Melos

(Berlin, 1920-1934)
Complete Introduction : German | English

Prepared by Ole Hass
3 volumes (2005)

Founded by the well-known conductor Hermann Scherchen, Melos promoted modern music and the study of the relationship between music, musical life and society. The journal was published in Berlin from February 1920 to August 1934, with a lapse in publication from September 1922 until September 1924. Scherchen served as the journal’s first editor, being succeeded by Fritz-Fridolin Windisch who filled this function from May 1921 until August 1922 when publication was temporarily suspended. Publication resumed in August 1924, with Hans Mersmann (1891-1971) as general editor. Heinrich Strobel became general editor in March 1933. After August 1934 the German fascist government took control of the journal and renamed it Neues Musikblatt. Following World War two Schott’s Söhne revived Melos in 1946. This RIPM publication treats Melos during the pre-war years.

Scherchen initiated a discussion about tonality with articles on Schoenberg and Richard Strauss, and was the first to discuss the term “Neue Klassizität” [neoclassicism] in the journal. Mersmann contributed regularly to the journal with extensive overviews of recent music publications, and demonstrated interest in creating a dialogue about modern music and society with his earliest articles. The first issue of Melos edited by Mersmann featured articles by noted writers on the state of music in Berlin (Mersmann), Vienna (Paul Amadeus Pisk), London (Edwin Evans) and Prague (Erich Steinhard), as well as an account of the activities of the new Internationale Gesellschaft für neue Musik [International Society for Contemporary Music] from Salzburg (Egon Wellesz). The issue also contained an article by Fritz Jöde, one of the leading personalities in the “Jugendmusikbewegung” [German youth music movement]. Strobel’s contributions include introductions to the composers Max Butting and Kurt Weill, essays on Stravinsky, discussions of the state of the opera in Berlin, and a large number of reviews of works and performances.

The most prominently featured composer in Melos is Paul Hindemith, who is viewed as an ideal modern musician, embodying the unity of composer and performer and a commitment to modern music in compositions both for the concert hall and for private performance by amateur musicians. Much attention is also given to Igor Stravinsky with his eclectic style, and Kurt Weill who tried to combine a social message with high standards of compositional technique. The collaboration of Weill with the author Berthold Brecht—on projects such as Die Dreigroschenoper, Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny, Der Jasager and Der Lindberghflug (also set by Hindemith)—is reviewed in Melos. Curiously, while Schoenberg is considered by the writers of Melos as one of the most important composers after 1918, little space is dedicated to the defense of his departure from tonality and his development of twelve-tone music. In 1927, Mersmann still calls him the leader of a spiritual revolution, but already sees him as belonging to an earlier state of the development of music. Bartók refers to Schoenberg in a defense of atonal music, but there are also essays by Josef Matthias Hauer, who had developed another twelve-tone system apart from Schoenberg.

The political takeover of the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei [National Socialist Workers’ Party] in 1933 resulted in the removal of Mersmann as general editor of Melos, without comment in the journal. Essays and notes in the miscellaneous sections indicate the influence the fascist party was, through centralization, exerting over Germany’s cultural life, in the replacement of personnel in musical institutions and in the indoctrination of its political views in the media and musical life. The December 1933 issue features quotations by propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels on the nature of art and the aims of the Reichskulturkammer, the newly formed oversight committee for cultural life.

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