This book argues for the importance of popular music in negotiations of national identity, and Germanness in particular. By discussing diverse musical genres and commercially and critically successful songs at the heights of their cultural relevance throughout seventy years of post-war German history, Soundtracking Germany describes how popular music can function as a language for “writing” national narratives. Running chronologically, all chapters historically contextualize and critically discuss the cultural relevance of the respective genre before moving into a close reading of one particularly relevant and appellative case study that reveals specific interrelations between popular music and constructions of Germanness. Close readings of these sonic national narratives in different moments of national transformations reveal changes in the narrative rhetoric as this book explores how Germanness is performatively constructed, challenged, and reaffirmed throughout the course of seventy years.
Introduction: Made in Germany / 1. The Natives of Trizonesia [Germanness Without a Nation] / 2. The Sound of Uncanny Silence [Beat, The Silent Nation and International Imaginaries] / 3. Fun Fun Fun on the Autobahn [Kraftwerk and the Open-Ended Narrative of the Nation] /4. Hitler on the Dance Floor [Queering the Nation] / 5. Most German of the Arts? [Techno and the Celebration of the Nation] / Conclusion: Another Time of Writing
This is an extraordinary book: highly original, beautifully written and full of thought- and ear- opening insights. Schiller’s comparative close readings of carefully selected pop songs in various genres sheds valuable new light on the complex development of post-1945 German national identity formation. Her interpretations are at the same time rich, imaginative and lucidly convincing. This is an astonishing accomplishment!
Melanie Schiller's book, above all, offers a very innovative and relevant take on German popular music studies. Her point of view, in looking from the 'outside' at the 'insides' of this field, is inspiring and both theoretically and methodologically important. Schiller’s close readings of well-selected case studies, as well as her theoretical framework, especially as it concerns the melancholic mode, will be a great support for further analyses of German popular music and culture, nation-building, constructing/deconstructing collective identities, and sameness/otherness on the one hand, and in helping to understand the specificities of German popular music on the other. Soundtracking Germany is a very important work of German—and international and transnational—cultural, media and music research.
Melanie Schiller is Assistant Professor of Media Studies and Popular Music at the University of Groningen, The Netherlands.