Tunes for Tyrants: Music and Power with Suzy Klein - Revolution

BBC Four

Wingspan

In the first episode of this fascinating and entertaining series exploring the politics of music, Suzy Klein takes us back to the volatile years following the Russian Revolution and World War I, when music was seen as a tool to change society.

Suzy explores the gender-bending cabarets of 1920s Berlin, smashes a piano in the spirit of the Bolshevik revolution, and discovers that playing a theremin is harder than it looks. She also reveals why one orchestra decided to work without a conductor, uncovers the dark politics behind Mack the Knife and probes the satirical songs which tried to puncture the rise of the Nazis. Finally, she tells the story of the infamous Horst Wessel song, which helped bring Hitler to power.

Suzy’s musical stories are richly brought to life with the help of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and its Chorus, as well as wonderful solo performers. This was a golden age for music, and its jazz, popular songs, experimental symphonies and classics like Rachmaninoff all provoke debate – what kind of culture do we want? Is music for the elite or for the people? Was this a new age of liberal freedom to be relished – or were we hurtling towards the apocalypse?

With music’s incredible power to bypass our brains and get straight to our hearts, it can at once invoke the very best in us and, Suzy argues, inflame the very worst. Music lovers