Music Front

(New York, 1935)

Prepared by Richard Kitson
Online only (2015)

Three issues of The Music Front [MFR] were distributed in New York City in the summer of 1935 (July, August and lastly without date) as a typescript of fourteen, eighteen and twenty-four numbered pages organized in single column format. The magazine was published by the Pierre Degeyter Music Club of New York, a worker’s music club founded in 1930 by musicians, aware of the growing world crisis and the unfair practices rampant in the employment of musicians, who established a Composers’ Collective with a Research Group. The Americanized surname Degeyter refers to Pierre de Geyter, the Belgian socialist musician, composer of the socialist anthem, the “Intermationale.” MFR was created to “add its voice to other journals in the art and cultural front,” and the unnamed editor invited “articles and letters from our friends interested in the music development in the revolutionary moment.”

Politics and musicians is the theme of several articles. Fritz Thor claims no musician can be indifferent to politics owing to the dangers of mechanically reproduced music to their livelihood. Ralph Julin explains how the power of the arts on the psychology of the masses is employed by the ruling class to uphold class hegemony. According to Solomon Pimsleur, Stravinsky and Ravel show sympathy with the class struggle while Hindemith, Bartók and Schoenberg remain indifferent to politics. A serious problem that confronted musicians during the dark days of the great depression in the United States concerning the reduction of musicians’ salaries granted by the Works Project Administration is addressed in several articles.

The increase of terror in Fascist Germany against Jewish, Socialist and Communist musicians is addressed by George Charles who describes the labeling of modern music “Jewish plot,” and “Bolshevik culture” as gutter culture. M. Severn compares individuality in music in Soviet Russia and the United States providing a rebuttal to the argument that socialist society destroys individuality and standardizes the arts. H. Howard Taubman recounts the events of his visit to the Soviet Union giving details of the fees paid to composers for original compositions, while Arthur Cohn reviews the avalanche of chamber music compositions produced in Soviet Russia.