27 Nov 2009 - 28 Nov 2009 All day CRASSH, 17 Mill Lane, Cambridge


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Marina Frolova-Walker (Faculty of Music, University of Cambridge)
Pauline Fairclough (Department of Music, University of Bristol)

Conference summary

In recent years, and particularly since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the lifting of access restrictions in Soviet archives, the study of the relationship between the arts and power structures during the Soviet period has broadened and deepened considerably. Notably, the results of recent research have been diverging ever further from the top-down model of Soviet control over the arts that prevailed during the Cold War period. Archival research has revealed much more complex power structures, an intricate web of official and unofficial networks and convoluted patterns of patronage. This research has also uncovered the broad collective input into the construction of the ideology that shaped the arts during the Stalin period, and it has radically changed our perception of how musical works were produced, performed and received.

It was in 1948 that music was singled out for special attention, when the infamous “anti-formalist” Party Resolution was passed, denouncing leading composers (including Prokofiev and Shostakovich), banning their works, and spreading a wave of ideological repression across the whole of Soviet cultural landscape and beyond, to the countries that were to become the Eastern Bloc. While this had long been viewed as a straightforward imposition of Stalin’s fiat on powerless musicians, even this apparently classic “top-down” event has also recently been reconceived as the outcome of much more intricate power games, and much of the impetus arose from long-standing tensions within the musical world itself. The conference aims to extend and refine this conception, and also to understand the Resolution not as an isolated event but to locate it within the shifting web of relationships between music and the bureaucracy.

The conference will bring together internationally renowned scholars who vary in their disciplinary backgrounds, methodologies and choice of source materials. It is expected largely to draw a mixture of musicologists, historians, and cultural scholars. 1948 will serve as the main focus, and several panels will be devoted to the causes of the Resolution, its historical and political background, its impact on the composers directly criticised, and its broader implications for musical life in the Soviet Union and beyond. We hope to see a special emphasis on the various institutions that participated in the debacle, or suffered from it, but the conference will also feature a series of more personal perspectives, building up a broader view of how this specifically musical event fits into the landscape of late Stalinism.

However, the remit of the conference is much broader than this and papers will cover the span from the 1920s to the 1970s, venturing into folk and popular music and popular culture in general aside from the obvious area of high-art music, and papers will address wider historiographical, sociological, theoretical and philosophical issues pertaining to the conference topic.

Delegate notice

Conference delegates can find information about accommodation in Cambridge at the following URLs:
NB. CRASSH is not able to help with the booking of delegate accommodation.

Administrative help: Samuel Mather (Conference Programme Manager, CRASSH)



Tel: +44 1223 766886
Email enquiries@crassh.cam.ac.uk