“Wortmaschine:” Electronic Music in Contemporary German Literature

graphic equalizerThe acts of reading and writing, and the acts of listening to or composing music, may seem very different. However, authors have long experimented with “musicalised fiction.” In her article published in the new issue of Postgraduate EnglishKaroline Baumann (Freie Universität Berlin) looks at the works of three contemporary German authors: Rainald Goetz, Andreas Neumeister and Thomas Meinecke. Their literary texts are inspired by the production of electronic music.

In “The Musicalization of Fiction”, Werner Wolf states that “the inevitable linearity of the reading process” fundamentally distinguishes the reception of literary writing from that of (polyphonic) music. Yet, according to Bakhtin, “in the novel, we can always hear voices, even while silently reading to ourselves.” This article analyses musico-literary intermediality in the way it occurs in the works of three contemporary German writers: Rainald Goetz, Andreas Neumeister and Thomas Meinecke. While Goetz strives to render textually the physical experience of a techno rave, Neumeister uses the acoustic surface structure of words to create a particular sound without, however, giving up on language’s semantic function. Meinecke shares with Neumeister the postmodern belief that instead of creating something new and “original”, authors use pre-existing material which they merely “re-mix” like DJs (or TJs, text jockeys). Meinecke creates a polyphony of voices by “sampling” textual material from all kinds of sources – theoretical texts, historical documents, newspaper articles – without using quotation marks at all, since they would falsely suggest the possibility of determining with certainty “who is speaking.” The article discusses the usefulness of such musico-literary analogies as well as their aesthetic outcome.

This article is available in Issue 31 of the open access Postgraduate English journal. For more articles from this issue, and the complete archive going back 15 years, find the journal online.


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