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I don't think so because obviously the rigorous control set up certain particular spam dared such as be abidance of dissidents 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 because of the demands pre handling of 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. Heard any of it.
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 Prokofiev business that he was the only one who did not can completely outplay for you a few tunes from his work. God being the piece of the work that was written in 1950 and generally praise then you will find that it is definitely not according to who while that is not according to Soviet boy. Soviet critics sad that this is not exactly a sing about melody and this was written for a children's chorus which means that broke off it just happens that he wanted and at least he said
that he wanted to write melodically but this is not melody in the Pickwick Ian 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 Soviet against Western influences in its total postwar international policy in the field of music. Does this end of Western isms and misters on them have any basis in earlier Soviet policy. Yes. Definitely. You see this anti-west and station 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. Composed 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 Soviet masses by the fact that Tchaikovsky had written in it a wonderful requiem service to his class of nobility and therefore the proletariat listening to that wonderful funeral of 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.. Who had a great deal to do with music and policy and with more or less representative of the official point of view seems to have changed his mind about a number of western. 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 that for my extremism formalism or discord and absolute clowning. Part of the waving of my non-existent black Marseille 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 Fina then that of any other country in Western Europe or America. Would you care to comment on that kind of a generalization that leads to be 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 asked 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 whether say daily which names would it could you know 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 Perkoff you have saved 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 tonight is this giddy when I missed the tape and I said can you not accept that. In Russia. A representative of Russian music. It's you related to as that arch reactionary that hypocrite in the Hermit I am its cloud that sanctimonious parvovirus individual who has found his native heritage for us 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 way beginning with that 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 a mass intelligibility. Does that
a serious city interfere with the composer. 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 music for the people. Well they probably wouldn't. And yet it is a person and there are a great many people who have a great deal of interest and appreciation. Are there no such people in Russia. Just Islamists. Yeah I fortunately am in the possession of facts so I don't have to think. I should say that Shen bag of cross is that he act regarded as a reactionary you see how all 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 ACCI reactionary of music and man who contributes to the destruction of music rather than to the creation of new elements for a new music. Aren't the Soviets leaving out one obvious factor in the total development of music over the ages. Mr slim 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 Soviets regard 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 Nineteen forty eight kind and the post 1948 kind. Here is a melody from.
Following popular understandable to the masses. Now this kind of composition was a Democratic. Example of the famous Peter on the war. This of course has a straight melody so it was accepted by the masses. On the other
hand in the piece that broke out after 1948 that is when he was not sufficiently reformed despite the resolution of the communists in favor of this so-called Soviet melody he wrote a children's chorus in his country for peace which incidentally received the style in his melody was much more complicated and therefore criticised. The basis for peace is much more definite. It is more in the folksong tradition and therefore it was approved. Sometime very definite.
But in this case he was half crazy. This is the theme from his mind. Each 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 ob 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. 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 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 now for instance they were roundly belabored by the Central Committee of the Communist Party for guessing wrong before 1948 when they actually recommended some compositions that were later condemned later condemned for our 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 synonyms you would 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 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 put himself on the blacklist he 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 set need not write such a piece and if you would write such a piece that
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 melodically 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 symphonic music as against music.
Yes absolutely not denounced. There is no definite did not denounce the Asian. But there is criticism of Soviet composers particularly of composers like Perkoff and me as costly 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 it would not have written eight so not as miscast people who have written twenty seven symphonies etc. etc.. Let's get back to this question of melodious Innes something of which was brought out in. Passage from the Song of the forest of Shostakovich. Now 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 than some of the more difficult pieces in shows to cover which is symphonies or for that matter some of the works of Prokofiev of 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 to know 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 record press and I think it 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 under Tell it to a person whose musical mentality never went beyond that particular. Shostakovich piece. In a recent issue of a Soviet magazine the Soviets. 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 fondness 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 doing now you have ski Who is that holder of the Order of Lenin and Stalin prizes and so forth are played. That went out about 1898. Yeah well I mean in the cellar they had 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 things 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 a 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 bobs from a song written in 1942 which none of our listeners will fail to recognize such authority in Saber Dance. Or Leon. Nerve. 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 composes 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 old 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 with is and died and so will the greatness of Soviet music wither and die under the sweeping controls of the Communist Party. Or a yard. Sale in. Or of. Our law. You have just heard music to order one in a transcribed series of programs. People under communism. Based on documented evidence and expert knowledge about the power and intentions of the Soviet Union. Materials for this broadcast was supplied by Dr Ernest J Simmons chairman of the department of Slavic languages at Columbia University. The series as a whole was prepared in
consultation with scholars from the Russian Research Center at Harvard University. The Hoover Institute and library at Stanford University and the Russian Institute of Columbia University. Guest on this program where Mr. Composer and well-known musical commentator. Mr. Henry Cowell well-known American composer and Mr. Nicholas London noted authority on Russian music. This program was produced and directed by Frank. These programs are prepared and distributed by the National Association of educational broadcasters and are made possible under a grant from the fund for adult education an independent organization established by the Ford Foundation. This is the end he betakes network.
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People under communism
Music to order, part two
Producing Organization
National Association of Educational Broadcasters
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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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.
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.
Media type
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: 00:30:57
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Chicago: “People under communism; Music to order, part two,” 1952-12-21, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed July 13, 2024,
MLA: “People under communism; Music to order, part two.” 1952-12-21. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. July 13, 2024. <>.
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