The Mood of an Age

Hans Ostwald, Sittengeschichte der Inflation (Berlin: Neufeld & Henius, 1931), p. 218 (my translation):

It is extraordinarily amusing to see how the mood of an age is always reflected in its dance songs, especially in the refrains. Nothing can give a better picture of the nature and condition of the dancers, and thus of the population as a whole, than the songs the jazz bands play in the dance halls, bars, and coffee houses — and which maids sing as they wash dishes in the kitchen, and boys whistle in the street. Most of the lyrics suit the music and melodies perfectly, and they characterize the people who dance and twirl to them. Here one can truly say, “Tell me what music you like to dance to, and I will tell you who you are.”

I am nearly finished translating this history of the Weimar inflation. Last week I spent some time (Wasted you say? Surely not!) looking up some of the songs Ostwald mentions as being emblematic of the period and find that Marlene Dietrich sang one of them as part of her screen test for The Blue Angel (see this video at the 2:41 mark):

Wer wird denn weinen, wenn man auseinander geht,
Wenn an der nächsten Ecke schon ein andrer steht?
Man sagt auf Wiedersehn! und denkt sich heimlich bloß:
Nun bin ich endlich wieder mein Verhältnis los!

I’ve translated it as:

Who would weep, if we should part?
Just around the corner waits another sweetheart.
You bid goodbye, and to yourself quietly say:
There’s another one who is out of the way!

An image and closed captions from Dietrich’s screen test (1930)