The Search for Medieval Music in Africa and Germany, 1891-1961Scholars, Singers, Missionaries

The Search for Medieval Music in Africa and Germany, 1891-1961Scholars, Singers, Missionaries

Anna Maria Busse Berger

Print publication date: 2021

ISBN: 9780226740348

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Abstract

In this book we can observe an interaction between three seemingly distinct, but surprisingly connected worlds in the first half of the twentieth century: that of the founders of comparative musicology in Germany who searched for the origins of music and were convinced that medieval music must have been similar to the music they encountered and recorded in "primitive" societies; that of the scholars and musicians—for the most part members of the German youth movements, the Jugendmusik—and Singbewegung—who were studying, reconstructing, and performing early European music; and that of the Protestant and Catholic missionaries in German East Africa who introduced medieval music in Africa in the belief that it was similar to African music. The result of studying these three interconnected worlds in one volume is an alternative music history of Germany, a history not concerned with high culture and the repertoire of the concert hall, but with scholars, musicians, and missionaries who shared a passionate interest in music of the Middle Ages, folk music, and participatory music making (Gemeinschaftsmusik). The three overlapping circles, music scholars, members of the youth movement, and missionaries, together introduced a new strand into the musical culture of early twentieth-century Germany—one that favored communal music making and emphasized the proximity of the European early music to the "primitive" music in Africa. Interestingly, this strand transformed music making in Africa itself, where Lutheran chorales, Gregorian chant, and Sankey songs were fully assimilated by local populations.