In his table talk A. Hitler points out how wrong it is to make voice training or the construction of motorways dependent on so-called demand. He had been informed, he said, there were enough Wagner tenors available. But then it had been shown just how great the bottleneck was. Now, in 1942, in the middle of the war, it was almost impossible to train enough powerful voices. And that only related to Wagner, but it was also necessary to think of the music, which would be required after final victory. To what vocal strength would singers have to be trained in order to fill the immense memorials to the fallen soldiers in the East with sounds? Whether the human voice could also be considered an ultimate weapon, smashing the willpower of the enemy through amplifiers—amplifying, as it were, the effects of air force and artillery out of the spirit of music—he could not for the moment judge. He had the impression, however, that the development of humanity, which now separated us from the animal world, but at the same time also from legends and arts, and once filled the heaven of the gods, chants, storm songs etc., was by no means yet concluded. It was precisely technology that multiplied human willpower to an unbelievable extent. He thought very highly of the great artists. With the power of their voices they could smash a man to pieces, shatter or corrode a brain, but even in anger, even out of the impassioned playing they accomplished on stage, they had never yet done so. To that extent, said the Führer, music was fundamentally gentle.
Excerpted from Cinema Stories by Alexander Kluge, forthcoming from New Directions in September 2007.