Music and dictatorship

Music plays a decisive role in dictatorships. Like no other art, it appeals to people’s emotions without detours via the intellect, which totalitarian regimes like to undermine. Music, as everyone knows, can overwhelm, and ruling powers have exploited this potential at all times. In dictatorships, this usually happened in a planned manner and on a large scale. Music policy in almost all regimes shows certain similarities. One of its basic features is that it distinguishes between desired music (music that benefits the regime) and undesired music (music that does not benefit or even harms the regime) and acts in two directions: Desirable music and its composers are strongly promoted, while undesirable music and its composers are marginalised, suppressed or made to conform.

Research on this topic is intensively pursued at our university. It is one of the focal points of the chair professor of Historical Musicology (Prof. Dr. Friedrich Geiger) and is permanently represented by its own institution, the Ben-Haim-Forschungszentrum. One of its central goals is the (re)discovery of suppressed repertoire, which is also regularly performed in close cooperation with artistic colleagues. Regular publications on the subject appear in the series „Musik und Diktatur” („Music and Dictatorship”, Waxmann Verlag).

Institutions and editorial work

  • Ben-Haim-Forschungszentrum

    The Ben-Haim-Forschungszentrum (Ben Haim Research Centre) at the Institute of Musicology – a joint initiative of the University of Music and Theatre Munich and the City of Munich – investigates the history and music of persecuted composers as well as Jewish musical culture in all its diversity before, during and after the National Socialist period, with a focus on southern Germany. The research work of the Centre, which is supplemented by teaching, lecturing and publishing activities as well as concert events, is intended to contribute to the reappraisal of the history of Jewish artists, to promote a living culture of remembrance for Jewish music and Jewish music makers in Munich and throughout Bavaria and to make it accessible to a broad public. The centre has a wealth of source material on Paul Ben-Haim (1897–1984) and Wolfgang Jacobi (1894–1972) in particular, two musical personalities whose history is closely linked to our university.

  • Weinberg Editions Office

    The Institute of Musicology and the Hamburg music publisher Peermusic Classical are conducting a long-term cooperation to edit works by the composer Mieczysław Weinberg (1919–1996). Born in Warsaw, Weinberg fled to the Soviet Union after the German invasion of Poland because of his Jewish origins. Under Stalin, he suffered anti-Semitic terror. Later, Weinberg received increasing official recognition, without ever being counted among the affirmative state composers. Until his death, he created a multifaceted and extensive oeuvre that is currently being (re)discovered worldwide. Within the framework of the „Weinberg Editions” research centre (scientific director: Prof. Dr. Friedrich Geiger), works by the composer will be continuously edited for the first time or in improved editions, with Peermusic Classical taking over the publishing side. The music texts are developed academically within the framework of edition seminars, qualification theses and sub-projects financed by third-party funds.

Director Ben-Haim-Forschungszentrum

Tobias Reichard

Dr. Tobias Reichard