Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Bick, Sally. "Political Ironies: Hanns Eisler in Hollywood and Behind the Iron Curtain." Acta Musicologica 75 (2003): 65-84.

By borrowing a musical passage from his film score Hangman also Die within the opening of his song Auferstanden aus Ruinen, Hanns Eisler utilized the same music for two extremely different political and social circumstances—a paradox that illustrates music's ability to mediate meaning through cultural encoding. The 1943 motion picture Hangmen also Die by Fritz Lang is a product of the Hollywood entertainment industry and American capitalism, whereas Auferstanden aus Ruinen is a patriotic song adopted by the communist German Democratic Republic as its national anthem. In the film, the story centers on the struggle of the united Czech people to overcome the brutal Nazi occupation; the relevant musical passage is heard in a scene in which the leading Czech resistance leader lies on his deathbed after a Nazi raid. The slow, syncopated rhythm in the bass line and the three-note descending sequential figure in the melody symbolize the patriotism and heroism of the Czech people fighting against fascism. Eisler borrows these same gestures in the opening of the anthem, and in both cases exploits the emotional power of music to mediate a political and social message. The paradox of Eisler's self-borrowing emphasizes music's ability to cross social and political boundaries.

Works: Eisler: Auferstanden aus Ruinen.

Sources: Eisler: Score for Hangman also Die.

Index Classifications: 1900s, Popular, Film

Contributed by: Mary Ellen Ryan

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