Modern history

The War on Music: Reclaiming the Twentieth Century

The War on Music: Reclaiming the Twentieth Century

John Mauceri offers a lively and passionate reassessment of classical music in the twentieth century, in which he argues that the history of music during the last century was shaped by its three major conflicts: World War I, World War II, and the Cold War.

The War on Music unlocks the mystery of why classical music seemingly produced so few eternal works after 1950, whereas other arts―popular music, Broadway, literature, painting, architecture, theater, cinema―have given the world myriad beloved and highly regarded masterpieces; why the composers considered the future of classical music in the 1920s disappeared from being performed after World War II; why the most heard symphonic scores of the century―music for Hollywood films―became the subject of brutal denigration and dismissal; why the avant-garde of the pre-World War I became the new lingua franca of the Cold War period in the West, and any music that veered from its requirements removed from being performed.

Mauceri follows the data to demonstrate how the politics of global wars used an artform that many might consider unimportant―classical music―as a potent and effective symbol, target, and weapon. Based on more than a half-century of music making and discovery, The War on Music is a plea to return the suppressed repertory―beautiful and unique expressions of humanity―to our concert halls and opera houses, much as the artwork stolen by the Nazis continues to be returned to its rightful owners.


Chapter 1. A View from 30,000 Feet

Chapter 2. Brahms and Wagner: The Twilight of Two Gods

Chapter 3. Stravinsky and Schoenberg: Overtures to the Great War

Chapter 4. The Lure of Chaos

Chapter 5. Hitler, Wagner, and the Poison from Within

Chapter 6. Stalin and Mussolini Make Music

Chapter 7. The Miracle of a Second Exodus

Chapter 8. A New War, an Old Avant-Garde

Chapter 9. A Cold War Defines Contemporary Music

Chapter 10. Creating History and Erasing History

Chapter 11. Of War and Loss

Chapter 12. A Century Ends

Appendix: A Personal Diary


If you find an error or have any questions, please email us at Thank you!