“Affirmative Resonances” in the City?: Sound, Imagination and Urban Space in Early 1930s Germany
This article focuses on the role of sound in producing urban space and reworking identity formations in the early years of the Nazi regime. I analyze a case study about the mythology created around the Nazi party martyr Albert Leo Schlageter in the German city of Düsseldorf. By tracing the cultural events, political struggles and propaganda strategies involving Schlageter during the 1920s to the three-day festival in 1933 at the location of his death, I investigate the ways in which the Nazi Party (NSDAP) utilized music and sound in public spaces, particularly in urban street environments. This raises questions about the status of sound as an important part of Nazi spectacles, in popularizing mythology, and in disciplining the senses: How does sound perform or play out certain power relations in urban space? How are forms of embodiment produced through experiences of sound or sound-making? In which ways can songs and musical performance be used for political purposes and to capture the popular imagination? The concept of “affirmative resonance” is developed to address the role of sound in contexts where groups of people created resonant spaces within urban environments, whether through collective singing and cheering, loudspeaker technology, or in the call and response interactions between a speaker and the crowd. In this case, “affirmative resonances” are viewed as mechanisms that worked to affirm the legitimacy of the Nazi party, normalize social transformations, delineate patterns of belonging, and activate the “auditory imagination” (Ihde).