The country’s musical history is as vibrant as its dress. Martin Luther from Germany and John Calvin from France led the Reformation. This was the Protestantism’s first religious movement away from the Catholic church. Luther believed music was God’s greatest gift and made it the cornerstone of his movement. Source: Kitchen This environment encouraged musical development over generations and was the foundation for German composers like Johann Sebastian Bach or Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Perhaps music is the most prominent area of German culture beyond its borders. The influence of German immigrants in America is evident and could be responsible for the rise in popularity of symphony orchestras. This was especially true in areas that have large German population. Milwaukee hosted an 1853 performance of “Zar und Zimmermann”, a German opera, to 800 people. This was in a city that was just 30,000 strong.
German-born conductors have been a major influence on American orchestras since then, conducting symphonies both in Chicago and New York. The Metropolitan Opera was also funded by Otto Kahn, a German-American banker.
Oompah and Volksmusic are two of the German traditional music genres that have been synonymous with Germany. Volksmusic, which is a form of music of the people, originated in southern Germany’s mountainous region. It is mainly played in Bavaria. These songs are often very informal and performed with simple instruments like guitars or harmonizers. Oompah music can be described as a mix of different types of horn-centric music from Eastern European countries. Oompah music is played by brass bands. Its name comes from the thump thump thumping of tuba, which is one of the most important parts of any Oompah band. In addition to brass, Oompah also uses/incorporates/employs accordions, which produce such a distinct sound that can invoke cravings of sausage and beer. Although it is difficult to know the age of each genre, they are still very popular and widely performed.
German music is an integral part of the beirgarten. It was founded in Bavaria in 19th century. [source: German Beer Institute]. Before ice blocks made refrigeration a bit more accessible, biergartens was where beer could be stored. Beer drinkers will gather where beer is stored. Biergartens can be found all over the globe and are a well-known German tradition.
Classical Music: The Three Bs
German classical music has been a dominant force for several hundred years. Its history began in the 16th century, and continues to this day. It was, however, the composers of the past – in particular the “three Bs” – that put the country on the musical map.
Johann Sebastian Bach is considered one of the greatest composers of all times. His contributions to Baroque are best known because they feature elaborate compositions that revolve around strong tonal progressions. Although his music was mostly for organ, he also composed pieces for the harpsichord (and clavichord) and sonatas, suites, and sonatas for chamber and orchestral groups. He even wrote pieces that could be performe by choral groups. His most well-known works include “The Well-Tempered Clavier” and “Brandenburg Concertos.” Johann Pachelbel and Georg Philipp Telemann are other influential German Baroque composers.
Popular Music: Cabaret and Swing. & Theatre
German music was also transforme as the political and cultural climates in Germany change between the first and second World Wars. People wanted music that expressed their feelings, rather than classical music.
Contrary to the Gebrauchsmusik of the late 19th century and early 20th century, cabaret music was first developed in Germany’s club scene in the 1920s. It was a form of entertainment that allowed performers to be creative and had a lot of cultural appeal. Marlene Dietrich, a cabaret performer, was one of the most popular characters after her success in “The Blue Angel.” She sang in English and German.
Music of the People: Folk Music, Schlager
The definition of German folk music varies depending on its time and geographic location. The older tradition is generally made up of political and working-class songs. Over the years folk music has expanded to include other cultural groups (such the Swabians or Sorbians) as well as different styles (such the brass oom-pah band associated with beer festivals, and Bavarian Yodelers).
Germans also have Schlager, much like Americans have “soft rock” or easy listening music. Although it has roots dating back to the beginning of the 20th Century, Schlager’s popularity reach its peak in the 1960s and 70s when Schlager was support by musicians such as Rex Gildo or Heino. Schlager is popular folk music with pop rock and ballad sensibilities. The lyrics are lighthearted and often deal with love and emotions. This is similar to the French chanson.
German-Language Music: Pop, Neue Deutsche Welle, and Hamburger Schule
Although Schlager music is a part of pop tradition, it occupies an exclusive, somewhat inventive niche. People either love or hate Schlager music. Straightfoward pop music is more popular and more easily enjoyed. Herbert Gronemeyer is a classic example. Although many people outside Germany only know him from the role he played in “Das Boot”, he is also one of the most successful artists in Germany with a career that has spanned 44 years.
New Wave music became popular in English-speaking countries, and German artists began to imitate the sound, creating Neue Deutsche Welle. This is the New German Wave. Although the musical styles and influences were similar on the surface, NDW had German lyrics which made it distinct due to the German language. Nena’s “99 Luftballons”, her most well-known hit, is probably the best. However, there were other artists like Trio (anyone recall the VW commercial?) Fehlfarben, Nina Hagen and Nina Hagen gained popularity for their pop-infused, synthesized music.
Electronic Music: Techno and Krautrock
Some German speakers were copying existing styles through language, while others were creating new genres. Krautrock was a minimalistic electronic music style that emerged in the late 1960s and early 70s. The name Krautrock was given to the music from the English-speaking world. Although many krautrock bands shared similarities, there was no defining characteristic. However, a lot of krautrock bands had prog and psychedelic tendencies. Keyboards and synthesizers were prominent in their sound. Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk are some of the most well-known examples.
The 80s saw Germany’s fascination with electronic music evolve, and techno started to move from Detroit and Chicago to Berlin, Frankfurt, and even to Japan. Techno was still underground at the time, and the Love Parade, which was found by Dr. Motte in 1989, was a small grassroots music movement that celebrated music and peace. It grew in size and popularity over the years as did techno. Sven Vath, Paul van Dyk and Fritz Kalkbrenner were key figures in the trance scene.