Special Studies

In his 1944 typescript for a lecture titled Contemporary Music and Fascism, composer Hans Eisler wrote the following: “good music and honest musicians were and always will be arch-enemies of fascism.” This seminar takes this statement as the basis for a critical inquiry into the subject. What is “good music,” who are the “honest musicians,” what actually is fascism, and who gets to say? Can we speak of fascist elements in places like Stalin’s Soviet Union and Mao’s China? We shall begin with the case of music in Mussolini’s Italy, and then study the subject more broadly, especially in the contemporary world. We shall explore the relationship between sound and political institutions, and then confront the question of whether there is such a thing as a “fascist music” that can be empirically demonstrated. Composers studied include Dallapiccola, Massarani, Shostakovich, Brauenfels, Orff, Weill, Klein, and many others. Readings by Arendt, Benjamin, Eisler, Eco, Sachs, etc. After setting the historical stage we will also look at “neofascist” musical subcultures around the world, from Black Metal to Turbofolk.

A substantial proportion of doctoral seminars are offered each year under this heading

Course Information



4 Points

Term Section Instructor Schedule Location

Fall 2017

Michael Beckerman
R: 2:00 PM - 4:00 PM WAVE 268

Spring 2018

Brigid Cohen
R: 2:00 PM - 4:00 PM WAVE 268
Suzanne G Cusick
W: 3:00 PM - 5:00 PM WAVE 268