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Brecht, Music and Culture

Hans Bunge and Hanns Eisler edited by Sabine Berendse and Paul Clements translated by Sabine Berendse and Paul Clements

DOI: 10.5040/9781472533005

ISBN: 9781472528414

The Austrian composer Hanns Eisler was Bertolt Brecht's closest friend and most politically committed collaborator. In these conversations with Hans Bunge which took place over a period of four years, from 1958 until his death in 1962, Eisler offers a compelling and absorbing account of his and Brecht's period of exile in Europe and the USA between 1933 and 1947, and of the quality of artistic, social and intellectual life in post-war East Germany.

Brecht, Music and Culture includes a discussion of a number of Brecht's principal plays, including Life of Galileo and The Caucasian Chalk Circle, considers the place of music in Brecht's work and discusses the time that Brecht was brought before The House of Un-American Activities Committee. It includes lively accounts of Brecht's meetings with key cultural figures, including Arnold Schönberg, Charlie Chaplin and Thomas Mann, and offers throughout a sustained response to the question of the purpose of art in a time of political turmoil.

Throughout the conversations, Eisler provides illuminating and original insights into Brecht's work and ideas and gives a highly entertaining first-hand account of his friend's personality and attitudes. First published in Germany in 1975, and now published in English for the first time, the conversations provide a fascinating account of the lives and work of two of the 20th century's greatest artists.

'Th[is] edition is a labour of love. ... Together with Paul Clements, [Berendse] has crafted not only a readable but a highly engaging rendition of a series of conversations whose length makes them suitable for a sustained read or a more relaxed series of perusals ... [This] edition offers rich anecdotal accounts of Brecht, the German Democratic Republic, and disquisitions on the relationship between politics and music.' New Theatre Quarterly

'Eisler's conversations with Hans Bunge about Brecht focus on their time together in Hollywood as well as on the building of a 'magnificent' new social republic. For Eisler, the 'be-all and end-all' of their work was to 'educate the teacher!' … The most fascinating and perplexing aspect of the conversations turns on the effort to 'study the effect of art on human beings.' … The lesson of the great modernists was the lesson of socialism. In other words, ending capitalism was the precondition for making and understanding great art.' Radical Philosophy 189