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Soviet Music in a Context of Its Cultural and Political History

How did political dictatorship reveal itself in music? Could the best works by Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Myaskovsky, Khachaturyan be better comprehended in terms of compliance with state ideology, or do these works manifest a resistance against it? And why did Stalin, Khrushev and other Soviet leaders try to rule their country by means of paintings, poems, films, and symphonies? The course is aimed at establishing a systematic knowledge and understanding of music in the USSR during its entire history. Not an isolated phenomenon, Soviet music will be explored in conjunction with the social and political context of the Soviet Union. Thus, in addition to music, many other artistic and public domains will be considered such as literature, the film industry, and politics. Viewing Soviet arts from the perspectives of anterior strategies and the resultant cultural products is absolutely necessary for today’s art historians and critics to have an informed view on Soviet culture. This approach to music within the framework of ‘cultural studies’ will nonetheless involve acquaintance with the most significant music compositions on the one hand, and unique and relatively recently discovered works on the other. The course is structured according to the history of Soviet political myths; that is, the Myth of the October Revolution (reflected by Prokofiev’s Cantata for the 20th Anniversary of 1917), the Myth of the Father of Nations, the Myth of the sacred territory, and so on. Against this background, musical compositions of Prokofiev and Shostakovich, Schnittke, and Denisov, as well as examples from Soviet jazz and rock will be listened to and analyzed in oral and written ways. The material of the course is based on archival discoveries, and strongly related to the current debates on Soviet music in academic institutions and in media in the United States, Europe, and Russia.

The course is designed for music students and for everybody interested in Soviet music and culture.

Credits: 6/3

Course ID: MUS_E_200


Profile Music

Taught this semester: Yes

Complies with general requirements: No

Course Type: Elective Course

Language: English