Thursday, February 11, 2021

Tina Frühauf's "Transcending Dystopia"

Tina Frühauf is Adjunct Associate Professor at Columbia University and serves on the doctoral faculty of The Graduate Center of the City University of New York. She is the editor of the award-winning Dislocated Memories: Jews, Music, and Postwar German Culture (2014) and has published widely on German Jewish music culture and twentieth-century music.

Frühauf applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Transcending Dystopia: Music, Mobility, and the Jewish Community in Germany, 1945-1989, and reported the following:
From page 99:
… The peculiar dialectic between cultural change and persistence is an indicator of the complexities the Jewish community faced in reestablishing itself after the Holocaust and for a provisional new beginning. This confluence of two seemingly dichotomous processes, a mobility in its own right, was not limited to Jewish communities. It extended to the cultural mainstream of all occupied Germany during the later 1940s, and music’s role therein is widely acknowledged. Cultural historian Hermann Glaser asserts that “from the very beginning of cultural life in the occupation zones of Germany, discontinuity and continuity were contradictory elements of the same structure, often hardly separated from each other.” According to Glaser there were more continuities than caesuras.

For Jewish communities, continuity and persistence also expressed itself in the fluctuation of numbers. By 1948 over one hundred communities existed again, resurrecting previously disbanded congregations primarily in bigger cities. Most of them numbered fewer than 50 members. Among the larger ones were Cologne, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt am Main, Hamburg, and Munich in the West, Dresden and Leipzig in the East, and the former capital of Berlin. But the manic exhilaration of the immediate postwar years quickly began to fade. …
This excerpt from page 99 of Transcending Dystopia: Music, Mobility, and the Jewish Community in Germany, 1945–1989 closes the book’s first part, titled “After the Rupture: The Interregnum and the Culture of Rebirth,” which centers on the remarkable return of Jewish musical activity that emerged in occupied Germany against all odds. A world was in ruins, a population so gravely diminished that a rich cultural life seemed unthinkable. And yet, hope and strength led to a rebirth that manifested itself, amongst other things, in musical practices. As such, page 99 captures the cultural significance of the first postwar years from a broader perspective, reading the developments during this time from the angle of continuance versus discontinuation as agents of cultural mobility. This aside, as much as 1945 was a juncture in history, page 99 represents a juncture in Transcending Dystopia—the penultimate page of the first part of the book, after which the trajectory of music in the Jewish communities would take new turns, with the foundation of two very different German states, and in a divided Berlin. The second part, “Music in Motion,” looks at the Jewish communities in West Germany; the third part “The Presence of Absence,” scrutinizes Jewish (heritage) music in East Germany; and the last part, “Music as Vortex” examines the unique case of Berlin. All parts rely on musical practices to draw together three areas of inquiry: the Jewish community, the postwar Germanys and their politics after the Holocaust, and on the concept of cultural mobility. Within these pillars, the chapters of each part cover a wide spectrum of topics from music during commemorations, on the radio and in Jewish newspapers to synagogue concerts and community events; from the absence and presence of cantor and organ to the resurgence of choral music. What binds these topics tightly together is the specific theoretical inquiry of mobility, which also surfaces on page 99.
Visit Tina Frühauf's website.

--Marshal Zeringue