Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Bohlman, Philip V., and Andrea F. Bohlman. “(Un)Covering Hanns Eisler’s Hollywood Songbook.” Danish Yearbook of Musicology 35 (2007): 13-29.

Hanns Eisler’s works have been going through a resurgence in a post-socialist, post-modern world. Why does his music, particularly Hollywood Songbook, resonate with later audiences? Part of the reason may be that Eisler’s works have a propensity not only to be covered by others but also to begin as covers themselves; bringing the popular music theories of covering into art music may help answer some of these questions about Eisler. The process of covering, regardless of genre, also raises further problems of authorship and authenticity, muddying who is the true author of the work and what the work means for a given time period. Connecting the concept of covers to the concept of performances and performative genres can help alleviate some of these problems.

Eisler’s Hollywood Songbook takes its influence both from Bertold Brecht’s poetry of the same name, the Hollywood Liederbuch, as well as the intangible “Great American Songbook” that many composers claim to reference. All three of these objects are difficult to classify in terms of genre, and thus invite intertextualization, which helps us understand Eisler’s songbook with its references to both exile and modernity borrowed from Brecht’s work and the Great American Songbook. As Eisler’s work itself is a sort of cover of these themes, other artists create their own covers and performances of the work, from popular singers such as Sting to visual artists like Ana Torf. These performative works invite further intertextual readings of both the performance and Eisler’s songbook.

Works: Hanns Eisler: Hollywood Songbook (19-29), Neue deutsche Volkslieder (19); Sting: The Secret Marriage (26-27); Heiner Goebbels: Eislermaterial (26-27); Ana Torf: Performance Art Installation (26-27).

Sources: Hanns Eisler: Hollywood Songbook (25-29).

Index Classifications: 1900s, 2000s, Film

Contributed by: Emily Baumgart

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Musical Borrowing and Reworking - - 2024
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