Bertolt Brecht en die funksionele gebruik van musiek

Van den Heever, Frieda (2009-03)

Thesis (MDram (Drama))--University of Stellenbosch, 2009.


This study focuses on Bertolt Brecht`s use of music in his epic theatre. After looking at his objectives against the background of his times, certain key aspects of his dramatic theory and practice in general are discussed e.g. its epic nature, Verfremdung, Gestus and his social engagement. This is important for an understanding of his functional use of music as an important element in his productions. Music as a sign system in drama is discussed with special reference to the genres in which music plays an essential role, viz. opera, in particular Wagner`s Gesamtkunstwerk and, most importantly, cabaret. The focus is on Brecht`s reaction against and point of connection with, each of these genres. The second part of the study focuses on the role of music in the practice of Brecht`s theatre. Naturally the specific composers with whom Brecht worked and specific productions are discussed. The relevant productions discussed are Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny (1930), Die Dreigroshenoper (1931) and Mutter Courage und Ihre Kinder (1939). Brecht worked against a background of social, political and economic upheaval. His art aimed at making people aware of unjustified social circumstances and inspiring them to engage in the task of changing these circumstances. For him this entailed communicating in a fresh way with words which had lost their meaning because of ideological abuse. For this purpose he made use of music in a very specific way. He tried – not always successfully – to avoid using music as an ornamental narcotic. This implied that music was always meant to serve the intention of the text, the Gestus. Music in Brecht`s theatre was dramatic not incidental, functional not ornamental, and music not as a means of escapism, but as an inspiration. The music, like all the other elements in his theatre, had to stimulate critical thinking and had to be of social use in order for it to be considered functional. The “great struggle for supremacy between music, text and production”, to which Brecht so often referred, complicated his goal of functionality and it was no easy task to marry his dialectical ideas. This caused for certain discrepancies between his theory and practice and I will take that into consideration in this study.

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