Carl Dahlhaus (June 10, 1928 – March 13, 1989), a musicologist from (West) Berlin, was one of the major contributors to the development of musicology as a scholarly discipline during the post-war era.
Dahlhaus was born in Hanover. His education was interrupted by the Second World War where he served on the front and as an anti-aircraft auxiliary. He completed school exams through a special program designed for those engaged in combat. He showed an interest in banned literature and was exceptionally well read. After the war, he first studied law, later musicology at the University of Göttingen and Freiburg im Breisgau. His thesis at Göttingen in 1953 concerned the masses of Josquin. In the 1950s he was a co-founder of the Darmstadt new music festival. After a period as a dramaturg at the German Theater in Göttingen from 1950 to 1958, a job obtained on the recommendation of Berthold Brecht, he became musical editor of the Stuttgarter Zeitung, a newspaper, from 1960 to 1962. From 1962 to 1966 he served as a research assistant at the state musical research center at the University of Kiel. He earned a professorial grade from that university where he investigated the origins of harmonic tonality. In 1967 was hired as professor in music history at the Berlin Institute of Technology.
Dahlhaus wrote 25 books, more than 400 articles, and contributed to 150 other works on a wide range of subjects, though the majority of these on the history of western music and particularly that of the 19th century (i.e. Romantic music). He was very interested in the work of Richard Wagner and his ideas about musical drama as a 'total artwork' and how a new language on society and politics was being formed through the work of so-called 'modernist' composers; that art was no longer just 'art for art's sake'. His other favourite topics included music theory, the aesthetics of music, and the prehistory of "new music".
Dahlhaus was honored with the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (Grand Cross with Star), a Blue Max, and accepted into the German Academy. In 1987, he was awarded the Frankfurter Musikpreis.
He died in Berlin.