Torn Between Cultures
A Life of Kathi Meyer-Baer
November 1, 2012
When Kathi Meyer-Baer became librarian of a distinguished music collection in 1922 at the age of thirty, she placed herself in the mainstream of cultural life in Weimar Germany. When she published a major history of music aesthetics ten years later, she seemed on the brink of a great scholarly career. Ten years later, however, forced from her homeland, she found herself struggling to rebuild her life and career in the United States. Stripped of her language and her culture, she endured years of personal hardships and professional setbacks, and she failed to achieve her goal of a permanent position at a university or public research library. As a woman and a Jew she encountered obstacles in every stage of her life, to the very end. But no setback could break her indomitable spirit or her superb discipline. Blessed with extraordinary courage and resilience, she published four path-breaking books along with more than thirty articles and hundreds of newspaper essays and reports, and her work continues to be read today. This pioneering biography captures her gripping life and scholarly achievement, and places her work both in its rich cultural grounding and in the turbulent political and social life of her time.
David Josephson received his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. in music from Columbia, where he also directed the Concert Band for three years and helped edit the journal Current Musicology. He has taught at Brown since 1972, where he founded and directed the Brown Early Music Group and chaired the Music Department in 1979-1985. As chairman he built the Orwig Music Library, initiated an artists-in-residence program around a campus-based string quartet, supported creation of a jazz program, and brought Brown its first professional music theorist. He is author of a biography of the German-born American scholar Kathi Meyer-Baer (2010), John Taverner: Tudor Composer (Ann Arbor/London, 1979), Conversations with Ella Grainger (Music Monograph No. 1, Grainger Society Journal, 1993), and numerous articles and review-essays on the musical emigration from Nazi Europe, the composer/pianist Percy Grainger, and Taverner. He teaches courses on Baroque and Classic music, Mozart and Beethoven, conductors and conducting, the culture of death in 19th-century Europe, 19th-century religious music, the sociology of 20th-century music, and the European musical emigration of the 1930s.