thumbnail of People under communism; Music to order, part two
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
It doesn't seem to be much more to be said about such authority ends recantation but I suppose by all odds broke curfew has been one of the most individualists DIC of Soviet composers and one wonders as to whether his particular gene is unlike the discipline communist genius of Shostakovich can continue to function with anything like maximum effectiveness under such rigorous control. I don't think so because obviously the rigorous control set up certain particular spam DEARDS such as the avoidance of dissonance as being something that wouldn't be suitable for people to listen to. And it seems to me that the natural style of just a call bit because of the demands pre handling dissonance and possibly that if left to his own devices without the support of the central party and their firm rulings on this subject that he might even have dabbled in out tonality.
Who knows but obviously he can't hope to retain his position as a professional composer and still do that under the present circumstances in Russia. Of course I myself unfortunately haven't heard any of the post 1948 music of record so I'm not in a position to say whether or not he has changed in his medium in the face of the resolution of the Central Committee. Have you by any chance Mr Williams heard any of you. Oh yes I have heard and fact I have the music of some of his post Nineteen forty eight compositions Now what strikes me in the whole profit business that he was the only one who did not recant completely out play for you a few tunes from his work. God being the piece of work that was written in 1950 and generally praised then you will find that
it is definitely not according to who while that is not according to Soviet boy. Soviet critics said that this is not exactly a sing about melody and this was written for a children's chorus which means that Brokaw just can't help himself he wanted and at least he said that he wanted to write melodically but this is not melody in the Pickwick sense I mean in the Soviet sense. Well it seems clear that the campaign an anti-Western ism in Soviet music since 1948 is simply a part of the vast Soviet against Western influences in its total postwar international
policy in the field of music. Does this and Western isms and Mr. Slims have any basis in earlier Soviet policy. Yes definitely. You see this anti-Western education in the Soviet Union was purely a product of the rising nationalism in the Soviet Union. See they accepted more of their old composers again. May I tell very briefly the story of Tchaikovsky's acceptance you see in the early years of the revolution Tchaikovsky was regarded as a pessimistic. Not suitable for consumption by the proletarian masses. In fact the first minister of education developed a very ingenious theory. He explained the success symphony of Tchaikovsky among the masses by the fact that Tchaikovsky had
written in it a wonderful Requiem. This here is a class of nobility and therefore the proletariat listening to that wonderful funeral the enemy class obviously enjoyed the symphony. I was wondering if perhaps we couldn't speak about a change of policy there because at one time Mr. Schnur who had a great deal to do with music and policy with more or less representative of the official point of view seems to have changed his mind about a number of westerners. There was a time for instance when my own music was praised by him. I was referred to as being among the most promising composers in this country which at this time was meant as a harsh criticism. Then later on it would appear that devote myself entirely to making money with the aid of Wall
Street and for my extremism. Formalism pure discord and absolute clowning. Part of the waving of my non-existent black Marcelle blocks that I get paid huge sums of money from Wall Street which of course means that I am no longer a promising composer. All of which reminds me Mr. Taylor that the Soviets of course in their recent pronouncements on music have been naturally rather partial to their own compositions as a matter of fact I have heard it said that over the last 35 years the Soviets have produced perhaps the finest volume of music finer than that of any other country in Western Europe or America. Would you care to comment on that kind of a generalization that leaves me a little bewildered.
I can't believe that Soviet Russia in the last 35 years has turned out more fine music than any other country. I don't know that I have any huge volume of facts to back me up. But in my opinion that is not so. Well if you were US for example to indicate the most popular composers let's leave American composers for the moment out of it from Russia or Western Europe that are now played on our radios let us say daily which means what it could to you is the most popular. Well I'm afraid you have me there I'd say. Cacciatore and some of Shostakovich and certainly a good deal of hope of Prokofiev's music. I think Coffee saves his figurative neck by the fact that his natural idiom is much less drastic than that of Shostakovich. It's rather
square toed in diatonic and in comparison with Shostakovich. On the other hand one very great composer who was a Russian. But I don't know whether he's accepted by the Soviet Union or not and that is Stravinsky. This went on Mr. Taylor I said can you not accept that in Russia as a representative of Russian music. It's you related to. That reactionary that hypocrite in the hermit than I am it's loud. That sanctimonious perverse individual who has renounced his native heritage first became a Frenchman and then drifted to that country. Best capitalists in the United States. And then of course Wall Street again comes into play here and now with Stravinsky I can
state definitely that every work beginning with the truth is out. That Stravinsky is accused of betraying the teaching he received from Rimsky-Korsakov. So Stravinsky is regarded as the arch enemy musically speaking of Russian music but it has always underlined that he had talent and even genius up to nineteen hundred and nine in the midst of it appears that Soviet musical officials feel that music should have a mass appeal. And I wonder whether you feel that if music has too. Key to what you might call mass intelligibility does that seriously interfere with the composer's own. Oh I think it very very seriously and very emphatically does interfere. Because what it boils down to is that he must write music only such music
as will have. Immediate acceptance by a musically illiterate audience. Well that's true enough. That music can be good and still have immediate acceptance but it doesn't necessarily mean. That that's the only kind of music is good or that will eventually be accepted. I think they. The Soviets leave no margin for music for any growth in appreciation of music. If everything must be a tune. Rather than a theme. Music will remain static. It allows no room for experimentation either in content or in form. Wondering very much whether people really like music all alike all the time. You know to think that the person who decides what people like usually think they only like one thing whereas people really like a very wide variety of things.
I wonder then what is music. Which is all of the people input is music which could possibly be opposed to the people in it. Certainly the Soviets would not regard as music for the people. Well they probably wouldn't. And yet as a person and there are a great many people who have a great deal of interest in and appreciation are there no such people in Russia. Yeah I fortunately am in the possession of facts so I don't have to think. I should say that Shan bag of cross is react regarded as a reactionary you see. How are our ideas about reaction and progressiveness are fairly wild forest in the Soviet Union had been articles one article after another about the Schanberg as an arch reactionary of music and man who contributes to the destruction of music rather than to the creation of new
elements and new music. Aren't the Soviets leaving out one obvious factor in the total development of music over the ages. Mr Slims is it not true. I presume it is true that any given moment in the development of composers over the centuries his music when initially if he were a great composer when initially played has always represented a certain degree of unintelligibility to the mass audience. Yes you could put it in a better way. As a matter of fact. It is now my immediate occupation to publish a lexicon of musical invective which I have compiled and which cites criticisms and very harsh violent criticisms of composers beginning with Beethoven. Every great composer was regarded as a destroyer of established values. Well I must listen to a great deal of Soviet music and I'm
frankly mystified as to what they consider and people and music that is intelligible to the masses of people. Maybe you could shed some light on this mystery. Perhaps I can I will simply play for you some pieces based on natur are folk song melodies which the Soviet city God as a democratic music that is pro-people music and then melodies that are more artificial that is modern melodies melodies which the Soviets regard as anti-people and I will illustrate the one kind the pre 1948 kind and the post 1948 kind. Here is a melody from. Which was written before and which was that he was following the popular idiom that is the
idiom understandable to the masses. Written at about the same time abounds in all kinds of strange melodic lines. Now this kind of composition was a god anti-democratic anti-people. Here is an example of the famous Peter in the war match. This of course has a straight melody so it was accepted by the masses. On the other
hand in the piece that Prokofiev wrote after 1948 that is when he was not sufficiently reformed despite the resolution of the Communist body in favor of this so-called Soviet melody he wrote a children's chorus in his country on God for peace which incidentally received the Stalin prize and there his melody was much more complicated and therefore criticised. The base contact for peace by Perkoff here is much more straightforward confined to a definite. It is more in the folksong tradition and therefore it was approved.
Sometimes I wrote very definite in its rhythm but somewhat in its tonality. Well in this case he was half crazed half. This is the theme from his march march for a band written about nineteen forty. You know it seems to me that this mother knows best to love the Central Committee. Conveys the most contempt for the musical intelligence of the masses. These men who tell composers what to write. Pretend to be have the masses what they mean is I am the masses and I don't like that piece so I'm going to call it anti people. After all. If Beethoven and Bach and Brahms and Schumann and Mozart
survive. The people who have kept them alive have not been any central committee or any group of music critics. It's the so-called masses those composers live today because people want to hear them. Isn't it also true Mr. Taylor that the masses of people have been increasingly delighted by the very music which has a priest received a great deal of criticism for the very element of modernity and dissonance notably definitely. Take a simple work like the afternoon of a phone which was hissed in 1892 and now it's almost childishly simple. Yes one that is often the musical people isn't it. Defn doesn't Mr Calder say that. After all must be static all retrogressive now no literary artist would think if he were writing anything of the nature of epic poetry today that he would necessarily have to go back to
the epic poetry of Homer Virgil. Does it not amount to the impoverishment of the development of music to institute a systems of control which demands that the composer take his models from the past. This seems to me not only very obvious but also something that we are able to persuasively. Perhaps in this country because here perhaps we will have a commission for a piece of music and we aspire to please the person who gives the commission. But if in general we have final disagreement then we're free to try to obtain a commission from some other person. Perhaps the situation could be resolved into saying if we don't like to see a centralized control from which there is no escape we'll bring up actually the whole question of how these control operate in the Soviet Union.
And I've often wondered exactly how a composer in the light of a centralized control of this sort gets his work into publication and also into playing before the public. Perhaps you could give us some notions of just how this is done where this is done through the Union of Soviet composers Now of course the Union of Soviet composers. Contains clique's like any union any place and they are also changing trends. Sometimes they guess wrong. For instance they were roundly belabored by the Central Committee of the Communist Party for guessing wrong before 1948 when they actually recommended. Compositions that were later condemned later condemned for. A style in a crisis. So. The thing is done through this entirely professional organisation and they
are trying to guess what this so-called masses want or as Mr. Taylor correctly put it what the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union wants as being a representative of the masses. What about the composer who doesn't conform. Mr. Sloan and what actually happens to him composers who don't conform don't exist because in order to exist that is physical existence. Otherwise one has to conform. Try to write a piece in the Soviet Union and then the system would simply have to do it in his own attic and never show it to anybody because it would be a hopeless and the date and he would only put himself on the black list you could get a nice job in a coal mine. Now I doubt even that. I think it was just quiet or you would just quietly starve and the chances are that
you would certainly not write such a piece and if you would write such a piece that it's absolutely non-conformist it would not show to anybody. I have read somewhere that. The union of composers undertakes to tell a given composer in what form his next composition will be that they will say well you have written four string quartets now you gotta lay off string quartets and run over to her. Well I think this is a slight exaggeration. They urged composers to write melodic and whatever this word may mean and the Central Committee urges the Union of Soviet composers and the Union of Soviet composers urged themselves because they are the composers to write core art pieces to write for voice rather than to write fog for the instruments. Is there a disposition to. Denounced instrumental or symphonic music as against
music. Yes absolutely not denounced. There is no definite did not denounce the ation but there is criticism of Soviet composers particularly of composers like Perkoff and scoff Skee and to some extent that they failed to write vocal music which is supposed to be the most natural form of self-expression in music and is also the most restrictive. Very true. So here we have a struggle there but I don't believe it would be accurate to say that the Union of Soviet composers actually prescribe the form of a composition otherwise pre-coffee it would not have written it so not as may have caused people to have written twenty seven symphonies etc. etc.. Let's get back to this question of melodious Innes something of which was brought out in a passage from the Song of the forest of Shostakovich. No I would like to submit to all of you musicians
here whether or not that piece would not appeal to the average American public. More so let us say then some of the more difficult pieces in shows to cover which is symphonies for that matter. Some of the works of Prokofiev even before the 1948 decree what would you think of that Mr. Taylor. Oh I think that you're quite right that that piece would have a more immediate acceptance than something written in a more complicated or sophisticated form. Of course what they call. Melodious we would call it and they want tunes at any cost. But I think they overlook one thing and that is that what the average man will stand for. Does not mean that he might might not like something a lot better if he had a chance to hear it. And under this system there
is very little possibility of his being allowed to hear any music that is at all debatable. As And as you said before an art must progress or retrogress And I think it is carried to its logical conclusion there could be no such thing as a symphony because a symphony is based not on tunes but on themes. And could be entirely unintelligible to a person whose musical mentality never went beyond that particular. Shostakovich piece in a recent issue of a Soviet magazine Soviet. There has been a demand for what they call variety music and they make a distinction I sometimes think are rather specious distinction between their conception of writing music and our conception of jazz. Actually I've been under the impression that there's been a real fun for jazz in the Soviet Union and one of the more difficult tasks the music the leaders have. Had today in the Soviet
Union is to agitate against American jets. I wonder if you feel that this matter of variety music is again a concession to jazz music in America. Mr. Simmons Well I would leave it as a concession to popular music. I would not modify your statement that just so as to say that it's a concession toward the American type of sentimental ballad. However there was some jazz in Russia years ago. What kind of jazz it is you can hear from a little from a song that's supposedly a. Jazz song called Song About Love by now you ask is that whole diary of the Order of Lenin and Stalin prizes and so forth are played. That went out about 1898. Yeah well that's what I mean and so they
swapped Soviet jazz about 1935 but even this form of Soviet Jazz went out of existence. It seems to me that only by the various efforts have the Russians prevented American jazz from becoming popular among their own people. They have actually done the opposite of what they claim to do by preventing the people from making a selection of the thing that would be popular with them if the acceptance of jazz music elsewhere in the world isn't a criteria for what goes for popular music in the Soviet Union is the sentimental ballad. Well here is a sample of popular sentimental ballad 1949.
It sounds like a bad Stephen Foster. Of course some Soviet music also becomes popular music in the United States. We can conclude our discussion of Soviet music with a few bugs from a song written in 1942 which none of our listeners will fail to recognize such authority in Saber Dance. Little her leader. Are you. A little nervous.
No one would deny that talented Soviet composers have created music that has won widespread acceptance wherever music is appreciated but most of these pieces were composed in the early and middle periods of the Soviet regime when the Communist Party was less disposed to interfere in the arts. It is the sense of this discussion you have just heard however that of late and particularly since the 1948 resolution of the Central Committee on music that Soviet composers are being compelled in the name of the people to bow to rigid party controls on the form and thematic content of the music they write. But it is the all powerful party and not the people which determines what is anti people's music and what is pro people's music. The discussion has further brought out how destructive these controls have become how they force the free soaring spirit of the original genius into the mediocrity of
conformity the creative mind cannot be restricted to set forms and themes or to a pattern of ideas beliefs and loyalties prescribed by a political party. Under such compulsion art with is and died and so will the greatness of Soviet music wither and die under the sweeping controls of the Communist Party are lured. Into a yard. Or lured. Into it. You have just heard music to order one in a transcribed series of all our programs. People under communism. Based on documented evidence and expert knowledge about the power and intentions of the Soviet Union. Materials for this broadcast were supplied by Dr Ernest J Simmons chairman of the department of Slavic
People under communism
Music to order, part two
Producing Organization
National Association of Educational Broadcasters
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-222r8m5r).
Episode Description
In the second part of this episode, the panel discusses music in the Soviet Union, including the music of Sergei Prokofiev, Igor Stravinsky, and Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky.
Other Description
A series of documentaries, interviews and talks based upon documented evidence and expert knowledge about the power and intentions of the Soviet Union.
Politics and Government
Music--20th century.
Media type
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Advisor: Simmons, Ernest J. (Ernest Joseph), 1903-1972
Guest: Taylor, Deems, 1885-1966
Guest: Cowell, Henry, 1897-1965
Guest: Slonimsky, Nicolas, 1894-1995
Producing Organization: National Association of Educational Broadcasters
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 52-38-2 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 01:04:23
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “People under communism; Music to order, part two,” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed August 9, 2022,
MLA: “People under communism; Music to order, part two.” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. August 9, 2022. <>.
APA: People under communism; Music to order, part two. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from