Recomposing German Music

Politics and Musical Tradition in Cold War Berlin


Recomposing German Music illuminates the tangled relationship between music and politics in 20th-century Germany. Focusing on the reconstruction and division of Berlin’s musical community after 1945, author Elizabeth Janik demonstrates how military occupation and Cold War rivalry transformed the city’s elite musical institutions. Berlin became a crucible for competing interpretations of German musical tradition. Cultural authorities in East and West Berlin disputed the social authority responsible for defining and upholding musical standards, the appropriate relationship between art and the state, the definition of musical progress, and finally, the nature and purpose of music itself. This study is an important contribution to the social history of 20th-century music and the comparative cultural history of the two Cold War Germanys.

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Elizabeth Janik, Ph.D. (2001) in History, Georgetown University, is Adjunct Assistant Professor of History at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia.


1. 19th-Century Berlin and the Invention of German Musical Tradition
2. A Tradition and its Growing Pains: Music in Weimar Berlin
3. National Socialism and Exile
4. “The Show Must Go On”: Reconstruction and Occupation (1945/46)
5. The Golden Hunger Years (1946/47)
6. The Cold War Heats Up: Music in a Divided City (1948/49)
7. Two Germanys, Two Musical Traditions (1950/51)
8. Musical and Political Walls (1951–1965)
9. Reinventing Tradition (1965–1990)


All who are interested in German history, music history, and the history of the Cold War, especially those intrigued by the relationship between art and politics in the modern world.
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