Soviet Music and Society under Lenin and Stalin: The Baton and Sickle

Soviet Music and Society under Lenin and Stalin: The Baton and Sickle

Soviet Music and Society under Lenin and Stalin: The Baton and Sickle

Soviet Music and Society under Lenin and Stalin: The Baton and Sickle

Synopsis

This text investigates the place of music in Soviet society during the eras of Lenin and Stalin. It examines the different strategies adopted by composers and musicians in their attempts to carve out careers in a rapidly evolving society and discusses the role of music in Soviet society and people's lives.

Excerpt

Urban songs - including composed 'folk' songs - date back to the eighteenth century and became widespread long before 1900. Written by people of various social classes and often published anonymously in penny song-books, they differed from the art song and the folk song in content, melody, performance style, and social appeal. They were broad, sometimes 'vulgar,' accessible, and sensual, while the words, melodies, and rhythms possessed a sharpness rare in other song genres. the style of delivery, a combination of facial expressions, gestures, and postures, differed strikingly from the body language of salon and village street and suited well the timeliness and banality of the words and music. They also frequently suggested individualism or a mild posture of lawlessness and contempt for respectability, which of course explains the appeal to 'the better sort' who were out on the town. the dominant subset of this genre was the 'gypsy' song. All over Eastern and Central Europe, ethnic gypsies were an emblem of freedom, sensuality, and hot temper. in Russia, that freedom signifed the open steppe, rolling wagons, savage dignity, and wanton abandon. Gypsy music evoked a favourite Russian mood of longing for something lost or far away. Offcers, nobles, and rich merchants in particular found a temporary release from 'civilisation' in the great gypsy choirs of taverns and restaurants. the gypsy idiom offered violent and rhythmically exotic fourishes of uncontrolled passion by means of sudden changes in tempo and accelerando-crescendo phrasing. This was brilliantly displayed in staples of the genre, such as Dorogoi dlinnoiu [Endless Road], Ochi chernye [Dark Eyes], and Dve guitary [Two Guitars]. Such songs offered socially unifying entertainment that was perfectly suited to the mixed milieu of the urban restaurant and tavern.

Turn-of-the-century 'gypsy' singing stars, rarely real gypsies, sang songs made up of elements borrowed from ethnic gypsy music. the new singers shaped wild sensibilities into a manageable performance art suitable for stage and the intimate restaurant cabinet. the repertoire of Anastasia Vialtseva (1871-1913), for example, combined the sweep and rebelliousness of the older gypsy song with the bitter-sweet nostalgia of urban life.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.