I’m excited to be giving a talk at Cambridge University’s Faculty of Music next month (Wednesday 17 March 2021). Full abstract below. Talk will be hosted via Zoom (details for how to log-in details to be distributed via Musicology-All email list in the UK; alternatively, email me and I can forward to you).
Music on a Leash: Socialist Realism and Twentieth-Century Music
‘Awful’… ‘supporting tyranny’… ‘mammoths and mastodons’:
socialist-realist music provokes strong rejections. Original attempts to
define it lurched into prescriptive platitudes, or projections of
intention on the part of music critics; Levon Hakobian has recently
side-stepped the term altogether and refers to the ‘Big Soviet Style’
instead. This paper details the afterlife of socialist realism in the
latter half of the twentieth century, with globe-spanning examples. I
argue that socialist realism is an aesthetic in need of reappraisal, as
a trend just as important as modernism to our understanding of art music
composition since 1900. Our music histories have become stuck in the
narrative rut somewhere between Fukuyaman ‘End of History’ and Fisher’s
‘Capitalist Realism’, and we need socialist realism to get out.