Russian Music since 1917: Reappraisal & Rediscovery.
Challenging state censorship and Cold War assumptions surrounding the development of Soviet musical life has not only been a constant struggle from within the confines of academic discourse, it has also been--and still is--a lived reality for many music scholars in Russia and abroad today. In this ambitious collection, entitled Russian Music since 1917: Reappraisal & Rediscovery, the editors Patrick Zuk and Marina Frolova-Walker have brought together a diverse array of scholars to reexamine the state of Russian/Soviet historical musicology on the centenary of the Bolshevik Revolution. Reassessing Russia's musical past is something in which both editors have in-depth experience: Frolova-Walker has most recently published a myth-busting monograph entitled Stalin's Music Prize: Soviet Culture and Politics (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2016), and Zuk has written and spoken widely on reappraising the Soviet composer Nikolay Myaskovsky in the early Soviet context (see, for instance, Patrick Zuk, "Nikolay Myaskovsky and the 'Regimentation' of Soviet Composition: A Reassessment," Journal oj Musicology 31, no. 3 [Summer 2014]: 354-93]). Through exploring Russian music and cultural life after 1917 to the present day, the core aim of this edited collection is "to bring into clearer focus the ways in which outlooks on the period have changed" and simultaneously "to examine critically such intellectual barriers" that remain in place (p. 17). The contributed essays therefore attempt to reappraise and rediscover Soviet and Russian cultural history by engaging with themes of Soviet censorship, musical institutions, reception history, and post-Soviet transition.
The volume contains eighteen individual chapters arranged into six parts: (1) "Russian Music History and Historiography Today," (2) "Reappraising the Soviet Past," (3) "Soviet and Post-Soviet Musicology," (4) "The Newest Shostakovich," (5) "Russian Music Abroad," and (6) "1991 and After." In part 1, contributions by Marina Rakhmanova and Patrick Zuk offer a critical literature review of studies both inside and outside Russia, demonstrating how the scholarly field has progressed since perestroika. Most notably, Zuk reiterates the importance of reappraisal in a "wider international context" (p. 69), illustrating the stark similarities of musical perspectives between British and Soviet composers about stylistic accessibility and musical decline and decadence. In the following two chapters, Levon Hakobian and Frolova-Walker both explore and recount how Soviet music has been received and performed in the West. Frolova-Walker provides an excellent insight into the state of post-Soviet musicology in complex and politically troubling contexts; in the second part of the essay, she explores the transformations in cultural policy and major events that have recently impacted musicology, including the revival of the Soviet-era national anthem, Pussy Riot's challenge to the Russian state, and the reemerging "Tchaikovsky and homosexuality" debate against a complex sociopolitical landscape.
Part 2 revisits conventional interpretations of the early Soviet past. Marina Raku's investigation of the term khvostizm, which "implied pandering to listeners' undeveloped tastes and their predilection for pre-Revolutionary light music--'gipsy songs,' foxtrots, and cabaret songs," successfully explores how music specialists attempted to construct a new musical identity in Soviet Russia after 1917 (p. 131). Likewise, Pauline Fairclough's chapter on Soviet concert repertory in the 1930s and 1940s is also a welcome contribution to reinterpreting a period that has been traditionally viewed as nationalist and isolationist. Indeed, as Fairclough claims, Leningrad's concert life between the late 1920s and mid-1930s was "more international, inclusive and interesting than that in London" (p. 148). Yaketarina Vlasova explores how, despite the Bolshoi Theatre's resources and artistic talent, Soviet cultural policy interfered with the opera-writing process so much that very few works passed the ideological censors and were put into production. Furthermore, Inna Klause's outstanding preliminary study on "Composers in the Gulag" takes aim at the interpretation that musicians suffered less compared to other artists working in other cultural domains, supposedly due to music's ambiguous meaning. Klause convincingly demonstrates that while musicians were not necessarily targeted on musical grounds per se, they were very much entangled in the Bolshevik project of social transformation through coercive means.
Part 3 reappraises, and draws parallels with, the development of historical musicology in the Soviet Union and post-Soviet Russia. Olga Manulkina traces the impact that 1949 political campaigns against musicologists for "cosmopolitanism" have had on contemporary Russian musicology, which has been starved of resources and separated from humanities departments (p. 224). In addition, Daniil Zavlunov explains how Soviet ideology still impacts post-Soviet scholarship on Mikhail Glinka; indeed, as Zavlunov argues, the reliance on Soviet source compilations, alongside a failure to engage with Soviet primary sources critically, has helped to construct and impose identities and selfhoods that were "Soviet" in making. Following on in theme, the contributions in part 4 focus exclusively on Dmitrii Shostakovich. Liudmila Kovnatskaya's all-sided account of Shostakovich's personality and his relationship with Valer'ian BogdanovBerezovskif convincingly challenges hagiographic accounts of the composer, whereas Olga Digonskaya's study into Shostakovich's unrealized large-scale works to memorialize Vladimir Lenin establishes a narrative that runs contrary to accounts by Solomon Volkov of a new Shostakovich who, allegedly, secretly resisted the Soviet state and wrote patriotic works as a "strategy of self-protection" (p. 281). In both accounts, Shostakovich is exposed in a way that contemporary concert programmers would still blush to mention--an identity that is lifelike and more human.
The final two parts (pts. 5 and 6) broaden the scope of the volume to focus on musicology in contemporary Russia and abroad. Richard Taruskin centers on Arthur Lourie and the composer's claim, after the Bolshevik Revolution, that music written in Russia was no longer authentically Russian. In light of this statement, Taruskin explores the challenges faced in maintaining cultural unity among Russian emigre communities abroad. Similarly, Elena Dubinets provides a stimulating ethnography of Russian musicians living abroad, elucidating their strategies to navigate the job market and their overall sense of belonging. In the finale, part 6 contains three stimulating chapters that focus on Russian musical life after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Laurel E. Fay gives a personal account of the Eighth All-Union Congress of Soviet Composers, which took place in March 1991 against a complex landscape of political and economic upheaval. William Quillen examines bow contemporary Russian musical circles have turned to the early Soviet musical avant-garde for creative inspiration as part of reimagining a pre-Stalinist musical culture. Last, but not least, is Lidia Ader's essay, punctuated with symbolist rhetoric, which explores the originality of the new musical avant-garde in Russia today.
Without a doubt, the sheer magnitude of this project is something that should be applauded. In the first instance, its scope is enormous, ranging from 1917 until present day, and evidently the project required strategic organization and cohesive collaboration between all scholars. Credit should be given to the editors regarding the amount of work with translating, editing, and peer-reviewing such wideranging contributions; special commendation goes to Patrick Zuk, who expertly translated from Russian and German the eight chapters indicated on the contents page. This book is certainly unique in its combination and quantity of scholars, living both inside and outside Russia, who are able to shed light in their own way on a diverse range of perspectives regarding the study of Russian, Soviet, and post-Soviet musical life and culture. This collection is therefore truly remarkable and should provide new pathways for scholars working on historical or present-day aspects of cultural politics.
Despite the variety of excellent contributions, however, 1 found some parts of the theoretical interpretation problematic; indeed, there is still a tendency to designate the Assotsiatsiia sovremennoi muzyki (Association of Contemporary Music; ASM) members (i.e., the modernists) as either liberal thinkers, resisters to the regime, or inert conformists. For instance, Hakobian states that ASM was "ideologically tolerant" and that its most" 'progressive' and free-thinking members" (p. 76) included the likes of Myaskovsky, Nikolai Roslavets, Vladimir Deshevov, Lev Knipper, Aleksandr Mosolov, and Gavriil Popov. There are examples, however, of ASM music specialists calling for the purging of repertoire and individuals; allusions to this view appear in the volume where Zuk demonstrates how Myaskovksy heavily criticized compositional practice in Europe (p. 71) and Frolova-Walker reveals how Roslavets was a key player in censoring musical repertoire at Glavrepertkom. Furthermore, the introduction also reflects a paradigm that the Russian Association of Proletarian Musicians (RAPM)--supposedly on behalf of the Soviet state--was stifling individual creativity, waging "ideological crusades," and leading campaigns of "harassment and intimidation" against their opposition (p. 5). Take, for instance, the statement that "the dissolution of RAPM appeared to signal a return to the status quo ante and the restoration of creative freedom of expression--or a measure of freedom at least" (p. 6). Given the widespread anxieties surrounding musical degeneration and enemy impostors in the early Soviet period, to what extent were ASM members truly at odds with the Bolshevik project of social transformation? I believe this question, if fully answered, would further uncover the Cold War assumptions that underlie parts of this volume.
Overall, Russian Music since 1917 provides keen insights into the variety of musical scholarship currently being produced in Russia and abroad. The contributions address a wide-ranging field of themes, with scholarship ranging from Soviet concert repertory and music institutions to historical and political revisionism in today's Russia. The essays sometimes vary in terms of theoretical perspective, which occasionally leads to divergent narratives and assumptions, but the overall aim of challenging previous theoretical models has been achieved. Indeed, this volume represents a clear milestone for encouraging further collaboration and mutual understanding between scholars in Russia and across the anglophone world. In societies in which authoritarian discourse is becoming ever-present, international collaboration and discursive criticism of political, social, and cultural life is needed more than ever before. Russian Music since 1917 provides a firm basis for which broader discussions around music and power can be formulated and critically assessed in various and multifaceted global contexts.
University of Bristol, United Kingdom