Yearning for Future

Youth, Music, and the Cultivation of Feelings in a Divided Germany

(project duration 2010-2018)

“Fröhlich sein und singen” (to sing and to be happy) was not only the title of one of the most famous “Pionierlieder” in the GDR: it was also a duty for children and youths, since music with its special emotional power, according to music educators, could form consciousness and shape characters. This was the justification for exploiting music in the state concept of shaping “socialist personalities”. Communal singing as a collective social practice had a key position in this concept. Regularly singing a repertoire of formally binding songs not only at school but also during organized free-time activities imparted ideological principles to children and youths.

The project aims to collect traditions of the bourgeois and social democratic singing movements and music education in the 19th century until the National Socialism and, through a comparison to music education in Western Germany until the end of the 1960s, to analyze specifics of music education and singing practices in the GDR. Manuals for music teachers and the formally binding song repertoire will be examined to obtain a better understanding of politically desired feeling concepts, such as solidarity and allegiance to the homeland. Are there shifts in this order of emotions and how are they related to political and social changes in the GDR?

Furthermore the project investigates singing practices within the Free German Youth, the public youth organization in the GDR. Could collective singing really structure the daily experiences of kids and adolescents? Which kind of emotions should get communicated through collective singing? The final stage of the project will examine alternative singing practices in youth subcultures in the GDR, such Rock and Punk, between the1960s and the 1980s. These will be compared to singing practices of youth protest movements in Western Germany. Finally the project will question which politically desired feelings should be experienced by communal singing specifically within music education in the GDR.

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