The Masur Archives: Carleton’s Global Connections

20 April 2018

While the Public Works Initiative has solid roots in Northfield, Minnesota, the work inspired by this initiative has helped Carleton enhance community-building across oceans. One example of Public Works’ global reach is a project led by Assistant German Professor Juliane Schicker and her team of student translators. Schicker’s project focuses on the works of the late Kurt Masur, a highly influential orchestra conductor who is most known for his leadership of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic.

Through music and tact, Masur helped shape positive relationships between Germany and the United States directly after the Cold War. In life, Masur spent decades conducting for world-class orchestras, participating in political rallies, and teaching new generations of musicians in various countries. In death, his legacy continues through the newly-established International Kurt Masur Institute in Leipzig, Germany. This institute provides its community with access to music lessons, performances, exhibits, and historical information around Kurt Masur’s impact on German society. Through her experiences as a researcher, professor, and musician, Juliane Schicker has come in contact with Masur’s work in a variety of contexts, and she often brings that connection into her courses at Carleton.

In close collaboration with the Masur Family and the International Kurt Masur Institute, Schicker and her German students have been building an archive of historical video material for the institute’s collection. In the last years of his life, Masur suffered from advanced Parkinson’s Disease, and in order to preserve an oral history of his teachings and philosophies, the Masur Family filmed hours of interviews between Masur and his closest associates, both formal and familial. Juliane, as an academic partner of the Institute, was charged with transcribing and translating the footage from German into English so the material could be shared internationally. Schicker shared this opportunity with advanced German students in her classes, and offered them a chance to apply the language skills they had been honing at Carleton. Juliane’s first student research assistant was Briannon Carlsen (German & Political Science ‘17), who helped transcribe the first collection of Masur videos. After her graduation, the project was passed to rising German students Julia Gross (German & History ‘18) and Rachel Everett (Cinema & Media Studies ‘18), who contributed to the task of transcribing difficult video material at a highly advanced linguistic level.

The contributions Juliane and her students made to the International Kurt Masur Institute’s archives did not go unnoticed, and they were invited as partners of the Institute to attend the archive’s grand opening in Leipzig last November. With financial support from the Public Works Initiative, Schicker and alumna Briannon traveled to Leipzig to represent Carleton on an international level. The Institute’s opening spanned multiple days and included intimate performances from musicians tied to Leipzig and New York orchestras, reflections on Masur’s legacy in Germany and abroad, and opportunities for museum curators, academics, and the Leipzig community to bond over a common appreciation of music and the impact it has on the world.