5/23 Some Combinations of Freedoms and Passions: Soviet Experimental Music in the 1980s

Wednesday, 23 May, at 6 p.m., in Saieh Hall, 146, with pre-talk refreshments at 5:30 p.m.

Presentation by Peter J. Schmelz

As the Soviet Union—both expectedly and unexpectedly—neared its end, the performing practices of musicians became increasingly radical. Jazz, rock, and wide-ranging forms of improvisation mixed and meshed one with another in the music of, among others, the Ganelin Trio, Boris Grebenshchikov and Akvarium, Sergey Kuryokhin and Pop Mekhanika, and Valentina Ponomaryova. This paper explores the aesthetic and sociopolitical implications of the interconnected ties between these musicians and their varied experimentations by focusing on several audio and audiovisual artifacts, among them footage from the Ganelin Trio’s 1986 tour of the United States, Kuryokhin’s 1987 appearance with many of his friends and associates on the Soviet television program Musical Ring (Muzykal’nyi Ring), and an early 1980s collective improvisation involving Akvarium, Kuryokhin, and Ponomaryova. Drawing polystylistically on a host of models, foreign and domestic—not-quite-jazz, not-quite-rock, not-quite-classical--their liberatory, often transgressive music-making forces a reconceptualization of the Soviet 1980s and the waning days of the cultural cold war. Literal encapsulations of the actual and aspirational freedoms of the day, and peddled hard by often-astonished foreign critics, the experimental figures spurred on yet also resisted the free-ranging discussions so prized—and idealized—at the time.

Sponsored by: CEERES, the Franke Institute for the Humanities, Slavic Department, Music Department, and EthNoise!