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People under communism. This is a transcribed series of follow up programs based on documented evidence and expert knowledge about the power and intentions of the Soviet Union. This series is presented by the National Association of educational broadcasters in consultation with scholars from the Russian is Columbia University. The Hoover Institute and library at Stanford University and the Russian Research Center at Harvard University. The program you're about to hear music order is based on materials and counsel provided by Dr. Ernest Simmons chairman of the department of Slavic languages at Columbia University and professor of Russian literature in its Russia. My.
Doctor Ernest J Simmons has been a student of Russian literature and culture for some 20 years and has made five trips to the Soviet Union for research purposes. Here is Dr. Simmons to introduce our program on music to order. I think we would all agree that music is an art form which would seem to lend itself to political dictation. However the resolution of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the USSR in 1948 condemned the formalist tendency in Soviet music as being anti people. How can you compel music to reflect the ideology of the Soviet state. What is anti people's music and what is pro people's music. What happens to talented composers when they are compelled to write music to order. What is the nature of the machinery which the Communist Party uses to regiment music.
These and other baffling questions on the state of music and musicians will be considered in this program. Examples of Soviet music which have been accepted and then officially condemned will be played and discussed with the aid of the distinguished composers and music critics. Mr Diem's Tayla Mr Henry Cowell and Mr Nicholas slim city weary weary of. The we're listening to the will of Stalin led us by the Soviet composer Bonnell modelling another work by this composer an opera entitled The great French. Watch the match the fire the powder keg under the whole musical world of Russia in 1948. Not only was more a Delhi caught in the explosion but some of the greatest names in music today. Just a call which the coffee if such a Tory on.
Scuffs. It all started in 1947 on November 7th of that year. The Soviet Union celebrated the 30th anniversary of the revolution. Among other works especially written for the occasion was the opera the great
friendship by a Georgian composer Bonnell Delhi. The big four of Russian music however contributed little or nothing for the event. The coffee for example was too busy to be bothered. He was completing his Sixth Symphony which was to be played in Moscow on Christmas Day. It was played on Christmas Day. And was destined not to be heard again. It was denounced by the authorities as being formalised Kucha Turion wrote a symphonic poem which was also branded as formalised music. But it was the party's reaction to a mood of Delhi's opera that really touched off the furore
culminating in the decree issued by the Central Committee of the Communist Party condemning the music of almost every top composer in Russia. Here is what is meant by the term formalism as used by the Soviet authorities formalism is usually considered to denote a lack of ideas a lack of content a complete concentration on form with no reference to reality. But when we speak of formalism today we mean something entirely different. One cannot say that the works of Shostakovich but of course he is. Yes school ski Khatchadourian and others are completely divorced from life and reality or completely lacking in content. Nevertheless. These works have a strong formalised basis. We feel that there is something in these works that prevents them from penetrating simply and directly into our consciousness. When this happens it may be due not only to laziness but to a lack of
boldness and courage. Hence the tendency to imitate Western bushwah OTT and contemporary modernism. In such cases. The composer has not the strength to look at a great future straight in the face. The composer must struggle against this tendency to distort against his laziness. This lack of courage. And in this struggle you should be greatly helped by the stern but friendly cash shown him by the potting from of this it would seem that formalism is about everything the Soviet leaders don't happen to like in music. This definition is reflected in the central committee's resolution of 1948 on music the resolution begins with an attack on Malta delis opera. This opera is chaotic and inharmonious full of continuous discords which hurt one's ears. Some allegedly melodious passages are steadily broken off by noises unsuitable to normal
human hearing. The Central Committee considers that the failure mode of Delhi's opera is the result of his having followed the formalist road. A road that has been so pernicious to the works of Soviet composers. The state of affairs is particularly bad in the case of symphonic and operatic music. The Central Committee has here in mind those composers hope persistently adhered to the formalist and anti-people school a school which has found its fullest expression in the works of composers like comrades shot speck of H. Recall if you have such authority on your body and up of the Esko of ski and others their works are mocked by far less Persians anti-democratic tendencies which are alien to the Soviet people and their artistic taste eMusic savors of the present day modernist bourgeois music of England and
America. The Central Committee resolves one. To condemn the pharmas tendency and sub music as being anti-people and leading to the liquidation of music. To propose to the propaganda and agitation Department of the Central Committee of the CPSU and to the government committee. That they take the necessary steps for improving the state of affairs in Soviet music and liquidate the faults and in the present resolution. To call upon Soviet composers to become more conscious of their duties to the Soviet people and assured a great upsurge of activity which would lead to the creation of high quality works worthy of the Soviet people. This is a.. Simmons again would you have been listening to is the opening
of Shostakovich's famous 7th all Leningrad symphony. It was first performed during the war on March 1st 1942 when the temporary Soviet capital of. And it was uniformly hailed Dan as his greatest work in the Soviet Union in the United States Symphony Orchestra's vied with one another for the privilege of first performing the composition here. Now let us hear a bit more of this work for I want our musical experts who are present with us today in the studio to give us their reactions to this piece. There are Mr Diem's Taylor composer and well-known musical commentator Mr. Henry Cole the well-known American composer and Mr. Nicholas limbs who was noted as an author of books and articles on music and especially as an authority on Russian music. Now despite the unqualified praise of this symphony before the war since the
musical resolution of the Central Committee in 1948 these very passages you've heard as well as much else of this seventh symphony have been singled out by Soviet critics with a grotesque and dissonant qualities for the formalistic trend of the music and the absence of folk themes. On the basis of what you have just heard do you think this criticism justifiable Mr Diem's Tayla no archive say that I do. I think just a call which does do a great deal of experimenting which I think it is praiseworthy. And as far as the absence of Russian folk music is concerned it seems to me that the whole tendency of criticisms of this sort boil down to let's go back to Tchaikovsky. Apparently anything that shows any signs of objective writing is objectionable.
Yes but then this is mystical don't you think that after all music grows through experiment and that people appreciate the growth. Oh very definitely. Yes I think there may be a little slow to appreciated sometimes where I both agree and disagree first of all I want to point out that even at the time the first performance of the Seventh Symphony there was some criticism of its musical treatment in this Soviet Union primarily because Shostakovich seems to have been more successful with the musical characterisation of the Nazi theme rather than the Russians. The music critics not unanimously but some music critics in the Soviet Union asked this question how come this just like garbage is so much more successful in representing the enemy as true in the grotesque form and
failed to represent the grandeur of the Russian people. This was one of the early criticisms of the Seventh Symphony of Shostakovich in this Soviet Union. Well do you think that this may have had something to do with the change although there was some early criticism though do you think it's true that there's been a great deal of change in the reception even to these earlier things. And if this is true I have often wondered whether they did not at this time regard just because of it as emissary that Soviet music to the Western world and therefore condoned so to speak. It's part western influence but then later on there was an upsurge of self-containment of their own culture. And so this type of music no longer serve this purpose. Do you think that might have had anything to do with the change. Yes perhaps but the point was for us of all that the Soviet critics at that time God has just called it
less of a missionary in the West and for which they can add little even than the possible expressive. The media fought Soviet national music that far. They felt shut up represented the Russian nationality motives with perhaps greater forth. And then he did to me the musical language of Shostakovich in this election seems both effective and clear. At one time he himself apparently thought so as well as numerous Soviet musical critics. But after the 1948 victory shows the coverage appears to have changed his own mind. But he recanted. To quote I deviated in the direction of formalism and began to speak of language in comprehensible to the people. Now
when the polity in our entire nation condemned this tendency in my music I know that the party is right in full. In short you see everyone seemed to be right until the party on second thought said they were wrong in a matter of musical taste. So let us see how it was just a coverage reformed himself and began to compose in a musical language which he now believes is comprehensible to the people and the party. I should like to play for you the first movement of his song of the forest and oratory of which won a starman prize in 1949. But just because of age only one ear after this disgrace. Thought
for war. Uh. Oh I eat meat were the
pork. Ignored long or day where they who are now gentlemen you have so to speak in the selections from the Seventh Symphony of shows to coverage and the songs of the forest. The before and after of his musical history. I
wonder Mr. Carlo whether you think. Judging on the basis of the song of the forest that Western influence has been eliminated in what way is this piece employed traditional Russian. I don't know very much about traditional Russian themes but I think that it is very Western inspired. And that if I were going to do any denouncing that I should say that he uses the little formula of making third relation modulations that there are other evidences that there are still wicked Western democratic influences present in the music where some of them I should say that this contains elements of modern music in general modern Russian music stemming from Mussorgsky it's not necessarily Western music are western western influences. My contention is that no composer can absolutely
now knws the entire heritage of modern music. As a matter of fact. What we heard is the beginning of the song of the forests now things get a little bit more complicated in the subsequent moments. First it was criticised. For sticking to his own bad habits don't you think Mr. D that this does violence to the progressive musical idiom of Shostakovich. I definitely do. It certainly does violence to his musical integrity as a matter of fact it's very characteristic very interesting that several musicians after the first hearing of the song after Forest said that Shostakovich had betrayed himself and deliberately paid lip service to. They accepted new ideas in Soviet music.
Yes but if he had to continue to write in this way. What would you prophesy as to his musical future. Would you think about that Mister. Well I should say that his musical future is all in the past. He stopped being Shostakovich you know going back to rock. Or early perms. I mean he's perfectly harmless music and they speak about appealing directly to the hearts of the Russian people. Well any Russian who didn't understand that at first hearing must be tone deaf. It's just limbs. Yes I should like to introduce one little observation that after composing this song of the forests as just a call which turned about and wrote 24 Preludes and Fugues for piano for which he was roundly spanked in an official Soviet publication it was sad that just really never formed because he added to his pessimistic moods and his polyphonic.
Our tonality and various other sins so it's very interesting to observe that. So Star College seems to be a personality that he does retain some of his modernistic traditions almost alongside with this kind of thing my opinion of the song of the forest. Is that it is a mass song. I can too many works by Shostakovich that he wrote before now is perfectly clear though isn't it that he has in a real sense done better than the idiom that he has been practicing for years in his principal symphonies and in many of his other lesser works. There is no doubt about it whatsoever. He had deliberately gone back on himself. Just one house to notice that in spite of the fact that what you say is true about his having gone back on himself there are still all of these secret peeping Western musical influence still to be observed in
this. I think that in the tunes of this song in which he observes what certainly appears to be and for its simplicity that these tunes are in themselves not just a call bitches but that you can find the same tunes in the work of almost any other composer both from earlier Russian composers and from other Western composers of the former age. Therefore this is not part of Shostakovich is composition of Paul and the only places where he utilizes his prerogative as a composer to do anything about these tombs known to everybody is to use them in changes of key which are in themselves characteristic very much of Wagner and other Western composers. It would almost seem that these efforts of the Soviet musical officials are pretty hopeless at that. Western influences like murder were out in Soviet music. But let's remember that other famous Soviet composers seem to have successfully recanted their
formalistic Western sins in one style and prizes since the purification drive of 1948 for example Khatchadourian in Brooklyn if you do happen to know them is just an MC where the Judeans brilliant an original musical idiom has been sacrificed to mess intelligibility in his latest piece. Yes Khatchadourian as well as for each and to a lesser extent extent. I doubt composers have undoubtedly sacrificed their musical integrity in trying to adapt themselves to the so-called People's idiom with detail and it seems to me that in one respect the Soviet musical authorities are certainly hopelessly not Western. I mean that we'll never get together. I don't think on our standards because they've gone a step beyond our restoration now in the days of the Tsars musicians. Products were judged. By
the political aspect of the words that he happened to set to music. Now we have the spectacle of music being judged by political standards which to me is completely bewildering and I don't see how any fair appraisal of this is possible. Just as I would like to RPN rebuttal to what Mr Tate had to say about Zara's new music being devoted to a political purpose. As a matter of fact the CSAs were very much dis interested in musical progress its the Soviets that sort of step in and try to discipline and to regulate the development of music. But wouldn't you agree. Coming back to Mr. Slim city that his recantation at the time of the decree or the resolution of the Central Committee was a abject
performance from the point of view of a creative artist. The history of recantations and Soviet would almost fill a volume by now. But those in music. Particularly pitiful. I wonder whether you felt that at the famous meeting that was chaired by the late Andres Dunn of a member of the Polit Bureau. The meeting of Soviet composers in which nearly every one of prominence was given an opportunity to recant. I wonder if you don't feel that that was probably one of the greatest debacles in the whole history of Soviet music. Well I certainly feel that it was one of the greatest spectacles of human degradation. And I should like to quote one of the most extraordinary de contagions in the in the form of a letter addressed by cacciatore to the editor of a magazine that he had published. Criticism in praise
of symphonic poem by Kurt KHATCHADOURIAN Well it seems that the critic did not. Hear his praise of this poem and while the criticism was being published the poem was generally denounced by the Central Committee so Khatchadourian wrote a letter to the editor saying that the critic didn't know what he was talking about that he hadn't even seen or had the score and that he Khatchadourian had not deserved this praise that his work was very poor and the deviation from the straight line of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. This is certainly a unique document when a composer raises his voice in public in order to denounce a critic who lavished praise on him. Our program continues following a 10 second pause for station identification.
Were. You listening to people under communism. I transcribed series of follow up programs based on documented evidence and expert knowledge about the power and intentions of the Soviet Union. Materials for this program have been supplied by Dr. A.J. Simmons chairman of the department of Slavic languages at Columbia University and professor of Russian literature in its Russian Institute and associated with him here are the musical experts Mr. Deems Taylor. Mr. Henry Coll and Mr. Nicholas Here is Dr. Simmons to
continue with music to order. It doesn't seem to be much more to be said about such authority ends recantation but I suppose by all odds Brooke cookie has been one of the most individualistic of Soviet composers and one wonders Mr. Coll whether his particular genius unlike the disciplined communist genius of shows to come of age can continue to function with anything like maximum effectiveness under such rigorous control.
People under communism
Music to order, part one
Producing Organization
National Association of Educational Broadcasters
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
In the first part of this episode, the panel discusses music in the Soviet Union.
Series Description
A series of documentaries, interviews and talks based upon documented evidence and expert knowledge about the power and intentions of the Soviet Union.
Broadcast Date
Politics and Government
Music--20th century.
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Advisor: Simmons, Ernest J. (Ernest Joseph), 1903-1972
Advisor: Hoover Institute and Library on War, Revolution, and Peace
Funder: Fund for Adult Education (U.S.)
Guest: Taylor, Deems, 1885-1966
Guest: Cowell, Henry, 1897-1965
Guest: Slonimsky, Nicolas, 1894-1995
Host: Simmons, Ernest J. (Ernest Joseph), 1903-1972
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: 00:30:52
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Chicago: “People under communism; Music to order, part one,” 1952-12-21, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed September 23, 2023,
MLA: “People under communism; Music to order, part one.” 1952-12-21. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. September 23, 2023. <>.
APA: People under communism; Music to order, part one. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from