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College Celebrates 165th Commencement May 26

Fulbright Scholarship to Take Jennifer W. Kyker '02 to Zimbabwe

Boram Lee '04 Wins International Public Policy Fellowship

Suchi Saria '04 Wins Full- Tuition Scholarship from Microsoft

Sure to Be a Virtuoso Performance: Sara Curtin '02 Speaks for the Class of 2002

Red Pegasus Class Takes Wing

DAAD Scholarship Music to the Ears of Katherine Kaiser '02

2002–2003 Budget Meets Financial Goals of Plan for 2003

Storm Ends Everest Bid Just Short of Summit

Students Teach Each Other about Bioethics by "Cloning" National Council

Mount Holyoke Actors Take to the Italian Stage

Three Faculty Members Retire as Emeriti

Mary Renda: Teaching Students to Think Historically

Theresa Grof: Fulfilling a Dream at MHC

Weissman Center Honors Students

On Broadway with Suzan-Lori Parks '85

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Mount Holyoke College News and Events Vista The College Street Journal Archives

May 24, 2002

DAAD Scholarship Music to the Ears of Katherine Kaiser '02


Photo: Fred LeBlanc

DAAD winner Katherine Kaiser '02

Thanks to a DAAD (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst) grant, Katherine Kaiser '02 is now looking forward to a year of research in the film and music archives in Germany after she leaves Mount Holyoke. The grant, known on campus as the "German Fulbright," will enable the German studies major and music minor to spend the next academic year in Leipzig and Berlin, studying the work of groundbreaking film composer Hanns Eisler. "I'm not really sure what's going to come out," she says. "Time spent mucking around in the archives is what's going to bring results and theories. I'm excited—I kind of like mucking around in archives, and there are some great ones in Germany."

Eisler was a composer and lifelong communist who "mixed politics and music in an interesting way," Kaiser says. Born in 1898 in Leipzig, Eisler fought in World War I, after which he became a protégé of Austro-Hungarian composer Arnold Schoenberg. Exiled from Nazi Germany, Eisler emigrated to the United States in 1941, where he went to work in Hollywood, writing music for films and authoring with Theodor Adorno the seminal textbook Composing for the Films. After the war, his communist beliefs resulted in his appearance before the House Un-American Activities Committee, where his accuser was none other than a young congressman named Richard Nixon. Deported from the United States, Eisler moved to East Berlin, where he was named state composer and wrote the East German national anthem. He died in 1962.


Composer Hanns Eisler

Kaiser hopes to examine the work of Eisler and some of his students to see how he influenced the second generation of film composers, and to learn how involved the communist government was in the aesthetics and structure of film music. Eisler's ideas about film music are important in contemporary life, Kaiser says. "We're so inundated with images, and they're always accompanied by music, and the music colors our perception of the film so much," she says.

Kaiser's German roots run deep. The descendant of a pastor in the port city of Lübeck, she has already spent two years in Germany. As a high school junior on an exchange program, Kaiser had a wonderful time, and discovered an affinity for the nation's language, literature, and philosophy. During her junior year at MHC, she studied at the University of Leipzig, where her interest in Eisler was sparked.

Music's appeal has always been strong for Kaiser. A singer of classical music who gave her senior recital in March, she dipped her toe into music theory, discovering somewhat to her surprise that she liked it. She made a similar discovery about music history, and found that she had "sort of grown into a music major."

Winning the DAAD "is a thrill, especially as a humanities major," Kaiser says. It was a thrill as well for her family back home in Springfield, Ohio, where her father is in business, and her mother teaches religion at Wittenberg University. Her parents are not that surprised that she will be going to Germany, she adds. "I've spent a tenth of my life there, so I think they kind of expected it."

The research may be a warm-up of sorts for graduate school. Kaiser is juggling the ideas of musicology, German studies, and film studies. "German is my interdisciplinary subject," she says. "Maybe I'll be able to sort out something in my interdisciplinary mess." All that mucking around in archives should certainly help.

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