Music's connection with history

Te Kōkī New Zealand School of Music (NZSM) is drawing in a range of students across the University to learn about music in Europe during World War II.

Senior Lecturer Inbal Megiddo and Professor Donald Maurice playing stringed instruments together

Music and Conflict: Music in World War II is open to all Music students at NZSM and History students from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, as well as the wider university community. Senior lecturer of Classical Performance Inbal Megiddo and Professor of Music Donald Maurice say bringing together students from different areas helps to challenge their preconceptions about World War II.

“The History students gain a perspective on the role music played in the war. The Music students develop a new appreciation for compositions they may already be familiar with,” says Inbal.

The paper begins with a brief history of the nineteenth century and the political lead up to World War II. Students are then introduced to specific musical works written during the war. They visit the National Holocaust Centre in Wellington and watch video testimonials from survivors of concentration camps.

Donald says the course is often emotional for students as it exposes them to real experiences and stories from the Holocaust.

“Students investigate stories of individuals rather than discussing statistics. They learn music was propaganda for the Nazis, a subversive tool for composers, a morale booster in Jewish concentration camps and a haunting reminder for those who survived the Holocaust,” says Donald.

Inbal and Donald say the paper is important because it maintains awareness of the tragedies from World War II.

“There is a responsibility to give a voice to those composers and musicians who never had the chance,” says Inbal.

“Students draw comparisons between World War II and our current political climate, which I hope will encourage them to stay informed and prevent those atrocities repeating,” says Donald.