Music for the Revolution: Musicians and Power in Early Soviet Russia by Amy NelsonMusic for the Revolution: Musicians and Power in Early Soviet Russia by Amy Nelson

Music for the Revolution: Musicians and Power in Early Soviet Russia

byAmy Nelson

Paperback | February 24, 2010

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Mention twentieth-century Russian music, and the names of three "giants"—Igor Stravinsky, Sergei Prokofiev, and Dmitrii Shostakovich—immediately come to mind. Yet during the turbulent decade following the Bolshevik Revolution, Stravinsky and Prokofiev lived abroad and Shostakovich was just finishing his conservatory training. While the fame of these great musicians is widely recognized, little is known about the creative challenges and political struggles that engrossed musicians in Soviet Russia during the crucial years after 1917. Music for the Revolution examines musicians’ responses to Soviet power and reveals the conditions under which a distinctively Soviet musical culture emerged in the early thirties.

Given the dramatic repression of intellectual freedom and creativity in Stalinist Russia, the twenties often seem to be merely a prelude to Totalitarianism in artistic life. Yet this was the decade in which the creative intelligentsia defined its relationship with the Soviet regime and the aesthetic foundations for socialist realism were laid down. In their efforts to deal with the political challenges of the Revolution, musicians grappled with an array of issues affecting musical education, professional identity, and the administration of musical life, as well as the embrace of certain creative platforms and the rejection of others. Nelson shows how debates about these issues unfolded in the context of broader concerns about artistic modernism and elitism, as well as the more expansive goals and censorial authority of Soviet authorities.

Music for the Revolution shows how the musical community helped shape the musical culture of Stalinism and extends the interpretive frameworks of Soviet culture presented in recent scholarship to an area of artistic creativity often overlooked by historians. It should be broadly important to those interested in Soviet history, the cultural roots of Stalinism, Russian and Soviet music, and the place of music and the arts in revolutionary change.

Amy Nelson is Associate Professor of History at Virginia Tech. Amy Nelson is Associate Professor of History at Virginia Tech.
Title:Music for the Revolution: Musicians and Power in Early Soviet RussiaFormat:PaperbackDimensions:346 pages, 9 × 6.07 × 0.88 inPublished:February 24, 2010Publisher:Penn State University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0271031069

ISBN - 13:9780271031064

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Table of Contents


List of Illustrations

List of Musical Examples

Preface and Acknowledgments


1. Bread, Art, and Soviet Power: Musicians in Revolution and Civil War

2. The Peculiarities of the Soviet Modern: NEP Culture and the Promotion of “Contemporary” Music

3. The Three Faces of the Musical Left

4. Of “Cast-Off Barroom Garbage” and “Bold Revolutionary Songs”: The Problem of Popular Music, 1923–1926

5. Politics and Patronage: State Agencies and the Development of Cultural Policy During NEP

6. “Training Future Cadres”: Modernization and the Limits of Reform at the Moscow Conservatory

7. The Music of 1927: Commemorating the Tenth Anniversary of the Revolution and the Centennial of Beethoven’s Death

8. Cultural Revolution



Works Cited


Editorial Reviews

“Amy Nelson’s important monograph tackles the Soviet musical establishment head-on and is an innovative model of sustained analytical engagement with music as a historical source.”

—Karen Petrone, American Historical Review