Taking the German Muse out of Music: The Chronicle and US Musical Opinion in World War i

E. Douglas Bomberger, Elizabethtown College


The case of conductor Karl Muck and the Boston Symphony Orchestra during World War I is notorious for its combination of nationalist patriotism and opposition to international influence on US concert organizations. Although it seemed on the surface to be a spontaneous uprising against a foreign musician who refused to play The Star-Spangled Banner, the public outcry against Muck was part of a larger campaign orchestrated by a shadowy propaganda magazine named The Chronicle, published in New York from March 1917 to November 1918. This journal was marketed to the United States' wealthy elite and was available to subscribers by invitation only. By strategic publication of fake news stories and xenophobic opinion pieces, editor Richard Fletcher spread fear and suspicion through the most rarefied strata of US society. The journal was instrumental in blacklisting suspicious arts organizations and fomenting prejudice against enemy aliens. This article examines for the first time the role of this magazine in the banning of German-language operas at the Met, the internment of Muck, and the near-elimination of German repertoire from US orchestral programs.