Spring 2019

Music and Totalitarianism

Listed in: Music, as MUSI-103


Klara Moricz (Section 01)


In 1936 the official Soviet newspaper Pravda denounced Dmitri Shostakovich’s latest opera as “muddle instead of music.” In 1942 the Party used his “Leningrad” Symphony as propaganda in the Soviet Union’s war against Nazi Germany. Shostakovich’s career demonstrates both the unlimited government support and the unlimited control totalitarian states exercise over their artists.  This course explores musical life under totalitarian regimes: the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, Socialist Hungary, and China at the time of the Cultural Revolution. Classes will center on musical works affected by such control, including Prokofiev’s ballet Romeo and Juliet, Shostakovich’s opera Lady Macbeth and his Symphony No. 5, and the Chinese ballet The Red Detachment of Women. We will watch propaganda films such as Pudovkin’s The End of St. Petersburg and Eisenstein’s Alexander Nevsky as well as films about the perils of totalitarianism such as István Szabó’s Mephisto, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s The Life of Others, and the documentary From Mao to Mozart. Readings will include Hannah Arendt’s analysis of totalitarianism and historical documents pertinent to interpreting musical works in their political context. No previous knowledge of music is required. 

Spring semester. Professor Moricz.


Fine Arts for Non-majors


2020-21: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2019, Fall 2019