April/May Update – QMUL talk and book reviews

Here’s a few updates on my recent and upcoming activities.

First of all, I’m giving a talk on ‘The Paradoxes of Socialist-Realist Music’ at QMUL on 12 May, as part of their ‘Translation, Transmission, and Cultural Transfer’ seminar series.

Abstract as follows:

‘There is a considerable body of work on socialist realism in literature, art, and cinema, but comparatively little in music. As one of the more abstract artforms, music proved a difficult candidate for the application of socialist realist ideas. This led to complex discussions and debates between Soviet composers which has left a thorny legacy for modern scholars who wish to examine the topic. Recent work has attempted to understand the aesthetic in a musical sense, either as ‘bland’ (Frolova-Walker), or as a type of ‘middlebrow’ (Fairclough). Russian scholarship has recently opted for the term ‘the Big Soviet style’ instead (Vorob’yov; Hakobian). In this paper, I outline some of the challenges for studying music composed under socialist realism, but also argue the case for the necessity of studying this repertoire. The fact that socialist realism in music was really more of a mode of discourse rather than a musical style has the potential to offer lessons about our attitudes to music history and wider cultural consumption in the present day.’

Reviews

In completely different news, two extremely kind reviews for Music Behind the Iron Curtain have come out in the last few weeks. The first from Bogumila Mika in The Russian Review: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/russ.12315

‘Elphick is a young English scholar and it may be hoped that this book—written with insight and care—marks the beginning of a promising career.’

The second review is by Beata Bołeslawska-Lewandowska in Transposition: https://journals.openedition.org/transposition/5851

‘The powerful music and fascinating biography engagingly described by the author, make this book recommended reading for anyone interested in the music created behind the Iron Curtain.’

Cult of Musicology

Finally, Cult of Musicology, my YouTube channel-experiment in public musicology, continues to gather pace, now including a rather active twitter account: https://twitter.com/MusicologyOf Still accepting submissions/ideas for video topics, or collaborating on a video!

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