- “Kein Lied an die Freude.” Die Neue Musik des 20. Jahrhunderts in der deutschsprachigen Erzählliteratur von Thomas Manns Doktor Faustus bis zur Gegenwart by Florian Trabert
Perhaps loosely inspired by Adrian Leverkühn’s “Idee einer rationalen Durchorganisation” in music (Thomas Mann, Doktor Faustus [Frankfurt am Main, 1999], 257), Florian Trabert’s “Kein Lied an die Freude” offers readers a highly structured and carefully crafted analysis of the role modernist music plays in German-language literature. The exclusive emphasis on this one particular style of music and how authors engage with it in their prose writing not only provides the framework for the investigation, but also helps distinguish this study from scholarship focused more generally on music in literature, which may examine various styles simultaneously.
Trabert divides his work into two main parts: a well-conceived theoretical section that covers the historical, philosophical, and political context relevant to an analysis of modernist music in literature, as well as a second segment dealing with the actual application of the relevant ideas in works of fiction ranging from Thomas Mann’s Doktor Faustus to contemporary stories by Hartmut Lange and Hans-Ulrich Treichel. Occasionally recurring themes or citations are a result of Trabert’s effort to accommodate the reader only interested in certain sections of his work; a convenience for scholars already familiar with the vast amount of scholarship on topics such as Mann’s Faust novel, Theodor Adorno’s philosophy of music, or Arnold Schoenberg’s twelve-tone technique. However, by providing an extensively researched yet nevertheless selective overview of this information, Trabert’s investigation is ideal for the reader who may be embarking on an exploration of the subject matter for the first time. His writing is straightforward and comprehensible, and he explains even the most heavily jargoned theories on music composition techniques or intermediality and intertexuality in a way that scholars new to the field would find accessible.
In an attempt to fulfill his ambitious main goal of analyzing the discourse on modernist music in German-language literature, Trabert sets out to accomplish a number of secondary goals along the way. Specifically, he aims to demonstrate that the phenomenon under study is a result of a uniquely German intellectual history that has the joint endeavors of Thomas Mann and Theodor Adorno at its heart; he strives to contribute to the reception history of Mann’s Doktor Faustus and Adorno’s philosophy of music; and he wants to merge two theoretical approaches frequently used to study the connections between language and music in works of fiction—what he refers to as the hermeneutic and structuralist approaches—in order to better understand these literary works.
Trabert spends a significant portion of his book dealing with the first two goals, and for the most part, he successfully accomplishes them. Providing a useful summary of [End Page 232] the historical and philosophical context necessary for his project, the author begins around 1800 with the early German Romantics and their ranking of music above all other art forms. He ties this together with the nineteenth century’s increasingly popular national ideal of a German music, which is often associated with Richard Wagner, before turning his attention to the history of modernist music itself. In this section, Trabert discusses the lives and composition techniques of the main composers associated with the Second Viennese School (Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg, and Anton Webern), and highlights the most important concepts and themes found in Adorno’s writing on modernist music. Trabert ends the contextual half of his book with commentary on ideas relevant to intermediality studies, focusing on the difference between what he refers to as “Thematisierung,” “Evokation,” and “Imitation” of music in literature—helpfully suggesting that one can think of these consecutively as literature “über,” “mit,” and “als” music (124). After postulating that common approaches to studies of this sort either emphasize what content is expressed through musical references or forms in literature...