Academic journal article Studia Musicologica

Non-Conformism or Nationalism? Yuriy Butsko and His "Russian Dodecaphony"

Academic journal article Studia Musicologica

Non-Conformism or Nationalism? Yuriy Butsko and His "Russian Dodecaphony"

Article excerpt

In any nation state, arts have been a meaningful means to promote nationalism. As Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak insightfully noted, arts help people to join the authorities "in the task of a massive rememoration project, saying 'We all suffered this way, you remember, this is what happened, you remember,' so that history is turned into so-called cultural memory."1 Nation states and propaganda machines have enjoyed utilizing music's ineffability, as any desired meaning can be attached to it through making it part of everyday ritual. Music is socially and politically important for those in power because it emotionally connects the past and the present, as well as sociopolitical and theoretical values they want to promote, while speaking to many people in multiple languages at once. Music can be readily acculturated to a new environment and reclaimed for different interpretations due to the lack of linguistic or technological barriers.

Through public broadcasts and performances, nation states strive to create a specific nation-oriented everyday sound aura which Brian Currid calls a "national acoustics."2 When all sound representations are controlled by the government, only those music types that people become accustomed to through the institutionalized sound transmissions are considered to be permissible. Many composers, consciously or subconsciously, chose to follow the often unwritten but clearly perceptible rules of the national acoustics to accommodate ideology, funders and employers, and it happened especially often under the totalitarian regimes.

In Russia, professional music made it to the national platform by employing two of the most obvious musical "super-icons"3 that help "prove" the fact of national affiliation in everyday life: folk tunes and religious chants. Both elements have influenced the "national acoustics" in different periods of Russia's history. It is important to note that the ancient artifacts do not obtain greater legitimacy or better distribution when converted into sources for professional music. This process has always served the opposite purpose: utilizing these artifacts, or their simulacra, in the professional arena helps the composers validate their music as a legitimate part of the Russian national representation. Since the 18th century, Russian composers have used folk elements in order to "indigenize" their music and to indicate their unity with the people, an operation that was propagated by official promulgations of nationalism.

However, to cultivate and dignify the Russian melodic material, professional Russian composers relied on Western compositional techniques, placing Russia squarely on the globalized map rather than ghettoizing and over-elevating its artistic and political uniqueness.4 Many contemporary composers still frame their geographically Russian art by inserting Western-style embellishments, and "exotic" versions of Western compositional techniques adorned with Russian trimmings still get exported abroad with great success. For instance, one of the works by a living Russian composer that is frequently performed both in Russia and in the West is the 8-minute-long Concerto for Orchestra no. 1 by Rodion Shchedrin, Ozornye Chastushki (Naughty Limericks). While utilizing the "low" genre of humorous and often indecent songs with primitive melodies, Shchedrin also gave a nod to Copland in the overall "people-friendly" idea of the piece. The real source of his inspiration, however, was Stravinsky's visit to Russia in 1962, the year before the piece was written; thus the made-up Russianness of Stravinsky's method that synthesized, in Richard Taruskin's words, "his country's musical traditions, both those reflective of the high literate culture and those of folklore"5 made it full circle in contemporary Russian music. Shchedrin imaginatively employed a Petrushka-enriched combo-Russian outlook that modernizes the rhythmic diversity and the colors of quasi-folk elements by combining them with Western instrumental traditions, thus attempting to refresh the potency of the Russian music brand in both Russia and the West. …

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.