Eisler, Hanns

views updated Jun 27 2018


Composer. Nationality: German. Born: Leipzig, 6 July 1898. Education: Studied with Schoenberg at Vienna Conservatory. Military Service: Served in German army, 1916–18. Career: Taught at Klindworth-Scharwenka Conservatory, Berlin, 1925–33; also wrote incidental music for stage works of Brecht and others; 1930—first score for film, Das Lied vom Leben; 1933—left Germany with rise of Nazis; 1936–48—lived in the United States, professor of music at New School of Social Research, New York (in charge of their Film Music Project, 1940–42), and Los Angeles University; 1948—deported from U.S.; lived in Vienna, then in East Berlin; professor at Music Institute (later named after him). Died: In Berlin, 6 September 1962.

Films as Composer:


Das Lied vom Leben (Song of Life) (Granowsky) (co)


Niemansland (No Man's Land) (Trivas) (co)


Kuhle Wampe, oder Wem gehört die Welt? (Dudow); Pesn o geroyazh (Komsomol; Song of Heroes; Youth Speaks) (Ivens)


Dans les rues (Trivas); Nieuwe gronden (New Earth) (Ivens—short)


Le Grand Jeu (Feyder)


Abdul the Damned (Grune)


La Vie est à nous (Renoir) (song)


The 400 Million (China's 400 Million) (Ivens)


White Flood (Maddow, Field, and Meyers—short); Rain (Ivens) (new score for 1929 film Regen)


Pete Roleum and His Cousins (Losey—short); A Child Went Forth (Losey and Ferno—short); Our Russian Front (Ivens and Milestone—short); The Forgotten Village (Kline)


China Fights (Yuan)


Hangmen Also Die! (F. Lang)


None But the Lonely Heart (Odets)


Jealousy (Machaty); The Spanish Main (Borzage)


Deadline at Dawn (Clurman); Scandal in Paris (Sirk) (co)


The Woman on the Beach (Renoir); So Well Remembered (Dmytryk)


Krizova trojka (Three Crosses) (Gajer)


Unser täglich Brot (Our Daily Bread) (Dudow)


Der Rat der Götter (Maetzig)


Das Leben unserer Präsidenten (Leben Wilhelm Piecks) (Thorndike)


Frauenschicksale (Dudow)


Schicksal am Lenkrad (Vergano)


Bel Ami (Daquin)


Herr Puntila und sein Knecht Matti (Cavalcanti); Nuit et brouillard (Night and Fog) (Resnais)


Les Sorcières de Salem (The Witches of Salem) (Rouleau)


Geschwader Fledermaus (Engel)


Trübe Wasser (Les Arrivistes) (Daquin)


Unbändiges Spanien (J. and K. Stein); Esther (Trosch)

Other Films:


Pagliacci (A Clown Must Laugh) (Grune) (arranger)


Gasparone (Paryla) (adaptation, + co-sc)


Fidelio (Felsenstein) (adaptation, + co-sc)


By EISLER: books—

With Theodore Adorno, Composing for the Films, New York, 1947, 1994.

Reden und Aufsätze, Berlin, 1959.

With H. Bunge, Fragen Sie mehr über Brecht: Hanns Eisler in Gesprach, Munich, 1970.

Materialen zu einer Dialektik der Musik, Berlin, 1973.

Musik und Politik, edited by G. Mayer, Berlin, 1973.

A Rebel in Music: Selected Writings, edited by Manfred Grabs, New York, 1978.

By EISLER: articles—

Film und Fernsehen (letters) (Berlin), no. 7, 1983.

Film und Fernsehen (letters) (Berlin), no. 4, 1985.

On EISLER: books—

Brockhaus, H. A., Hanns Eisler, Leipzig, 1961.

Notowicz, N., and J. Elsner, Hanns Eisler, Leipzig, 1966.

Klemm, E., Hanns Eisler, Berlin, 1973.

Betz, Albrecht, Hanns Eisler, Munich, 1976, as Hanns Eisler, Political Musician, Cambridge, 1982.

Hennenberg, Fritz, Hanns Eisler, Rowohlt, 1987.

Blake, David, editor, Hanns Eisler, Newark, 1995.

Fischbach, Fred, Hanns Eisler: Le Musicien et la Politique, Bern, 1999.

On EISLER: articles—

Films in Review (New York), May 1962.

Film und Fernsehen (Berlin), nos. 6 and 7, 1981.

Kinemathek (Berlin), June 1983.

Stilwell, R., "Theodor Adorno and Hanns Eisler: Composing for the Films," in Screen (Oxford), no. 4, 1995.

"Hanns Eisler and Film Music," in Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Televsion (Abingdon), October 1998.

* * *

Hanns Eisler was a well-known composer of orchestral and stage works (collaborating especially with Bertolt Brecht) before his first film compositions, and he was always a musical theoretician, stressing the revolutionary function of music: his "Solidaritätslied" appeared in the film Kuhle Wampe, and other "revolutionary" songs include the "Einbeitsfrontlied" and the East German national anthem. About his work for the film Komsomol, he said: "In composing music to a revolutionary film the composer is faced with new and difficult problems, especially when the film deals with such an important theme as youth constructing socialism." In that film, he used music based on recordings of the noise of blast furnaces as well as folk songs. His other early films also have music based on his firm ideas about the relation of music to film content. He disliked the use of leitmotifs, since he felt it led to a poverty of composition, and stressed "musical commentary" as opposed to "illustration, mood-painting." For Das Lied vom Leben he used a ballad of the life awaiting a newborn child; for Niemansland he showed the "stultifying and narcotic effect" of military music. Often, in fact, he set music against the action of the film in order to encourage a thoughtful, rather than a sentimental, reaction to it—a lesson he might have learned from Brecht's alienation effect. Kuhle Wampe is divided into episodes by the musical forms used, so any sentimental reaction to this film about unemployment is neutralized. In New Earth his compositions operate under the principle that machinery should be accompanied by natural sound and men by music: he used the usual instrumentation as well as banjo, accordion, and jazz-type percusson, with a blues tune used in the central section of men carrying heavy equipment. For White Flood, a documentary about glaciers, he used an invention, a scherzo, an etude (for a snow storm), and a sonata finale, while in Rain he utilized the 12-tone technique ("14 Ways of Describing Rain"). His stay in Hollywood (which he detested) was not as productive as his early documentary period, though he received an Oscar nomination for Hangmen Also Die!

Eisler, Hanns

views updated Jun 27 2018

Eisler, Hanns (b Leipzig, 1898; d Berlin, 1962). Ger. composer. His Marxist beliefs led him from 1927 to a more ‘popular’ style, and he wrote political marching-songs, chs., and th. mus. in collab. with Brecht. Exiled in 1933, he worked in Paris, London, Copenhagen, and USA, settling in Hollywood 1938 where he taught at the Univ. of S. Calif. and worked on films with Chaplin. He wrote (in Eng.) the book Composing for the Films (1947). McCarthy drive against Communists in 1947 led to a deportation order. He returned to Vienna and in 1949 settled in (East) Berlin, organizing workers' choirs and writing popular songs (incl. the DDR anthem). Nevertheless many of his comps. were in advanced 12-note technique. Works incl. 600 songs, mus. for 40 plays and over 40 films. The following have words by Brecht: Die Massnahme (1930); Deutsche Sinfonie (1935–9); Lenin-Requiem (1937); Die Teppichweber von Kujan-Bulak (1957); Solidaritätslied (1930); Kinderlieder (1951); Die Mutter ( Gorky and Brecht, 1931); Die Rundköpfe und die Spitzköpfe (1934–6); Galileo Galilei (1946); Die Gesichte der Simone Machard (1946); Schweyk im zweiten Weltkrieg (1957).

Also Kleine Sinfonie (1932); 5 Orchestral Pieces (1938); Chamber Symphony (1940); Str. Qt. (1937); Nonet (1939); Theme and Variations for pf. (1940); septet (variations on Amer. nursery songs) (1941); pf. quintet (1944); septet No.2 (1947); pf. sonatas (1924 and 1943); Ernste Gesänge (bar. and orch.) (1962).

Eisler, Hanns

views updated Jun 27 2018


EISLER, HANNS (1898–1962), German composer; son of Rudolf *Eisler. Eisler, born in Leipzig, was a pupil of Arnold *Schoenberg and Anton von Webern in Vienna. His early compositions were in an advanced idiom, but Eisler soon adapted to the demands of "socialist realism." He went to Berlin in 1924 and wrote the music for some of Bertolt Brecht's plays, including Die Rundkoepfe und die Spitzkoepfe and the incidental music for Galileo. In 1937 he immigrated to the United States where he lectured at the New School for Social Research, New York, and then went to Hollywood. He was musical assistant to Charlie Chaplin (1942–47) and also composed scores for other filmmakers. He left in 1948 under "voluntary deportation" because of his political past. Settling in East Berlin, he became one of the ideological leaders of musical activity in East Germany. He taught at the Akademie der Kuenste and received a state prize for his compositions in 1950. He composed the national anthem of the German Democratic Republic (to a text by Johannes Becher). He wrote an opera, Johannes Faustus (1953), which was criticized for its mysticism. His works include symphonies (e.g., Deutsche Symphonie, 1937), chamber music, cantatas, a Suite for Orchestra with Capriccio based on Jewish folksongs, operas, oratorios, and songs.


Baker's Biog Dict; Grove's Dict; mgg; Komponisten und Musikwissenschaftler der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik (19592), 47–50.

[Dora Leah Sowden]

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