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Socialist Realism, Capitalist Realism, and everything in between

Event information

START DATE 16 November 2021
START TIME 06:00pm

Concert Room (G274)

END DATE 16 November 2021
END TIME 09:00pm

Dr Dan Elphick (Royal Holloway, University of London) – Socialist Realism, Capitalist Realism, and everything in between (chaired by Dr Brian Inglis)

The Soviet government famously clamped down on composers in the 1930s and 40s and insisted that they should write music that was ‘socialist realist’ – that is, sufficiently accessible and inspiring for listeners. Many composers, including Shostakovich and Prokofiev, dutifully did so, and produced pieces of music that praised the glories of dictators. Others tried to produce pieces of music that were more subtle, but still tried to conform to the aims of socialist realism. What are our 21st-Century attitudes to such music and how can we understand these pieces? In our era, when every single element of life is capitalised upon, how do we ‘sell’ socialist realist music? In this talk, I give several definitions of socialist realism, along with an overview of how the aesthetic has been presented at different times and present my argument that scholars should be doing more to integrate socialist realism into general narratives of art music written in the twentieth century. In short, can socialist realism provide a non-capitalist-realist alternative to our current understanding of classical music, with its narratives of great composers, genius figures, and long-suffering artists?

Dr Daniel Elphick is a musicologist and researcher at Royal Holloway, University of London, with particular interest in music and politics. His work focuses on the history and analysis of Russian and East-European Music from the 19th-century to the present, with further interests in critical theory, popular music, and public musicology. His first book, Music Behind the Iron Curtain, was published by CUP (2019), and he is working on his second, Music on a Leash: Socialist Realism in Music. Dan is also the Glorious Leader of the ‘Cult of Musicology’, on YouTube and twitter.

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