Germanic Mythology in Music: Cultural Memory and Conflict within the Framework of Modern Globalization

Sweers, Britta (July 2013). Germanic Mythology in Music: Cultural Memory and Conflict within the Framework of Modern Globalization (Unpublished). In: 42nd ICTM World Conference. Shanghai (China). 11.-17.7.2013.

The multi-layered enactment of a national past in music has been strongly intertwined with the usage of mythological elements. Having often been compiled as a coherent narrative during the emergence of the European nation-states (like the Finnish Kalevala), the mythological material has often been perceived as a form of historical truth and national justification. This focal role is also apparent in various music genres ranging from folk revival to metal in post-1989 Europe. Within the globalized context, however, local-national interpretations can collide with earlier nationalist appropriations. This complex and sometimes politically conflicting situation becomes particularly evident with groups falling back on symbols and narrations that had previously been employed by Nazi-Germany.
While Nazi-Germany had, among others, tried replace the Christmas tradition with elements and songs from Germanic (and other) mythological sources, modern Neo-Nazi music groups often employ central mythological names (like Odin or Tyr) and iconic elements (like Vikings and warriors) in song lyrics and CD cover designs. However, while many covers and lyrics are legally forbidden in Germany, Scandinavian and Baltic groups (like the Faroese Viking metal group Tyr and the Latvian pagan metal band Skyforger) employ similar elements of Norse mythology, which are often combined with traditional material. Discussing selected case studies, this paper highlights central discursive points of colliding historical-national associations and individual interpretations of the mythological elements in musical contexts. How far can the material be disassociated from the earlier historical political usage and instrumentalization? Is this necessary ? And how can the specific global-local conflict points be approached by a theoretical framework ?

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Speech)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Other Institutions > Walter Benjamin Kolleg (WBKolleg) > Center for Global Studies (CGS)
06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Art and Cultural Studies > Institute of Musicology

UniBE Contributor:

Sweers, Britta


700 Arts > 780 Music




Britta Sweers

Date Deposited:

16 Sep 2014 08:30

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:36


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