Term Paper: Ups and Downs of Russian

Pages: 4 (1139 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Music  ·  Buy This Paper


[. . .] He defined how "social realism" should be applied to the music composed so there would be no misunderstanding. "Social realism' meant highly conventional premodernist forms and a banal, propagandistic content, avoiding any critical treatment of actuality (as in Western 'realist' arts) and instead depicting what Soviet life was supposed to be or would someday be" (Daniels 181-182).

In other words, "music was to follow the traditional (that is, nineteenth century) forms and the content was expected to be optimistic and hortatory. Pessimism, introspection, and serious social criticism -- not to mention religious subjects and political dissent -- were firmly repressed" (Daniels 311).

Stalin had squelched creativity and individuality and traded those things for the heroic classics.

Dmitry Shostakovitch lost favor with Stalin when he composed his opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, which vividly portrayed the position of women in pre-revolutionary Russia. Women were regarded very highly back in those days, as were the three empresses who were mentioned in this paper. Shostakovitch's opera was banned in 1936 for its "jarring, irritating, and affected intonations" (Spector 518). Shostakovitch redeemed himself by composing the Fifth Symphony two years later. After that, he was in hot water again when he composed the Eighth Symphony because of its "subversive ideological content" (Gunther 412).

After the Stalin years, the strict guidelines relaxed and creative freedom was loosened. Leadership did continue to frown on foreign influences and did continue to encourage social realism, but they allowed outside musicians, such as the Boston Symphony Orchestra and American violinist Isaac Stern, to entertain the Russian masses.

Phonograph records were available and in demand, but the Russians wanted more music. They had an insatiable appetite for music. Black market prices for American jazz was extraordinary, an average of one hundred dollars for a single record. The black market recordings "were taken on tape from Voice of America or other broadcasts, and then reproduced on discs made of discarded X-ray plates salvaged from the hospital (Gunther 322).

Enter Mikhail Gorbachev and perestroika in March 1985. His idea was to toss out the old method of doing things and usher in a new way. The feeling of freedom spread everywhere and it spread into music as well.

Here is an example of a political song that used to be sung secretly, but with Gorbachev reforms, it could be sung out loud:

Grass is green there And Stalin's eagles

Eat shish kebab and fine chocolates

Behind seven fences.

Bodyguards and informants

Protect them from the people.

They make us watch films

About factories and collective farms

And at night, they watch imported films about whores,

And they like Marilyn Monroe" (Smith 108).

Here is another example of a political song that was created in the Gorbachev era and sung out loud:

Perestroika, perestroika

Our new GenSek [Party Leader],

Powerful or not,

Goes from one unfinished stroika [construction site] to another.

The dumbfounded foreigners are naive about him, my brothers.

The foreign serenaders sing and toast to Russia" (Smith 108).

The Russians had almost an entire century of repressed creativity in music and the arts in their tumultuous and difficult history. The time has come for the Russians to create.

Works Cited

Daniels, Robert V. Russia: The Roots of Confrontation. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1985.

Gunther, John. Inside Russia Today. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1958.

Smith, Hedrick. The New Russians.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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