The Bartlett School of Architecture


Sound | Making | Space – Andrey Smirnov lecture

23 March 2017, 6:00 pm–8:00 pm

Andrey Smirnoz - Sound in Z poster

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The Bartlett Sound Making Space Doctoral Network


Bartlett School of Architecture, 22 Gordon Street, London WC1H 0QB

Forwards to the Past: Russian avant-garde and the convergence of music, science, technology and politics of the 1910-50s

The Bartlett Sound | Making | Space Doctoral Network are extremely excited to have persuaded Andrey Smirnov to fly over from Moscow to talk about his work, which was first published in 2013 under the same title as the ground-breaking 2008 Palais de Tokyo exhibition, Sound in Z.

This event is free and open to anyone, but capacity is limited: click here to register for a place.

Event details

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 of the ideas of those inventors who had broken new cultural ground within the revolutionary 1920s. To this day, they are 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.

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