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Jazz Discussion in the GDR (1955)

This protocol of a discussion between Reginald Rudorf and officials of the Ministry of Culture and the Association of German Composers of the GDR [Verband deutscher Komponisten or VdK] on April 1955 was probably written by the Department Head of the Chief Music Department in the Ministry of Culture, Uszokoreit (uk). In this debate, Rudorf tries to convince the officials of the importance of “real” jazz for the new German dance music and of the anti-Fascist stance of jazz fans. The occasion was a draft that Rudorf had sent to the Ministry of Culture, evidently to secure the spread of jazz and the recognition of jazz clubs in the GDR and to justify contacts with West German jazz fans.

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Jazz discussion

about the draft from colleague Rudorf to the Ministry of Culture on April 7, 1955, in Berlin

Beginning: 11 o’clock
Present: the colleagues

Prof. Knepler
Dr. Rebling
Prof. Notowicz

for part of the time:

Ulbrich, Defa
Bartsch, Defa
Folkmann, Ministry of Culture
Hartfeldt, DSV
Sasse, VdK Halle
Dr. Glücksmann, AWA
Seeger, Neues Deutschland
Lahl, CC of the SED

Prof. Knepler, the first to speak, considers the theses of colleague Rudorf to be false, and what is more, dangerous. The distinction between real and commercial jazz is arbitrary. There is no jazz that can have a progressive impact on our dance music. Of course, a Negro folk music does exist. But that is not a primary concern for us, but rather for the American people. It is surely a task to cultivate Negro music, just as one should cultivate English, French, and Indian folk music, but with us our German folk music is front and center.

Colleague Forst agrees with colleague Prof. Knepler. He is of the opinion that people in Germany should dance not to Russian or Negro music, but to German dance music. It must be identified and developed. Resorting to foreign folklore cannot be a way out. As for the proposals by colleague Rudorf to set up Hot- or Boogie-woogie clubs: in Germany we have no clubs for Russian dances, English dances. But we have a Central House for Popular Art [Zentralhaus für Volkskunst]. There one could certainly also organize evenings with foreign folk dances and songs, among them of course the folk art of the Negroes.

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