Studies of the Weimar-era discourse of Gebrauchsmusik (utility music, or music for everyday use) have emphasized Heinrich Besseler’s appropriation of Martin Heidegger’s concept of knowledge gained through immediate participatory experience. Along with Germany’s musical youth movement (Jugendmusikbewegung), Besseler rejected formal concert institutions and promoted musical practices that solicited active involvement in everyday social contexts. The focus on Besseler has kept alive Theodor Adorno’s critique of the amateur movement’s claims of participatory immediacy as being illusory and allied with unreflective, exclusivist elements of National Socialist ideology. Adorno’s assimilation of the prominent Gebrauchsmusik composer Paul Hindemith to a Besselerian/Heideggerian position still informs scholarship, although this view overlooks an alternative paradigm for amateur and school music-making articulated in the late 1920s by the critic and educationist Erich Doflein. Doflein outlined a concept of Übungsmusik (practice music) by intertwining Besselerian elements with a commitment to pedagogical contexts, and by interpreting Hindemith’s compositional strategies as rewarding participants only after challenging their understanding and drawing them into deeply focused, playful activity. Übungsmusik offers a lens for reexamining Hindemith’s collaborations with the music-educational reformers Hilmar Höckner and Edgar Rabsch. Here, ongoing mutual effort formed a precondition for claims of sociomusical connectedness, claims that are further illuminated by the play-centered theory of sociability formulated by the philosophical anthropologist Helmuth Plessner. By bringing together musical knowing and doing at a fundamental level, Doflein’s paradigm is also relevant to recent methodological disputes over music’s object- and event-status.

You do not currently have access to this content.