Die Musikgeschichte des 20. und 21. Jahrhunderts im universitären Unterricht / The Teaching of Twentieth- and Twenty-First-Century Music History at Universities and Conservatories of Music
ed. by Juri Giannini, Julia Heimerdinger, and Andreas Holzer
Vienna: Hollitzer, 2019 (ANKLAENGE: Wiener Jahrbuch für Musikwissenschaft)
312 pp., € 40.00, ISBN 978-3-99012-616-5

It is astounding how our sense of the present can slip away from us, how we can lose our sense of reality, because we always live simultaneously somewhere else, live fantastically, live within history, avoid the fullness of the present.[1]

[1] What Karl Jaspers described through these words means trance-like states for some, a sobering dilemma for others. In any case, it still catches musicologists sooner or later: in lonesome hours at their desks or, at the latest, when their task is to bring students closer to the very specific balance of historical and situational awareness by means of music. But let us be frank: Does taking academic teaching “too seriously” really mean any significant advantages for scholars, especially outside the Anglo-American university system, apart from the individual happiness of students and teaching staff? In the past, colleagues socialized in German-speaking universities liked to talk about the “unity of research and teaching” (“Einheit von Forschung und Lehre”); today, they sometimes wearily wave this off in highly demanding teaching positions. In musicology, just like in many other disciplines, one of the greatest scholarly arts—professionally stimulating others to think about matters in a new way—is still largely measured by the list of publications. In 2019, however, wide-ranging reflections about teaching in the academy came from a trio of musicologists in Vienna, who also linked the topic to the problem of approaching the present in music history. This is what they had in mind:

Our questions are of a fundamental nature: What do we teach when we teach “the” music of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries or “music of the present”—also in the context of music history overview courses—and what is the situation, in this respect, elsewhere? (19)

That is why Juri Giannini, Julia Heimerdinger, and Andreas Holzer gave that winged word of the “unity of research and teaching” the shape of a book of some 312 pages: Die Musikgeschichte des 20. und 21. Jahrhunderts im universitären Unterricht / The Teaching of Twentieth- and Twenty-First-Century Music History at Universities and Conservatories of Music, published both in print and open access versions as a volume of the series ANKLAENGE: Wiener Jahrbuch für Musikwissenschaft in 2019. Altogether, thirty-two different authors deal with the academic teaching of “recent music history” (let us leave the debate about “new music” aside for now) in the context of universities and conservatories in twenty countries on six continents, and in various monographs on the history of music. This is a novelty, although the question of how we teach music history has periodically come up in various countries for the past twenty years[2] and pedagogical training has also been increasingly demanded (or cursed) at humanities faculties. In the introduction to the volume discussed here, the editors emphasize that “our aim was not simply to analyze the general situation of the discipline of musicology—even though our study inevitably reveals this as well—, but rather, to focus specifically on the music history of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.” (22) Without a doubt, they touch upon a thematic gap, the dimension of which is ultimately measured by the rather complex combination of musicology as an academic discipline, the musical repertoire of one-and-a-quarter centuries of recent music history, and didactic demands—and all of this against a global professional horizon.

The editors distinguish their volume primarily from two articles on musicological teaching in the German-speaking world, which were published some twenty years ago.[3] In fact, however, the chosen topic concerns a discussion that is not only geographically but also historically much more far-reaching, in which there was already talk of deficiencies (or more euphemistically: of growth potential) in the teaching of music of the twentieth century. Up to the present, the debate in question is fueled by the socialization of numerous former leading representatives of the subject in research traditions of musicology far into the post-war period on the one hand, and on the other hand by the question of the relationship between musicology as a historical discipline and the repertoire, in historiography as well as in teaching. It is worth mentioning here only a few remarks that underscore the extent of the problem that Giannini, Heimerdinger, and Holzer have tackled with their volume, even though at that time teaching was not yet a major topic:

Back in 2000, Peter Cahn published an article titled “Zum Verhältnis von akademischer Musikforschung und zeitgenössischer Musik in Deutschland zwischen dem Ende des Ersten Weltkriegs und den frühen 1960er Jahren” (On the relationship between academic music research and contemporary music in Germany from the end of World War I to the early 1960s).[4] There, Cahn explained the long-term closure of leading German-language journals of musicology towards “new music” in the mid-twentieth century, even with authors who were later as influential for the history of modern music as Rudolf Stephan and Carl Dahlhaus. The latter had already smoothed the waters in his text “Musikwissenschaft und Neue Musik” (Musicology and new music) published in 1988:[5] “As a subject of musicology, for the past two decades, new music has established a place for itself, one which only the blind zeal of the apologist could claim is too small.”[6] At that point, Dahlhaus was primarily concerned with the problem of writing music-related contemporary history. But he was also seized by the idea of anchoring music of “recent times” at universities:

You cannot say that there is an unbalanced relationship between musicology and new music, and we should try to forget the prejudices that arose from earlier conflicts. Perhaps it is even sensible to consider whether the American model, in which new music is established at universities, might be imitated in Europe. To the degree that support from radio stations threatens to dry up, the notion that new music belongs to conservatories has become increasingly attractive, both because new music remains esoteric and because it belongs to the substance of culture. It shares with many other scholarly disciplines the same position, that it is indispensable as an intellectual phenomenon, even though it is useless to even try to demonstrate its usefulness to the public, much less its necessity (which cannot be spoken of seriously).[7]

[2] Although Dahlhaus’s idea of the “American model” remains conceivably vague here, at least his reference to the tendency towards a strong anchoring of “new music” (increasingly also beyond Austro-German canons) in the United States of America retains a basic validity up to the present. This is due not only to the presence of composer classes in close proximity to musicology PhD programs at leading research universities, but also to the mass migration of numerous musicians and musicologists involved in twentieth-century repertoire, who were driven out of their countries by National Socialism.[8] At the same time, the music historian’s challenge to confront their “own time” has probably remained a constant both here and there, way beyond individual epochal emphases and local variants of musicology.

Structure and Idea

The volume is subdivided into three major sections. While, according to the editors, parts one (9–100) and two (101–249) “focus on the status quo in the teaching of twentieth-/twenty-first-century music history,” part three (251–92) is a review part, dealing “with the presentation of the corresponding period in current general music history books, which come into question as literature recommendations for students” (24). The book is concluded by a somewhat separate final essay (“Glosse,” 293–308) on Darmstadt during the Cold War by one of the editors, Andreas Holzer.

More precisely, part one, with a total of about 100 pages, comprises one third of the anthology. Aside from the introduction, it consists of a single contribution printed in both German and English. With around 37 (German) and just under 36 (English) pages, this is by far the most extensive chapter in the present volume, from which the idea for the present book ultimately emerged. Here, two of the editors, Julia Heimerdinger and Andreas Holzer, deal in detail with the academic teaching of music history in the German-speaking world: “The Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries in Music History Education in German-Speaking Countries: A View of the Academic Years 2013/14 to 2015/16.”

In contrast, part two of the volume, “Twentieth- and Twenty-First-Century Music History Education in Universities and Conservatories Around the World,” is entirely in English and broadens the perspective beyond German speaking contexts. The global thrust already evident from the title of the second main section has ultimately resulted in the handsome number of twenty-one contributions on the teaching of twentieth- and twenty-first-century music (history), ranging in length from two and a half to about ten pages. The editors apparently requested even more texts, which would probably have broadened the geographical spectrum. De facto, following the order of the volume, there are now texts on the educational situation in Argentina, Australia, China, Denmark, France (2x), Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Poland, Korea, Romania, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America (see figure 1):

Figure 1: Map of the countries portrayed in Giannini, Heimerdinger, and Holzer, Musikgeschichte im universitären Unterricht, 24

Part three of the volume, “Allgemeine Musikgeschichten in der Kritik” (Music history surveys critiqued), consists of six essays, all written in German. Most of them are reviews (more about a few exceptions later) dealing with one or more of the five music histories that the authors could choose from after preselection by the editors:[9] Paul Griffith’s A Concise History of Western Music (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006)—German edition Geschichte der Musik: Vom Mittelalter bis in die Gegenwart, trans. Corinna Steinbach and Stephanie Staudacher (Stuttgart: Metzler, 2008)—, Michael Heinemann’s Kleine Geschichte der Musik, 3rd ed. (Stuttgart: Reclam, 2013), Werner Keil’s Musikgeschichte im Überblick, 2nd ed. (Paderborn: Fink, 2014), the college edition of Richard Taruskin’s and Christopher H. Gibbs’s The Oxford History of Western Music (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), and Arnold Werner-Jensen’s Das Reclam Buch der Musik, 3rd ed. (Stuttgart: Reclam, 2012). A consequence of the selection left to the authors are multiple reviews of some well-known titles (2 x Taruskin/Gibbs, 2 x Werner-Jensen, 3 x Keil, 3 x Heinemann, and 2 x Griffiths), from which interesting moments of comparison arise. J. Peter Burkholder’s widely read A History of Western Music, 9th ed. (New York: Norton, 2014) was additionally reviewed by Juri Giannini, namely in view of the chapter on the twenty-first century.

In terms of dimension and dual linguistic mediation, the volume shows a certain imbalance, namely in regard to the length of the essay on the German-speaking region in contrast to the length of all the others. This is probably due to the fact that the starting point of the publication was a large-scale study on the German-speaking area. According to their introduction, the editors then approached the other authors with the following questions to stimulate further individual contributions:

In which courses and to what extent is twentieth and twenty-first century [sic] music history taught? What is the (quantitative) relationship between music from this period and music from other centuries, and have there been fundamental changes in this regard in recent years or decades? How is the content of the lectures structured? Which selection is presented, and which methods are used? Are popular music and jazz included? Which overview literature is recommended? What were the seminar topics in recent years? Do the courses also include concert attendance, etc.? Is there an exchange with people active in the music scene (and if so, in what form)? What problems do you see in the current curricula? What changes would you like to see? (22–23)

Twenty-First-Century Challenges

As a result, despite the aforementioned imbalance, the present volume first of all opens up an exceptionally comprehensive, remarkably broad panorama of teaching twentieth- and twenty-first-century music in the field of music history at universities and conservatories. In addition to numerous interesting individual observations, one cannot only learn a great deal about the academic treatment of certain composers (ever taught Rogalski?) and genres (pop—hurray!) in individual countries and language areas, but also find out more about the structures of formats and educational systems that determine them. Not surprisingly, a tendency towards US-American learning structures can be identified almost everywhere, at the latest since the so-called Bologna reform.

Figure 2: Part of the curriculum? Music history auditorium featuring the Rolling Stones, September 11, 1965 (photograph by Wolfgang Hänscheid); by courtesy of Stadtmuseum Münster

[3] At the same time, the volume reminds us, for one, that music history is not just the domain of musicologists, and, moreover, that musicology as an independent subject is by no means a worldwide standard. Leaving aside Mike Searby’s assumption that the latter is a specific feature of the United Kingdom (see 240–41), this is rather the exception. Actually, one ought not forget that musicology is a result of the bourgeois academization of the nineteenth century, especially in the Austro-German area, while elsewhere the subject is mostly treated in the form of music history as a subfield of more practice-oriented musical studies.

In addition, the volume increases the awareness of location-dependency as a factor that shapes music history teaching in the tertiary education sector. In the case of Iceland, for example, whose Academy of Arts was established barely twenty years ago, the teaching of music history is largely the responsibility of musicians and composers (see the contribution by Porbjörg Daphne Hall, 161–65). Finally, the problem of differentiating between art music and pop music is a recurring theme, as is the question of (de-)colonizing the curricula in the context of a “global music history,” as far as the treatment of repertoire from Europe and North America is concerned: in María Paula Cannova’s text on “The Twentieth Century in the Training of Professional Musicians in Argentinia” (103–109), for example, or in the joint contribution to the volume by Megan Burslem and Cat Hope on Australia (111–20). Last but not least, the growing economic pressure as an influencing factor of academic music teaching in the last twenty years or so clearly emerges in many essays, which accordingly also affects questions of recent music history. All this should be kept in mind when thinking about the situation of twentieth- and twenty-first-century music in teaching at universities and conservatories. In any case, the current volume makes a fundamental contribution to sensitization with regard to musicological teaching that goes hand in hand with the opening of a huge international panorama, and also, nolens volens, across epochs.

Curricular Drilling

When it comes to the individual articles, as always, it is necessary to take a closer look. It is to be expected that the quality of the contributions will sometimes vary in such a large-scale project with a relatively open inquiry to the authors. Of course, the occasionally significant discrepancy in the dimensions of the essays is a result of this, too. In principle, the detailed contribution by Heimerdinger and Holzer is noteworthy simply because of the effort expended on a comprehensive, transparently presented qualitative content analysis of the teaching offered at seventy-seven different institutes of musicology. The insights gained in the course of their research are quite fundamental; for example, that contrary to the spontaneous assumption of a general neglect of modern or contemporary music, in reality 57% of all the courses examined deal at least in part with music of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries—and yet in the end relatively rarely go beyond the canonized “classics” of the concert business. The text also provides impulses for self-reflection on the part of the teachers, for example when it states: “The offered courses and their included topics would lend themselves to a greater frequency of excursions, making the relatively small number quite remarkable“ (72). The text is also worth reading because of the generally differentiated treatment of the topic, even though the authors sometimes make somewhat questionable assumptions. For instance, when they state:

It would certainly be time to question the categories determining the teaching of music history, such as art music, pop music, Western classical music, or even new music, far more extensively, and to work against their effect, which to a critical extent restricts the teaching and artificially delimits music (directions) against each other. … Should we not also ask ourselves, though, which music and which aspects of music and music culture we make known—and what image of music in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries do we convey? (99–100)

Of course, the latter question is important. Nevertheless, a problematic basic assumption resonates here, namely that the required questioning of categories put up for discussion in the teaching text does not take place in teaching practice. However, the presence of linguistically defined categories in a curriculum does not mean that they are not critically reflected upon in teaching and treated accordingly. Likewise, the mere absence of any categorical formulations or problematic epoch attributions cannot be taken as evidence that a truly differentiated discourse actually takes place. Here, professors and students are challenged jointly.

With regard to the inner balance of the volume and that between the locations treated, it would have been desirable to critically revise just some of the other contributions, if only by adding selected reading recommendations. This is evident, for example, in texts that are regrettably short and lacking in concrete evidence, such as the one by Anna Dalos on Hungary and, in particular, the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest (157–59): a location that proves quite important for the history of music in the twentieth century. The author’s deep insight into the history and structures of this institution, which has been closely interwoven with contemporary music from the very beginning, is evident. For this very reason, it is a true pity that the conservative orientation of the institution, focused on the Austro-German canon since Franz Liszt’s passing, has not been discussed further. In other words, unfortunately the question formulated in the title, “Hungary: Musical Education Without New Music?” has actually not been explored in greater detail.

[4] A similar case is Hong Ding’s “A Brief Survey of Twentieth- and Twenty-First-Century Music History Education in China” (121–24). Although interviews with representatives at the Central Conservatory of Beijing and the Shanghai Conservatory of Music as well as “syllabi, course outlines, admission brochures, and so on” (121) were named as the basis for the chapter, they were not cited anywhere in a comprehensible way. The same applies to the text by Oğuz Usman and Ozan Baysal on Turkey (233–38), which is based on selected syllabi available online and supplemented by “statements from different lecturers” (233) that are not referred to in detail anywhere. Descriptive texts such as the one by Wolfgang Marx on “Contemporary Music in Irish Curricula” of barely three pages hardly go beyond a foretaste (167–69). Especially because Marx rightly poses the question of the “future of Irish higher music education (which ultimately includes musicological engagement with contemporary music)” (169) in the last paragraph of his essay, it would have been appropriate to analyze the situation of contemporary music in the field in more depth. The text by Megan Burslem and Cat Hope on “Music History Education in Australian Universities” (111–20), supported by comparative overviews and differentiated presentations according to institutions, demonstrates that this may succeed even in a condensed space, although it ultimately remains a bit unclear here what is meant by “20th/21st-century content units” (115) in the period under investigation.

Michael Fjeldsøe’s text on the situation in Denmark (125–31), which also has a historical perspective, comes closer to the point. Not only does it clarify the public discussion about the teaching of twentieth-century music at Danish universities and conservatories that was already taking place around 1990. Fjeldsøe also takes into account important developments, such as the transformation of the term “new music,” changes in the musical infrastructure, or the relationship of music in the field of tension between the concept of art and contemporary culture.

Two authors of the volume engage with the situation in France. Although no quantitative overview of the state of affairs in teaching twentieth- and twenty-first-century music at universities and conservatories is given here, Priscille Lachat-Sarrete, on the basis of qualitative interviews, clarifies the perspective of teachers quite clearly (133–40). Once again, the great responsibility of individual lecturers for shaping the curriculum in teaching an intellectually often extremely demanding repertoire becomes obvious. Philippe Poisson’s chapter (141–48) considers the situation of the Centres des Formations de Musiciens Intervenants (CFMI), which further qualify practically trained musicians for education projects, not least to show the great importance of approaching music and composition practice including technology for understanding contemporary music. For this reason, however, the present volume sorely lacks a perspective on such internationally active institutions as IRCAM (Institut de recherche et coordination acoustique/musique) or GRAME (Générateur de Ressources et d’Activités Musicales Exploratoires), which prove central to the exploration and communication of music history of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries (see figure 3).

Figure 3: Example of educational programs offered by the Institut de recherche et coordination acoustique/musique (IRCAM) in Paris

By the way, the aforementioned cases of France in particular also illustrate the fuzzy boundaries of the “teaching of music history,” for should not the various programs of study in music appreciation (Musikvermittlung), which fluctuate greatly between theoretical and practical components, also be included more systematically and in a more comprehensive manner? Here, however, the twentieth- and twenty-first-century contents of music that are actually taught might be even more difficult to determine, due to the large scope of design and to study structures that sometimes change from semester to semester.

Musicologist and performer Danae Stefanou (149–56) focuses on the way contemporary music is dealt with, especially at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and drawing from her own work as a professor there. In doing so, she exposes numerous more general problems of teaching practice: missing or outdated translations of readings, reductionist representations of epochs, especially of twentieth-century music as—for instance, “the era of atonality” (153)—, and the constant struggle against the fear of contemporary music as an overly complex elite culture.

Assaf Shelleg centers on “Teaching Twentieth- and Twenty-First-Century Art Music in Israel” (171–78): an insightful essay, taking into account the complex relationship between Israel and Palestine, that pays heed to teaching as a contribution to the historiography of modern, postmodern, and contemporary music. Using numerous examples from the history of composition, the fundamental problem of linear, sometimes insular narratives of modern music history is discussed here, culminating in the question: “Should we begin our story on twentieth- and twenty-first-century art music from the present backwards then?” (178)

With regard to Italy, Ingrid Pustijanac first provides an illuminating overview of the quite complex situation of musicology within mostly multidisciplinary undergraduate programs (179–84). Starting from there, Pustijanac’s emphasis is initially on the study materials (almost exclusively of Italian provenance, by the way) on twentieth-century music history used in bachelor’s and master’s programs, with a tendency towards initial repertoire teaching versus later in-depth theoretical-systematic orientation. Despite the subsequent focus on the Musicology Department in Cremona—currently the only institute with an independent musicology bachelor’s program in Italy—one unfortunately learns little about the specific design of the individual named courses for recent music history.

The contribution by Iwona Lindstedt on music history education in Poland (185–90) is quite different. In addition to details on the courses mentioned, it explains the consequences of a recent revision of the curricula on the basis of selected examples, including the consideration of pop and the dialogue with contemporary composers in Poland.

Heekyung Lee (191–96) draws a critical balance with what she sees as the overall deficient treatment of twentieth- and twenty-first-century music in Korea: lack of interest on the part of the comparatively few musicologists involved in teaching, accompanied by the one-sided focus of music education on technical skills for decades, and still pending debates on a curriculum that is some fifty years old.

[5] Carmen Chelaru, Florinela Popa, and Elena Maria Șorban (197–205) use the example of Romania to draw attention to another central problem in the teaching of twentieth- and twenty-first-century music (even if this repertoire is not the only one likely to be affected): the disconnection of the various fields involved in teaching this repertoire, such as performance, music history, analysis, theory, harmony, and score reading, as well as an overall retardation until the early 1960s in studying modern and contemporary music in light of communism, in addition to lacking resources for the acquisition of relevant materials on the vast twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Elizaveta E. Willert studied the curricula of seven conservatories and universities in Russia (207–16). One learns that music history of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries is taught primarily in chronologically organized survey courses within the framework of a nationally largely uniform study program, which, however, does not fully exclude certain emphases. In this context, one cannot avoid the impression of a certain accentuation of teaching a national canon in view of various courses on decidedly Russian modern music history, composer anniversaries, and events on “contemporary foreign music” (209). For this reason, too, a more critical reflection of the studied material would have been important, apart from the frequently interspersed, yet dispensable personal opinion of the author in the conclusion (“personally, I hold the course design in high esteem,” “the modules I find most interesting are,” “which I find to be very motivating for the students,” 215).

Mareli Stolp (217–23) describes the curricula of eleven universities in South Africa (a conservatory system does not exist there). For the most part, this text hardly goes beyond the enumeration of individual course names. This is a pity, since the author herself emphasizes that after the end of apartheid, music of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries has always stood equally with music of other epochs. There is certainly much more to be said about this.

José L. Besada’s and Belén Pérez-Castillo’s examination of teaching in Spain (225–32), which is clearly structured according to universities and conservatories, simply lacks a conclusion that abstracts from the case studies. This would have rounded off the text in a manner analogous to the introductory remarks, which initially broadened the perspective both historically and to Europe.

More clearly than many other contributions, Mike Searby puts his finger on a gaping wound regarding the teaching of twentieth- and twenty-first-century music (239–44). Using the example of leading universities in the United Kingdom, he demonstrates the extent to which budget cuts in the humanities are having an impact in this area: the shrinking of overview classes on music history, covering several years, to a few modules in which music can only be dealt with as primus inter pares, often enough forcing the decision of pop versus art music. It is obvious that this is at the expense of teaching more complex musical and music-historical content.

David Blake basically describes a similar scenario with regard to the de facto dense network of US curricula that can hardly be dealt with in a few pages (245–49). The text touches upon a central problem: “The question is thus not whether music after 1900 has a place in music history courses in the United States, to which the answer is a definitive yes, but rather the pedagogical and ideological reasons for its emphasis within a twenty-first-century American university education” (246). In fact, this would require a more detailed discussion, the content of which the author aptly delineates with the following statement: “Multiculturalism seeks to diversify the music history curriculum, but neoliberalism seeks to constrict it” (247).

Music History, Fundamentally Considered

Since it would be absurd to formulate a series of reviews about reviews of music histories—part three of the present volume—I will limit myself in conclusion to a few remarks on the contributions by Frank Hentschel and Andreas Holzer: For lovers of fundamental music-historical reflection it is pleasant to read a provocative text such as Hentschel’s “Von der Unmöglichkeit, eine ‘sinnvolle’ Geschichte der Musik zu schreiben” (On the impossibility of writing a ‘meaningful’ history of music) on some elementary catastrophes in dealing with music histories (253–56). Therefore, despite invigorating exaggerations such as “Musikgeschichten sind wissenschaftsabstinent” (the finesse of which is untranslatable, while “music histories lack scholarly standards” might capture the idea best, 255), the reading of this otherwise simply too-short text remains refreshing. For those who sooner or later find themselves in the position of having to convey an overview of music history, only this should be quoted: “The more ideological a music history is, the more consistent it appears and therefore the more easily it reads—and worse: the more convincing it is for less-critical readers” (255).[10] To what extent the reverse can also apply, that inconsistent music histories are less ideological (instead of merely showing weaknesses of scholarship), would have been quite exciting to learn from the author.

Figure 4: Eduard Steuermann teaching music history at the 12. Internationale Ferienkurse für neue Musik in Darmstadt, July 1957; by courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Andreas Holzer’s text on Darmstadt and the Cold War (293–308), which at first glance seems disintegrated in the overall concept of the volume, also tackles fundamental issues. Holzer dedicates himself to Darmstadt, an undoubtedly important forum in the “Diskursfeld … Neue Musik” (discursive field of new music, 294), and includes numerous music-historical accounts in the process. Based on a critical close reading of authors such as Laurenz Lütteken, Hermann Danuser, Richard Taruskin, Hanns Werner Heister, and Matthias Tischer, Holzer discusses the extent to which Darmstadt was treated in various shades as a quasi-fascist ideological machine or cultural pawn in the Cold War. Drawing on examples of composers involved such as Pierre Boulez, who is often tiresomely over-stylized as an enfant terrible, Holzer argues for a more nuanced reading of Darmstadt’s power relations. Although this may displease the critics, Holzer demonstrates how difficult it is indeed to bring together the many diverging currents of twentieth- and twenty-first-century music history in a historical narrative. Actually, this rounds off the volume in a certain respect. Because after all, it remains a noble yet challenging task in music history teaching to ensure a wise mixture of musical-historical knowledge and narrative competence. Dahlhaus, at least, would have expected that to be faced:

The historian is by no means, as one popular prejudice has it, an advocate to the past; … it is actually to be expected that a historian whose goal is to make understandable the inner context of a past music within its time is also especially well equipped to understand how music from their own time expresses itself. Such a process of translation, which is part and parcel of dealing with the past, cannot simply stop at the border of the epoch in which they live.[11]

Giannini, Heimerdinger, and Holzer, with their ambitious volume on the teaching of music history of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, have now given a worthy impetus in this direction with an international scope. In spite of some possibilities for expansion, their book can be consulted with considerable interest over long stretches. It is now in the hands of all those music historians involved in teaching to courageously confront the philosophical problem described at the beginning in practice: swinging back and forth between history and all shades of musical “present tenses,” in order to live for a while in both worlds, including our very recent musical past.


  1. Karl Jaspers, Vom Ursprung und Ziel der Geschichte, 8th ed. (Munich: Piper, 1983), 334. Original wording: „Es ist erstaunlich, daß uns die Gegenwärtigkeit entschwinden kann, daß wir die Wirklichkeit verlieren können, weil wir gleichsam immer anderswo leben, phantastisch leben, in der Historie leben, die volle Gegenwärtigkeit meiden.“

  2. For instance, Melanie Wald-Fuhrmann and Stefan Keym, eds., Wege zur Musikwissenschaft: Gründungsphasen im internationalen Vergleich / Paths to Musicology: Founding Phases in International Comparison, Spektrum Fachgeschichte Musikwissenschaft (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 2018); Emmanuel Hondré, “Enseigner la musique du XX siècle,” Cité musiques: Journal de la Cité de la Musique 34 (2001): 6–8; Margaret K. Farish, “Teaching Twentieth Century Music,” American String Teacher 49, no. 4 (1999): 34–36; Manfred Permoser, “Aspekte der Vermittlung von Musikgeschichte am Beispiel der Musik des 20. Jahrhunderts,” in Artgenossen und andere Feinde: Musikwissenschaft für die Musikpädagogik? Beiträge zum ersten Symposion „Musikwissenschaft und Musikpädagogik“, Salzburg 1996, Forum Musik-Wissenschaft 4 (Regensburg: ConBrio, 1997), 59–71; and Richard Gill and Rex Hobcroft, “Implementing a Teaching Programme Involving Twentieth Century Music,” in Music in General Education, ed. Australian Society for Music Education (Nedlands: Australian Council for the Arts, 1969), 169–78.

  3. Jan Hemming, Brigitte Markuse, and Wolfgang Marx, “Das Studium der Musikwissenschaft in Deutschland: Eine statistische Analyse von Lehrangebot und Fachstruktur,” Die Musikforschung 53, no. 4 (2000): 366–88; and Nina Adam, Florian Heesch, and Susanne Rode-Breymann, “Über das Gefühl der Unzufriedenheit in der Disziplin,” Die Musikforschung 55, no. 3 (2002): 251–73.

  4. Peter Cahn, “Zum Verhältnis von akademischer Musikforschung und zeitgenössischer Musik in Deutschland zwischen dem Ende des Ersten Weltkriegs und den frühen 1960er Jahren,” in Musikwissenschaft: Eine verspätete Disziplin? Die akademische Musikforschung zwischen Fortschrittsglauben und Modernitätsverweigerung, ed. Anselm Gerhard (Stuttgart: Metzler, 2000), 233–56.

  5. Carl Dahlhaus, “Musikwissenschaft und Neue Musik,” in Neue Musik: Quo vadis? 17 Perspektiven, ed. Diether de la Motte (Mainz: Schott, 1988), 148–55.

  6. Quoted after Carl Dahlhaus, “Musikwissenschaft und Neue Musik,” in Carl Dahlhaus, Gesammelte Schriften II (Allgemeine Theorie der Musik II), ed. Hermann Danuser (Laaber: Laaber, 2001), 635. Original wording: “Als Gegenstand der Musikwissenschaft nimmt die Neue Musik seit ungefähr zwei Jahrzehnten einen Platz ein, von dem nur blinder Apologeteneifer behaupten kann, daß er zu gering sei.”

  7. Ibid., 631. Original wording: “Von einem schiefen Verhältnis zwischen Musikwissenschaft und Neuer Musik kann längst nicht mehr die Rede sein, und man sollte versuchen, die Vorurteile, die aus früheren Auseinandersetzungen entstanden sind, zu vergessen. Vielleicht ist es sogar sinnvoll, darüber nachzudenken, ob man das amerikanische Modell, in dem die Neue Musik an den Universitäten etabliert ist, in Europa nachahmen könnte. In dem Maße, in dem die Unterstützung durch den Rundfunk zu schrumpfen droht, gewinnt der Gedanke, daß die Neue Musik Sache der Hochschulen sei, weil sie einerseits notwendig esoterisch bleibt, andererseits aber zur Substanz der Kultur gehört, an Attraktivität. Mit einer langen Reihe von Wissenschaften teilt sie die Lage, daß sie als geistiges Phänomen unentbehrlich ist, obwohl man gar nicht erst versuchen sollte, ihre soziale Nützlichkeit oder Notwendigkeit, von der im Ernst nicht die Rede sein kann, zu demonstrieren.”

  8. Reinhold Brinkmann and Christoph Wolff, eds., Driven into Paradise: The Musical Migration from Nazi Germany to the United States (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999).

  9. All editions referred to in this paragraph correspond to those reviewed by the authors according to the editors’ specifications in the introduction to the volume (15–16). This is why more recent editions remain unmentioned here for the purpose of this review.

  10. Original wording: “Je ideologischer Musikgeschichten sind, desto konsistenter erscheinen sie und desto flüssiger lassen sie sich lesen—und schlimmer noch: desto überzeugender sind sie für weniger kritische LeserInnen.”

  11. Dahlhaus, “Musikwissenschaft und Neue Musik,” 632–33. Original wording: “Der Historiker ist keineswegs, wie ein populäres Vorurteil unterstellt, ein Anwalt des Vergangenen; … man müßte eigentlich erwarten, daß ein Historiker, dessen Ziel es ist, den inneren Zusammenhang vergangener Musik mit ihrer Entstehungszeit verständlich zu machen, auch mit einem besonderen Sinn für die Art, wie sich die eigene Gegenwart in der Musik ausdrückt, ausgestattet ist. Die Übersetzung, daß die Entstehungszeit einer Sache zu deren Substanz gehört, kann vor der Epoche, in der er lebt, nicht haltmachen.”


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