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Jewish-Freemasonic Yowl
March 12, 2012 10:17 AM   Subscribe

"But maybe the single most remarkable example of 20th-century totalitarian invective against jazz that Skvorecky ever relayed was here in the intro to The Bass Saxophone, where he recalls -- faithfully, he assures us ("they had engraved themselves deeply on my mind") -- a set of regulations, issued by a Gauleiter -- a regional official for the Reich -- as binding on all local dance orchestras during the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia." (via)
posted by SpiffyRob (34 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
“may contain at most 10% syncopation" is where I LOLed.
posted by LMGM at 10:28 AM on March 12, 2012


If you change all of the do-not's to do's, it actually reads like a pretty good brief on how to write pop music.
posted by hanoixan at 10:30 AM on March 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


…although from a music-historical point of view, it's pretty fascinating how heavy and up-front the musical hermeneutics were here. All of the associations between instruments/style/technique and ethnicity is a gold-mine for a lot of historians.
posted by LMGM at 10:31 AM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


    5. Strictly prohibited is the use of instruments alien to the German spirit (so-called cowbells, flexatone, brushes, etc.) as well as all mutes which turn the noble sound of wind and brass instruments into a Jewish-Freemasonic yowl (so-called wa-wa, hat, etc.);
Now I know what they needed more of... Seriously though this is fantastic!
posted by Blasdelb at 10:34 AM on March 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hilarious, but probably completely intend hilarity. Check snopes.
posted by clvrmnky at 10:36 AM on March 12, 2012


An amusing contrast with Charlie and his Orchestra, the Nazi swing band that played popular songs with specially-written propaganda lyrics for shortwave radio transmission to Britain and America. Jazz was fine as long as it was being broadcast to the enemy.
posted by verstegan at 10:42 AM on March 12, 2012


Incidentally, here are recordings of the Nazi swing band Charlie and his Orchestra verstegan mentioned. Apparently Churchill found the songs hilarious.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:53 AM on March 12, 2012


Jewish-Freemasonic Yowl

I think I've found a name for my new Klezmer band.
(Either that or "Ruthless Cosmopolitans")
posted by PlusDistance at 10:54 AM on March 12, 2012 [7 favorites]


Sometimes, I can't believe the Nazis were such...well, Nazis...about stuff.

Funny is fascism plus time, apparently.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:56 AM on March 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


Be interesting to cross-match this list with Adorno's strictures on Jazz and see how many similarities there were.
posted by yoink at 10:58 AM on March 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


Hilarious, but probably completely intend hilarity. Check snopes.

I don't see anything after a few searches at Snopes. I'm just curious- do you have a source for your skepticism?
posted by jenkinsEar at 10:58 AM on March 12, 2012


It's in the Snopes forum, though they don't have any concrete evidence invalidating Skvorecky's version.
posted by invitapriore at 11:03 AM on March 12, 2012


I googled it jenkinsEar, and came up with this thread -- what it sounds like is that there were restrictions, but these aren't actually documented. Rather, they're taken from Skvorecky's memory (1977 being the earliest verified written account?)

At least, that's what I seem to be getting from it. I'm on lunch so not much time to get into the details.
posted by symbioid at 11:04 AM on March 12, 2012


Damnit invitapriore! I did not invite you to make a prior comment!
posted by symbioid at 11:05 AM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Seriously, a lot can go wrong if we allow strings to patter on the sordine.
posted by StickyCarpet at 11:07 AM on March 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


do you have a source for your skepticism?

I'm also sceptical, and this is due to the much too well-informed use of jazz slang, bathetically combined with Nazi buzzwords ("Jewish-Freemasonic yowl"? Come on!). Also, this smacks too much of the dry wit Czechs are particularly well-known for.

Whoever drafted this had a deep knowledge of music in general and jazz in particular, which usually was in rather short supply among Nazi dignataries. Also, a Gauleiter would usually not waste his time writing musical directives.
posted by Skeptic at 11:08 AM on March 12, 2012


I find it hard to believe anyone could take the "set of regulations" at face value. The combination of the fallibility of human memory and the need of creative writers to reshape their material make it in effect impossible that this list is accurate. It may be that it represents the spirit of an actual list Škvorecký was remembering, or it may be that he made the whole thing up. Either way, of course the Nazis hated and tried to suppress jazz.

But so did Stalin. Jazz musicians were rounded up and arrested in the late '30s and again in the late '40s. In this, as in so many things, Stalin wasn't consistent; he established a State Jazz Orchestra of the USSR in 1938. The catch was that it didn't actually play jazz but light classical schlock, aside from "a few fox-trots... and a watered-down rendition of Duke Ellington's 'Caravan.'" (I quote S. Frederick Starr's Red & Hot: The Fate of Jazz in the Soviet Union, which anyone interested in the topic should read.) In 1950, Viktor Gorodinsky published Music of Spiritual Poverty, in which he explained that jazz was not (as Soviet jazz-lovers had maintained) the folk music of the oppressed American people but a tool of international exploitation manipulated by Truman, the "Resident-Führer." (Jazz managed to survive anyway, and was even played in the Gulag. Read the Starr book!)
posted by languagehat at 11:50 AM on March 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


I tried suicide once - but only because I was threatened with jazz.
posted by Meatbomb at 12:01 PM on March 12, 2012


This wasn't just Czech, this was German wide. The Nazis decried a large section of art as "degenerate", including music. They created the Riechmusikkammer (Reich Music Chamber) to create rules on what art would be declared degenerate and suppressed.

Jazz was *way* up on that list. There was a large youth movement centered on swing and jazz music, most prominent in Berlin and Hamburg, but it was pretty widespread. Himmler wrote to Reinhard Heydrich that "the whole evil must be radically exterminated now."

That's a bad sentence when it's said to Heydrich, one of the architects of the Holocaust and a good contender for worst human being ever. The Nazis came down on the kids hard, and I could easily see someone writing a set of rules that defined was was "entaretemusik" and what was good German music.

The Gauleiter or Reichsprotektor in charge (depending on what part of Czechoslovakia you were in) would have been in charge of disseminating the list and enforcing compliance.
posted by eriko at 12:14 PM on March 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm also sceptical, and this is due to the much too well-informed use of jazz slang,

Really scat, break, and riff are the only jazz terms I really saw, and it's not like you have to be Initiated into the 6th Mystery of Jazz before anyone will tell you what those mean.
posted by Gygesringtone at 12:22 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


restrict the use of saxophones

Broken clock, etc.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 12:28 PM on March 12, 2012


I lean towards eriko here, having looked a bit at the Entartete Kunst question. Obviously, we're all in agreement this is from memory, so relying on precision of language is out. But it makes sense to me that a fluid musical form such as jazz could all too easily evade regulation by claiming it was swing, or big band, or blues, and so a true bureaucrat's response would be to nail things down almost mathmatically. Sort of in the nobody-ever-got-fired-for realm. If you think of this as some gauleiter covering his ass rather than trying to divine the very essence of jazz, it sounds much more realistic.
posted by dhartung at 1:02 PM on March 12, 2012


restrict the use of saxophones

Broken clock, etc.


Punk, etc.
 
posted by Herodios at 1:20 PM on March 12, 2012


Also for the record: Violinist Hugh Marsh's classic 1987 college radio oddity Rules are Made to be Broken featuring Robert Palmer and Lisa Dalbello on vocals.
posted by ovvl at 1:22 PM on March 12, 2012


I should say that my view of Nazi occupation officials is strongly informed by that of two similar fictionalized dramas about the occupation of the Channel Islands: Enemy at the Door (1970s ITV) and Island at War (BBC). Both delved into the nitty-gritty of day-to-day management of a reluctant, even rebellious, populace, and you got a real sense of how German officiousness could run headlong into messy reality (and in this case, at least, British carry-on-ability). I recommend either, or even, both; they have different strengths. The Germans in both range from well-meaning and decent to pragmatic to vindictive.

They're also instructive as to the long-term viability of certain other occupations that may or may not be in the news.

Other sources I draw on include Gert Frobe's portrayal of von Choltitz in Is Paris Burning? and To Be or Not to Be by Lubitsch, which depicts a theatre company in occupied Poland.

It basically boils down to having only a few people yourself and needing to manage a lot of people. You'll resort to negotiation and inane rulesets just to limit the time you need to spend on a particular problem.
posted by dhartung at 1:22 PM on March 12, 2012


In my head, I heard this entire list in the voice of Herr Flick of ze Gestapo.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:24 PM on March 12, 2012


There's no way to tell from internal evidence whether it's a fake or not. I've read other Nazi prohibitions that read very similarly.

I'd also add that the fact that the writer clearly knew a lot about music absolutely does not mean it's fake. Germany has always had a history of excellence in music scholarship, and there were numerous musicians, composers, conductors and musical academics who enthusiastically collaborated with the Nazis - it seems quite plausible it's one of them.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 2:14 PM on March 12, 2012


Iraq militia stone youths to death for "emo" style
posted by Anything at 2:15 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Jazz and Popular Music in Terezín: How the Nazis micromanaged culture to give the appearance of a model concentration camp in Czechoslovakia.
posted by dhartung at 2:54 PM on March 12, 2012


An amusing contrast with Charlie and his Orchestra, the Nazi swing band that played popular songs with specially-written propaganda lyrics for shortwave radio transmission to Britain and America. Jazz was fine as long as it was being broadcast to the enemy.

Which is par for the course for totalitarian regimes. I read a few years ago that Cuba's outward-facing media outlets are banned in Cuba itself because, in order to remain credible abroad, they have to say or acknowledge things that are forbidden internally.
posted by acb at 3:25 PM on March 12, 2012


Jazz and Popular Music in Terezín: How the Nazis micromanaged culture to give the appearance of a model concentration camp in Czechoslovakia.

There's more from Skvorecky:

And despite Hitler and Goebbels the sweet poison of the Judeonegroid music (that was the Nazi epithet for jazz) not only endured, it prevailed - even for a short time in the very heart of hell, the ghetto at Terezin. The Ghetto Swingers ... theres a photograph of them, an amateur snapshot, taken behind the walls of the Nazi-established ghetto during the brief week that they were permitted to perform - for the benefit of the visiting Swedish Red Cross officials. They're all there, all but one of them already condemned to die, in their white shirts and black ties, the slide of the trombone pointing diagonally up to the sky, pretending or maybe really experiencing the joy in rhythm, of music.
posted by ovvl at 4:18 PM on March 12, 2012


I'm not particularly a fan of police procedurals, but Skvorecky's Lieutenant Boruvka series of four books is an interesting look at a cynical homicide detective in cynical Communist-era Prague. (vague semi-spoiler: don't be too surprised if Boruvka gets re-assigned off of a case just when he figures out that the most plausible suspect has connections to 'The Party'...)
posted by ovvl at 4:38 PM on March 12, 2012


First they came for the Dixieland players, and I did nothing, for I did not wear a straw hat
posted by thelonius at 5:01 AM on March 13, 2012


Skvorecky's Bass Saxophone pretty much got me my first real grownup job, back when I was living in Toronto.

I read the book, saw the intro to Lester & Orpen Dennys's International Fiction List, got all excited, and wrote to Louise Dennys to tell her I wanted to work for her. She instantly replied to tell me that the office didn't even have a spare desk, but on the other hand her husband's company could use someone who could write, and was I interested in talking to him?

I did, and we hit it off, so instead of publishing I spent a few years at a social marketing agency writing fitness and dental health propaganda. I'm not sure whether it's been uphill or downhill since then. Sort of a range of hills, I guess.

I did eventually get to meet Skvorecky and his wife a few times. I missed the obituary a couple of months ago; I only just now realized he'd died.

It's worth noting something I don't see mentioned anywhere -- not in TFA, not in Wikipedia, not in Sam Solecki's roundup in the Globe -- which is that Skvorecky's friend and translator Paul Wilson (an apolitical Canadian Zappaphile) ran into subversive-music-versus-oppressive-politics trouble of his own in the 1970s, inspiring a play.
posted by tangerine at 11:14 AM on March 13, 2012


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