NMSAT :: Networked Music & SoundArt Timeline

1929 __ « Malmgreen »
Walter Erich Schäfer (1901-1981)
Comment : When Hermann Pongs gave his inaugural lecture as professor of literature at the Technical University of Stuttgart in July 1930, his topic was the “Hörspiel”, and the work he highlighted was Wolf’s “SOS”. Pongs contented that the social and political tenor of the times, as well as the fact taht broadcasting was a mass medium, disposed radio to adopt a collectivist tone : “From it proceeds an education of collectivity, which sharpens the eye for collective themes, which expands the sense for collective ideas and problems”. According to Pongs, the “ethos” of radio was one of “deprivatization”, which affected radio art : “Broadcasting rejects literature as language of individual experience and demands a new language of common life”. The fact that radio was purely acoustic and lacked any visual or tactile qualities also gave it an ascetic character that was conducive to critical thinking: “The lack of sensuality, which in terms of drama represents an irreparable loss, can become an advantage, since hearing alone is more favorable to forming a conceptual judgment than seeing. Radio thereby opens into a field that one generally calls “tendentious literature”, which has a special relevance and appeal at a time of sharpest conflict among political ideas and tendencies”. According to Pongs, Wolf’s “SOS” was a prime example of this colelctive and politicized spirit. Indeed, its very manner of composition prevented glorification of any individual: its naturalistic language discouraged pathos, while its rapid cutting among short scenes gave it a “radio speed” (“funkisches Tempo”) that allowed no room for “expansive spiritual development of the individual voice”. Pongs was well aware, however, that Wolf’s position was not the only one that radio art could take. He too noted the paradox of broadcasting, its simultaneity of mass transmission to atomized listeners : “The radio work seems ambiguous on its mixture of spiritual and radiolike (“funkischem”) material, in its direct address to the individual and its claim to appeal to all”. Though Pongs contented that radio could not replicate the introspective quality of book reading or the subjectivity of feeling inspired by lyric poetry, he noted that some authors still used it to express individuality. His prime example of that mode was another radio play based on Nobile’s disastrous flight, Walter Erich Schäfer’s “Malmgreen”, aired on the Radio Hour in 1929. That work centered on Finn Malmgreen, a Swedish scientist who accompanied Nobile and, after the crash, set off on foot with two others to seek help; he died before his companions were rescued by the Russian ship. Like “SOS”, it touted the importance of radio and employed fictitious broadcasts as part of the script, but unlike Wolf’s work, it was focused on a single person. Yet even in this case, according the Pongs, there was something “objective” about Schäfer’s style. Malmgreen’s manner of speaking is cool and distanced. Initially he stands aloof from the Italian crew, who are full of enthusiasm and nationalistic fervor. By the end, as he dies of hypothermia, he is distanced even toward himself: he regards his own body as an object as he takes note of his deteriorating physical conditions. « It is strange, I still am alive. It is strange, how long it takes to die. My stomach is dead and my arms are dead. I can hardly breathe and open my mouth, But my heart still beats and I still can think. And yet the doctor said that this heart Has a defect and in general is not worth much, But it still beats -- and I’d like to know fo how long ». Pongs contented that “Malmgreen” represented “a new form of heroism devoid of pathos, which rests securely in its individuality and thus stands above existence”. Though devoid of “Lyrical feeling” and “the sensuous presence of dramatic action”, this “new form of monologue, unique to radio” induced the listener to empathize with the main character. At the same time, the self-distancing, self-objectifying subject, combined with frequent use of an announcer to locate the action, gave Schäfer’s “Malmgreen” an “epic” quality. (Peter Jelavich)
German comment : Das erste ›Pionier‹ Hörspiel (= Polar- und Ozeanexpedition). Ein herausragendes und für spätere beispielgebendes Hörspiel ist Malmgreen (1929) von Walter Erich Schäfer – es geht darin um die Notlandung des Luftschiffes „Italia“ am 25. Mai 1928 auf dem Polareis und der anschließenden Rettungsaktion: "Malmgreen (1929) gehört zu den besten der Gattung in dieser frühen Zeit. Heinz Schwitzke, der langjährige Hörspielchef des NDR, vergleicht es in seiner Hörspielgeschichte mit Ernst Schnabels Interview mit einem Stern: In (dieser Rundfunkarbeit) wird zum ersten Mal der Feature-Stil – für mehr als ein Vierteljahrhundert unverändert brauchbar – hingestellt. Erstaunlich, dass er sogleich so virtuos gehandhabt wurde. Man könnte ganze Partien des Textes mit dem 25 Jahre jüngeren Schnabel-Text vertauschen, ohne dass es auffiele – es sei denn durch den Inhalt...“ Das eigentlich Moderne an Malmgreen liegt aber weniger in der Sprache als in der Collage-Technik. Die Handlung spielt auf mehreren Ebenen, die dramatisch gegeneinander gesetzt sind.“ (medium 4, S. 31-32). In der Weimarer Republik war das Feature also noch eine Art hervorragendes Hörspiel. (Barbara Uhle, "Die Geschichte des deutschen Features")
Source : Schäfer, Walter Erich (1929), “Malmgreen : Nordpolfahrt d. italien. Luftschiffes Italia”, Frankfurt (am Main): Hirschgraben-Verlag, 1965.
Source : Schäfer, Walter Erich (1967), “Hörspiele”, Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlagsanst, 1967.
Source : Grabienski, Olaf (1998), "Zeit der Experimente - Vorläufer des Radio-Features in der Weimarer Republik",Seminararbeit, Universität Hamburg 1998.
Source : Jelavich, Peter (2006), "Berlin Alexanderplatz : radio, film, and the death of Weimar culture” University of California Press, 2006, pp. 89-91.
Source : Vowinckel, Antje (1995), "Collagen im Hörspiel: die Entwicklung einer radiophonen Kunst", Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, 1995.
Urls : http://www.bengallink.org/barbara/texte.html (last visited ) http://www.olafski.de/uni/dateien/radio-feature_weimarer-republik.pdf (last visited ) http://www.akustische-medien.de/texte/zmm_kunst97.htm (last visited )

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