Reflections of War Sounds in German Concert Halls

Vortrag, DHI London

Shortly after the outbreak of the First World War, composers in the belligerent countries began to comment on the hostilities in their works. A variety of war noises and their musical representation served as semantic symbols to express their views on the war. They did not rely primarily on the sounds of the battlefield, however, but mostly on other war-related acoustic signals, like anthems, patriotic chorales, military music and marching songs. As the war progressed, more and more tones of sorrow, grievance and denunciation entered the music. After 1918, sarcastically distorted military music and noises from military life were used to express criticism of the unprecedented carnage. The lecture will investigate the aims underlying the German composers' treatment of the sounds of war in their work. It will analyse techniques applied and discuss why the sounds of the battlefield were incorporated only to a limited degree. 

Stefan Hanheide is Professor of Music History at the University of Osnabrück. His current research focuses on music in the context of political violence from the seventeenth to the twentieth century. His recent publications include Music Positions its Forces – Functionalisations of Music during the First World War (2013); and Pace. Musik zwischen Krieg und Frieden. 40 Werkporträts (2007).