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Music out of Noise, Light and Paper. Russia’s contribution to the history of electronic music and audio technology

Smirnov, Andrey (2016) Music out of Noise, Light and Paper. Russia’s contribution to the history of electronic music and audio technology. University of Leeds. [Dataset]

This item is part of the Alternative Histories of Electronic Music collection.

Dataset description

The following paper is devoted to Russia’s contribution to the birth of electronic music, sound synthesis and audio technology. While the 20th Century is one of the most over-documented in the history of the world, yet it seems, the history of experimental and electronic sound and music, and the impact that it has had on our culture, is largely unknown even by authoritative scholars. Much interesting and significant material from history doesn’t ever come to light, is forgotten or overlooked, whether for political or financial reasons, because stories are not well documented or simply because they are just not heard by the right people at the right time. In Russia a lot of material from the first half of the 20th Century was actively destroyed or written out of the history books as it did not fit within the Stalinist regime’s vision of what sound and music technology should be. The illustrated talk draws on materials from various Russian archives, much of which has not been seen or heard before in the West, but which throws new light on the early history of the astonishing early history of Russian electronic music and sound art. The most fertile and adventurous period in the history of sound experiments in Russia is arguably from 1910 to the late 1930s, when they were developed around avant-garde ideas. Musicians turned to the study of physics; mathematicians set about mastering musical theory; and artists who had grasped the basics of acoustics worked on new methods for synthesising and transforming sound. The talk's heroes include the artist and creator of the theory of Projectionism Solomon Nikritin, composer and theorist Arseny Avraamov - inventor of Graphic Sound and a 48-note scale; pioneering film maker Dziga Vertov, director of the Laboratory of Hearing; Vladimir Popov, inventor of Noise Orchestras and Sound Machines; Leon Theremin, inventor of the world's first electronic instrument, and others. The Theremin, early synthesizers, noise orchestras, graphical, ornamental and paper sound, syntones and audio computing,— these were just a few of the Soviet experiments in music technology and sound art developed by the artists, actors, filmmakers and poets who have created the concepts and methods, that outstripped time for decades, offering a promising basis for future scientific and cultural development. The revolutionary utopia of the 1920s was replaced by the totalitarian era of the 1930s–1950s. The rapid growth of censorship and repression, the fight against "formalism" and other such changes had, by the late 1930s, put a stop to practically all experimentalism. A new generation of Soviet inventor-engineers appeared in the cultural and informational isolation of the 1970s; unaware of their own history, which was banned and almost forgotten, they were generally preoccupied with replicating Western music technologies. The irony of history lies in the fact that, in the light of Smirnov's research, a considerable part of these Western technologies might be seen as a result of emigration from Russia, and, not in the last instance, of the ideas of those inventors who had broken new cultural ground within the revolutionary 1920s, and which are to this day almost unknown to the world and absolutely forgotten in Russia – the country which until now did not manage to utilize any of the brilliant technical solutions, discovered by these forgotten pioneers.

Subjects: W000 - Creative arts & design > W300 - Music
W000 - Creative arts & design > W300 - Music > W310 - Musicianship/performance studies > W316 - Electronic/electro-acoustic music performance
Divisions: Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures > School of Music
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Date deposited: 27 Jul 2017 19:18



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