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Accepted Contribution:

Singing for and against the state - ethnomusicology and folklore knowledge as a path to artistic and political freedom in the GDR  
Petra Garberding (Södertörn University)

Contribution short abstract:

Music ethnology and folk music between political adaptation and artistic freedom. This paper deals with how folk musicians and music ethnologists in the GDR during the 1970s and 80s worked together and used historical folkloristic sources to gain a certain artistic and political freedom.

Contribution long abstract:

In the GDR there was a folk revival in the 1970s and 80s. Inspired by American artists, such as Pete Seeger, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan, among others, numerous folk music groups emerged during this period. Groups such as Folkländer, JAMS and Wacholder were very successful, and folk music and folk dance spread. These activities were often seen by the participants as an alternative to the official FDJ singing movement in the GDR. Within the GDR folk scene, musicians and the audience were able to gain a certain amount of political and artistic freedom. One important strategy for this was, among other things, the use of historical song collections published in the GDR, such as the “Steinitz”, the song collections of “German folk songs of a democratic character from six centuries” published by the folklorist and linguist Wolfgang Steinitz. Songs from the Steinitz in particular were often used by folk musicians to express a covert critique of society, which was usually understood by the audience, without risking interrogation by the Stasi. Another strategy was to contact key people, such as the music ethnologist Erich Stockmann, who was employed at the Academy of Sciences of the GDR in East Berlin and was able to arrange important contacts at home and abroad, as well as keeping the musicians informed about interesting musical innovations. This contribution provides an insight into how folkloric and music ethnological knowledge was transformed in order to protest against political injustices as unnoticed as possible by the authorities.

Panel Know10a
The legacies of nationalistic ideologies: challenging the epistemological rules of ethnological knowledge production after 1945 [SIEF Working Group on Historical Approaches in Cultural Analysis]
  Session 1 Tuesday 22 June, 2021, -