The Concept of 'Musical Degeneration': From fin-de-siècle Pesimism to the Nationalsocialist Rule Cover Image

Koncept 'degeneracije muzike'. Od pesimizma fin-de-sièclea do vladavine nacionalsocijalizma
The Concept of 'Musical Degeneration': From fin-de-siècle Pesimism to the Nationalsocialist Rule

Author(s): Maja Vasiljević
Subject(s): Music
Published by: Institut za filozofiju i društvenu teoriju
Keywords: degeneration; music; fin-de-siècle; cultural pessimism; Max Simon Nordau; Richard Wagner; nationalsocialism

Summary/Abstract: the paper follows the discursive path of one of the dominant, and yet forgotten, terms in the history of ideas – that of “degeneration.” the richness of uses and various illuminations of the term, as well as its discursive dispersion and blurring, can be seen from the mid 19 th until the first decades of the 20 th century. the term was almost inescapable in studies of thinkers from various fields starting in the middle of the 19 th century, it was successfully adopted from French, Italian and British medical terminology into the art discourse of modern european societies. By focusing on music, the given term became permanently tied to thinking about relations of music and society in the germanspeaking world. In a complex discursive development of the term, the author necessarily made certain choices, paying special attention to the austro-Hungarian psychologists, Max nordau who carried the concept of “degeneration” from the medical to the art (and music) sphere. the debate regarding the “degeneration of music,” was developed chronologically, starting from the Second reich (being the time in which one of the most controversial composers lived, richard Wagner). While Wagner developed a theory of “degeneration” and its overcoming through “regeneration,” he was still considered “degenerated.” the given example reveals the complexity of the problem we face when we study the concept of “degeneration of music.” the consideration is completed with a glance at the life of “degenerated” musicians and music during the Weimar republic, that is, their interpretation in the third reich.

  • Issue Year: 23/2012
  • Issue No: 3
  • Page Range: 237-252
  • Page Count: 16
  • Language: Serbian