Oppositional Political Identity in the Song Culture of the Vormärz and the 1848 Revolution in Germany

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Historically political song has often been perceived negatively, as a disturbance of the peace, summed up by the legendary line from Goethe’s Faust: “Politisches Lied – ein garstiges Lied”. In the period in Germany of the Vormärz (from 1815 up to the revolution of March 1848), however, we see how this perception may be changing as it increasingly becomes a means of self-expression in public life. This was the era of restauration, in which broader sections of German society are striving for political emancipation from the princes and kings. A whole host of political themes emerge in the songs (Freiheitslieder) of that period in which a new oppositional political consciousness is reflected. The themes range from freedom of speech, freedom from censorship, and the need for democratic and national self-determination to critiques of injustice and hunger, and parodies of political convention and opportunism. Sources of reception give indications about the social and political milieus in which these songs circulated. Such sources include broadsheets, handwritten manuscripts, song collections, commemoration events, advertisements in political press, memoires, police reports and general literature of the time. In many cases we see how these songs reflect the emerging social and political identities of those who sing them. One also sees the use of well known melodies in the popular dissemination of these songs. An intertextual function of music often becomes apparent in the practice of contrefacture whereby melodies with particular semantic associations are used to either underline the message or parody the subject of the song.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIdentities, Intertextuality and Performance in Song Culture
EditorsDieuwke Van der Poel
Place of PublicationLeiden
PublisherBrill, Leiden
Number of pages26
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Publication series

NameIntersections, Interdisciplinary Studies in Early Modern Culture


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