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Forbidden Sounds at the Art Museum

Mary Ellyn Hutton
Posted: Jun 4, 2004 - 12:05:43 AM in news_2004

(first published in The Cincinnati Post June 3, 2004)

"Take the ‘A’ Train" degenerate?

The Nazis said so, and it, along with music by Jewish composers and performers, was banned in The Third Reich.

"Very few people realize that it wasn’t just killing Jews and Judaism, but all the so-called influences of anything that wasn’t supposed to be Aryan," said Racelle Weiman, director of the Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.

"The Nazis used the term ‘degenerate music’ and it applied to anything black, anything avant-garde, anything they said was not European. Jazz and cabaret were forbidden. You couldn’t find a kid that was playing the saxophone in Aryan Germany."

As the grand finale of Holocaust Awareness Weeks 2004, CHHE in conjunction with the Cincinnati Art Museum and the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music presents a special multi-media program at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Art Museum entitled "Forbidden Sights and Sounds: Nazi Suppression of Art and Culture."

Artwork banned in Nazi Germany will be on display, there will be readings from original documents by a "who’s who" of the Cincinnati art world, and CCM faculty and students will perform music proscribed by the Nazis.

"The idea of degeneracy smacks of deviancy and sexuality and all the things the Jews supposedly brought into Europe, particularly a lot of black African influence that they said the Jews were traders in," said Weiman.

Jazz musician Bill Mennefield will read the actual guidelines for dance music under the Nazis. "What kind of percussion you could use - you couldn’t use verbal sounds, there was no such thing as improvisation. All the things you weren’t allowed to do on the dance floor," Weiman said.

Also narrating will be WLWT-TV anchor Curtis Fuller, Cincinnati Enquirer music critic Janelle Gelfand, president Michael Graham of Xavier University, associate artistic director Michael Haney of the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, ArtWorks director Tamara Harkavy, Jeff Hirsh of WKRC-TV, Naomi Lewin of WGUC-FM, CCM dean Douglas Lowry, artistic director D. Lynn Meyer of Ensemble Theater of Cincinnati, Cincinnati Ballet artistic director Victoria Morgan, Cincinnati Opera artistic director Nicholas Muni, Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival director Brian Phillips, president/CEO Ed Rigaud of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, dramatist Moe Rouse, director Timothy Rub of the Cincinnati Art Museum and associate conductor John Morris Russell of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.

Composers to be heard include Gideon Klein (Sonata for Piano), Erwin Schulhoff (two movements from Sonata for Cello and Piano), Arnold Schoenberg ("Cabaret Songs" and Two Pieces for Piano), Wilhelm Grosz ("Red Sails in the Sunset") and Billy Strayhorn ("Take the ‘A’ Train"). Performing will be pianist/CCM music theory professor Steven Cahn, a specialist in "forbidden music," and CCM students and alumni.

There will be a special presentation - "for all the musicians that couldn’t play," said Weiman - to violinist/Auschwitz survivor Henry Meyer, former member of the LaSalle Quartet and long time CCM faculty member.