Musicology and Biography: The Case of H. H. Eggebrecht

This session was held at the AMS Annual Meeting, Indianapolis, the afternoon of 6 November. A recording of the session was made; links below lead to separate mp3 files.

Chair: David Josephson (Brown University)

Speakers: Christopher Browning (UNC Chapel Hill), Boris von Haken (Hochschule für Musik Detmold), Pamela Potter (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Alexander Rehding (Harvard University), Anne C. Shreffler (Harvard University), Christoph Wolff (Harvard University)

Session Schedule

Unit 1. 2:00-2:45

Unit 2. 2:45-3:30

Unit 3. 3:30-4:15 Position papers

Unit 4. 4:15-5:00

Abstract (as printed in the Program)                    Handout

The news that Hans Heinrich Eggebrecht may have been involved in Nazi atrocities as a young man, as reported by Boris von Haken at the meeting of the Gesellschaft für Musikforschung in September 2009 and in Die Zeit on December 17, has surprised and shocked musicologists in Germany and abroad. Von Haken's research suggests that the young Eggebrecht, as a soldier in the Feldgendarmerie (military police), assisted with others in his unit in the mass execution of at least 14,000 Jews in Crimea in December 1941. Von Haken's book, Holocaust und Musikwissenschaft, scheduled for publication in Fall 2010, lays out this case and puts it in a wider context.

Eggebrecht died ten years ago; he never mentioned any involvement in Nazi atrocities and had made a reputation for himself as a liberal and humane scholar. Eggebrecht was one of the most important, and most revered, musicologists in postwar Germany. While his international stature never quite reached the heights of a Dahlhaus, his significance within Germany's academic landscape is hard to overestimate. His numerous students, many of whom occupy important positions in Germany and abroad, have responded to the allegations in disbelief and shock.

The responses to von Haken's book have been swift and severe: ranging from outright denial, since we cannot know what exactly Eggebrecht did on the days the atrocities took place, to speculations about how Eggebrecht's scholarship should be interpreted in light of this news.

Emotions are clearly running high, and it seems important in this situation to offer a scholarly forum for reflection and exchange on this important event that has put musicology in the newspaper headlines. What does von Haken's research mean for Eggebrecht's place in the history of musicology? What are the consequences with regards to his scholarship, particularly in light of the Germanocentric focus of much of his work? To what extent do these disclosures affect his legacy? The questions raised here aim to understand the significance of the Eggebrecht case, but also to broaden out the discussion to the larger historiographical questions about the relationships between biography and scholarship, the effect of the Cold War context on musicology's previous reluctance to take on political issues, and the institutional history of postwar musicology in Germany and internationally.

Disclaimer: The American Musicological Society has made these recording available for informational purposes, with the permission of the speakers identified above. The views presented by the speakers are their own, and reflect neither the views of the Society nor its Board of Directors.


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