Sound Experiments in The Russian Avant-Garde (1908-1942)

Dziga Vertov (1896-1954)

Enthusiasm! (1930)
  1. Excerpt 1
  2. Excerpt 2
  3. Excerpt 3
  4. Excerpt 4
  5. Excerpt 5
  6. Excerpt 6
  7. Excerpt 7
  8. Excerpt 8
  9. Excerpt 9
  10. Excerpt 10

Original soundtrack excerpts, recorded in 1929-30, 26'30".

Written and directed (composed) – Dziga Vertov
Sound – P. Shtro
Sound-Recording Station – Timartsev, Chibisov, Khariyonov & Molchanov
Recorded – Shorin System
Additional Music – Donbassa March by Timofeyev
Produced – Ukrainfilm Kiev Film Studio, 1930
Extracts taken from the DVD Entuziazm (Sinfonia Donbassa), Osterreichisches Filmmuseum 2005

Enthusiasm! The Dombass Symphony (1930) is possibly Dziga Vertov's most revolutionary achievement: a symphony of abstract industrial noise for which a specially designed giant mobile recording system was constructed (it weighed over a ton) in order to capture the din of mines, furnaces and factories. For Vertov, the introduction of sound film didn't mean talkies, but the opportunity to collage, montage and splice together constructions of pure environmental noise.

Denis Arkadievitch Kaufman (b. Bialyskov, Poland 1986 - d. Moscow 1954) adopted the name Dziga Vertov as an adolescent; a futurist pseudonym loosely translated as "spinning top". He studied piano, violin and psychoneurology, at the same time writing poetry and recording natural sounds with a phonograph for his Laboratory of Hearing (1916). By 1918, he had begun to work w ith cinema and - with his future wife Elisaveta Svilova - created the group Kinoks [Kino-Eye]. Concentrating on documentary films, they championed "what the eye doesn't see" . Between 1925 and 1929, he developed the idea of Radio-Pravda [Radio-Truth] and Radio-Ear (from "I hear"). With the beginning of sound cinema (1929- 30), he began at once to apply his ideas on the importance of sound, imagining his new film as a "sound and visual documentary" . The first difficulty he encountered was how to record sound in exterior locations since no adequate technology existed at the time. To solve this problem, he turned to the staff in the laboratory run by Dr. Shorin, a scientist and inventor who had created the first "cinematic sound" system in Russia. From them he commissioned the construction of the world's first-ever mobile "sound recording station " (Vertov believed that the m icrophone should be able also to "walk" and "run " ). Once built, Vertov launched what he called an "assault on sounds" in the Ukranian industrial complex of the Dombass coal mines. This was not only "cerebral " but also "muscular" work, since the equipment weighed about 2800 pounds and there were no available means of transport. Vertov said that to capture the sounds they worked "in an environment of din and clanging , amidst fire and iron, through factory workshops vibrating with sound", getting all the equipment onto trains and descending into the mines. Some of the recordings turned out to be defective as a result of the excessive physical vibration experienced during takes, and it became necessary to modify the original plan for the film's final edit. Although there was no sound-editing table and although the sounds were recorded onto the same track as the images, Vertov didn't settle for having the picture synched with the sound. He wanted to create a "complex interaction between sound and image", and worked over "fifty days and fifty nights under maximum tension", to combine and re-arrange the industrial sounds and the shouts and songs of the miners as they struggled to achieve the production challenges of the Five Year Plan - the film's theme. The score, co-written by Vertov and the composer limofeyev, sometimes simultaneously brings together musical writing and the roar of motor noise, in the same way that the composer Alexander Mossolov did when he introduced a 'metal sheet' into the score of his orchestral work Zavod, Symphony of the Machines - Steel Foundry (1926-28, track 11-Pt2). After its premiere, the film was criticized for a number of reasons, above all for its anti-academic approach to the treatment of music. Accordiing to Vertov, "everything which is not 'sharp' or 'flat', in a word, everything which does not 'do-re-mi-fa-so-lize' was unconditionally labelled 'cacophony' by the critics. Indeed, the fi lm was variously called "anti-formalist", "anti-newsreel" or "anti-film"; a "theory of caterwauling" was proposed, the film's soundtrack being described as a "Concert of Caterwauling" . In contrast, the film was considerably better appreciated in the west. After a screening in 1931, Charlie Chaplin said "I would never have believed it possible to assemble mechanical noises to create such beauty. One of the most superb symphonies I have known. Dziga Vertov is a musician".

Radio-Ear / Radio-Pravda (1916)

  1. Radio-Ear / Radio-Pravda (1925)

Radio project, 1925, 2'56"
Directed By [Sound Re-creation] – Miguel Molina, 2006
Recording – Soundtrack-film "Enthusiasm!" by Dziga Vertov, 1930
Extracts taken from the DVD Entuziazm (Sinfonia Donbassa), Osterreichisches Filmmuseum 2005

In Dziga Vertov's ambition to "explore life", the latest technical inventions arising from the industrial revolution were employed with the intention both of""discovering and revealing the truth", and placing a revolutionary weapon in the hands of the workers. All this led him to create the Kino-eye [what the eye cannot see], Radio-Pravda [Radio-Truth] and Radio-ear [I hear]. Through radio, he attempted to establish auditory communication across the whole of the world's proletariat by way of recording the sounds of workplaces a nd of Iife itself, captu red without preparation (a kind of 'factory of facts'). These would subsequently be broadcast across a network of radio stations, making possible the mutual" listening" and" understanding" of all workers, regardless of their cultural origins. All these ideas were expressed in his manifesto Radio-Pravda (1925):

We defend agitation by facts, not only concerning sight, but also and in the same measure, concerning hearing. How could we establish an auditory relationship across the whole frontline of the world's proletariat? (...) Once organised and set- up, the presentation of any sound recording may easily be broadcast in the form of Radiopravda. It is therefore possible to establish, in all the radio stations, a proportion of radio-dramas, radio-concerts and news 'taken directly from the life of the peoples of different countries. Something that acquires fundamental importance for radio is the 'radio-journal - free of paper and distance (Lenin) - rather than broadcasting Carmen, Rigoletto, romances, etc., with which our radio-broadcasting began. (...) Against 'artistic cinema', we oppose Kino-Pravda and Kino-eye; against 'artistic broadcasting', we oppose Radio-Pravda and Radio-Ear. (...) And it will not be through opera or theatre representations that we will prepare. We will be intensely ready to offer proletarians from all countries the possibility of seeing and hearing the whole of the world in an organised manner. Of being mutually seen, heard and understood.

Dziga Vertov was not heard in his day and was not able to put these ideas into practice, although in 1925 he did make a silent film: Radio Pravda (no. 23 in the series Kino-Pravda newsreel) of which less that a third has been preserved, showing, in a didactic way, the potential of the new medium, and his interest in using it - or perhaps in moving into it? It would be necessary to wait a few more years for his film Enthusiasm! The Dombass Symphony (1930) when these ideas would finally be realised - in this we see a radio tuning in to the Leningrad RV3 station to hear the sounds produced by the workers and by the mines and machinery of the industrial region of Dombass in the Eastern Ukraine. Vertov also uses sounds generated by radiophonic media itself and includes "the rhythm of a radio-telegraph" in some parts. All these sounds had been recorded on site, using a specially built mobile recording system (the "Shorin system") and subsequently edited - by cutting, on film, since there was no other means of sound editing available (see tracks 01-10-Pt2). For the radiophonic reconstruction of Radio- Ear/Radio-Pravda, included in this recording, the sounds of the film were used and edited as a "factory of facts" to recreate the radiophonic project. Vertov's ultimate aim was to create a "Radio-Cinema Station of Sound Production and Recording" (recording and retransmission of sound images at a distance) in order to equal and surpass the technical and economic power of capitalism.

Anna Akhmatova (1890-1960)

  1. To The Muse

Poem, 1924, 0'41"
Voice – Anna Akhmatova
Recording – ca. 1963-65

Anna Akhmatova, real name Anna Andreevna Gorenko (b. Bolshoy Fontan in Odessa 1889 - d. Moscow 1966), is one of the most representative poets of the Silver Age of Russian literature. In her early years she was linked to the artistic world of the avant-garde in St. Petersburg, where she formed part of the literary movement known as Acmeism (1912), promoted by Nikolai Gumilev, her first husband, and Osip Mandelshtam, who wanted to break with the metaphoric nature of symbolism and re-establish the semantic value of words. After the Revolution, her poems were banned and she was accused of treason and deported. She returned to St. Petersburg in 1944 where she was obliged to earn her living translating Leopardi and publishing essays. Many of her relatives and friends were executed, repressed or forced to emigrate.

To the Muse

When, in the night, I wait for her, impatient,
Life seems to me, as hanging by a thread.
What just means liberty, or youth, or approbation,
When compared with the gentle piper's tread?

And she came in, threw out the mantle's edges,
Declined to me with a sincere heed.
I say to her, "Did you dictate the Pages
Of Hell to Dante?" She answers, "Yes, I did."

[Translated by Yevgeny Bonver]

Roman Jakobson (1896-1982)

  1. Roman Jakobson reads Velimir Khlebnikov's "Incantation By Laughter"

Poem, 1908-9, 0'48".
Voice – Roman Jakobson
Recording – Harvard (USA), 1954
Velimir Khlebnikov on UbuWeb Sound

Velimir Khlebnikov, pseudonym of Viktor Vladimirovich Khlebnikov (b. Toula 1885 - d. Governorate of Novgorod 1922) was one of the fundamental poets of Russian cubo-futurism, to the extent that some of his writings predate the futurist aesthetic, or at least the publication in 1909 of Marinetti's futurist manifesto. Indeed, he boycotted Marinetti's visit to Russia in 1914, distributing flyers that demanded another term be substituted for futurism, such as budietlianstvo [men of the future, or the future will be Slav] eliminating the differentiation between past-present-future and exploring his own Slavonic roots as an encounter with a "new universal language". Following these principles, he developed 'slovotvorcestvo' [verbopoesis], employed in the etymological poem "Incantation by Laughter", in which all the words derive from the root smech [rice] derived from all the languages of the Empire, leading him to invent verbs, adjectives and pronouns and to create a kind of exorcism-ritual, as if the person intoning the poem were a Shaman. The well-known philologist Roman Jakobson, also a futurist poet in his youth, met Khlebnikov in 1914 and described him as an "eternal seeker of analogies", In 1919 he wrote a monograph on Khlebnikov's verbal art, which was published in 1921. Khlebnikov was also an influence on Jakobson's phonological theory, which approaches the sounds of the tongue as enigmas to be deciphered; he also maintained there were fifteen to twenty distinctive features common to all the languages of the world. It is Roman Jakobson who recites the poem on the CD, since there are no existing sound documents of Khlebnikov himself. Indeed Khlebnikov habitually refused to read his poems in public; other people, such as Mayakovsky - who considered Khlebnikov his master - had to read them instead.

Incantation by Laughter

o laugh it out, you laughsters!
o laugh it up, you laughsters!
So they laugh with laughters, so they laugherize delaughly.
o laugh it up belaughably!
o the laughingstock of the laughed upon-the laugh of 8elaughed laughsters!
o laugh it out roundlaughingly, the laugh of laughed-at Laughians!

Laugherino, laugherino,
Laughify, laughicate, laugholets, laugholets, Laughikins, laughikins,
o laugh it out, you laughsters!
o laugh it up, you laughsters!

[transliterated by Gary Kern]

Roman Jakobson 'Aliagrov'
Zaum poems from the book Trans-rational Book, Moscow 1916, 0'38" and 1'00"
Voice – Ernest Peshkov
Recording – Miguel Molina, Audio Laboratory of the UPV Dpt. of Sculpture (Valencia, Spain)
Production Date – 2004

Aliagrov, futurist pseudonym of Roman Osipovich Jakobson (b. Moscow 1886 - d. New York 1982) was a linguist and philologist who participated actively in several Linguistic Circles: Moscow (Russian Formalism), Prague (Structuralism) , Copenhagen (Phonological theory) Columbia, Harvard and Massachusetts (North American generative linguistics, and the Linguistic Circle of New York). He always gave a multi-disciplinary slant to his language studies, combining the linguistic with the poetic, anthropology, the pathology of language, folklore or information theory. One of his most important contributions was in phonological theory when, in 1923, he gave a new meaning to the term "phonology", understanding it in the sense of the "science of the structure and function of sounds" . The first modern definition of the phoneme is also his: "Mental impression of a sound, minimal distinctive unit or minimal semantic vehicle". For Jakobson, the sounds of the tongue were an enigma to be deciphered, and he maintained within his phonological theory the existence of fifteen to twenty distinctive features common to all languages. This interest in phonology has its origin in his early years in Moscow when he participated actively as a poet under the pseudonym of Aliagrov (taken from his girlfriend's name 'alia' and from his initials, 'r' for Roman and 'o' for Osipovich) and he maintained contact with the phonetic experiments of the futurists (he knew Marinetti and was a friend of Velimir Khlebnikov and Vladimir Mayakovsky), publishing some zaum (or trans-rational language) poems in cubo-futurist books. The two poems included in this recording are a clear example of this. They were published in the book Transrational Book [Zaum-naya griga] (Moscow 1916) which also includes other poems by Alexis Krutschenij (creator of zaum poetry) accompanied by illustrations by the artist Olga Rozanova. He also puts a button on the cover of the book. Jakobson, in his memoirs My Futurist Years (1973) recalls discussions with the avant-garde artists about the affinities between "nonrepresentation" in painting and the "transrational verses" of poetry, in which he maintains that "the theme was that the verbal sound could have more in common with non-representational painting than with music". On some occasions they listened to his verses: "They asked me to recite my transrational verses and the artists - both Filonov and Malevich approved of them greatly, precisely because they diverged even more strongly from everyday speech than Krutschenij's dyr bul shchyl". In counterposition to Alexis Krutschenij who maintained the "word and sound" relationship, Jakobson defended another association: "I was not in agreement when, after The Word as Such there followed The Letter as Such; for me it was the sound as such."


mglybzhvuo jx"jan'dr'ju chtleshchk xi fja s'p skypolza
a Vtab-dkni t'japra kakajzchdi a Jew's an inkwell


suffocating from yankee arcana
from cancan and yardmuck
my pretty whalemouth ching
a whale and so and better than
etiquette is quite cute
a label on your shirt
little kantian quit
A and O hoot
quan and took
so soft
fogms achums scum
and-mm-ed kicks
attactions hint of clever thumb
m-u-u-ck g-o-o-nnne
not a header by airship
but a public stop
a lop giving way in the vago.

[translation by Stephen Rudy]

Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924)

  1. What Is Soviet Power?

Political speech, 1919-20, 2'31"
Voice – Lenin
Recording – 1919-20

Lenin, pseudonym of Vladimir Ilich Ulianov (b. Simbirsk 1870 - d. Moscow 1924), revolutionary leader and head of the Bolshevik party, was the first head of state of the Soviet Union and the founder of the ideology known as Leninism. He famously said that "communism is soviet power plus the electrification of the entire country". While he was in power, initiatives were pursued by the artistic avant-garde relating art to technological innovation and revolutionary social function. In this original recording, Lenin speaks of the fact that most countries misunderstand the new power of the Soviets: while private property remains in the state, the minority will govern, but now Soviet power, the way found by the mass of the workers, is correct and invincible. Lenin was to lead the Soviet Union for a very short time. He died of a stroke in 1924.

Anatoli Lunacharsky (1875-1933)

  1. On People's Education

Political speech, ca. 1919, 3'01"
Voice – Anatoli Lunacharsky
Recording – ca. 1919

Anatoli Vasielievich Lunarcharsky (b Poltave, Ukraine, 1875 - d. Menton, France, 1933) was a Russian dramatist, literary critic and communist politician. After the October Revolution he was named Commissar of Education for the Narkompros (People's Commissar of Education), from 1917 to 1929, which gave him a lot of responsibility in educational matters. He was responsible for important educational and cultural advances such as the massive increase in literacy in the Soviet Union and the protection of avant-garde artists and art, and he was one of the founders of the proletarian artistic movement Proletkult. Lunarcharsky also saved many historic buildings, which certain Bolsheviks wanted to destroy, by insisting on their architectural value. In 1933, with Stalin's arriva l, he was removed from his post and named ambassador to Spain. He died in Menton, France, before he could take possession of his new post. This original recording of Lunacharsky is a speech on the "infinitely important role of education" after the Revolution which, he says, is not only to eradicate illiteracy, but also to improve the people's work qualifications and their political education. Therefore, he sets out two objectives, one, elementary - the fight against illiteracy, the other to introduce higher education centres for scientific education. He ends his speech" bone of bone and flesh of flesh of our working people, our new red intelligence".

Osip Mandelstham (1890-1960)

  1. Gypsy Girl

Poem, 1925, 1'40". MP3
Voice – Osip Mandelstham
Recording – ca. 1927

Osip Mandelshtam (b. Warsaw/Poland 1891 - d. Vladivostok/Russia 1938) was a poet and essayist; one of the three great poets of the avant-garde Acmeist movement, which he defined as "nostalgia for a world culture". His verses have been described as showing "classical restraint, majestic conciseness, and sonority" (Dimitri Obolensky). His literary position of being "a poet against an empire" was defined in 1923 when his name was erased from the list of collaborators on all literary journals and he was forced to live from income from translation work. In November 1933 he wrote a series of verses in which he satirised Stalin: "His fat fingers seem like greasy worms / A rabble of scrawny necked chiefs surround him / inferior men with whom he has fun and plays / One whistles, another miaows, another moans / Only he prattles and passes judgement." In 1934 he was arrested for writing these verses, accused of creating counterrevolutionary works and sentenced to three years banishment. He was arrested again in 1938, sentenced to five years in a re- education camp and deported to Siberia. He died on the way there under strange circumstances. When his wife was told of his death, someone said to her: "What are you complaining about? This is the only country that respects poetry: they kill for it. That happens in no other country." In his poems, Mandelshtam used perfectly regular lines, as in symbolism, but their musicality doesn't lie in the "sonority of the words" but in the "ingenuity of the concepts". He did this using the essence of his own language, believing that writing was like sculpting in stone - taking out what is unnecessary and emphasising the revolutionary character of a pure poetry that remains always alive. He said: "Classic poetry is the poetry of the revolution".

Alexander Mossolov (1900-1973)

  1. Zavod, Symphony Of Machines - Steel Foundry

A movement from the ballet Steel, op. 19, 1926-28, 2'56".

Historical Recording, performed by Orchestre Symphonique de Paris conducted by Julius Ehrlich, from the State Opera in Leningrad

Recording – ca. 1931

Extract from the record label Sounds of New Music, original catalogue number: FW 06160, provided courtesy of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings Alexander Vasilievich Mossolov (b. Kiev, Ukraine 1900 - d. Moscow 1973), a Russian avant- garde composer considered part of the current of constructivist and machinist music. During the revolutionary period, 1917-1918, he worked in the office of the People's Commissioner for State Control and even had some brief personal contact with Lenin. In 1920, he worked as a pianist for silent films and later was conductor of chamber music for the Association of Contemporary Music and a radio music editor. For the celebration of the 10th Anniversary of the October Revolution in 1927, he composed his most famous orchestral work Zavod. Symphony of Machines-Steel Foundry, a movement from the ballet Steel (1926-28), which was written to glorify the era of Soviet industrialization in which "the machine symbolised power and reality: its beauty, the attraction of things objective and inexorable" (Manfred Kelkel). What was radically new in this work was the inclusion of a part written for 'metal sheet' to reflect the noise and clatter of the factory machines, lending the overall work a "barbaric style" - as well as 14" ostinato variations" on a one-bartheme and an extreme concentration of "machine rhythms". It was performed throughout the world (Berlin, Liege, Vienna, the U.S.A. and Paris) and it was at this time, in around 1931, that a recording was made and released on a 10" light-blue-label Columbia disc, by the Paris Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Julius Ehrlich, from which the recording included here is taken. This success abroad contrasted with the persecution Mossolov's works suffered after 1927 at the hands of the Association of Proletarian Musicians (RAPM), representing Stalinism in music. His works were considered "naturalistic" and "decadent", his music contributing to "public drunkenness". He was expelled from the Association of Contemporary Music in 1936 and condemned for making "anti-soviet propaganda", then arrested and sent to labour camps (GULAG) for eight years. Mossolov wrote a letter to Stalin, saying he had been made into "a kind of musical outlaw" when really he was" a loyal Soviet man" . Still he wasn't freed until 1938, after which time he devoted himself to composing and researching the music of Russian and Oriental folksongs. The authorities continued to refuse to allow his works to be performed in public.

Boris Pasternak (1890-1960)

  1. Night

Poem, 2'10".
Voice – Boris Pasternak
Recording – 1958

Boris Leonidovich Pasternak (b. Moscow 1890 - d. Peredelkino 1960), was a writer and musician. Between 1903 -1909 he studied with Scriabin, composing several pieces for piano. With poets Bobrov and Aseyev he was part of the futurist group Centrifuge [Tsentri fuga] founded in 1913, influenced by Russian symbolism. He entered this circle as a musician but soon started to write poetry, though maintaining a musica l influence in some of his patterns, such as the "juxtaposition of contrasting images or things that grow and develop" (Vladimir Markov). This use of transitions typical of music is also found in this poem recited by the author, where he destroys the hierarchy of objects and ideas, and puts on the same plane the Milky Way, the airplane, stars, coal men, infinite spaces... in order to give a view of the Universe. His poetry is formed following a contrapuntal method (taking the same subject from different points of view, or different subjects treated as one). Concepts are approached through family phonetic relationships. He makes associations of sounds and analogies of words in unexpected ways, like the futurists and surrealists, mixing logic and fantasy in the same expression.This poem, written in 1956, is the first recording of Pasternak and was made in 1958 by two Swedes who visited him, but there were a lot of faults in the recording, and it was only later, in 1965, that the first Soviet record, "The writers speak", appeared, with the recording of Pasternak's voice included here. Pasternak won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1958 but was obliged by the Soviet authorities not to accept it. His novel Dr. Zhivago (1955) became very popular outside the Soviet Union, but ran into serious difficulties from the Soviet censors. Pasternak decided then to maintain an internal exile.

Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)

  1. Radio Message

Broadcast, 1941, 0'49"
Voice – Dmitri Shostakovich
Recording – September 20, 1941

Dmitri Dmitrievich Shostakovich (b. St. Petersburg 1906 - d. Moscow 1975) was one of the leading Soviet composers. In his early period he was linked to the language of the Russian avant-garde, collaborating with artists from other disciplines like Mayakovsky, Meyerhold and Rodchenko. His music was twice officially denounced - in 1936 and again in 1948 - for being "noise instead of music". After this he began combining a strongly expressed romantic language with the influence of Mahler, contrasting these with elements of atonality and the grotesque. This recording is a radiophonic message broadcast by Shostakovich during the Nazi siege of St. Petersburg, in which he announces the composition of two parts of what would become his Symphony No.7 in C major, opus 60 (subtitled the Leningrad). He also takes the opportunity to call upon Soviet musicians to defend their art and their city. Shostakovich remained in Leningrad during the siege, defending the city as a fire warden and with propaganda broadcasts until he and his family were evacuated to Kuybishev (now Samara) in October 1941, where the symphony was completed. The Leningrad was adopted as the symbol of Russian resistance in both the USSR and in the west, and was finally performed during the siege in 1942.

Radio message broadcast of Dmitry Shostakovich

[English translation]:

An hour ago, I finished the score of two parts of a large symphonic composition. If I succeed in writing this composition well, if I succeed in completing the third and fourth parts, then it will be possible to call this composition the seventh symphony.

Why do I announce this? So that the radio listeners who are listening to me now will know that the life of our city goes on as normal.

We are all now doing our military duty. Soviet musicians, my dear friends and numerous brothers-in-arms, my friends! Remember that our art is now in great danger. Let us defend our music, let us work honestly and selflessly!

Leon Trotsky (1879-1940)

  1. 10th Anniversary Of The Left Opposition

Political speech, ca. 1938, 3'38" Voice – Leon Trotsky Recording – Probably in Mexico, ca. 1938

Leon Trotsky, real name Lev Davidovich Bronstein (b. Vanovka, Ukraine 1879 - d. Coyoacan, Mexico City 1940), was a Soviet politician and revolutionary theorist and leading figure in the October Revolution of 1917. In the years following the Revolution he organized the Red Army, supporting Lenin. After Lenin's death the group led by Stalin expelled Trotsky from the USSR . Thus Trotsky wound up in exile in Mexico, from where he led a dissident communist opposition to Stalin, founding the IV International and defending "permanent revolution" against "the revolution betrayed". He mixed with the artistic circle in Mexico led by Diego de Rivera and Frida Kahlo, and also the surrealist Andre Breton. This original recording of Trotsky speaking in English was probably made in Mexico when he gave a speech to the American Communists on the 10th anniversary of the Left Opposition. Stalin issued orders that Trotsky be assassinated and in 1940 the Spanish communist Ramon Mercader carried them out, getting close to Trotsky on the pretext of asking him to read an article he had written.
  1. Radio Broadcast Of The Leningrad Symphony

Excerpt, 1942, 1'20"

Re-creation of the Seventh Symphony by Shostakovich over the radio (August 9, 1942), during the bombing of Leningrad in World War II. Original sound of the artillery in the blockaded city of Leningrad (soundtrack "The Battle of Russia", 1943)

Excerpt of the Seventh Symphony interpreted by Russian Philharmonic Orchestra, Conductor – Dmitry Yablonsky, recorded in February 2003, Original label – Naxos, 2004

Re-creation – Miguel Molina Alarcon

Production Date – 2007

On August 9, 1942, Dmitri Shostakovich's famous Symphony No.7, known as the Leningrad, was performed in the city of Leningrad in the middle of the Nazi siege. Musicians were collected from various locations along the front and Karl Eliasberg, then ill with dystrophy, conducted the Radio Leningrad Orchestra in the Great Hall of the Philharmonic Society. In order to ensure that the concert would not be interrupted, all points of enemy fire were neutralized and all Soviet canons remained silent for the duration of the performance, although more than one Composer Dimitri Shostakovich working as a bomb and fascist projectile was still heard. The concert became "a symbol of the strength of spirit and resolve fireman during the siege of Leningrad in 1941 of the city's defenders". This recording is a sound recreation of the simultaneous radio broadcast of the concert in the midst of the siege (the sound of the siege is taken from a documentary soundtrack).

Maria Tsvetaeva (1893-1941)

  1. Ilya Ehrenburg reads Marina Tsvetaeva – You Walk, Resembling Me

Poem, 1913, 1'51"
Voice – Ilya Ehrenburg
Recording – unknown date

Marina Ivanova Tsvetaeva (b. Moscow 1893 - d. Yelabuga 1941) was a poet. As a child she studied music, but as an adolescent she was already interested in French and German romantic poetry - by 1910 she had published her first book. Her work always maintained an independence, and was never subsumed into any literary group, although she assimilated the innovations of the symbolists and the acmeists, maintaining a close emotional relationship with some of them, including [[Osip Mandelshtam]] and Anna Akhmatova. She employed direct language, archaisms and colloquialisms in her poetry, as well as assonant rhymes and free verse. She said, "I live and consequently I write too - by ear, that is, in confidence; this has never deceived me". An opponent of the October Revolution she said "Passion for each specific country and for what is concrete - that is my international. Not the third but the eternal." This sentiment led her into seventeen years of emigration after 1922; in Berlin, Prague and Paris. In Berlin she published several books of poems, with the help of her friend Ilya Ehrenburg (b. 1891 - d. 1967) a Soviet revolutionary writer and journalist. Ehrenburg reads Marina Tsvetaeva's poem here, since no sound recordings of her voice exist. Marina Tsvetaeva went back to the USSR in 1941, at the height of the Nazi invasion, where she was completely ignored. After her husband had been shot and her son was sent to work in a mining camp, she was sent to Yelabuga, where she committed suicide by hanging herself. Her poetry, in vision and style, is now amongst the most valued in contemporary Russian literature; as she herself said, "I can only be understood in terms of contrast, that is, in a simultaneous presence... I am many poets and as I have managed to harmonize all of them, that is my secret".

You walk, resembling me...

You walk, and look like me,
Your eyes directed down.
I also used to lower mine!
Hey you, passer by, stop!

Read-when you've gathered
A bouquet of buttercups and poppies,
That I was called Marina
And how old I was.

Don't think that this is a grave,
That I will appear, scary...
I myself loved too much
To laugh, when I shouldn't have!

And the blood would come to my face
And my hair was curly...
You passer by, I also was!
You passer by, stop!

Break yourself off a wild stem
And after it a berry,
No wild strawberry is larger or sweeter
Than one from a graveyard.

Only don't stand gloomily,
Dropping your head on your chest,
Think about me easily,
As easily then forget!

How the sun's ray shines upon you!
You're all covered in golden dust...
Don't let it disturb you, ]

Velimir Khlebnikov (1855 - 1922)

    The Radio of the Future

Radio budušcego, radio project, 1921, 3'45"
Directed By [Radiophonic Re-creation] – Leopoldo Amigo, Miguel Molina
Performer [Collaboration] – Pilar Abad
Voice – Ernest Peshkov
Production Date – 2006

Velimir Khlebnikov, pseudonym of Viktor Vladimirovich Khlebnikov (b. Toula 1885 - d. Governorate of Novgoord 1922), was a writer, sketcher and poet, also interested in mathematics, history, mythology and ornithology (he wrote an article about the cuckoo). A key artist in Russian cubo-futurism, he was constantly searching by way of verbal experimentation, writing toward the utopia of a "stellar" universal language. "The Radio of the Future" is an essay written at the end of his life anticipating the possibilities of the new radiophonic medium (radio first started broadcasting in Russia in 1922). He conceives radio as a "central tree consciousness" or "a great wizard and sorcerer" which, with its waves, would "unite all mankind". He saw the radio station as "a spider's web of lines" or "the flight of birds in springtime" which reveal the "news from the life of the spirit". In the hands of artists, this new medium would transport and project ideas instantly to the "unknown shores" of all humanity. Khlebnikov imagined that they could make "Radio-Books", "Radio Reading-Walls", "Radio-auditoriums" ("a concert stretching from Vladivostok to the Baltic"), "Radio and Art Exhibits", "Radio Screens" and "Radio Clubs"... where you could see and hear everything from the tiniest sound of nature to major events in the "exciting life" of cities. He understood that with this there would be a communication between the artist's "soul" and the people: "the artist has cast a spell over his land; he has given his country the singing of the sea and the whistling of the wind. The poorest house in the smallest town is filled with divine whistlings and all the sweet delights of sound." This capacity of Radio led him to see it as "The Great Sorcerer", capable of transmitting even "the sense of taste"; people would drink water feeling that they were drinking wine; or smell: a Radio station "would give" the nation, for example, "the odour of snow" in the middle of spring. It would also be a "Doctor without medicine" curing from a distance by means of "hypnotic suggestion". And Radio could also transmit sounds to facilitate the work of the harvest and construction by emitting certain musical notes, "la" and "ti", which would help "increase muscular capacity" in the workers. Another of the Radio's great qualities would be the organization of popular education through radiophonic classes and lectures. But Khlebnikov also warned that all this potential could be interrupted if a Radio station were damaged. That would generate "a mental blackout over the entire country". Thus it was necessary to protect the Radio Station with the word "Danger". In this text, Khlebnikov anticipates the potential of Mass Media and its capacity for the globalization of ideas and opinion - although this "universal soul" was seen by him as positive, he already suspected some of its dangers. This text was possibly written in around 1921 in Pitigorsk, when Khlebnikov was working temporarily as a watchman in a telegraph agency, spending the long nights writing. This radiophonic re-creation was made from sound references appearing in the text of his essay "The Radio of the Future" [Radio budušcego].

Ivan Ignatiev and The Ego-Futurists

  1. The First Spring Concert Of Universal Futurism

Musical excerpt, 1912, 45"
Composed By – Miguel Molina
Pipe, Bells [Aeolian], Ocarina – Gema Hoyas Frontera
Postproduction – Leopoldo Amigo
Production Date – 2006

The Ego-Futurists organized "banquets & soirees", combining sophisticated products (such as "Crème-de-Violettes" liqueur) with refined poetry recitals ("poesas"). It was their way of protesting against the intolerant petit-bourgeois public who rejected the excesses of the Italian Futurists, while getting excited listening to the works of Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky or Saint-Saens. For May 1912, through the Petersburg Herald, they programmed a "poeso-concert" announced as The First Spring Concert of Universal Futurism which was to be performed at midnight in the suburbs of St. Petersburg in the park next to Paul the First's Hunting Palace. This event included, alongside the recital of poems, "Pavilions of Seclusion, of Ego-books, of Milk and Black Bread", a "Chalet of Cupid" and an exquisite buffet of "Wines from the Gardens of Prince Yusupov", "Creme-de-Violettes" liqueur, "Gatachino Pink Trout", "Fleur d'Orange Tea"... The park was to be decorated with "lilac illumination" and there were to be "aeolian bells, invisible ocarinas and pipes" (partly included in this recording). It was from these elements that this recording was made since these were the effects that would supposedly have been heard had the event taken place - because in the end the "poeso-concert" was cancelled due to the bad weather in May 1912, and because of disagreements with the management of the Petersburg Herald who finally decided to replace the event with a publication instead. The event was organized by the ego- futurist Ivan Vasilyevich Ignatiev (1892-1914) and was to include Igor Severyanin, I.V. Ignatyev himself, Konstantin Olimpov and Ivan Lukash. After the exclusion of Severyanin, Ignatiev - the new leader of the ego-futurists - had created an Intuitive Association in whose Charter he claimed that, among other things, "God is nature. Nature is Hypothesis. The Egoist is an Intuitive. An Intuitive is a Medium". Thus we understand why this futurist concert was organized for the start of spring: Ignatiev said that the Russian bisyllabic word "Vesna" [Spring] contained the essential and spatial meaning of the arrival of spring, with the phonetic of the letter "s" ("an impression of sunniness") and the "a" ("joy of attaining the long awaited"). With such examples Ignatyev defended various senses in poetry: colour, sound, taste, touch, weight and spatiality, thus "poeso-concert" evenings with food, drink, sounds, colour and poems were another way of carrying forward a Universal Futurism experience, and of bringing together all the sensations at the height of spring. But those experiences were not to last long . Ignatiev committed suicide in 1914, two days after his wedding. From that moment the Ego-Futurist group collapsed.

Victory Over the Sun (1913)

  1. Introduction, 25"
  2. Act 1: Bully's song, 34"
  3. Act 2: Petite bourgeoisie, 34"
  4. Other excerpts and final opera with Military song, 57"

Mikhail Matyushin & Kazimir Malevich & Alexei Kruchenykh
Excerpts from the cubo-futurist opera, Pobeda nad Solntsem, 1913.
Arranged By, Performer, Engineer [Restored] – Julia Dmitriukova
Engineer – Andrey Zachesov
Producer – Dmitrij Nikolaev (RTR Radio Russia)
Vocals – Alexander Tereshko, Igor Verov, Ludmila Shuyskaya, Olga Sirina
Production Date – 2006

Victory over the Sun, the first futurist opera, was performed on December 3 and 5, 1913 at the Luna Park Theatre in St. Petersburg, with a libretto by Alexei Kruchenykh, prologue by Velimir Khlebnikov, music by Mikhail Matyushin and sets and costumes by Kazimir Malevich. This opera was considered as a work of "total art", a "theatre of integration" , it was one of the first examples of "performance art" and "multidisciplinary collaboration". The aim of Victory overthe Sun was none other than a "Victory over the Past" which, in Matyushin's words, is "the victory over the ancient, deep rooted concept that the Sun equals beauty", a world-illusion represented by "old romanticism and empty charlatanism". The opera follows a band of "Futurecountrymen" who set out to conquer the Sun with the Aviator as their new futurist hero. He, defeating gravity, manages to conquer it. That is why for the author of the text, Kruchenykh, "The basic theme of the opera is a defence of technology, in particular of aviation, and the victory of technology over cosmic forces and over biologism" - which at that time was represented by Symbolism. The opera was proposed by the Union of Youth who wanted to show the "First Futurist Theatre" but who, after paying large sums of money for the hire of the theatre and the production, ran into financial difficulties - with the result that they had to do without an orchestra. The composer, Mikhail Matyushin, then only had a broken out of tune piano - supplied on the day of the performance - and a chorus of seven people, three of whom could actually sing . On stage, Matyushin also added noises, such as rifle shots, propeller sounds, machine noises and the "unusual sound" of a plane crashing. For the musical parts, we have only 27 bars in which, on the one hand, Matyushin takes his inspiration from folk songs, and on the other, he tends to break with tonality, introducing harmonic dissonances and quarter-tones. Malevich encountered similar constraints with the staging and costumes, so the sets were curtains painted with geometric forms and no perspective and the costumes were made from cardboard and iron thread in simplified cubic, cylindrical and conical shapes. The stage and the figures had to be painted in black and white because there were no coloured varnishes, but this inconvenience was compensated for by the Luna Park Theatre's mobile lighting system, one of the first of its kind in the world, which could be used to create innovative visual effects - a kind of "pictorial stereometry" - by decomposing the figures with spotlights, depending on whether it lit hands, feet or heads. The libretto, written by Alexei Kruchenykh, in places introduced a new language for the future which destroyed the laws of syntax: Zaum (language of the "beyond-mind"), which he and Khlebnikov invented and which is impossible to translate. He advised the actors to read this in a breathless way "with a pause after every syllable". The opera is composed of 2 acts in 6 scenes with a prologue written by Khlebnikov, which he was supposed to have read himself before the opera began, but because of his shyness, Kruchenykh read it instead. Act 1 deals with the arrest of the Sun, and includes the "Bully's song", a sound poem with one comprehensible line: "Keep your arms before dinner, after dinner and while eating buckwheat mush". Act 2 deals with life in the "Tenth Land of the Future" once the Sun has been removed, and includes the song Petite Bourgeoisie (a manifesto of struggle against petite bourgeoisie in the field of art). The act ends with a triumphant Military song by the Aviator in zaum using only consonants. According to witnesses, the opening night of the opera was the scene of a great scandal, with half the theatre shouting "Down with the Futurists!" and the other half "Down with the Scandalists!". When the audience demanded the author come on stage, Folkin, the theatre director, announced from the box: "They've taken him to the lunatic asylum!".

Military song

 I I I
   kr vd t r
      kr vubr
      du du
    ra I
      k b i
[transcription by Gerald Janecek]

Arseny Avraamov (1886-1944)

  1. Symphony of Sirens

Public event, Baku, 28'10"
Directed by [Version] – Leopoldo Amigo, Miguel Molina
Production Date – 2003
Published in the audio-book Del Mono Azul al Cuello Blanco (Generalitat Valenciana, 2003) and 2-CD Noises and Whispers in Avant Gardes (UPV-Allegro Records, 2004)

Nikolai Foregger & His Orchestra Of Noises (1892-1939)

  1. Mechanical Dances

Ballet excerpt Transmission chain dance, 1923, 3'09"
Directed By [Re-creation Of The Orchestra Of Noises] – Leopoldo Amigo, Miguel Molina
Production Date – 2004

Nikolai Foregger, real name Nikolai Mikhaylovich Foregger (b. Moscow 1892 - d. Kuibyshev/Moldavia 1939) was a playwright and choreog rapher who in 1921, founded the MastFor (MASTerkaya FOReggera) [Foregger Workshop] emphasizing a new system of dance and physical training called TePhyTrenage, which conceived of "the body of the dancer as a machine, and the muscles of volition as the machinist". They performed dances imitating a transmission chain or chain-saw, accompanied - behind the scenes - by an Orchestra of Noises, or Noise Orchestra which included broken glasses in boxes, shaken; different metal and wood objects, struck; packing boxes, drums, gongs, cheap whistles and shouting. The MastFor received negative official Soviet reviews and, following the destruction of his workplace in a fire of unknown origins, disappeared in 1924.

Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953)

  1. Excerpt L'Usine from the ballet Le Pas d'Acier ("The Steel Step")

Sergei Prokofiev & Georgi Yakoulov
Excerpt L'Usine from the ballet Le Pas d'Acier, 1925-27, 2'16". MP3
Conductor – Gennadi Rozhdestvensky
Orchestra – USSR Ministry Of Culture Orchestra
Recorded – 1990
Original Label – Melodiya Record Company, ex-USSR, 1991
Production Date (recreation) – 2006

The musician Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofiev (b. Sontsovka/Ukraine 1891 - d. Moscow 1953) and the painter Georgi Yakoulov, pseudonym of Georgii Bogdanovich Yakoulian (b. Tiflis/Georgia 1884 - d. Erevan/Armenia 1928), collaborated on the ballet Le Pas d'Acier ("The Steel Step"), a commission by Serge Diaghilev with choreography by Leonide Massine, premiered in Paris by the Ballet Russe. The ballet's intention was, in the words of Andre Lischke, to gather up "the Soviet achievements during the period of war communism, exalting the social structures of the new regime, along with work in the factories, the power of machines and the love that flowered in that setting". When Prokofiev heard this proposal he was surprised: "I couldn't believe what I was hearing, It seemed to me that a window had opened and the fresh air that Lunacharsky spoke of was blowing in", especially when he had hopes of returning to Russia. The ballet is made up of two scenes, where the characters (dancers) express their social position through physical attitudes and mime: sailors, peddlers, an orator, a young female worker, policemen, thieves and small shopkeepers. Prokofiev composed the music between 1925-26, and Georgi Yakoulov designed the sets where, for numbers 9 and 10 of the score called L'Usine [Factory] and Les Marteaux [The Hammers], he made a constructivist mobile setting with ladders, platforms, turning wheels, luminous signs and hammers of different sizes in which all the elements were put in motion while different workers on the platform beat out the rhythm with loud hammer blows. In the second scene - in the factory - the noises generated by the set mingled with those of the orchestra while at the same time a duet was performed by the young female worker and the sailor (who had become a worker when he met her) consisting of a pantomime. It was premiered in Paris on June 7, 1927, to good audience response, but the reaction of both Russian emigres and the Soviet commissars was negative. For the emigres the work was a "Thorny flower of Proletkult", and they accused Diaghilev of being a "Soviet propagandist". The commissars, on the other hand, criticised Prokofiev for his ambiguity in the second scene - in the factory - asking, is this" a capitalist factory, where the worker is slave, or a soviet factory, where the worker is the master?", questioning Prokofiev's interpretation. "If it's a Soviet factory, when and where did Prokofiev examine it? From 1918 to the present day he has been living abroad and came here for the first time in 1927". Prokofiev excused himself, replying "That is the concern of politics, not music, and therefore I will not reply". But even if the composer was not interested in politics, politics was interested in him, and when he decided to return to live in Russia many of his works were banned (including Le Pas d'Acier). The version included here is an experiment in which the supposed noises that would have been generated by the set have been mixed in with the orchestra in a hybrid attempt to get close to the actual sonorous effect produced in the historic performances, thus going beyond simple present-day interpretations in which only the musical score is heard.

Konstantin Melnikov (1890-1974)

  1. Sonata Of Sleep

SONnaia SONata, sound pavilion in his utopian Green City, 1929-30, 2'08"
Directed By [Radiophonic Re-creation] – Miguel Molina, Anxo Invisible Production Date – 2007

Konstantin Stepanovich Melnikov (b. Moscow 1890 - d. Moscow 1974), painter and architect, is considered the most important figure in Russian constructivist architecture. After the 1917 Revolution, he taught at the Vkhutemas school, drawing up a new urban plan for Moscow and designing worker's clubs outside the city. Melnikov's wish was that revolutionary soviet social values could be expressed in his buildings, although at the same time he publicly defended on many occasions " the right and need for personal expression", which he claimed as the only source of "delicate design". His projects were unpredictable, unusual and ultra-original, described at times as "unreal and fantastic", even though most of them were realised. Melnikov followed the path of the organic combination of space with simple volumetric form, thinking of his architecture as " transparent walls" and putting the facades in second place. In 1929-30, he planned his Green City, a city of rest in the green area of Moscow, with the aim of rationalizing rest by means of the "rationalization of sleep" in socialist cities, and in "daily life". For this city, he conceived green areas with a forest, gardens and orchards, a zoo, a children's city and a public sector, with a train station-concert hall, "solar pavilion" and "sleeping quarters" (which were the rest blocks for the workers) . These dormitories had to be built by a collective, bringing together the efforts of different specialists, amongst others architects, musicians and doctors. For Melnikov, sleep was a curative source, more important than food and air. He wanted to fit out the dormitories with hydromassage; thermal regulation of heat and cold by means of stone stoves; chemical regulation with the aroma of forests, spring and autumn; mechanical regulation with beds that rotated, rocked and vibrate and finally, sonic regulation by means of "the murmuring of leaves, the noise of the wind, the sound of a stream and similar sounds from nature" (including storms)' all of which would be heard by placing special sound horns at opposite ends of the dormitories. These would also reproduce symphonies, readings and sound imitations. Melnikov planned to replace bothersome "pure noise" (showers, washbasins, neighbours, conversations, snoring...) with "organized noises" based on the principles of music. Melnikov named these "sleeping quarters", and their concerts Sonatas of Sleep [SONnaia SONata], taking the Russian root SON [Sleep] and using the play on words to allude to the famous Claire de Lune Sonata [Lunnaya Sonata] by Claude Debussy. In the end, this project was never realised, nor was his dream of creating The Institute for the Transformation of Humankind. In 1937, Melnikov was labelled a "formalist" and removed from education and practice and, although he managed to survive the Stalinist purges, he was never rehabilitated and had to work as a portrait painter on commission until his death in 1974. For the reconstruction of this "Sonata of Sleep" the natural sounds that Melnikov refers to in his texts have been used; it also includes a musical fragment of the Claire de Lune Sonata by Debussy, recorded in 1916 on a mechanical Piano Roll. With this project, we can consider Melnikov as an antecedent of "acoustic design" , and also of the concepts of "sound ecology" and "sound landscape" which appeared again in the '70s.

Igor Severyanin (1878-1941)

  1. Overture

Poem from book Pineapples and Champagne [Ananasy v shampanskon], 1915, 1'30"
Composed By – Leopoldo Amigo, Miguel Molina
Voice – Ernest Peshkov
Production Date – 2006

Igor Severyanin (or Severjanin), pseudonym of Igor Vasilevich Lotarev (b. St. Petersburg 1878 - d. Tallinn/Estonia 1941), was the poet who, in 1911, first used the word "Futurism" in Russia and who founded the movement called Ego-Futurism, which sprang from the double influence of French and Russian Decadence, alongside the mechanistic spirit of Italian Futurism - in a mixture that could mix "ice creams of lilacs" with cars and "Gatachino pink trout" with trains and planes. This poem, which opens his book "Pineapples in Champagne", skillfully, portrays these ideas of the contrast between the sophisticated glamour of Russian high society of the time, and the exciting sounds of the modern world. It was composed in 1915, on the threshold of the October Revolution, when one social class was having "pineapples" and "champagne" (products which didn 't exist in Russia unless they were imported) while another was dying of hunger, or on the battlefield. Severyanin moved through these social circ les with an ambiguous irony, adopting dandyish poses in the style of Oscar Wilde, wearing an orchid in his buttonhole, carrying a while lily in his hand or a cigarette in his mouth and looking down on the public with arrogance ("I, Igor Severyanin, a genius!"); it was for this reason that he was called "Oscar-Wildean" and rejected for "Ego-Severyanism" by the followers of the movement. Vladimir Mayakovsky, his rival, described Severyanin's face as "a liquor-glass looming up through cigar smoke", while Severyanin called the Cubo-Futurists "pseudo innovators".


Pineapples in champagne! Pineapples in champagne!
Deliriously tasty, sparkling and bright!
I'm in something from Norway! I'm in something from Spain!
I'm inspired in bursts and I sit down to write.

Planes are screeching above me! Automobiles are running!
Express trains whistling by and the yachts taking flight!
Someone's kissed over here! Someone elsewhere is beaten!
Pineapples in champagne - the pulse of the night!

Among nervous girls and in company of women
Tragedy I am turning to dream and to farce.
Pineapples in champagne! Pineapples in champagne!
Moscow to Nagasaki! New York to Mars!

[English Translation by lIya Shambat]

Vasilisk Gnedov (1878-1941)

Poem of the End (with no "The" in the title) is the best known poem by Russian poet Vasilisk Gnedov. One of the most radically experimental poets of Russian Futurism, Gnedov's Poem of the End consisted of its title alone on a blank page. Gnedov would perform the poem on stage using a silent gesture. The collection from which it came, Death to Art (1913), contained fifteen very short poems that gradually reduced in size from one line, to one word, one letter, and ultimately to Poem of the End. The poem has been compared to Kazimir Malevich's painting Black Square (1915), John Cage’s silent composition 4'33" (1952), and to Minimalism in general. A "recreation" of the performance of the poem was realized in 2007 by Miguel Molina, and released on cd by Recommended Records (ReR Megacorp) in a limited edition of 150 in 2009. The recording for the cd consists of approximately one hour of "silence" as captured via a wax cylinder, a recording device appropriate to the time.

The Poem of the End (with "The" in the title) is a major poem by the White Russian symbolist poet Marina Tsvetaeva. Written in Prague in 1924, the poem details the end of a passionate affair with Konstantin Boeslavovich Rozdevitch, a former military officer. Each of the sections deals with the crossing of a bridge and the symbolism is echoed relentlessly throughout the poem; the mood is unremittingly tense and foreboding.

Lovers for the most
part are without hope: passion
also is just
a bridge, a means of connection

(from the Elaine Feinstein translation).

The happy lot
Of lovers without hope:
Bridge, you are like passion:
A convention: pure transition.

(from the Nina Kossman translation)

Igor Severyanin (1878-1941)

  1. Overture

Poem from book Pineapples and Champagne [Ananasy v shampanskon], 1915, 1'30"
Composed By – Leopoldo Amigo, Miguel Molina
Voice – Ernest Peshkov
Production Date – 2006

Igor Severyanin (or Severjanin), pseudonym of Igor Vasilevich Lotarev (b. St. Petersburg 1878 - d. Tallinn/Estonia 1941), was the poet who, in 1911, first used the word "Futurism" in Russia and who founded the movement called Ego-Futurism, which sprang from the double influence of French and Russian Decadence, alongside the mechanistic spirit of Italian Futurism - in a mixture that could mix "ice creams of lilacs" with cars and "Gatachino pink trout" with trains and planes. This poem, which opens his book "Pineapples in Champagne", skillfully, portrays these ideas of the contrast between the sophisticated glamour of Russian high society of the time, and the exciting sounds of the modern world. It was composed in 1915, on the threshold of the October Revolution, when one social class was having "pineapples" and "champagne" (products which didn 't exist in Russia unless they were imported) while another was dying of hunger, or on the battlefield. Severyanin moved through these social circ les with an ambiguous irony, adopting dandyish poses in the style of Oscar Wilde, wearing an orchid in his buttonhole, carrying a while lily in his hand or a cigarette in his mouth and looking down on the public with arrogance ("I, Igor Severyanin, a genius!"); it was for this reason that he was called "Oscar-Wildean" and rejected for "Ego-Severyanism" by the followers of the movement. Vladimir Mayakovsky, his rival, described Severyanin's face as "a liquor-glass looming up through cigar smoke", while Severyanin called the Cubo-Futurists "pseudo innovators".


Pineapples in champagne! Pineapples in champagne!
Deliriously tasty, sparkling and bright!
I'm in something from Norway! I'm in something from Spain!
I'm inspired in bursts and I sit down to write.

Planes are screeching above me! Automobiles are running!
Express trains whistling by and the yachts taking flight!
Someone's kissed over here! Someone elsewhere is beaten!
Pineapples in champagne - the pulse of the night!

Among nervous girls and in company of women
Tragedy I am turning to dream and to farce.
Pineapples in champagne! Pineapples in champagne!
Moscow to Nagasaki! New York to Mars!

[English Translation by lIya Shambat]

Simon Chikovani (1902/3 - 1966)

Sound poem, fragment, ca. 1920s, 0'21". MP3
Voice – Ernest Peshkov
Recording – Miguel Molina, Audio Laboratory of the UPV Dpt. of Sculpture (Valencia, Spain)
Production Date – 2007

Simon Chikovani, real name Simon Ivanovich Chikovani (b . Naesakovo 1902/3 - d. Tbilisi 1966) was a poet and the driving force and leader of the Dadaist group H2SO4 (1922-28). His poetry is a fusion of avant-garde and Georgian folklore, nonsense-syllables and rich assonance. One example is this fragment of the poem "Tsira" which reminds us of the propitiatory ritual of a witchdoctor. Chikovani incorporates dialecticisms and quotes from spoken Georgian, abstracting it towards the "enchantments" of a rhythmic, sonorous cadence,like these verses of the poem Tsira.

Tsira (fragment)

Bade baidebs
Bude baidebs
Zira muxlebze gulpiltvs daidebs
Aida-baidebs, aida baidebs...

[transcription by
Shota Iatashvili]

Nothingists [Nichevoki]

Fragments from two manifestos, both 1920, 2'44" and 0'15"
Voice – Galina Peshkova, Ernest Peshkov
Recording and Composition – Miguel Molina
Production Date – 2007

The Nothingists [Nichevoki] was a group created at the end of 1919 in Moscow, developing its activities further in the provincial city of Rostov-on-Don, echoing the internationalization of the Dada movement, although they didn't like using that word because in Russian "da, da" means "yes, yes", contradicting their nihilism. This attitude of denial led them to confront both traditional poetry and the positivism of the other avant-garde movements which , in their first manifesto of 1920 included in this recording (track 27), are all represented in a funeral procession of "dead poetry" (to the death knell of a copper bell) which the "old, grey men, veterans and invalids of poetry" attended, just behind the young "insolents of dead poetry" -" the futurists of all colours, the imaginists, the expressionists, groups, little groups and tiny groups. " This manifesto was signed by Nichevokov's Presidium: M. Agababov, A. Ranov and L. Sukharebsky. The Nothingists denied the materiality of the word, and all kinds of artificial instrumentation that would mask poetry (such as meter and rhyme). In the face of the world crisis caused by the war, it was the pacifists and the nothingists who questioned it, inviting a collective call of "insurrection on behalf of nothing" so that poetry could be realized in life, without falsification. To avoid the possible diffusion of an expired poem or possible falsifications of their proposals, they created a kind of sanctioning revolutionary tribunal in Moscow which they called the "Creative Bureau of Nothingists" (set up by Boris Zemenkov, Riurik Rok and Sergey Sadikov) alongside a publishing house they called The Hobo, but it was in Rostov that they drew up one of their most controversial manifestos, the Decree about the Nothingists of Poetry (August 1920), signed by Suzanne Mar, Elena Nikolaeva, Alexandr Ranov, Riurik Rok and Oleg Erberg. In 6 points they criticised the artifices oftraditional poetry and the world crisis due to the war, announcing that "In poetry there is not hing; only Nothingists" (Decree No. 5) and that it is from that annulment of poetry that "Life goes on to the realization of our slogans" (Decree No. 6), then issuing four calls to noth ing: "Write nothing! Read nothing! Say nothing! Print nothing!" (included in this recording track 28). An attitude that explains the minimal number of publications by this group over their short period of existence. They stopped all activity in 1923.

Decree About The Nothingists Of The Poetry (fragment)

Write nothing!
Read nothing!
Say nothing!
Print nothing!

[English Translation by John E. Bowlt]

Wassily Kandinsky (1886-1944)

Sound poem, included in the book A Slap in the Face of Public Taste [Poshchechina obshchestvennomu vkusu], 1912, and in the album Klange, Germany 1913, 1'26"
Voice – Ernest Peshkov
Recording – Miguel Molina, Audio Laboratory of the UPV Opt. of Sculpture Valencia, Spain
Production Date – 2006

Wassily Wassilyevich Kandinsky (b. Moscow 1886 - d. Neuilly-sur-Seine/France 1944) was a painter, educator and writer; a key 20th century artist and creator of the German group Der Blaue Reiter [The Blue Rider] (1911) which promoted "the spiritual and abstraction in art". He was also the founder of various educational bodies in post-revolutionary Russia, such as the INKhUK (Institute for Artistic Culture, 1919) and the Russian Academy of Artistic Sciences (1921). He taught in various avant-garde schools, such as Vkhutemas (Moscow 1918). After emigrating from Russia - he was considered a "bourgeois innovator" because of his "spiritual, harmonic and picturesque deformations" - he was invited by Walter Gropius in 1921 to teach at the Bauhaus (Weimar, Dessau and Berlin) where he stayed until 1933 when the school was closed by the Nazis. Kandinsky had always been interested in a synaesthesic relationship between the arts, particularly between music and painting and maintained a long friendship through correspondence with the composer Arnold Schoenberg; both found "dissonance" a common link between their painting and music, and considered this dissonance the "consonance of tomorrow". Kandinsky did a lot of pictorial work related to music, and also wrote a drama, Der Glebe Klang [The Yellow Sound] (1912) with music by Thomas de Hartmann, and a collection of poems and woodcuts made between 1908 and 1912, published under the title Klange [Sounds] (1913), an illustrated album of 38 of his prose poems accompanied by 56 woodcuts. These poems and illustrations are an experiment with word-sound-image, where the poems are stripped of "semantic meaning", freeing the word in favour of the sonority of the human voice, abstracting it: "Without being darkened by the word, by the meaning of the word". As for the relationship between the text and the illustrations, there is not a conventional relationship of parallelism but rather a free abstract game of feedback: the poem as image and the image as poem. The poem included on this CD is called To See, and aims to create abstract verbal images in the listener. It was first published in Russia in the futurist anthology A Slap in the Face of Public Taste (1912) which, under the same title, included the first controversial manifesto of the start of cubo-futurism. This poem by Kandinsky was included without asking his permission and he was also mentioned as an "occasional member of our group", something which annoyed him greatly and led him to write a letter of protest to the newspaper Russkow Slovo in which he said "I warmly condone every honest attempt at artistic creativity, but under no circumstance do I consider permissible the tone in which the prospectus was written. I condemn this tone categorically, no matter whose it is". Later, the poem, along with others from the same collection, and the woodcuts, were edited in Germany under the generic title Klange [Sounds] (1913). The poems in this collection were first recited at the evenings at the Cabaret Voltaire (Zurich, 1916) where the Dadaist poet and sculptor Hans Arp commented with regard to Sounds: "In these poems Kandinsky has undertaken the most unusual spiritual attempts. From 'pure being' he has evoked beauties never before heard in this world. In these poems there are successions of words and phrases that until now had never been produced in poetry... it places the reader in front of a verbal image that grows and dies, a succession of words that grow and die, a dream that grows and dies. In these poems we experience the cycle of life and death, the transformation of this world". The version chosen for this recording is the first edition of this poem in Russian,
published in 1912.

Kazimir Malevich (1878-1935)

Sound poem from the article Of poetry [O Poezii], 1919, 0'25"
Voice – Ernest Peshkov
Recording – Miguel Molina, Audio Laboratory of the UPV Dpt. of Sculpture (Valencia, Spain)
Postproduction – Leopoldo Amigo
Production Date – 2006

Kazimir Malevich, real name Kazimir Severinovich Malevich (b. Kiev/Ukraine 1878 - d. Leningrad/St. Petersburg 1935) was fundamental as a painter and writer to the Russian avant-garde, and also on the international scene. He began his work in futurism with his contribution to the sets and costumes of the opera Victory over the Sun (tracks 4, 5, 6 and 7), later creating his own movement in 1915, called Suprematism, defining this as art "absolutely without object", or as a "new plastic realism"; his Black Square (1915) being the minimum (and maximum) synthesis of his pictorial proposals. In the post-revolutionary period, he created the UNOVIS school-workshop ("the Affirmers of the New Art") where education was combined with artistic investigation by means of workshops, and its practical application in society with the execution of public commissions. He also tackled writing in great depth, especially in a critical essay about the various avant- garde movements including his own. And although he didn't cultivate the genre of poetry, we do know of probably the only poem he wrote, which appeared in his article "Of poetry" [O Poezii], written in 1918 and based on previous notes made between 1916-17, which was published in the magazine Izobrazitelnolé Iskousstvo (1919) . In this article he defines poetry, which for him is "building on rhythm and tempo", arising as an expression "from the visible forms of nature, from its rays, which stimu late our creative force subordinated to rhythm and cadence". So we can understand that the poet composes poetry "where the forms of nature are absent" because in reality "pure rhythm" is his "form of the world". With these ideas Malevich transfers his theories on pictorial Suprematism to the field of poetry, with rhythm and time be ing the " art without object" of poetry. He suggests to the poets that they abandon the " word" as a form, or realist object, in favour of a "language without words" , a non-objective poetry. At the end of this article, Malevich introduces a wordless poem of his own that doesn't represent any specific external meaning (an identifiable object) but is given an essent ial autonomy. He ends up saying after the poem: "This is where the poet has exhausted his noble action: these words can't be gathered up and no one can imitate their author".

O poezii

Ulé Elé Lel Li One Kon Si An
Onon Kori Ri Koassambi Moena Lej
Sabno Oratr Touloj Koalibi Blestore
Tivo Orene Alij

[transcription by Andrée Robel]

Olga Rozanova (1886-1918)

Sound poem, ca. 1916-18, 0'43". MP3
Voice – Galina Musijina-Nikiforova
Recording – Miguel Molina, Audio Laboratory of the UPV Dpt. of Sculpture (Valencia, Spain)
Production Date – 2006

Olga Vladimirovna Rozanova (b. Melenki 1886 - d. Moscow 1918). Although she was mainly a painter, she also developed her activities in the field of design, fashion, book illustration and poetry, and was one of the leading representatives of the new typography. In her artistic life, she participated in the activities of cubo-futurist and suprematist artists. Her poetry is close to zaum language (her husband was Alexei Kruchenykh, creator of zaum), seeking through an "intuitive creation" of the phonetic of different languages, a universal intercommunication between them. In this poem called Spain she takes the sonority of some Spanish words -both real and fictional - and transforms them according to a rhythmic oral cadence, mixing them with other words from Russian: "Antiquary", "Phantom", "Grimaces", "The anthem", "Of death", generating a dramatic and poetic game of tones that portray a place; "the patterns of association are almost entirely paronomastic, and continuity is based on such paronomastic links"
(Gerald Janecek).

Sound poem, 1916, 0'14". MP3
Voice – Karina Vagradova
Recording – Miguel Molina, Audio Laboratory of the UPV Dpt. of Sculpture (Valencia, Spain)
Production Date – 2004

Olga Vladimirovna Rozanova (b. Melenki, 1886 - d. Moscow, 1918) was a poet and painter, cubo-futurist and suprematist. This poem is in a transrational language of Rozanova's in which she makes special emphasis on accent variation and rhythmical repetition. The poem, without a title, is dated 8 June, 1916 and exists as a manuscript in the Rodchenko-Stepanova Archive in Moscow. Her work as an artist was to extend the illustrations and typographical works of the poet (and her husband) Alexei Kruchenykh's cubo-futurist books.

Zbrsbest zdeban
zhbzmest etta
zhmuts dekhkha

[Transcription by Alexander Lavrentiev]

Daniil Harms (1905-1942)

Fragment from the work Paw [Lapa], 1930, 0'52"
Voice – Ernest Peshkov
Recording – Miguel Molina, Audio Laboratory of the UPV Opt. of Sculpture (Valencia, Spain)
Production Date – 2007

Daniil Ivanovich Yuvachev (b. St. Petersburg 1905 - d. Leningrad/St. Petersburg 1942) was a writer who used various pseudonyms: Kharms, DanDan, Shardam, Charms or Daniil Harms (most frequently). It was even rumoured that he wrote some of these in his passport. His literary work was multifaceted: poetry, satirical miniatures, dramatic scenes, pseudo-scientific investigations and, in particular, children's literature. In 1928, along with Alexander Vvedensky, he founded the avant-garde collective OBERIU ("Union of Real Art") considered "the last Soviet avant-garde", which performed provocative spectacles based on "circus-like stunts", "cabaret-style events", "readings of nonsensical verse", and theatrical representations that were the forerunners of the future European Theatre of the Absurd. His objective was centred on the search for an autonomy of art beyond the rules and logic of the real world, with the aim of discovering new meanings in words freed from their practical function. That is why Harms, with his anti-rational verse and his non-linear theatre, has been associated with the literature of the absurd ("nonsense"). Affinities have also been found with Kafka, Beckett, Borges and the Surrealists. His eccentricity in literature and in his illogical, decadent public appearances (he dressed as an English dandy with a gourd pipe) led him to be considered as a "fool" or "crazy man" in the cultural circuits of Leningrad. In 1931, during Stalin's purges, he was arrested, along with the poet Alexander Vvedensky, as a member of "a group of anti-Soviet children's writers". In interrogations by the secret police, they were both accused of "encoding anti-Soviet messages in zaum or sound poetry". Once its public representations were forbidden, the OBERIU group disappeared. Harms died in a psychiatric hospital in 1942, during the Nazi siege of Leningrad. The work presented here has an ambiguous title, as the word "Iapa" in Russian is translated by "paw" (of an animal), but there is no correspondence with the text, so it has been understood that this word is "pure sound", expanding the meaning of that word in "connotative meanings" and enclosing an "impervious mystery" (according to Matvei Yankelevich who translated it into English). In the fragment that appeilrs in the recording, zaum words (trans-sense) are used along with other recognizable ones: "the moms", "the howls", "the thoughts", "the glue", "the nurse", all of them set out indistinctly in a column which makes the conventional words into a language that is also "trans-rational". The original manuscript is written on an "accountant's graph paper notebook", even respecting some signs such as a large "X" that appeared in "his accounts", this being interpreted as an "alternative ending" or as an accountant would say: "account closed".

Igor Terentiev (1892-1937)

Sound poem from Zdanevich's book anthology To Sofia Georgievna Melnikova: The Fantastic Tavern [Sofii Georgievne Melnikovoi. Fantasticheskii Kabachek], 1919, 0'30"
Voice – Ernest Peshkov
Recorded By, Engineer [Postproduction] – Miguel Molina
Production Date – 2007

Igor Gerasimovich Terent'ev or Terentiev (b. 1892 - d. 1937) was a poet and theatre director who founded the theatre group Radix and, with Alexei Kruchenykh and Ilia Zdanevich, the avant-garde group 41 Degrees. This group was called 41 Degrees because of its ambiguous character; it had many meanings - it was the geographic position of the parallel of Tiflis and the percentage of alcohol in vodka though, possibly, it was just a trans-rational word that signified "no meaning at all". This group had a futurist tendency but placed more emphasis on typographic innovations and trans-sense/non-sense language. As a manifesto by the group stated in 1919: 41 Degrees unifies left-wing futurism and affirms trans-reason as the mandatory form for the embodiment of art: "In particular, Terentiev insisted on these aspects, exclaiming, "there is no futurism ... without zaum!" and, "similar sound means similar meaning" - also claiming that everything was plagiarism, that "trans-reason was anal" and that zaum was a tangible basis for the foundation of Marxism. 41 Degrees' activities began in 1917 in the city of Tiflis (Georgia) and in particular in an avant-garde cabaret called The Fantastic Tavern or The Fantastic Little Inn [Fantastichesky kabachok] where in February 1918 they organized a kind of Future-University [Futurvseuchbishche] with various poetry readings and futurist theatre. The poem by Terentiev included in this recording is from one of those readings in The Fantastic Tavern and consists, as its name indicates, of an "Endless toast in honour of Sofia Georgievna" represented by a linking of zaum words, "word distortions" or "verbal associations" , with no pause between them, starting and ending with suspension points. The tribute in the poem is for Sofia Georgievna Melnikova, an actress in the Theatre of Miniatures who was a regular there and who took part in the recitations. They admired her, especially Ilia Zdanevich, who was in love with her. For that reason, a year later in 1919, he dedicated to her the anthological publication that included all of those who took part in the readings. Terenfev's buffoonish, parodying nature led him to write works such as Treatise on Total Indecency (1920) and others in his Laboratory of the New Theatre. He was arrested in 1931 and taken to a work camp on the White Sea-Baltic Sea Canal, though this didn't prevent him setting up a theatre company on the canal with thieves and prostitutes. The 41 Degrees group, although attached to futurism, is also considered to be a group with a Russian Dadaist orientation because of its random , provocative creation of non-sense. One of its contemporaries and .competitors, the poet T'itsian T'abidze (leader of the Blue Horn group, which the members of the 41st called the Blue Eggs) said that in 1918 "Dadaism was already a re
ality in Georgia".

Mikhail Larionov (1881-1964)

Sound transcription of the illustration for World Backwards [Mir s kontsa], 1912, 2'14". MP3
Performer [Sound Improvisation] – Ernest Peshkov
Recording – Miguel Molina, Audio Laboratory of the UPV Dpt. of Sculpture (Valencia, Spain)
Production Date – 2006

Mikhail Fedorovich Larionov (b. Tiraspol/Russia 1881 - d. Fontenay-aux-Roses/France 1964), was a key painter in the pre-revolutionary Russian avant-garde. In 1912, along with Natalia Gonchorova, he created the group Donkey's Tail, with cubo-futurist influence and an emphasis on "Russifying Western forms", which led it to adhere to Neo-Primitivism and recovering Russian popular roots. In 1913 he created a new movementwhich he called Rayonism, a synthesis of Cubism, Futurism and Orfism, based on the "theory of radiation, radioactivity", in which one of the main components is the decomposition (irradiation) of the painting in luminous beams (rayons), according to Larionov: "Of the rays of the things that the artist submits to his will of aesthetic expressiveness". The work included in this recording is a free interpretation from an illustration by Larionov from 1912, where the head of a man intones the word "Ozz", an apparently senseless sound, seemingly from a shaman in a state of metamorphosis or trance whose spirit is transformed within him into animal form (according to the tradition of North Asian mythology). The use of the expression "Ozz" captures the character of the group Donkey's Tail, particularly through the poets Kruchenykh and Khlebnikov, in the use of trans-mental and trans-rationa
l language (zaum).

Psycho-Futurists Group

Poem from the almanac Me - Futuro-Miscellany of Universal Selfhood [Ya: Futur-almanakh vselenskoi samosti], 1914, 0'10". MP3
Voice – Ernest Peshkov
Recording – Miguel Molina, Audio Laboratory of the UPV Dpt. of Sculpture (Valencia, Spain)
Production Date – 2007

The psycho-futurists [psikho-futuristy] are a fictitious group which simply published an almanac called Me: Futuro-Miscellany of Universal Selfhood in the Russian province of Saratov in 1914. They called themselves "Multi-cornered" [Mnogougolnik] and drew up a manifesto that proclaimed "Psychofuturism" in which they parodied Ego-Futurism and Cubo-Futurism, appropriating their languages and making them grotesque. One of the poems is 'dedicated "with contempt and hate"' to Vladimir Mayakovsky and, as in the other poems they make use of a variety of recourses used by the futurists for their parodies: neologisms, onomatopoeias, zaum words, combinations of sounds, inverted narrative, archaisms, monosyllables or typographical games (in a pyramid, column or diamond shape). The example included in this recording corresponds to a series of zaum words used in a poem.

Zatirlikali lirlyuki,
peremereferknuli ferlyuki,
Perfergil' perefergul.

[mentioned by Efremov, transcription by Gerald Janacek]

Varvara Stepanova (1894-1958)

4 sound paintings from the book Rtny Khomle, 1918, 0'46"
Voice – Karina Vagradova
Sound Composition – Leopoldo Amigo, Miguel Molina
Production Date – 2004
Varvara Stepanova, real name Varvara Fedorovna Stepanova (b. Kovno 1894 - d. Moscow 1958) was a painter, designer and poet associated with the Constructivist movement. She worked alongside her husband, the artist Alexander Rodchenko, considered one of the founders of Russian Productivism. In 1920, Stepanova transferred into paintings his book of "non-objective" poems, written with the intention of introducing "sound as a new quality in the painting of the graphical element" (Stepanova). Four of these "poem-painting-sound" pieces are spoken.

Russian Futurists from the GLM Collection

UbuWeb Sound | UbuWeb