Kultur 6

I found the article about Martin Luther to be interesting because it highlights again how history can influence modern culture, although various aspects, such as theological, may not be as present. And that’s really the significance of Martin Luther and the Reformation,

But the Reformation was not just about God. It shaped the German language, mentality and way of life.

I was particularly interested in Martin Luther’s ideas against ostentation, and how this influences not only German culture and values, but invariably the entire world. I love understated pieces from IKEA, and it was cool to learn where the simplicity came from. I also liked learning about the exception of ostentation, music. If I remember correctly, music, particularly classical music, was seen as something very upper-class in history. However, music’s role in German culture is not really described to be that of an extravagant display, but rather one that was an ally to Germany’s theological underpinnings.

The article about the closed-door culture struck me as a small detail that illustrates a contrast between German and American culture. I think about how freshman in college are encouraged to keep their doors open to meet new people, and how professors often have their office doors left open. I wonder if there is anything like that in Germany, and if not, whether they view this as a weird American thing.

The article about garbage culture in Germany pointed me back to the fact that Germany is very environmentally conscious, and again to the differences between American and German culture. Although in many ways I consider myself to be environmentally conscious, I catch myself freezing when trying to tell if my trash is compostable or not. It’s definitely a more complicated system it seems, but perhaps that is part of the makeup of a country that leads the way in environmental innovation.

AMD 6

For my last AMD, I tried something that many others have this semester—switching my Facebook from English to German. Facebook is something that I use very often, both personally and for work, so I thought that it would be something fun to try and slightly immerse myself in the German language.

I think that depending on when one does something like this while learning a language, it can be very interesting in different ways. Since I started German Facebook at the tail-end of this introductory semester, I found myself recognizing many things that we’ve learned in class. For example, much of the user interface of Facebook combines past tense, indefinite articles, and accusative case. “Andy Bui shared a photo” translates to Andy Bui hat ein Foto geteilt, and “Andy Bui shared a link” translates to Andy Bui hat einen Link geteilt. Dative case is also present, as you may show that you like a post by clicking the button gefällt mir.

Many of these commands were fairly easy to recognize because social media is supposed to be easy to use. The only places in which one could find slightly more complicated German would be in things like settings. Because I work at the university, I am prompted in my profile with Welche position hast du bei University of Michigan? Even where you would go to make a post—Was machst du gerade?

I’ve had Facebook set to German for almost a week now, actually, but I think that I won’t change it back to English. With how I use Facebook everyday, it doesn’t warrant complicated interactions, and I find that I have very little trouble navigating the interface.

Kultur 5

I found the overall theme of gender roles in German society to be very interesting. For my last AMD, I read about how Angela Merkel was a powerful woman who held a doctorate in Physics, and the first article from the New York Times in particular contextualized it further. It emphasizes that while it is a milestone that one of the most powerful people in the world is a woman, there persists a societal standard that still affects how women in Germany can mobilize themselves in ways that men can, such as through work or education. In my last AMD, I briefly touched on how current events in Germany are reminiscent of the US in that Germany faces a multitude of problems, and while reading the articles about womens’ roles in the workplace, I saw many parallels to gender inequality in the US. It is good to hear that there are strides being made towards gender equality in Germany, however, albeit long overdue.

Relating to how flirting in Germany differs from the rest of the world, it was also fascinating to learn about how the increasingly progressive role of women could be implicated in how flirting happens. Comparing it to the US, I definitely think that people are more and more readily abandoning the notion of chivalry, but I believe there’s still some bias against women who are more independent and take initiative.

I found the fact that sex shops in Germany aren’t a big deal to be interesting, as well. Comparing it to the US, I think that there’s a certain variance depending on where you are, but I would say that generally, people are very uncomfortable with talking about sex in the US. This expands to how we perceive sex shops, or any sex paraphernalia, for that matter.

 

AMD 5

For this AMD assignment, I decided to read up on German news on BBC. The first article I read was a profile of Germany as a country. This includes population, major language (take a guess), major timeline events, and information about Germany’s current administration. I found it interesting mainly to read about Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor. She’s very fascinating, not only because she seems to be popular with German citizens, but the fact that she also has a doctorate in Physics. A few other interesting things included key dates such as 1871, the year in which Otto von Bismarck achieved unification of Germany.

The second article I read was about the German cabinet’s recent decision to back a law that pardoned tens of thousands of Gay men who were convicted during the Nazi regime under anti-LGBT legislation. That is, if passed, any man who was convicted and is still alive will receive monetary compensation as a lump sum, along with a yearly compensation for every year spent in jail. I think that this is interesting in the context of LGBT activism in Germany, which is something that I want to learn more about, as I understand that Berlin has been an epicenter of progress for the LGBT community in history.

The last article I read talked about the increase in electric vehicles in Germany. In the past year, the number of electric cars rose by 29%, while the number of public charging points for electric cars rose by 27%. I know that with electric car technology becoming more and more accessible, this becomes an enticing option for Germans, not only because they tend to be more environmentally conscious, but because the cost-saving benefits of electricity versus petrol can convince many. With German automakers such as Volkswagen and BMW committing to EV technology, I can imagine that this will play a role in how Germany pushes the development of alternative-fuel transportation.

Other articles I read related to issues such as international relations and immigration, which further emphasize that like the US, Germany has much on its plate as well. I definitely would say that reading about these current events, both positive and negative, help to paint an understanding of German culture as more multidimensional, and much more humanizing.

AMD 4

For this AMD assignment, I decided to delve more into German art, this time learning about the German artist Hans Hofmann. Last semester, I had my first experience analyzing art at the UMMA and dissecting the various pieces offered and what the artists meant to portray. I thought that by analyzing art by German artists, I would perhaps be able to come to a deeper understanding of the various ways that art is reflective of society. That is, German society, history, and culture. Bare in mind, I’m continually developing my ability to analyze art and familiarity with terminology.

To Miz – Pax Vobiscum (1964)

The first piece was created after the death of Hofmann’s first wife, and was meant to convey the mystery, and simultaneously beauty, of life and death. Hofmann was known for his employment of vivid color, winding brush strokes, and Cubist structure. Upon analyzing this piece, I notice his use of color and brush strokes to invoke a sense of nostalgia. The colors sort of remind me of the colors of the clothes that I would wear in kindergarten. Hofmann was also known to pioneer the technics of portraying depth in paintings, in which the contrast in colors, varied brush strokes, and clear lines was meant to add depth, and elevate the view of the painting as a life force in and of itself.

The Conjurer (1959)

This piece was harder for me to interpret, being that it doesn’t necessarily have a subject. I view it more as an exercise of Hofmann’s emphasis on depth, and how an artists should embrace the two-dimensional canvas, not with three-dimensional figures, but by manipulation color, shape, and texture to form spatial relationships. This piece isn’t meant to portray reality, but rather something more abstract. At the same time, however, Hofmann’s idea of depth in painting emphasized that by giving depth, even the most abstract piece mirrors nature and livelihood.

Hofmann had explored a wide variety of art styles in his life, but most memorable to me were his pieces that incorporated structure. This is because in thinking about German society—the structure and organization—I can’t help but to see how his upbringing in Germany may have influenced how he went about his work. At the same time, Hofmann’s style reflects a conglomerate of many other artists, much like how German culture has spread its influence in the world while simultaneously taking in influence from other cultures. During the second World War, numerous artists fled Europe for New York, and a new movement of Abstract Expressionism, which Hofmann had a great influence on, began.

Kultur 4

I found the overarching theme of order and assimilation very interesting, with the most influential reason that people seem to follow norms in Germany being a fear of possible consequences.

The first article mentions the prevalence of biking in Germany. I think that there are a few ways that this mirrors the US, but with a few fundamental differences. First, Germans are very environmentally friendly, and there seems to be a norm of being conscious of one’s own footprint. In the US, there may be many people who walk or bike in cities, but there are still plenty of people who drive, and plenty of people who do not care so much about the environment. I may be wrong, but there seems to be a more consistent norm of environmental consciousness in Germany. Additionally, people who opt for biking or walking may do it because they are either in the subset of the US population who are environmentally friendly, or because it is cost-saving. I also found it cool that bicyclists are a pampered bunch in Germany—when I’m biking in Ann Arbor, it seems that there isn’t much infrastructure in place for bicyclists compared to Germany.

The article about the honor system in German public transportation interests me, as well. Being a college student, the first thing I think about is the honor system as it pertains to an academic context. For example, I just took an exam this last week in which no instructors were present in the room when students were taking the exam. Many other exams are take-home, as well. These sorts of systems are intended to work in the students’ favor, where a take home exam for example allows a student to take the exam in whatever environment makes them most comfortable. With the main incentive to abide by the honor system being that students want to believe that they earn their grades, the other incentive is that punishment if you are caught violating the honor code is severe. Similarly in Germany, I imagine that the honor system is intended to make things easier for everyone, and most people follow it because they are honest people. Another reason may be the culture of organization along with the fear of being caught—no one would want to be publicly shamed.

AMD 3

For my assignment, I listened to Gustav Mahler’s Symphony no. 1, and followed along the score that had German annotations. Mahler was an Austrian composer.

I performed this symphony a few years back, and it has grown to be one of my favorite works, not only for its revered difficulty among orchestral repertoire, but lyrical charisma and depth. I remember my original sheet music having German annotations, the most notable thing being that each movement of the symphony was titled “Satz”. Looking up the translation of this word, I understand that it essentially translates to “sentence.” In this context, this makes sense, given that each movement of the piece is to be seen as a distinct phrase that connected with the rest form a cohesive picture.

What I did not notice, however, that there were German phrases scattered throughout the sheet music as well. I’ll discuss these phrases I found in chronological order of when they appear.

At the beginning of the first movement, there is the phrase “Im anfang sehr gemächlich” which means “In the beginning very leisurely.” Listening to the piece, I definitely see how this corresponds to how the orchestra translates this into a musical phrase—there is a difference between playing the same set of notes leisurely and playing them urgently, for example. Shortly after, at the 4:35 mark in the video, the music is marked “Alle betonungen zart.” This translates to “All the delicacies” which again is conveyed by the orchestra. These markings are important because they help to communicate what the composer intended in writing a passage. If you were to look up the same piece played by different orchestras, there would be variations in how this piece is played by all of them because each conductor interprets the piece differently.

Moving forward to the 16:23 mark in the video, the sheet music is marked “Kraftig bewegt, doch nicht zu schnell” which translates to “Move strongly, but not too quickly.” Again, as demonstrated by the orchestra, Mahler intended for a strong, but contained power in this first passage. At the 20:23 mark, the music is marked “Recht gemächlich (Ja nicht eilen)” which translates to “Pretty easy (Yes, do not hurry).” I found this translation to be a little funny—maybe Mahler was trying to be a little sarcastic here.

The markings can get repetitive, so I will not go through all of the movements. All in all, I found it interesting to try to decipher the annotations without translation using German that I already know. For example, a marking that says “Sehr langsam” that translates to “Very slowly” can be partly translated because we already know what sehr means. The word sehr appears frequently in the piece, so I imagine that Mahler wanted a lot of exaggeration in the expression.

Kultur 3

This past summer my friend traveled to Germany to visit her boyfriend’s family. I recalled a lot of what she told me about her experience while reading the kultur texts because it seemed to align with much of what the articles were trying to convey—namely, Germans love their beer, sausage, and pessimism. I remember my friend telling me that while she loved it, she was not used to the meat-heavy diet, which I found interesting. Reading these articles, i’m quite surprised with the variety of sausages that are available in Germany. The same goes with beer—I am from Grand Rapids, which is known for beer, and I had no idea that beer came in such a variety! I found it interesting, however, that there has been a push to restrict public drinking to prevent violence. Psychological studies certainly show that alcohol contributes to aggression.

Another thing that I found interesting was the directness of Germans that the articles mentioned. My friend also told me that her boyfriend’s relatives were very direct people, and she particularly liked her boyfriend’s aunt for her witty sense of humor. From the articles, it seems like she fits into the stereotype of “the Hamburger”.

I enjoyed reading about the fact that Germans love their organic food, too. This contrasts the culture in America, where there definitely is a stereotype that people who buy organic almost always coincidentally wear Birkenstocks or are overprotective mothers. I think this is because buying organic in America is usually more expensive and inaccessible to a lot of people, whereas since most people in Germany buy organic, it is much more accessible.

Kapitel 2 Kultur – Andy

I found it interesting that while reading these articles, I often thought to myself “Oh, I do that too.” For example, I too love to complain. My roommates actually brought this up earlier today while I was complaining about missing my show, and it made me realize that wow, I really do complain a lot. I notice this as a go about my day-to-day life. I complain when I don’t get a lot of sleep, I complain when I’m hungry, I complain when I get a notification on my phone while I’m doing homework. Additionally, I am also interested in statistics. Due to my background with research in Psychologie, I naturally enjoy learning new things, and statistics is an inherent component of this learning process.

However, I recognize that while I share these characteristics that the articles mention, there is an important distinction in how these characteristics appear in German culture that makes them unequivocally German, and that is how these characteristics developed in the first place. I found this aspect of the articles interesting in which the history behind the tendency of people in Germany to be prone to things like complaining or staring to be rooted in Germany’s history.

Other things I found interesting include the comparisons between German culture and American culture. I believe that it is true—when we say “We should hang out some time!” very often it means “I never want to see you again.” (Definitely an exaggeration, but the point still stands). Learning about these comparisons, I was reminded of a story that I was told by an old professor, in which a difference between a lot of European countries and America is that people in America are very uncomfortable with long periods of silence between two people. It is fascinating how certain things can have completely different meanings in different cultures.

AMD1 – Berliner Philharmoniker, Johannes Brahms

Prior to deciding to learn German, I had already viewed the Berlin Philharmonic as one of my favorite performing groups (I was devastated when I found out that I missed their performance in Ann Arbor, even more-so when I found out that my friend ran into Simon Rattle, their principal conductor in a Starbucks). Having played the violin since I was little, German composers have played an instrumental role in shaping my repertoire. The music scene truly drew me to German culture in which the epicenter seemed to lie in Berlin—perhaps this naturally lead to a bias on my part?

For this assignment, I listened to nearly an hour’s worth of classical music by Johannes Brahms, a German composer born in Hamburg. Many of these pieces were performed by German groups such as the Berliner Philharmoniker. The first piece is the Academic Festival Overture by Brahms. Composed in the summer of 1880, Brahms was originally against the idea of even writing the piece. Its purpose was to serve as a form of gratitude for being awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Breslau; Brahms hated the indulgence of celebrity, and only intended to leave a thank-you note until he heard that the university would accept nothing less than a musical composition. So, in the end, he composed the overture, which exhibited a boisterous, light-hearted theme that was meant to convey a drinking song. Funny, Brahms.

I discuss the Academic Festival Overture first because it is the only piece that I found that loosely follows a narrative, which brings up an interesting aspect of German history being its occupancy of absolute music and German Romanticism. In essence, absolute composers, often developed under Romantic schools of thought viewed music is only to be enjoyed as music itself, and free of any narratives or underlying meaning. My interpretation of this is enjoying music for how it makes one feel, regardless of how you may analyze its intention, which heavily contrasts the styles of composers from other countries. For example, Russian composers Dmitri Shostakovich and Sergei Prokofiev were famous for the political themes underlying their compositions. Shostakovich’s Symphony 5 was actually known for bringing its audience to tears because they resonated with the political message in light of treatment under the Stalin regime. In my time researching Brahms, I struggled to find any meaningful messages behind his works, which is likely the intention.

In researching the Berliner Philharmoniker and German composers such as Johannes Brahms, I found myself learning about the significant ways in which German culture has contributed to some of the things that I enjoy most, being classical music and the violin. I believe that learning about culture and history is a critical component to language learning, because these various aspects come together to form a cohesive package. In addition to the Academic Festival Overture, I also listened to the Violin Concerto in D Major, and the Symphony No. 3.