Musicologist Reinhard Kopanski completed his doctorate at the University of Siegen in 2019 on the topic "All ironic? National Socialism in the Dark Music Scene". He previously studied music, political science and media studies at the University of Bonn. He worked as a research assistant, lecturer and coordinator in Bonn, Siegen and Cologne. Since 2021, he has been researching in the international project "Popular Music and the Rise of Populism in Europe", funded by the Volkswagen Foundation, at the Institute of Music at the University of Oldenburg.


Dr. Reinhard Kopanski

Institute of Music

Third Spring for a Song

Third Spring for a Song

"Freedom, freedom / Is what’s counting in the end" and "Freedom, freedom / Is the only thing absent" were the lyrics German rock musician Marius Müller-Westernhagen wrote for his song "Freiheit" („Freedom”). Wait a minute - "Freiheit" was the anthem for German reunification, wasn't it? Not really, because Westernhagen had already released the song in 1987. However, the song only became better known when it was released as a single in a live version - just in time for the reunification in 1990 - which climbed to number 24 in the German charts.

Apparently, the song's lyrics, together with its slightly melancholic mood, were a good projection screen for individual ideas of freedom. Against the backdrop of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the song reflected the exuberance of the moment on the one hand and reminded us on the other that freedom cannot be taken for granted. In the course of the so-called "Querdenker" demonstrations, the song experienced a second (or even third) spring 35 years after its first release: here, "Freiheit" advanced to a protest song against the state measures to contain the Covid 19 pandemic.

How is such a transformation possible? Music makes offers of interpretation and use, as the music sociologist Tia DeNora from the University of Exeter (Great Britain) so aptly stated. In the case of "freedom", this means that song lyrics and music can be individually charged with meaning. As a result, the concept of "freedom" in popular music is not fixed, but is constantly renegotiated - and sometimes instrumentalised.

By Reinhard Kopinski

(Changed: 19 Jan 2024)  | 
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