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Tunes for Tyrants : Episode 1

In the first episode, Suzy Klein takes us back to the volatile years following the Russian Revolution and WW1. Very different times call for very different culture, and music became a fertile laboratory for new ideas, experiment and subversion. This was a time when people believed that music wasn’t just a mirror to society; it was a tool to change it.

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.

 This was a golden age for music and its jazz, popular songs, experimental symphonies and classics like Rachmaninov 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 beware!