on the road: serenading mickey

Lotte Lenya:The very next day, Joseph Goebbels banned any more performances of Der Silbersee on account of that ballad.

A friend who had been arrested got word to Kurt that he must leave Berlin at once – his name was on a list. So, Kurt waited at a café and I packed some things for him and drove him to Munich. That was where all the refugees went to wait for the new election results. We thought Hitler would be defeated this time. Well, we were wrong. It was time to leave….

---The Frankfurt School of Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno and Herbert Marcuse went further than Brecht in rejecting social realism altogether and by giving a privileged position to art and literature. These alone can resist the domination of a totalitarian state. Popular art inevitably colludes with the economic system that shapes it, whereas Modernism has the power to question. Art acts as an irritant, a negative knowledge of the real world. Built of Freudian and Marxist elements, their Critical Theory advocates an art that makes the down-trodden masses aware of their exploitation and helplessness. Absurd discontinuities of discourse, the pared-down characterization, the plotless depiction of aimless lives — all these are needed to shake audiences from the comfortable notion that the horrors and degradations of the twentieth century have left the world unchanged.--- Read More:http://www.textetc.com/theory/marxist-views.html image:http://www.lilashome.de/kurtweill/1.html

…I went back to Vienna to say goodbye to my mother and Mariedl. But Kurt was crazy – he went back to Berlin for his music. He could have been caught! But he grabbed what music he could and drove to the French border and on to Paris. After that, Kurt never talked about Germany. Never went back after the war, not even for a day. That is how hurt he was….

…Well, you know, Kurt had this big success in Paris with The Little Mahagonny, so it was hard for him to come back as a refugee. But Kurt never looked back. That is how he was so successful – he never looked back.

George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein formed a company in Paris and they asked Kurt to write a score for a ballet and Kurt asked Brecht to write the libretto, and that became The Seven Deadly Sins. I sang Anna One and Tilly Losch – very famous dancer – she danced Anna Two. Mr. Balanchine didn’t understand what it was about, but he did a beautiful job.


---Commercial exploitation of music in advertising and films, for example, forces serious composers like Schoenberg to produce fragmental atonal work. Each note is cut off from harmony with its neighbours and thus proceeds directly from the unconscious, much as individuals are forced to fend for themselves in monolithic free-market systems. {4} Walter Benjamin, though associated with Marxism and Surrealism, adopted various positions at first, most of them subtle, not to say ambiguous. Art, he thought, occupied a fragile place between a regression to a mythic nature and an election to moral grace. After his reading of Lukács and meeting with Brecht, he saw art as a montage of images specifically created for reproducibility. Stripped of mystique and ritual awe, the artist had now to avoid exploitation by revolutionizing the forces of production.--- Read More:http://www.textetc.com/theory/marxist-views.html image:http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/showcase/clips/p00gsb9h

But the French hated it because it was sung in German. We did the piece again in London. Terrible translation. It failed there, too – worse than in Paris.

Well, our divorce was granted and the one good thing about it was I was able to sell the house and try to get out all the money we had in Germany – the Nazis would have taken everything if I was still married to a Jew.

Hitler couldn’t last – that’s what I thought. Germany would see reason. He would go. He didn’t….


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Benjamin:So the explanation for the huge popularity of these films is not mechanization, their form; nor is it a misunderstanding. It is simply the fact that the public recognizes its own life in them. Read More:http://marklow.blogspot.com/2005/08/mickey-mouse-fragment-by-walter.html

…In Munich, Hitler had this museum, created this museum called the Museum of Decadent Art and there was this room where they played Decadent Music, which included Kurt’s music – he wasn’t ‘the White Hope of Germany’, anymore – and this room was so filled with people who wanted to hear this music one last time that the room was closed, so no more music. Well, he’s gone, but Kurt’s music is still here, you know? Read More:http://carlarossi.blogspot.com/2007/06/lenya-one-woman-show-based-on-life-of.html
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Kellner:Hence Brecht’s practice of ideology demolition and “intervening thought” is an application of Korsch’s principle of ideology-critique and intellectual action. Brecht saw his plays as providing an alternative to the dominant bourgeois theater that would force his spectators to think and to look at the world more critically. He saw this as a form of critical intervention with bourgeois culture that would undermine it from within. Thus both Korsch and Brecht viewed intellectual action, as well as aesthetic and political theory, as important moments in revolutionary practice — along with economic and political action.

In order to produce a revolutionary theater, Brecht argued for a “separation of the elements” (Weber), or what MacCabe calls a “politics of separation.” In the important Mahagonny notes, Brecht distinguished his separation of words, music, and scene from the Wagnerian Gesamtkunstwerk, which fused the elements into one seductive and overpowering whole in which word, music, and scene work together to engulf the spectator in the aesthetic totality (Theatre 33-42). Conversely, in his “separation of the elements,” each aesthetic component retains its autonomy and “comments” on the others, often in contradiction, to provoke thought and insight. Read More:http://www.uta.edu/huma/illuminations/kell3.htm
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“Mickey Mouse,” Fragment by Walter Benjamin, 1931.
from a conversation with Gustav Gluck and Kurt Weill

Property relations in Mickey Mouse cartoons: here we see for the first time that it is possible to have one’s own arm, even one’s own body, stolen.
The route taken by Mickey Mouse is more like that of a file in an office than it is like that of a marathon runner.
In these films, mankind makes preparations to survive civilization.
Mickey Mouse proves that a creature can still survive even when it has thrown off all resemblance to a human being. He disrupts the entire hierarchy of creatures that is supposed to culminate in mankind.
These films disavow experience more radically than ever before. In such a world, it is not worthwhile to have experience.
Similarity to folk tales. Not since fairy tales have the most important and most vital events been evoked more unsymbolically and more unatmospherically. All Mickey Mouse films are founded on the motif of leaving home in order to learn what fear is. Read More:http://marklow.blogspot.com/2005/08/mickey-mouse-fragment-by-walter.html
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The Seven Deadly Sins pushed Brecht and Weill’s ideas of dissociation to the limit, with two performers – a singer and a dancer – playing the ingenue Anna as she makes her way across a fantastic United States of the German imagination, not unlike that of Kafka’s picaresque fable Amerika. On a musical level, it is one of Weill’s most satisfying works, a dark and brooding score developed with relentless singlemindedness from a few haunting snatches of melody heard at the outset.

That imaginary country was one that Weill would soon come to know well in reality. In September 1935 Weill sailed for New York to work on a biblical epic, The Eternal Road. With him was Lotte Lenya; the couple remarried in 1937 and received US citizenship in 1943. Feeling as if he had “come home”, Weill was able quickly to adapt his style to the requirements of Broadway, where his first all-American work, Johnny Johnson, opened in November 1936. “What are you trying to do?” Lorenz Hart reputedly asked after he’s seen the show, “Trying to put people like me out of business?”

To many listeners, the contrast between Weill’s European and American works seems startling. It’s certainly true that Weill’s American scores are more romantic and harmonically less abrasive than his earlier work but, at a distance of half a century, what seems remarkable is not so much the difference between these two phases of Weill’s career but the consistency of purpose that unites them. “I have never acknowledged the difference between ‘serious’ music and ‘light’ music,” Weill once said. “There is only good music and bad music.” His aim was always to make music that was direct and accessible while maintaining the highest standards of craftsmanship. Read More:http://www.cjschuler.net/weill.htm

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