The Production of Popular Music in Austria and Germany 1930-1950

A collaborative research project (Weave) between Paris Lodron University Salzburg (AT), University of Greifswald (DE) and Anton Bruckner Private University Linz (AT)

This project examines artistic agency in the production of popular music during the Nazi regime and Austrofascism, looking at a time range from 1930-1950. The focus is on all actors involved in the production process, i.e. not only composers and lyricists but also arrangers, performers, publishers, etc.

It is the first project that comprehensively analyzes the popular music and musical theater scene during this period and that draws on such a broad range of sources, and focuses on the production of printed material. Since we also want to draw conclusions about cultural-historical continuities and discontinuities, we include the years before 1933 and after 1945 in our investigation and thereby avoid the impression of a historically closed period. In contrast to earlier research on this period of music history, we also take a comparative look at the trends in the domain of popular music abroad.

We are interested in how theatre, dance and jazz songs and other forms of popular music moved within the framework of dictatorial cultural politics and were able to position themselves and negotiate social (racial, sexual or gender) or stylistic issues – for example, with regard to orientation towards North American swing, South American dance styles or Afro-Caribbean popular music.

Approach | Methods

Printed and published sources, which today can be consulted in publishers’ or public archives, and composers’ estates, but which were inaccessible for a long time, form a central starting point for the musicological source research and analysis. Rich sheet music collections and adjacent archives provide an insight into repertoire, marketing and targeting strategies as well as the media networks in which popular music was produced, received, consumed and circulated – between performance on the music theater and concert stage, in printed sheet music, in music films as well as on recordings. 

The project consists of five sub projects that focus on music publishing industry, musical film production, song production, musical theatre and stagings of the body. The project will constantly exchange on mostly undocumented sources in regular (digital) project meetings, thus to enable and benefit from synergies in research. An international conference and two workshops will enlarge the internal research discourse through perspectives of internationally renowned specialists.

Funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the Austrian Science Fund (FWF).

Grant-DOI: 10.55776/I6627