Russian Cultural Studies: An Introduction

By Catriona Kelly; David Shepherd | Go to book overview

5
Music in the Socialist State

ANNA FERENC


Modernism and Proletkul׳t, 1921-1932

In discussing initial musical developments under proletarian dictatorship in Russia, one must distinguish between the political structuring of the art on the one hand and, on the other, actual music-making. From the political point of view, the year 1921marks a relatively significant victory for the state in its bid for more control in the cultural arena once the autonomous and in part reactionary forces of the Proletkul׳t had been disbanded in October 1920. However, the absence of a clear ideological programme for the proletarianization of music, confusion over the abstract nature of the art, and the need to rely on fellow-travellers for leadership allowed for the continuation of agendas that had existed before 1921and, in some respects, even before 1917. This situation combined with improvement in economic conditions under the New Economic Policy (NEP) and Lenin's position that 'cultural problems cannot be solved as quickly as political and military problems'1to yield a musical eclecticism that would play itself out only on the eve of the next decade.

Western scholarship has traditionally acknowledged that music thrived under NEP despite various material shortages. The period has generally been associated with 'a lessening of revolutionary militancy, a relaxation of ideological tensions [and] a greater permissiveness in matters of musical taste and style'. 2For example, with the resumption of Western contacts interrupted since 1914, the NEP period saw a re-emergence of activities reminiscent of the pre-Revolutionary Evenings of Contemporary Music. These were concerts in St Petersburg

-109-

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