Time’s Echo

The Second World War, the Holocaust,
and the Music of Remembrance

Time’s Echo explores new ways of listening to music as culture’s memory. Seeking out the memory of the Second World War and the Holocaust through the lives and art of four composers—Arnold Schoenberg, Richard Strauss, Dmitri Shostakovich and Benjamin Britten — the book tells the story of how each artist inherited a set of utopian beliefs in culture’s power to realize the Enlightenment dream of a just and free society; how each experienced the trials of the war years; and how each composer during the postwar era created at least one iconic memorial, transposing their own experiences and the tragedy of their times into some of the most powerful ethical and aesthetic statements in the history of music. Yet Time’s Echo is not limited to these stories of culture and catastrophe. The book also brings readers on a search, conducted in five countries, for the echoes of these times in the landscapes central to the music’s creation. Its narrative blends sound and place, history and memory, in order to reflect on the legacies of war, the witnessing of art, and the deeper resonances of music for our lives today.

Now available for pre-order, Time’s Echo will be published by Alfred A. Knopf in the U.S. and Canada on August 29, 2023, and by Faber in the U.K. Forthcoming foreign-language editions include German (Klett-Cotta), Spanish (Grupo Planeta), Italian (Marsilio), and Dutch (Spectrum).

Advanced Praise for Time’s Echo

Music is an airy, abstract art, yet every note is grounded in history and in the earth. Jeremy Eichler, one of our finest writers on music, captures that duality supremely well in Time’s Echo, his eagerly awaited first book. Delving into twentieth-century musical memorials by Richard Strauss, Schoenberg, Britten, and Shostakovich, Eichler evokes not only the smoldering power of the music but also the haunted lives and places from which these masterpieces sprang. It is a work of searching scholarship, acute critical observation, philosophical heft, and deep feeling.Alex Ross, music critic of The New Yorker, author of The Rest is Noise and Wagnerism

Time’s Echo is a remarkable book. Jeremy Eichler shows how listening to history through its music can transport us in mind, body, and spirit — resulting in a profound, detailed resurrection of the past into the living present. The composers at the book’s heart come across not as distant historical figures but as fully human characters with whom we can identify. The result is a kind of time travel with music as our mode of transport, a poignant journey back to an era that still affects us, and an inspiringly hopeful meditation on the power of art to remember not just the traumas of the past but also its highest ideals.Yo-Yo Ma

I was deeply moved by this wonderful book. Jeremy Eichler writes profoundly on music, and in Time’s Echo he focuses on music that expresses so much about the truly tragic history of the 20th century. He not only makes us understand, he makes us feel.Emanuel Ax

In this brilliant, haunting debut, Jeremy Eichler expands our sense of how collective memory works in history. With music, humanity can engage its losses, registering monstrous crimes aurally if invisibly. And while the experience of hearing the notes provides no exact facsimile of what was lost — let alone makes things whole again — it can knit together past and present with remarkable poignancy. Eichler overlays the arresting insight and beautiful prose of the cultural interpreter on the scholarly perspective of a master historian, and the results are a gift for us all.Samuel Moyn, Professor of History and Law, Yale University; author of The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History

“How is the past remembered or forgotten? History can often amount to little more than a tired archivist logging away dates and factoids. But as Jeremy Eichler reveals in this splendid and uncompromising book, music is mankind’s imperishable monument to what memory will not and cannot suppress.André Aciman, author of Out of Egypt and Call Me by Your Name

At a time when debates rage daily over what histories to memorialize and which to reinterpret, along comes Jeremy Eichler to reveal how music preserves the past in the form of intense emotional experience. With a historian’s deep understanding of how societies respond to the trauma of war, and an intuitive feel for music’s molten heat, he brings us a lucid, moving chronicle of four dramatically different works that were born of the same urge: Zachor—Remember.Justin Davidson, Pulitzer Prize-winning critic, New York Magazine

This passionate book delves deep into classical music’s responses to World War II, and the tragic intertwining of German and Jewish cultures. Eichler roves through time and language to express how music keeps cultural memory alive. Along the way, he paints an unforgettable portrait of an unspeakable time.Jeremy Denk, author of Every Good Boy Does Fine