NMSAT :: Networked Music & SoundArt Timeline

1929 __ « Schwester Henriette »
Hermann Kesser (1880-1952)
Comment : According to [Hermann] Pongs, the monologic tenedencies of “Malmgreen” [by Walter Erich Schäfer in 1929] were epitomized in Hermann Kesser’s “Schwester Henriette” (Nurse Henriette), aired by the Radio Hour on 19 November 1929, eleven days after Wolf’s “SOS”. The work, an extended first-person monologue, had originally been published as a novella in 1926 and was cut only slightly for boradcast. The censorship standards of German radio were the main reason for the shortening, since most of the passages deleted were of a sexual nature : Henriette’s dream about making love to one of her patients, and her concerns about the lecherous looks and gestures of the men surrounding her on a commuter train. The work recounted her thoughts during the night before and the day of a trial in which she is to appear as a witness. Since she alone can testify that her favorite patient had committed suicide -- a fact that no one in “respectable society” wants to admit -- she is the only person whan can exculpate the worker accused of drowning him. The inner monologue deals with the struggles of a shy person, full of self-doubt and fear of social and occupational reprisal, to pull herself together and do the right thing. The work was critically acclaimed at the time of its airing, and it was performed on several German stations by Leontine Sagan -- the actress who soon would gain fame as director of the film “Mädchen in Uniform” (Girls in Uniform, 1931). Pongs cited “Schwester Henriette” as the prime example of using the inherently “collective” medium of radio for highly individualized expression. Ultimately it too espoused a collectivist ethos, according to Pongs, inasmuch as Henriette seeks to overcome her isolation and find solidarity with others who, like herself, have been neglected or exploited. But unlike the “objectifying” techniques of Wolf -- the rapid cuts among the scenes, the wide panoply of characters -- Kesser employed a single interior voice using everyday language, which allowed listeners to empathize directly with Henriette.By the end of 1929 German public radio, in its seventh year of existence, could point to few notable artistic successes. More important than actual achievements was, however, the culture of experimentation that it fostered. Though initially constrained by excessive devotion to traditional elite culture, by the end of the 1920s stations like the Berlin Radio Hour aired an increasing number of highly innovative works. A generation of radio programmers, authors, and technicians had come together with the aim of exploring the artistic and social potential of the new medium. They were well aware that through its mode of transmission and reception, broadcasting raised a fundamental issue of the modern world : the simultaneity of atomizing and collectivizing tendencies. Over the course of 1929, the unstable relationship of individual and social forces was addressed in a variety of ways in the new genre of “Hörspiel”. Given the central role of the crisis of subjectivity in “Berlin Alexanderplatz”, it was hardly surprising that [Alfred] Döblin was encouraged to refashion his novel into a radio play. But by the time of its scheduled broascast, German politics had taken a disastrous turn. (Peter Jelavich)
Source : Jelavich, Peter (2006), "Berlin Alexanderplatz : radio, film, and the death of Weimar culture” University of California Press, 2006, pp. 91-92.

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