A sound track of Germany in the early twentieth century might conjure military music and the voice of Adolf Hitler rising above a cheering crowd. In A National Acoustics, Brian Currid challenges this reductive characterization by investigating the transformations of music in mass culture from the Weimar Republic to the end of the Nazi regime.
Offering a nuanced analysis of how publicity was constructed through radio programming, print media, popular song, and film, Currid examines how German citizens developed an emotional investment in the nation and other forms of collectivity that were tied to the sonic experience. Reading in detail popular genres of music—the Schlager (or “hit”), so-called gypsy music, and jazz—he offers a complex view of how they played a part in the creation of German culture.
A National Acoustics contributes to a new understanding of what constitutes the public sphere. In doing so, it illustrates the contradictions between Germany’s social and cultural histories and how the technologies of recording not only were vital to the emergence of a national imaginary but also exposed the fault lines in the contested terrain of mass communication.
Brian Currid is an independent scholar who lives in Berlin.