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Andrey Smirnov/Forwards to the Past
Thu 23 March 2017, 18:00 – 20:00 GMT
Despite, or perhaps partly because of, the widespread poverty, famine and hardship in 1920s Russia, a multitude of anarchists, amateur enthusiasts, artists and thinkers pushed the envelope of art, music, and film to the very limits of what was technologically possible.
The ideas and technologies that came out of this 'renaissance-against-all-odds' were far ahead of their time, and in some cases have only recently found their way into Western inter-disciplinary, improvised, and installational music practices.
The Russians experimented with graphic scores, noise orchestras, sonic light-installations, multi-media performances and VJ-ing, years before any of these practices were taken up by the European and American avant-gardes.
Andrey Smirnov, a Muscovite sound maker and researcher is the first and only one to have made the achievements of this period known in the West. His acclaimed 2008 Palais de Tokyo exhibition and subsequent book of the same title, Sound in Z have caused more than just a stir among musicians and sound artists, and the Sound | Making | Space Network are extremely excited to have persuaded Andrey to fly over to London to talk about his ongoing research on the 23rd of March. Please join us for what is guaranteed to be a horizon expanding, and mind-boggling evening with Andrey Smirnov.
This event is open to anyone, and tickets are free, but capacity is limited.
Forwards to the Past:
Russian avant-garde and the convergence of music, science, technology and politics of the 1910-50s.
This lecture by Andrey Smirnov is devoted to the forgotten pages of the history of electronic music and the role of Russia in the development of modern music technology.
The period from 1910 until the early 1930s was likely the most fruitful period in the history of sound experimentalism in Russia. Musicians turned to the study of physics; mathematicians set about mastering musical theory; and artists who had grasped the basics of acoustics worked on new methods for synthesizing and transforming sound.
The Theremin, early synthesizers, noise orchestras, ornamental and paper sound, computational methods of synthesizing sound… these were just a few of the Soviet experiments in music technology and sound art developed by the artists, actors, filmmakers and poets who created the concepts and methods that were ahead of their time by decades, offering a promising basis for future scientific and cultural development.
The revolutionary utopia of the 1920s was replaced by the totalitarian era of the 1930s–1950s. The extensive campaign to liquidate the independent creative unions and establish centralized organs for controlling the creative intelligentsia, the rapid growth of censorship and repression, the fight against "formalism" and other such changes had, by the late 1930s, put a stop to practically all experimentalism.
A new generation of Soviet inventor-engineers appeared in the cultural and informational isolation of the 1970s; unaware of their own history, which was banned and almost forgotten, they were generally preoccupied with replicating Western music technologies.
The irony of history lies in the fact that, in the light of Smirnov's research, a considerable part of these Western technologies might be seen as a result of emigration from Russia, and, not in the last instance, of the ideas of those inventors who had broken new cultural ground within the revolutionary 1920s, and which are to this day almost unknown to the world and absolutely forgotten in Russia – the country which until now did not manage to utilize any of the brilliant technical solutions, discovered by these forgotten pioneers.