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Sounds of Two Worlds: Music as a Mirror of Migration to and from Germany

Thursday, September 12, 2002 @ 8:00 am - Saturday, September 14, 2002 @ 7:00 pm


UW-Madison, Memorial Union


UW-Madison Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures and Mills Music Library


This conference brings together scholars, folk artists, and the public to explore the role of music in the migration experience and the shaping of ethnic identity. By looking at the music of Germans who immigrated to America, specifically Wisconsin, as well as the music of immigrants and minorities who live in Germany today, we hope to create a broader understanding of and appreciation for the history and culture of this state while at the same time addressing humanities issues of global importance in the past and present.

German-speaking Europeans migrated to the American Midwest mostly in the second half of the nineteenth century. To this day, there are many music groups, bands, and choirs that identify themselves with German-speaking regions of Europe. From Pomeranian dance groups and Moravian trombone ensembles to a cappella singing societies, German polka bands, and Swiss alpenhorn players, music societies have negotiated ethnic identities and contributed to the fabric of American and Wisconsin history.

More than a century later, Germany itself has changed from a country of emigration to one sought out by immigrants from southern and eastern Europe, Asia, and Africa. Now these immigrants bring their music to Germany and influence the German music scene. Popular Turkish music can be heard on German radio and television, music clubs specializing in African jazz have opened in Central European cities, traveling musicians from Russia and the Ukraine share their folk tunes on German streets, and klezmer music can again be heard in Berlin.

Treating music not only as living culture but also as living history, this conference seeks to reach a wide audience through a variety of formats, including presentations with follow-up discussions, evening concerts, an exhibit, and a teacher workshop.


Funded with support of the Wisconsin Humanties Council, the Wisconsin Arts Board, and the Federal Republic of Germany/ Consulate Chicago


A selection of papers from the conference

Philip V. Bohlman, University of Chicago: “Sounding the Spaces Between Two Worlds: Rupture, Resistance, and Revival in the Re-Membering of German and American History

Ursula Hemetek, Institut für Volksmusikforschung, University of Vienna, Austria: “Music of Minorities in Austria – A ‘National Heritage’?

James Leary, University of Wisconsin-Madison: “Dialect Songs Among the Dutch

For audio samples of songs associated with this paper, please click here.

Rita Ottens and Joel E. Rubin: “‘The Sounds of the Vanishing World’: The German Klezmer Movement as a Racial Discourse
[Website: http://www.rubin-ottens.com]

Christoph Wagner: “Old World Hillbillies: Swiss Music Entertainers on Tour through the United States during the 1920s


Thursday, September 12, 2002 @ 8:00 am
Saturday, September 14, 2002 @ 7:00 pm
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Memorial Union
800 Langdon Street
Madison, WI United States