German 43: Exiles and Émigrés

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Photo of Hanns EislerEisler, Hanns

(Leipzig 1898–Berlin 1962)

Composer. A private student of Arnold Schönberg in Vienna, Eisler begins composing at an early age. Politically radicalized by the October Revolution, he moves to Berlin in 1925 and entertains close contacts to the KPD (German Communist Party). He joins the agitprop group "Das rote Sprachrohr," which will later participate in Bertolt Brecht's film Kuhle Wampe (1932) and a long-time collaboration with the playwright begins. During this time Eisler writes only music that makes reference to daily political events of the Weimar Republic. His first compositions for films are for the short Opus III (dir. Walter Ruttmann, 1923), Das Lied vom Leben (dir. Alexis Granowsky, 1931), Niemandsland (dir. Victor Trivas), Kuhle Wampe, and—already in French exile—Dans les rues (dir. Trivas, 1933). Travelling extensively through Europe during the mid-1930s, Eisler settles in New York in 1938 to teach music history and composition at the New School for Social Research. Together with fellow-exile Theodor W. Adorno he writes Komposition für den Film (1947). Between 1942 and 1947, Eisler lives in Los Angeles and writes composition for eight Hollywood films, including Hangmen Also Die (dir. Fritz Lang, 1943), A Scandal in Paris (dir. Douglas Sirk, 1945) and The Woman on the Beach (dir. Jean Renoir, 1946). In 1949 he resettles in East Berlin, accepting a position at the Staatliches Konservatorium Berlin and composing the national anthem for the GDR. Until his death he remains a combative and impulsive artist striving to combine the composition of avantgarde music and political commitment.

GERMAN 43: Exiles and Émigrés
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