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Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type


Degree Program


Degree Type

Master of Music (M.M.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



In his essay, “Musik und Musikverständnis” (1927), Hanns Eisler (1898-1962) wrote that "the evaluation of a piece of music calls for the understanding of the elements of harmony, polyphony, and form," and that one who is not privy to this understanding will "be in the same situation as one who hears a speech in Chinese, without an understanding of Chinese.” Eisler maintained that music could be rendered intelligible through “a gradual rebuilding of musical culture.” This new musical culture, which he believed could only occur after the proletariat seized societal power from the bourgeoisie, would promote musical education and encourage the composition of intelligible music.

Although Eisler had composed music for the proletariat throughout his career, the creation of the German Democratic Republic facilitated his participation in educating the proletariat in aspects of traditionally bourgeois culture. One key example of this was his composition Das Vorbild [The Example] (1952).

This thesis presents the first detailed analysis of Das Vorbild and demonstrates it as representative of Eisler’s musical and societal aspirations—particularly concerning education. Analysis of the working manuscripts for Das Vorbild in conjunction with Eisler’s writings reveals a piece that embodies the utopist aspirations of this Marxist composer. In light of this analysis, I contend that Das Vorbild is representative of Eisler’s work toward a new musical culture within a socialist society.


First Advisor

Erinn E. Knyt

Second Advisor

Johanna F. Yunker

Third Advisor

Marianna Ritchey