Rubble Music

Rubble Music

Occupying the Ruins of Postwar Berlin, 1945–1950
Abby Anderton
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 07/23/2019
Format: Paperback 20 b&w illus., 7 music exx.
ISBN: 978-0-253-04242-2
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As the seat of Hitler's government, Berlin was the most frequently targeted city in Germany for Allied bombing campaigns during World War II. Air raids shelled celebrated monuments, left homes uninhabitable, and reduced much of the city to nothing but rubble. After the war's end, this apocalyptic landscape captured the imagination of artists, filmmakers, and writers, who used the ruins to engage with themes of alienation, disillusionment, and moral ambiguity. In Rubble Music, Abby Anderton explores the classical music culture of postwar Berlin, analyzing archival documents, period sources, and musical scores to identify the sound of civilian suffering after urban catastrophe. Anderton reveals how rubble functioned as a literal, figurative, psychological, and sonic element by examining the resonances of trauma heard in the German musical repertoire after 1945. With detailed explorations of reconstituted orchestral ensembles, opera companies, and radio stations, as well as analyses of performances and compositions that were beyond the reach of the Allied occupiers, Anderton demonstrates how German musicians worked through, cleared away, or built over the debris and devastation of the war.

Author Bio

Abby Anderton is Assistant Professor of Music at Baruch College, City University of New York.



For decades, the subject of German suffering in World War II remained off limits, and it continues to spark controversy. Yet as unpalatable as it may seem, the Germans' own sense of victimhood was as real to them as the death and destruction that surrounded them, especially in Berlin. In Rubble Music, Abby Anderton offers a new perspective on musical activity in the immediate postwar period by examining the ways in which music served as a soundscape, a refuge, and an outlet for Germans to express their victimhood and subtly defy the cultural objectives of the Allied occupation.


 (Pamela M. Potter, author of)

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Table of Contents



1. Berlin Soundscapes of Defeat and Occupation

2. Occupied Music: The Berlin Philharmonic and the American Military

3. Rubble Opera after 1945: East Berlin's Staatsoper and West Berlin's Städtische Oper

4. Embodied and Disembodied Voices: Listening to Sonic Ruins

5. Berlin 1945: Towards a Ruin Aesthetic in Music