The impact of war

Parallel session A5 (Chair: Ben Winters)
25 Oct 2015
10:00 - 11:00
Recital Hall

The impact of war

The BBC and the listening experience in World War Two

Kerri-Anne Edinburgh, The Open University

During the Second World War, the BBC provided the nation with a constant supply of music – from chamber music to swing, exposing the differences in taste, experience and ideology across its unique 33- million strong audience. Throughout the war, the BBC’s broadcasting priorities continually and radically changed under influence from the demands of national morale and identity. As letters from the BBC’s multiple musical audiences demonstrate, their needs were delicately balanced within the ideology of a ‘listening democracy’. Whose listening experiences were most important, and why?

Listeners’ letters preserved by the BBC’s Written Archives Centre, alongside diaries from the Mass Observation archive, present the opportunity to explore how the BBC was experienced on individual and community levels. How did listeners situate themselves, as individuals, within the debates and controversies surrounding genre classification and hierarchies of taste? Which music – orchestral, dance, popular song, British – had particular value to them during total war, and why? What should the BBC provide (more of)? Why did they turn so frequently to enemy radio? In their highly opinionated writings, the BBC’s listeners voice opinions on a variety of subjects – national pride, the 1942 ban on crooning, early morning music, programme presentation, and the worth (or lack thereof) of various musical genres.

Nostalgic listening: Between idealization and realization

Dr Ulrike Präger, Boston University and University of Massachusetts Boston

After Germany’s surrender in World War II, approximately three million Germans living in the Bohemian lands (today’s Czech Republic) were expelled from there with most relocating in neighboring Germany. Forced migrants repeatedly turned to music for comfort and to rebuild individual and collective subjectivities, while simultaneously fueling their nostalgic longing for a bygone time and place. Musical repertoires and sounds that they associate with their lost homeland, function as commemorative signs that still repeatedly enable migrants to re-hear and thus re-experience their past. In the hope to unite forced migrants not only as consumers, but also as political entity, entertainment industry and politicians deliberately nurtured the migrants’ musically driven nostalgia using specific repertoire in, for example, public meetings, homeland movies, and TV shows. Music recurrently triggered the migrants’ nostalgia, which ultimately fostered an idealization of their homelands. Since the fall of Communism in 1989, this idealization stimulated the development of Heimatourismus (nostalgia-based return-tourism), which encouraged over one million Germans to revisit their Bohemian homelands. There, they repeatedly realize that listening to nostalgic ‘sounds of home’ since the expulsion had created idealized Bohemian places of homecoming, which long had disappeared. ‘Sounds of home’ had been displaced with the Germans to Germany in the aftermath of WW II. Today, listening to these specific sounds has lost for many forced migrants a manifest relation to a specific locality in the Bohemian lands, but instead inspires home to be a ‘third space’ in various places and social settings, just not where it originated.