Symposium: Exile, Modernism, and Hollywood at the Exilarte Center | June 11 & 12, 2022

The Exilarte Center of the mdw will host and organize a symposium on the subject of Exile, Modernism and Hollywood on June 11 & 12, 2022 at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna/Austria.


This symposium seeks to find the seeds to musical Modernism in the cinema of the 1930s and 1940s and evaluate its ultimate influence in film and absolute music. Hollywood became home for a vast diaspora of composers with the advent of sound cinema in the late 1920s. With the rise of Nazism and Bolshevism in Europe, the diaspora widened considerably, primarily by Austro-German exiles. Composers Hanns Eisler and Karol Rathaus had already rejected the late-Romanticism of Max Steiner and Erich Wolfgang Korngold, while other composers such as Ernst Toch, Hans Salter and Franz Waxman (Wachsmann) had taken the Romanticism template and modified it towards contemporary sound design.  

A common experience that greatly shaped the careers of these composers was exile, which scholars have long recognized as a dialectic. It can lead to shattering experiences regarding identity, yet it can also open up new opportunities for expression and communication. In exploring connections between exile composers, Modernism, and Hollywood from the 1930s through the 1940s, this symposium examines what is surely one of the greatest cultural transfers in modern history, when European-trained composers who engaged with modernist ideas often struggled between the desire to achieve success in Hollywood while still being true to their art. Modernism in this symposium consists of a plurality of styles that Hollywood attracted, including but not limited to dodecaphony and atonality. 

With the goal of examining the influence of Hollywood more broadly, we also welcome proposals about exile composers who benefited from the Hollywood film industry in other ways but did not necessarily write for film. This group would include such figures as Arnold Schoenberg, Igor Stravinsky, and Ernst Krenek, such as through commissions of works, teaching men and women in Hollywood, and developing social networks with members of the entertainment industry.

Date of symposium: June 11 & 12, 2022

For the program, please click here.

Language: English

Location: Franz Liszt Hall of the mdw – University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna, Lothringerstraße 18, 1030 Vienna

Organized by: Exilarte Center of the mdw

Organizing committee: Gerold Gruber, Michael Haas, Kenneth Marcus, Christian Glanz, Julia Heimerdinger