One of the many blessings of being associated with the Institute of Sacred Music is the biennial international study trip. In my time on the faculty, the ISM has traveled to Scandinavia, Mexico, and the Balkans, and now this year to Germany.
I wish to express my profound thanks first to my colleagues, Profs. Markus Rathey, James Taylor, and Teresa Berger, who labored long on the planning committee, and of course to our inimitable staff, particularly Andrea Hart, Laura Chilton, and (ex officio) Louise Johnson. They were joined by students Rachel Winter and Adam Peithmann. The preparation for the tour extended over two years and was supported by numerous colloquium lectures, student presentations, courses and performances. In fact, one could say that the preparation beforehand was every bit as valuable as the tour itself.
Naively, several of us thought this would be an “easy” tour. Germany, after all, is well known for its magnificent art, architecture, and music. But as anyone who has traveled there will know, it has also been the site of great conflict and even horror.
Here, you will find reflections from three of our students, each from a different perspective, though you will also see overlapping impressions. I invite you to read these carefully and make your own pilgrimages to these locations as you are able. I am confident that the lessons here are lasting ones that cross all boundaries of culture, race, and religion.
Impressions of Germany: Student Reflections from the Study Tour
Compiled/Edited by Rachel Winter, MAR ‘11, Religion and Literature
As I recollect our trip to Germany, I am tempted to turn the experience into a text: to give it a reading, as one would interpret a novel or a symphony. The instinct is natural enough for anyone who’s been at graduate school for at least a month or two; it’s only a matter of time before everything is a text, from news reports to night skies, and to give any subject this sort of treatment is, at some level, to take it seriously. Our ten days together between Munich and Berlin deserve such attention, yet the experience comes back to me as fractured, unmanageably complex. This complexity, of course, is key to the task of writing about history: finding clusters of causes, patterns of development, movements toward a certain kind of civilization.
What each of us recalls from this trip will be different. Yet in the student reflections that follow, a certain theme emerges: the problem of reconciling at once the beauty and virtuosity of German high culture, and the awful events of recent history, particularly of the Holocaust. Whether these can even be reconciled, or may only be recognized separately for what they were, is a worthwhile question in itself. Such questions will stay with us long after our trip together has found its place in the past.
Three of us wrote about the tour for the ISM. Read our stories!