The Nazis killed Expressionism.

Expressionism is a term that was first used to describe paintings, and is in some ways antithetical to impressionism. The goal is not to create passive interpretations, but to emphatically express intense feelings and emotions. Expressionism is similar to romanticism in that the point is to convey emotions, but in expressionism the composer ususally does not obey common musical 'rules', but allows the emotion to take over the piece, often resulting an a jarring and powerful sound.

Neue Sachlichkeit is a German term similar to expressionism, but more often pertaining to literature during the 1920s in Germany. Many of these writers were thought of as mad. Neue Sachlichkeit covers Marxist authors, embracing the ideas of Einstein and Freud.

This ethos of Expressionism and Neue Sachlichkeit was suppressed by the Nazis for extolling ideas that were not compatible with their regime. After the Nazis were deposed, this music became regarded as old fashioned and was swept away by the burgeoning wave of the Darmstadt School, centered on the city of Darmstadt, featured mostly piano compositions tending toward the avant-garde.

Some composers of the expressionist style were then almost forgotten, swallowed up by the march of the third reich. The two most underappreciated, in my opinion, are Heinz Tiessen and Kurt Hessenberg.

Tiessen was the director of a socialist workers' chorus which put him in a precarious position with the Nazi regime. He was allowed to keep on teaching but was barred from performance and publishing his work. My favorite is his second symphony, only half an hour long. It seems to me like a composition feeling like a tortured and momentous life unto itself-- full of struggles and passions ending with a climax and quickly yet gradually winding down at the finish. Recorded by the Berlin Philharmonic under Sergiu Celibidache.

Kurt Hessenberg was not a Nazi, but he did not oppose them either, as he accepted the National Composition Prize in 1940. Coincedentally, his most famous work is also his Symphony No. 2, which is rather influenced by the neo-classical. It has undertones of Baroque, but with an individual tonal harmonic style, with a very smooth melodic line. Hessenberg's inaugeral recording was recorded by the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, under Leland Sun, also produced by Leland Sun. (Who is also my cousin-- You can get it at Tower Records or Amazon.com)

The implications of this phenomenon of politics influencing music and vice versa are mind-boggling. Music and attitudes towards it say everything about a certain attitude or sentiment at any given time. It's just so interwoven it's hard to make a distinction. For example, Nietzsche would not have had the thoughts that he had if not for the composer Wagner, and Wagner wouldn't have written what he wrote (Die Gotterdammerung, for example) without the frendship, association, and influence of Nietzsche.

But we'll save that for another node.
The Nazis campaigned to kill entartete Kunst; like the communists, they considered art as an instrument to build a pure, proper, prosperous society full of upstanding citizens. This meant that critical, self-mocking, or experimental art was out of the question. Naturally this affected musical life, by favouring mainstream music over experimental, highbrow stuff.

Out of the same fear of the unfamiliar, the Nazis also campaigned against persons of (originally) foreign descent, or with unconventional habits, such as Jews, gypsies, gay men, etc. - this had a huge impact on mainstream popular music.

One example: one of the most popular musical groups of the time, a close harmony sextet called the Comedian Harmonists, were forced to replace three of their six singers for no other reason than their Jewish backgrounds.

Another example: the most popular Dutch singer, Louis Davids, was exterminated in a concentration camp, while his text writer, Jacques van Tol, actively collaborated with the nazi occupiers.

Discrimination wasn't covered up like it is today, it happened in the light of the public eye, accompanied by ferocious propaganda campaigns on the radio and on posters, calling on people to betray their friends in the name of a pure, healthy society. It affected all aspects of public and private life.

During the war, American popular music was totally banned. All of this created a strong resentment towards German popular music that lasts to this day.

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