|Music of Germany|
Old opera house of Frankfurt
|Timeline • Samples|
|Electronic • Rock (Krautrock) • Hip hop • Alpine New Wave • Highlife • Cabaret • Volkstümliche Musik • Schlager • Klezmer • Heavy metal • Opera|
|Chorale • Baroque • Classical • Romantic • Lied • Volksmusik • Schuhplattler • Yodelling|
|Media and Performance|
|Music awards||German Music Instrument Prize • German Music Awards|
|Music charts||Media Control|
|Music festivals||Rock am Ring and Rock im Park • Donaueschinger Musiktage • Wacken Open Air|
|National anthem||Das Lied der Deutschen|
|Local forms||Bavaria • Danish-German • Swabia • Sorbia • Northern Germany|
|Related areas||Austria • Belgium • Czech Republic • Denmark • France • Luxembourg • Netherlands • Poland • Switzerland|
Forms of German-language music include Neue Deutsche Welle (NDW), Krautrock, Hamburger Schule, Volksmusik, German hip hop, trance, Schlager and multiple varieties of folk music. Classical composers include Richard Wagner and Johann Sebastian Bach, while Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was among many opera composers who created the field of German opera.
The beginning of what is now considered German music could be traced back to the 12th century compositions of mystic abbess Hildegard of Bingen, who wrote a variety of hymns and other kinds of Christian music.
After Latin-language religious music had dominated for centuries, in the 12th century to the 14th centuries, minnesingers (love poets), singing in German, spread across Germany. Minnesingers were aristocrats traveling from court to court who had become musicians, and their work left behind a vast body of literature, Minnelieder. The following two centuries saw the minnesingers replaced by middle-class meistersingers, who were often master craftsmen in their main profession, whose music (meistergesang) was much more formalized and rule-based than that of the minnesingers. Minnesingers and meistersingers could be considered parallels of French troubadours and trouvère.
Among the minnesingers, Hermann, a monk from Salzburg, deserves special note. He incorporated folk styles from the Alpine regions in his compositions. He made some primitive forays into polyphony as well. Walther von der Vogelweide and Reinmar von Hagenau are probably the most famous minnesingers from this period.
Germans have played a leading role in the development of classical music. Many of the best classical musicians such as Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, Handel, Brahms or Mahler were ethnically German. At the beginning of the fifteenth century, German classical music was revolutionized by Oswald von Wolkenstein, who travelled across Europe learning about classical traditions, spending time in countries like France and Italy. He brought back some techniques and styles to his homeland, and within a hundred years, Germany had begun producing composers renowned across the continent. Among the first of these composers was the organist Conrad Paumann.
Beginning in the 16th century, polyphony, or the intertwining of multiple melodies, arrived in Germany. Protestant chorales predominated; in contrast to Catholic music, chorale was vibrant and energetic. Composers included Martin Luther, leader of the Protestant Reformation, as well as Dieterich Buxtehude and Heinrich Schütz.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Die Zauberflöte (1791) is usually said to be the beginning of German-language opera, which was further advanced by composers like Ludwig van Beethoven. An earlier starting date for German opera, however, could be Heinrich Schütz's Dafne from 1627. Schütz is said to be the first great German composer before Johann Sebastian Bach, and was a major figure in 17th century music.
In the 19th century, two figures were paramount in German opera: Carl Maria von Weber and Richard Wagner. Wagner introduced devices like the leitmotiv, a musical theme which recurs for important characters or ideas. Wagner (and Weber) based his operas of German history and folklore, most importantly including the Ring of the Nibelung (1874). Into the 20th century, opera composers included Richard Strauss (Der Rosenkavalier) and Engelbert Humperdinck, who wrote operas meant for young audiences. Across the border in Austria, Arnold Schoenberg innovated a form of twelve-tone music that used rhythm and dissonance instead of traditional melodies and harmonies, while Kurt Weill and Bertold Brecht collaborated on some of the great works of German theater, including Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny and The Three-Penny Opera.
The Nazis came to power in Germany during the 1930s, and many musicians fled the country. Following the war, German composers like Karlheinz Stockhausen and Hans Werner Henze began experimenting electronic sounds in classical music.
Baroque music, which was the first music to use tonality in the modern sense, is also known for its ornamentation and artistic use of counterpoint. It originated in Northern Italy at the end of the 16th century, and the style migrated quickly to Germany, which was one of the most active centers of early Baroque music. Early German Baroque composers included Heinrich Schütz, Michael Praetorius, Johann Schein, and Samuel Scheidt. The culmination of the Baroque era was undoubtedly in the work of Johann Sebastian Bach in the first half of the 18th century. Bach wrote numerous Baroque works, including preludes, cantatas, fugues, concertos for harpsichord, violin and wind, orchestral suites, the Brandenburg Concertos, The Passion of St. Matthew, The Passion of St. John and the Christmas Oratorio. Bach's contemporaries included Georg Philipp Telemann and Georg Friedrich Händel, the latter best known for the oratorio Messiah.
By the middle of the 18th century, the cities of Vienna, Dresden, Berlin and Mannheim had become the center for orchestral music. The Esterházy princes of Vienna, for example, were the patrons of Joseph Haydn, an Austrian who invented the classic format of the string quartet, symphony and sonata. Later that century, Vienna's Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart emerged, mixing German and Italian traditions into his own style.
The following century saw two major German composers come to fame early -- Ludwig van Beethoven and Franz Schubert. Beethoven, a student of Haydn's in Vienna, used unusually daring harmonies and rhythm and composed numerous pieces for piano, violin, symphonies, chamber music, string quartets and an opera. Schubert created a field of artistic, romantic poetry and music called lied; his lieder cycles included Die schöne Müllerin and Der Erlkönig.
Early in the 19th century, a composer by the name of Richard Wagner was born. He was a "Musician of the Future" who disliked the strict traditionalist styles of music. He is credited with developing leitmotivs which were simple recurring themes found in his operas. His music changed the course of opera and of music in general, forever.
The later 19th century saw Vienna continue its elevated position in European classical music, as well as a burst of popularity with Viennese waltzes. These were composed by people like Johann Strauss the Younger. Other German composers from the period included Albert Lortzing, Johannes Brahms, Robert Schumann, Felix Mendelssohn, Anton Bruckner, Max Bruch and Gustav Mahler. These composers tended to mix classic and romantic elements.
The first half of 20th century saw a split between German and Austrian music. In Vienna, Arnold Schoenberg and his pupils Alban Berg and Anton Webern moved along an increasingly avant-garde path, pioneering atonal music in 1909 and twelve-tone music in 1923. Meanwhile, composers in Berlin took a more populist route, from the cabaret-like socialist operas of Kurt Weill to the Gebrauchsmusik of Paul Hindemith. In Munich there was also Carl Orff, whose "Carmina Burana" was and remains hugely popular. Many composers emigrated to the United States when the Nazi Party came to power, including Schoenberg, Hindemith, and Erich Korngold. During this period, the Nazi Party embarked on a campaign to rid Germany of so-called degenerate art, which became a catch-all phrase that included music with any link to Jews, Communists, jazz, and anything else thought to be dangerous. Some figures such as Karl Amadeus Hartmann remained defiantly in Germany during the years of Nazi dominance, continually watchful of how their output might be interpreted by the authorities.
After the dissolution of the Third Reich, musicians were also subjected to the Allied policy of denazification. But here, the supposed non-political nature of music was able to excuse many, including Wilhelm Furtwängler and Herbert von Karajan (who had actually joined the Nazi Party in 1933). They both claimed to have concentrated mainly on music and to have ignored politics, but also to have conducted pieces in ways that were meant to be "gestures of defiance." 
In West Germany in the second half of the 20th century, German and Austrian music was largely dominated by the avant-garde. In the 60s and 70s, the Darmstadt New Music Summer School was a major center of European modernism; German composers such as Karlheinz Stockhausen and Hans Werner Henze and non-German ones such as Pierre Boulez and Luciano Berio all studied there. In contrast, composers in East Germany were advised to avoid the avant-garde and to compose music in keeping with the tenets of Socialist Realism. Music written in this style was supposed to advance party politics as well as be more accessible to all. Hanns Eisler and Ernst Hermann Meyer were among the most famous of the first generation of GDR composers.
More recently, composers such as Helmut Lachenmann and Olga Neuwirth have extensively explored the possibilities of extended techniques. Hans Werner Henze largely dissociated himself from the Darmstadt school in favour of a more lyrical approach, and remains perhaps Germany's most lauded living composer. Although he has lived outside the country since the 1950s, he remains influenced by the Germanic musical tradition.
The largest summer festival for classical music in Germany is the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival.
Germany has many unique regions with their own folk traditions of music and dance. Much of the 20th century saw German culture appropriated for the ruling powers (who fought "foreign" music at the same time), and thus it remained decidedly "un-hip" until later in the century. Most recently, the East German regime promoted folk music as long as it was what they saw as an expression of pure German tradition, and a tool for spreading party propaganda.
In both East and West Germany, folk songs called volkslieder were taught to children; these were popular, sunny and optimistic, and had little relation to authentic German folk traditions. Inspired by American and English roots revivals, Germany underwent many of the same changes following the 1968 student revolution in West Germany, and new songs, featuring political activism and realistic joy, sadness and passion, were written and performed on the burgeoning folk scene. In East Germany, the same process did not begin until the mid-70s, when folk musicians began incorporating revolutionary ideas in coded songs.
Popular folk songs included emigration songs from the 19th century, work songs and songs of apprentices, as well as democracy-oriented folk songs collected in the 1950s by Wolfgang Steinitz. Beginning in 1970, the Festival des politischen Liedes, an East German festival focusing on political songs, was held annually and organized (until 1980) by the FDJ (East German youth association). Musicians from up to thirty countries would participate, and, for many East Germans, it was the only exposure possible to foreign music. Among foreign musicians at the festival, some were quite renowned, including Inti Illimani (Chile), Billy Bragg (England), Dick Gaughan (Scotland), Mercedes Sosa (Argentina) and Pete Seeger (United States), while German performers included, from both East and West, Oktoberclub, Wacholder and Hannes Wader.
Bavarian folk music is likely the most well-known outside of Germany. Yodeling and schuhplattler dancers are among the stereotyped images of German folk life, though these are only found today in the southernmost areas, and to cater to tourists. Bavarian folk music has played a role in the Alpine New Wave, and produced several pioneering world music groups that fuse traditional Bavarian sounds with foreign styles.
It was around the turn of the 20th century, across Europe and especially in Bavaria, many people became concerned about a loss of cultural traditions. This idea was connected to the Heimatschutz movement, which sought to protect regional identities and boundaries. What is considered Bavarian folk music in modern Germany is not the same as what Bavarian folk music was in the early 1900s; like any kind of folk or popular music, styles and traditions have evolved over time, giving birth to new forms of music.
The popularity of the Volkssänger (people's singer) in Bavaria began in the 1880s, and continued in earnest until the 1920s. Shows consisting of duets, ensemble songs, humor and parodies were popular, but the format began changing significantly following World War I. Bally Prell, the "Beauty Queen of Schneizlreuth", was emblematic of this change. She was an attractive tenor who sang lieder, chanson and opera and operetta.
The beginning of a Sorbian nationalist music scene can be traced back to the first Sorbian song festival. Held in Bautzen in 1845, and directed by Korla August Kocor, the festival helped revitalize Sorbian folk music. The same period saw the publication of more than five hundred Sorbian songs by Smoler and Haupt in the collection Folksongs of Upper and Lower Sorbs.
The first form of German pop music is said to be cabaret, which arose during the Weimar Republic in the 1920s as the sensual music of late-night clubs. Marlene Dietrich and Margo Lion were among the most famous performers of the period, and became associated with both humorous satire and liberal ideas. "Wenn die beste Freundin" (1928) was an early lesbian-themed song.
The strict regimentation of youth culture in Nazi Germany through the Hitler Youth led to the emergence of several underground protest movements, through which adolescents were able better to exert their independence.
One of these consisted mainly of upper middle class youths, who based their protest on their musical preferences, rejecting the völkisch music propagated by the Party for American jazz forms, especially Swing. While musical preferences are often a feature of youthful rebellion - as the history of rock and roll shows - jazz and especially Swing were particularly offensive to the Nazi hierarchy: not only did they promote sexual permissiveness, but they were also associated with the American enemy and worse, with the African race they considered inferior. To the Nazis, jazz was "Negro music".
On the other hand, Joseph Goebbels assembled some of the now jobless musicians from Germany and conquered countries into a big band called Charlie and His Orchestra to perform Nazified versions of popular swing hits to be played in propaganda broadcasts.
After World War II, German pop music was much influenced by music from USA and Great Britain. Apart from Schlager and Liedermacher, it is necessary to distinguish between pop music in West Germany and pop music in East Germany which developed in different directions. Pop music from West Germany was often heard in East Germany, had more variety and is still present today, while East German music had only little influence.
In West Germany, English-language pop music became more and more important, and today most songs on the radio are English. Nevertheless there is a big diversity of German language pop music. There is also English-language pop music from Germany, some having international success (for instance the Scorpions), but little with enduring broad success in Germany itself. There was hardly any English pop music from East Germany.
Germany has also had a thriving English-language pop scene since the end of the war, with several European and American acts topping the charts. However, Germans and German-oriented musicians have been successful as well. In the 1990s and 2000s such European pop acts were popular as well as artists like Sarah Connor, Marc Terenzi, No Angels, Monrose, and US5 all who performed various types of mainstream pop in English. Many of these acts have had success all over Europe and Asia as well, although few have cracked the American market.
Schlager is a kind of vocal pop music, frequently in the form of sentimental ballads sung in German, popularized by singers such as Gitte Hænning and Rex Gildo in the 1960s, though not without a wide range within the style (Modern Schlager, Schlager-Gold, Volksmusik resp. "volkstümlicher Schlager"). Schlager/Volksmusik is strictly separated from international pop music and is only played on special format radio stations (sometimes mixed with international Oldies)
An important part of Schlager is volkstümliche Musik, a Schlager-like interpretation of traditional German folk themes that is very popular in German speaking countries, especially among the older generation.
Schlager has a wide variety,and the Artists with many different styles for example Heino,Lou Hoffner Eurovision Entrant 2003, Wolfgang Petry, Guildo Horn and many others
Liedermacher (Songwriter) has sophisticated lyrics and is sung with minimal instrumentation, for instance only with acoustic guitar. Some songs are very political in nature. This is related to American Folk/Americana and French Chanson styles.
Very popular in Germany also is Herman van Veen from the Netherlands.
Most Liedermacher artists also record special albums for children.
Genuine German rock first appeared around 1968, just as the hippie countercultural explosion was peaking in the US and UK. At the time, the German musical avant-garde had been experimenting with electronic music for more than a decade, and the first German rock bands fused psychedelic rock from abroad with electronic sounds. The next few years saw the formation of a group of bands that came to be known as Krautrock or Kosmische Musik groups; these included Amon Düül, Embryo, Embryo's Dissidenten, who later became the world music pioneers Dissidenten,Tangerine Dream, Popol Vuh, Can, Neu! and Faust.
German Rock had become a very popular kind of German music. Many people were impacted on Germany's great rock, so there were more and more fans excited to hear the sounds of this music. Before that development rock music in Germany was a negligible part of the schlager genre covered by interprets like Peter Kraus and Ted Herold who used to play Rock-n-Roll standards by Little Richard or Bill Haley, sometimes translated into German language.
A great impact on German postwar culture had the US military radio station American Forces Network (AFN) which was formative for the further development of the German rock and jazz culture. Bill Ramsey who appeared to be senior producer of AFN Frankfurt in 1953 later rose to a famous career as jazz and (later) Schlager singer in Germany while he remained almost unknown in his country of origin from Ohio.
Neue Deutsche Welle is an outgrowth of British punk rock and New Wave which appeared in the mid-to late 1970s. It was the first successful unique German music but was limited in its stylistic devices (funny lyrics and surreal composition and production). Though it was a huge success in Germany itself in the 1980s, this was not long-lasting mostly due to over-commercialization. Some artists became famous internationally:
In the 1980s most German-language popular music was sung by male solo artists. Here are few very popular singers:
Grönemeyer has managed best to maintain his success up to today. Maffay developed from Schlager to rock and has a large but delimited fan base - he is seldom played on the radio.
Hamburger Schule (School of Hamburg) is an underground music-movement that started in the late 1980s and was still active till around the mid 1990s. It has similar traditions as Neue Deutsche Welle and mixed all that with punk, grunge and experimental pop music. Hamburger Schule has been an important part of Germany's youth and gave the term "Pop" a new definition, as now it was "ok" (or "cool") to sing in the German language. Hamburger Schule also includes intellectual lyrics with postmodern theories and social criticism. Important artists are:
There were some bands that were very popular in East Germany.
By the early 1970s, experimental West German rock styles had crossed the border into East Germany and influenced the creation of an East German rock movement referred to as Ostrock. On the other side of the Wall, these bands tended to be stylistically more conservative than in the West, to have more reserved engineering, and often to include more classical and traditional structures (such as those developed by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht in their 1920s Berlin theater songs). These groups often featured poetic lyrics loaded with indirect double-meanings and deeply philosophical challenges to the status quo. As such, they were a style of Krautrock. The best-known of these bands were:
There was also a wide diversity of underground bands. Out of this scene later grew the internationally successful band Rammstein (see Neue Deutsche Härte below).
This changed in 2002 with the success of Wir sind Helden, a German band with a new musical self-confidence. This success was followed by several other bands and a broader acceptance of existing German-language recording artists, such as:
Outside of the United States, Germany generates the most sales for recorded hip hop, and has one of the more vibrant scenes in the world. Hip hop arrived in the early 1980s, and graffiti art and breakdancing became well-known quickly, with hip hop crews appearing soon thereafter.
The huge commercial success started in 1992 with the hit "Die Da" from Die Fantastischen Vier from Stuttgart. This band makes rather funny and sophisticated hip hop. The Rödelheim Hartreim Projekt tried to establish a more USA-like "gangster" rap. An early major influent group was Advanced Chemistry including Torch.
Advanced Chemistry was very important to German hip-hop and influential to German listeners. They sparked a huge interest in speaking out for the youth of Germany, especially the immigrants. Advanced Chemistry exploded onto the German hip hop scene in November 1992 with their first mixed single entitled "Fremd in eigenem Land" (Foreign in Your Own Country). This single was the first of its kind to go beyond simply imitating US rap and addressed the current issues of the time, which was the widespread racism that non-white German citizens faced. Immigration was a big issue in Germany and prompted hip-hop artists, who were children of immigrants, to use rap and hip hop as a way to defend themselves in their country. Advanced Chemistry frequently rapped about their lives and experiences as children of immigrants exposing what was experienced by most ethnic minorities in Germany, and the feelings of frustration and resentment that being denied a German identity can cause. Fettes Brot, a hip-hop group from Hamburg, has been very successful since their beginning in 1992. They are well versed in pop-culture and sing about funny topics, such as infidelity and boasting about their prowess with women.
Whereas hip hop had a peak of success in the early 2000s, with bands from Hamburg dominating the scene, gangster rap became an important and controversial part of German music and youth culture just as late as 2004 with Aggro Berlin.
German hip hop was an adopted style from several different places. There is often debate as to whether or not German hip hop is authentic or just a compilation of mimicry. German hip hop “started out as a transnational and cosmopolitan youth subculture that was...predominantly English raps.”  Rap was also used by immigrant youth to create a type of exaggerated outsiderism as a mechanism of self defense in German society. It could be ventured that the authenticity of German hip hop only obtains its originality once the German language flows seemingly naturally with the music.
Even most Germans don't know that there are a lot of punk bands with their primary audience in Japan, which stay relatively unknown to German listeners.
Germany has a long and strong history with heavy metal. It is considered by many to be one of Europe's heaviest contributors to the scene. The genre is quite popular within the country. Early Hard Rock / Heavy metal was brought to German soil with success of Scorpions.
Germany has a strong tradition of Speed metal and Power metal. Early speed metal bands include Running Wild, Grave Digger, Rage, and to some extent Accept. The European style of Power metal, born in Germany, was popularized by German bands like Blind Guardian, Helloween, Gamma Ray, and gained international recognition. In many cases these bands initially started out playing Speed metal, but later switched to Power metal.
Two local variants of metal subgenres exist in Germany. The Teutonic thrash metal scene is represented by such groups as Destruction, Kreator and Sodom. Medieval metal, a branch of folk metal incorporates German traditional music with industrial metal. It includes Subway to Sally, In Extremo and Schandmaul.
Neue Deutsche Härte (engl. "New German Hardness") is a term for extremely popular German wave of Industrial metal. It combines the common sound of metal with electronic samples and is mostly sung with German lyrics. It draws its audience from both the metalheads and goth scene. Some bands like Rammstein or Oomph! have gained mainstream success. Other famous artists include Megaherz, Unheilig, or Joachim Witt.
Germany is the home of a vivid Goth scene, and has a large scene of musicians from the spectrum who are typically known as Goth musicians. Most notable artists for example are Xmal Deutschland, Das Ich, Deine Lakaien, Untoten, No More, Girls Under Glass or Project Pitchfork. Leipzig is home of the largest event of this subculture worldwide called the Wave-Gotik-Treffen with its regular 25,000 attendants. The WGT is closely followed by the annual M'era Luna festival in Hildesheim.
Germany has the largest electronic music scene in the world. The band Kraftwerk was one of the first bands in the world to make music entirely on electronic equipment, and the band Tangerine Dream is often credited as being among the originators and primary influences of the "Berlin School" of electronic music, which would later influence trance music. Some other bands like Liaisons Dangereuses, Tyske Ludder, Deutsch-Amerikanische Freundschaft and Die Krupps created a style later called Electronic body music. Also well-known are Scooter. Recently a few electronica artists have become successful in the mainstream, such as Xavier Naidoo, Blümchen and MIA. Artists on the cutting edge of German-language techno include Ich + Ich and Klee. Both Einstuerzende Neubauten (collapsing new buildings, translated literally) and KMFDM (no pity for the masses, translated literally) are considered by many industrial and electronic music fans as the godfathers of their genre. Their sounds developed the modern styles of groups such as NIN, Marylin Manson, Rammstein, New Order and Joy Division. Einstuerzende Neubauten can be recognized by their Prince-esque logo, which has been subliminally fused into several mainstream American movies (such as a tattoo in the movie Bug, directed by William Friedkin, starring Harry Connick Jr.) Their sound resembles primitive banging of pots and pans and screaming rants in German about the Russian "famine." KMFDM has released many songs in English, making them more accessible to their huge American and world wide audience.
Trance music is a style of electronic music that originated in Germany in the very late 1980s and early 1990s, upon German unification. Following the development of trance music in Germany, many Trance genres stemmed from the original trance music and most trance genres developed in Germany, most notably "Anthem trance" or also called "uplifting" or "epic" trance, progressive trance, and "Ambient trance".
One of the most notable event referring to this scene is the Love Parade festival with up to 1,5 million participants from all over the world.
There are few German language bands who managed to be successful for a longer period. The best known are the punk bands Die Ärzte and Die Toten Hosen. Both were formed in the early 1980s but have very different approaches to punk. As successful as those two bands in number of sales and number one albums but much lesser accepted by the public and normally not played by German media but with a huge fan community were Böhse Onkelz.
Outside of Germany especially, the metal band Rammstein is largely popular worldwide.
Germany became a hotbed for klezmer music in the 1980s, and has produced many of the most popular bands in the field since then. Controversially, many or most of the German klezmer bands are not, in fact, Jewish.
Before World War II and the Holocaust, Jews in Germany had not taken much interest in klezmer, at least compared to Jews in places like the United States. During the Cold War, East German Jews like Lin Jaldati and Perry Friedman tried to establish a German Jewish musical scene, but failed due to interference by the Communist Party.
As a result, the East German klezmer scene didn't take off until the arrival of Aufwind in 1984. The West German klezmer scene, on the other hand, got started soon after the student revolutions of the late 1960s. The tour of Kapelye, an American klezmer band, in 1984 also added some energy to the scene, which soon began thriving.
Germany was the starting point of the international career of Cuban-born singer & songwriter Addys D'Mercedes.