Honors | German and Austrian Music and Cultur (HON)e
H233 | 29001 | Marc Weiner
HON-H233 Great Authors, Composers, and Artists
TuTh 9:30-10:45 a.m.
Instructor: Marc A. Weiner
Office: BH668; Office Hours: TR 1:00-2:00
No knowledge of German, music theory, or the ability to read music
is required for this course.
If there’s one thing people think of when they think of Germany,
Austria, and Switzerland (aside from the Oktoberfest, the Disney-
like castle Neuschwanstein, and the best chocolate cake anywhere),
it’s the prominent role music has played in those foreign countries’
culture. It’s a cliché that the pomp and elegance of the German and
Austrian aristocracy were accompanied by works of the greatest
composers in history, but it’s also true that classical music
continues to play a role in these countries quite unlike anything
found elsewhere. It’s no coincidence that Germany alone still has
over eighty opera houses that are, for the most part, state funded,
and that their performances remain well attended and are often sold
out well ahead of time. The symphony orchestra holds equal
prominence in the culture of German-speaking Europe, and there the
public enjoyment of chamber music—from string quartets to the art
song, or Lied—is more widespread and active than anywhere else in
The goal of this course will be to examine in what ways the most
celebrated musical works of the past 200 years demonstrate the close
connection between the interests of their time and the aesthetic
material of which they are made. We will engage with a number of the
most famous examples of German and Austrian classical music from the
late 18th century to the 1930s, and will discuss them within their
given cultural context. In addition to analyzing some of the major
works of (in this order) Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann,
Mendelssohn, Wagner, Richard Strauss, Weill, and others, we will
also read some of these composers’ fiction and essays, as well as a
19th-century novella depicting the life of a failed musician,
examine various (and often competing) approaches to critical
interpretation (biographical, psychoanalytical, symbolic-
epistemological, historicist, modernist vs. postmodernist, and
feminist), discuss current debates concerning how one may
legitimately make arguments about a given culture based on analysis
of a given piece of music, and we will also examine the various
assumptions at stake in the staging and performance practices of
different times. Our investigations will include examinations of
opera, music drama, symphony, art song, and jazz.
The only prerequisite is a willingness to participate actively in a
dialog with the group and the instructor on the texts and the
cultural issues against which they can be read (in other words,
there will be no credit for attendance alone, only for
participation). There will be three writing assignments: the first a
summary of and response to a given aesthetic work; the second the
summary of a given methodology or kind of interpretation; and in the
final week of the course, preceding exam week, students will
discuss, critically assess, and make suggestions concerning their
colleagues’ drafts of an independent research project, the subject
of which will have been agreed upon by the student and the
instructor no later than three weeks beforehand. The final drafts
of these papers will be due at the time scheduled for the final exam
(in place of the exam). Grades will be computed as follows:
Participation: 30%; Writing Assignments 1 & 2: 20% each; Final
Beethoven, Ludwig van. Fidelio.
Brecht, Bertolt. The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagony and The
Seven Deadly Sins.
Arcade Publishing, 1996
Fischer, Burton D. Richard Strauss, Salome.
Opera Journeys Publishing, 2002
Grillparzer, Franz. The Poor Musician.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Birth of Tragedy and The Case of Wagner.
Schikaneder, Emanuel & Wolfgang A. Mozart. The Magic Flute.
G. Schirmer; 1986
Wagner, Richard. The Mastersingers of Nuremberg.
-----. Pilgrimage to Beethoven and Other Essays. Trans. William
Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1994.