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Godwin meets Glenn Miller
May 19, 2012 2:28 AM   Subscribe

So-called jazz compositions may contain at most 10% syncopation; the remainder must consist of a natural legato movement devoid of the hysterical rhythmic reverses characteristic of the barbarian races and conductive to dark instincts alien to the German people (so-called riffs)
The story of Nazi jazz. [Previously.]

One of the more striking episodes from the kulturkrieg of World War II was the German Propaganda Ministry's creation and sponsorship of a Nazi-approved jazz orchestra, consisting of Aryan musicians, called Charlie and His Orchestra. Broadcasting from deep inside Germany, using lyrics written by the Ministry, the band's purpose was to use the American rhythms of jazz as a vehicle for Nazi propaganda. LP recordings of the band's music were also supplied to Allied POWs, who gleefully smashed them. Original recordings can be heard courtesy of WFMU: [1], [2].
posted by Sonny Jim (42 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
Strictly prohibited is the use of instruments alien to the German spirit (so-called cowbells, flexatone, brushes, etc.)

NICHT MEHR VON DER COWBELL
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 2:44 AM on May 19, 2012 [11 favorites]


NICHT MEHR VON DER COWBELL

Tonight at 11: See how the secret radicalism of Bruce Dickinson is revealed. Is he teaching your kids COMMUNISM?
posted by jaduncan at 3:02 AM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I got a fever...and the only prescription is to annex the Sudetenland.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 3:18 AM on May 19, 2012 [12 favorites]


I knew jazz was evil.
posted by Mezentian at 3:20 AM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hmm....didn't Henry Ford crusade against "degenerate music" as well?
posted by telstar at 3:21 AM on May 19, 2012


conductive to dark instincts alien to the German people...

Except for Josephine Baker, that frauhlein is flyyyyy!
posted by PenDevil at 3:23 AM on May 19, 2012


Surely it was Jerry and His Orchestra? Charlie was later.
posted by CheeseLouise at 3:27 AM on May 19, 2012


I like the idea of gleefully smashing a record.
posted by item at 3:28 AM on May 19, 2012


Hmm....didn't Henry Ford crusade against "degenerate music" as well?

Given that he was pretty much cut from the same cloth as Hitler regarding black and Jewish culture this would make sense. Ford's book The International Jew, the World's Foremost Problem isn't exactly unclear about his views, as one would expect from the title.
posted by jaduncan at 3:30 AM on May 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Heh, from Wikipedia on Ford's anti-semetic articles:

While Ford's articles were denounced by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the articles explicitly condemned pogroms and violence against Jews (Volume 4, Chapter 80), but blamed the Jews for provoking incidents of mass violence. None of this work was written by Ford, but he allowed his name to be used as author. According to trial testimony, he wrote almost nothing. Friends and business associates have said they warned Ford about the contents of the Independent and that he probably never read the articles. (He claimed he only read the headlines.) However, court testimony in a libel suit, brought by one of the targets of the newspaper, alleged that Ford did know about the contents of the Independent in advance of publication.

Paging Ron Paul. Ron Paul to the "those who do not learn from history" desk.
posted by jaduncan at 3:34 AM on May 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


It don't mean a thingen if it ain't got that schwingen.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:41 AM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


The real point is that under Nazi notions, jazz bad because it focuses upon individualism--China et al do not like that but prefer group movements., everyone doing the same thing at same time.
The opera made fun of the nazis but they did not recognize that...it had a world premiere in Canada before becoming a children's book.
posted by Postroad at 4:04 AM on May 19, 2012


Also previously (not actually a double, but close).
posted by verstegan at 4:27 AM on May 19, 2012


The real point is that under Nazi notions, jazz ... focuses upon individualism
Hence its appeal to a fighter pilot like Werner Mölders, perhaps? The other interesting point is that, by the end of the war, the band had become something of a "safe haven" for a polyglot, racially mixed group of musicians that (ironically) ended up epitomizing the cultural pluralism that Nazis found so threatening in jazz. There's something supremely satisfying in the idea, gestured at by the article, that the German Propaganda Ministry sponsored (and by doing so, protected from forced labour or worse) a racially mixed group of musicians that included Jews, Communists, and other marginalized figures, in order that they play a form of music that contradicted the very ethos of Nazism.
posted by Sonny Jim at 4:28 AM on May 19, 2012


Fascinating. If you know German, here's a Spiegel article about Charlie and His Orchestra -- but even after reading that, I'm not sure I understand completely. They were exclusively meant for export as propaganda? Did Germans listen to it at all? How did they respond?

Here's the kind of music that was officially sanctioned for consumption: Zarah Leaner, "Ich weiss, es wird einmal ein Wunder gescheh'n", later covered by Nina Hagen.
posted by muckster at 4:48 AM on May 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Die Reichsmusikkammer nicht mag die Negermusik.
posted by twoleftfeet at 4:59 AM on May 19, 2012


> So-called jazz compositions may contain at most 10% syncopation...

"I feel we should Nazify it by...ten percent or so."
posted by The Card Cheat at 5:58 AM on May 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Meanwhile, in Lansing, Michigan, in the 1920s.
posted by acb at 6:01 AM on May 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


God, I love those hysterical rhythmic reverses.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:17 AM on May 19, 2012


Now ve dance.

In an approved Aryan fashion, of course.
posted by tommasz at 6:25 AM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


And Jewishly gloomy lyrics are the best.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:29 AM on May 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I swear some of this is written by HP Lovecraft revisiting his ridiculous German stereotype from The Temple.

Also "Politically flexible jazz saxophonist" has to be a name for something.
posted by Artw at 7:10 AM on May 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Years ago on a gig a fellow Jazz musician was quoting me from the memoirs of a Nazi Officer in occupied France. He wrote of Jazz something to the effect of "it is terrible for Marching".
posted by sourwookie at 7:38 AM on May 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


He wrote of Jazz something to the effect of "it is terrible for Marching".

Depends on what kinda marching we're talking about.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:43 AM on May 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Except for Josephine Baker, that frauhlein is flyyyyy!

They may have listened to her 78s, but I'm not sure Baker ever performed for the Germans. What is certain is that during the German occupation she was an active member of the French Resistance. As such, soon after the war, she was awarded one of France's highest awards, the Legion d'Honneur.
posted by Mister Bijou at 7:45 AM on May 19, 2012


Cause this right here is some jazz marching and I ain't kidding.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:45 AM on May 19, 2012


Except for Josephine Baker, that frauhlein is flyyyyy!

They may have listened to her 78s, but I'm not sure Baker ever performed for the Germans.


Only in Weimar Germany, which was all about hysterical rhythmic reversals and such.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:47 AM on May 19, 2012


Metafilter: characteristic of the barbarian races.
posted by Twang at 7:59 AM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


P.S. Syncopation was one of Beethoven's favorite devices.
posted by Twang at 8:00 AM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Elwood: "Nazi jazz."

Jake: "I hate Nazi jazz."
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:02 AM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


It really happened all snark aside. Visited by Hollywood making a buck of a tragedy. It is probably generational all our wars since have not involved the people. No rationing or forfeitures business as usual.
posted by pdxpogo at 8:20 AM on May 19, 2012


Swing heil!
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:28 AM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


He wrote of Jazz something to the effect of "it is terrible for Marching".

I used to play in a Dixieland group with a German trumpet player. He used to always tell me that Germans love Dixieland because it's like a polka that's cool.

"The real point is that under Nazi notions, jazz bad because it focuses upon individualism"

What makes you say that? (This isn't a rhetorical question, I'd be really interested to see what gave you that impression).

I'm pretty sure it was just the standard Nazi race purity bit. I mean, they forbid Negermusik, not small ensembles or soloists. I'm not super familiar with Nazi Era German Musicians, but I'd be really surprised if there weren't virtuosos touring around performing, or string quartets, or German Art Song being sung. Reading the quotes in the Smithsonian magazine link, discipline is mentioned, but not nearly as much as the racial rhetoric.

Not to mention, jazz isn't just four guys playing whatever they want. Swing Era big bands had carefully arranged charts and prize the ability of a group to play together just as much as any classical orchestra.
posted by Gygesringtone at 8:30 AM on May 19, 2012


Those tracks are not nearly as bad as I expected.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 9:12 AM on May 19, 2012


pdxpogo: Visited by Hollywood making a buck of a tragedy.

Swing Kids is a terrible movie, with terrible, terrible dialog ("We'll get you, swing boy!" "Nazi by day, Swing Kid by night--it's the best of both worlds!"), but it is the only place you'll ever get to see Dr. Wilson from House and Batman from The Dark Knight dance together (their bit starts at 3:40).
posted by tzikeh at 9:14 AM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Those tracks are not nearly as bad as I expected.

Maybe so, but master race? I think not.
posted by tommasz at 9:42 AM on May 19, 2012


It don't mean a thingen if it ain't got that schwingen.

. . . KEY CHANGE!
posted by Countess Elena at 9:46 AM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Dark instincts alien to the German people? I must have that out of context. All the Germans I know (and am married to) are totally at home with their dark instincts. It's what makes them irresistible to me
posted by Redhush at 10:06 AM on May 19, 2012


Speaking of Swing Kids...have you read Asparagirl's post on the Edelweiss Pirates or Mr. Bijou's post on the last of the Edelweiss Pirates?

Also reminds me of Axis Sally (aka "The Berlin Bitch), the German version of Tokyo Rose, whose hate broadcasts were accompanied by some of the only jazz to be found on German radio at the time. Apparently her M.O. was to make soldiers feel homesick and worried. A favorite pastime was to make American soldiers worry that their girlfriends and wives were sleeping around in their absence.
posted by mynameisluka at 10:11 AM on May 19, 2012


The Spiegel article muckster links to is really far more comprehensive and interesting than the one in the FPP. It explains in great detail how the music of "Charlie and his Orchestra" was exclusively for foreign consumption: it was only broadcast over long-range Short Wave (and ownership of SW receivers was very much verboten in Germany and occupied Europe throughout the war), and only a handful of records were made for distribution to the Nazis network of SW broadcasting stations throughout Europe.
Even more interesting is the moral quandary of the musicians in the band. The music was mostly US hits with Nazi propaganda lyrics, and most of the musicians in the band were not only not Nazi, but not even German: the orchestra trawled for talent throughout occupied Europe. So, for the musicians it was a choice between helping produce Nazi propaganda and living a life of privilege, or working in an ammunition factory, fighting in the Eastern Front or even, in some cases, a one-way ticket to a concentration camp.
Indeed, the life of jazz musicians in occupied Europe throughout the war was a complex business: although the Nazis officially despised jazz, the Wehrmacht was formed by millions of young men, in many cases exposed for the first time in their lives to the "decadence" of the neighboring countries. They wanted entertainment, and the Nazi hierarchy was not so obtuse that it was going to put itself too much in the way of such entertainment for their cannon fodder. And performing in nightclubs and mostly for German soldiers and those sufficiently well-connected to ignore curfew orders put those musicians often enough directly in contact with the black market.
posted by Skeptic at 10:46 AM on May 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


Some music to accompany this discussion.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 1:30 PM on May 19, 2012


this nazi jazz - it vibrates ?
posted by sgt.serenity at 4:09 PM on May 19, 2012


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