate American political and cultural values as part of the general Allied effort to reeducate the German population in preparation for the establishment of democratic institutions; and second, to provide a meeting place where musicians from the former fascist or fascist-occupied areas of Europe — chiefly Germany/Austria, France, and Italy — might further their musical reeducation through exposure to (and instruction in) styles and techniques that had been prohibited or otherwise silenced during the fascist years. The first of these aims was mainly that of the American backers. The Summer Courses, in their earliest phase, have been compared with the Congress for Cultural Freedom, an anti-Communist organization headed by the composer Nicolas Nabokov, which was secretly funded by the United States government's Central Intelligence Agency as an instrument of American foreign policy. (The difference was that the source of the Summer Courses’ financial support was never a secret.) The second aim, more insularly professional, was primarily that of the Germans. Each took advantage of the other's interests — a classic case of mutual “co-option.” During the first few years, the American presence was strongly pronounced at the “Darmstadt school” (as the Courses quickly became known). Lectures by American musicians were frequent, as were those by Germans who had fled to America such as Leo Schrade, a famous musicologist who, though primarily a medievalist, spoke at Darmstadt about Charles Ives, and Stefan Wolpe, whose leftist commitments had been muted in the wake of the Zhdanovshchina. Music by Ives, Harris, Copland, Walter Piston, Wallingford Riegger, and other “Americanist” composers were performed at Darmstadt, as was the music of Paul Hindemith, who had become an American citizen.

Citation (MLA):
Richard Taruskin. "Chapter 1 Starting from Scratch." The Oxford History of Western Music. Oxford University Press. New York, USA. n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2024. <https://www.oxfordwesternmusic.com/view/Volume5/actrade-9780195384857-div1-001008.xml>.
Citation (APA):
Taruskin, R. (n.d.). Chapter 1 Starting from Scratch. In Oxford University Press, Music in the Late Twentieth Century. New York, USA. Retrieved 22 Apr. 2024, from https://www.oxfordwesternmusic.com/view/Volume5/actrade-9780195384857-div1-001008.xml
Citation (Chicago):
Richard Taruskin. "Chapter 1 Starting from Scratch." In Music in the Late Twentieth Century, Oxford University Press. (New York, USA, n.d.). Retrieved 22 Apr. 2024, from https://www.oxfordwesternmusic.com/view/Volume5/actrade-9780195384857-div1-001008.xml
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