Events | Music of exile: Memory and transformation in the work of German and Iranian composers

Thomas Mann House | 21. Juni 2024

21. Juni 2024, 19 Uhr (PT) | Thomas Mann House Los Angeles

Gemeinsam mit der Da Camera Society lädt das Thomas Mann House zu einem abendlichen Konzert und Gespräch ein, das sich um das Werk deutscher und iranischer Komponisten und deren durch Exilerfahrungen geprägtes musikalisches Schaffen im Kontext politischen Widerstands und sozialem Wandel dreht. Das Gespräch findet zwischen 2024 Thomas Mann Fellow Aida Baghernejad, der Musikwissenschaftlerin Joy Calico (UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music) und dem Musikkritiker Alex Ross (The New Yorker) statt und wird von dem Musikwissenschaftler Julius Reder Carlson moderiert. Im Konzert erklingen Hanns Eislers Vertonungen von Berthold Brechts Gedichten und Streichmusik von Gity Razaz, Nasim Khorassani, Adib Ghorbani und Hesam Abedini.

*Diese Veranstaltung findet in englischer Sprache statt*

Gustav Klimt, Die Musik, 1895, Oil on Canvas, Neue Pinakothek.

The experience of exile is often characterized by states of uncertainty and the challenge of adapting to new social, cultural, and political circumstances. In offering opportunities to process and reflect on moments of intense crises, music and art play can play key roles in this experience. Realities of exile vary widely: from forced displacement due to conflict or persecution to voluntary migration in search of better opportunities. In many cases, exile entails a rupture with familiar surroundings and the need to navigate unfamiliar territories. As a means of processing these realities in times of crisis, music and art can offer hope and solidarity, as well as a space for emotional release and reflection, often fostering a sense of community and shared resilience. Across different cultures, composers and musicians have drawn inspiration from their own exile journeys, and in their music, one can often hear the echoes of longing, resilience, and hope.

What roles can art play in the exile experience? In conceiving of – and potentially realizing – a future that precludes it? In this concert-discussion, music serves as a point of departure for exploring ways in which exiled creators negotiate between rejection of and nostalgia for ‘home’; cynicism and idealism with respect to the sociopolitical future; lamentation of personal victimhood and responsibility for collective rebirth.

Bringing the experiences of 1940s-era German refugees into dialog with those of contemporary Iranian exiles, the event strives to shed new light on the experiences of individuals from two iconic communities that have found refuge in LA and to complicate narratives about the sociopolitical tragedies from which they fled.

The concert portion of the event will include selections from Hanns Eisler’s Hollywooder Liederbuch and music for strings by Gity Razaz, Nasim Khorassani, Adib Ghorbani, and Hesam Abedini. The conversation will feature music critic and 2024 Thomas Mann Fellow Aida Baghernejad, music scholar Joy Calico (UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music), and renowned music critic Alex Ross (The New Yorker). The conversation will be moderated by musicologist Julius Reder Carlson.


By Invitation only.


Aida Baghernejad is a journalist who studied media studies in Berlin, Barcelona, and London. Her work focuses on how cultural products such as music, film, and social media content influence the socio-political state of the world. In addition to numerous contributions for Die Zeit, Der Tagesspiegel, Missy Magazine, and others, she also co-hosts the podcast 55 Voices for Democracy, a collaboration between the Thomas Mann House, the Goethe-Institut, dublab radio, and the Los Angeles Review of Books.


Joy Calico joined the faculty at UCLA in August 2023, where she is Professor of Musicology at the Herb Alpert School of Music and affiliated faculty in Jewish Studies. She has published monographs on two luminaries of the Austro-German diaspora in Los Angeles: Bertolt Brecht at the Opera (2008) and Arnold Schoenberg’s A Survivor from Warsaw in Postwar Europe (2014), both with University of California Press. She is a member of the international working team of the Black Opera Research Network (BORN). Her current projects include a book about operatic scene types in 20th- and 21st-century opera based on Kaija Saariaho’s L’amour de loin, and a co-edited volume entitled Childhood and the Operatic Imaginary since 1900

Alex Ross has been the music critic of The New Yorkersince 1996. His first book, The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century, won a National Book Critics Circle Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His second book, Listen to This, is a collection of essays. His latest book is Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music, an account of Wagner’s vast cultural impact. He has written often about Thomas Mann and the émigré community in L.A. for The New Yorker. He was awarded with a MacArthur Fellowship and the Belmont Prize.



Julius Reder Carlson is Associate Professor of Music and Artistic Director of The Da Camera Society at Mount Saint Mary’s University, Los Angeles and co-founder of the Santa Monica Youth Orchestra (aka Sounds Like LA). His recent publications explore the transnational resonances of the South American Nueva Canción, particularly the work of Cold War-era singer-songwriters Atahualpa Yupanqui and Wolf Biermann.




This event is a collaboration between the Thomas Mann House Los Angeles and the The Da Camera Society.