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Defining Russia Musically: Historical and Hermeneutical Essays

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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

The world-renowned musicologist Richard Taruskin has devoted much of his career to helping listeners appreciate Russian and Soviet music in new and sometimes controversial ways. Defining Russia Musically represents one of his landmark achievements: here Taruskin uses music, together with history and politics, to illustrate the many ways in which Russian national identity has been constructed, both from within Russia and from the Western perspective. He contends that it is through music that the powerful myth of Russia's "national character" can best be understood. Russian art music, like Russia itself, Taruskin writes, has "always [been] tinged or tainted ... with an air of alterity--sensed, exploited, bemoaned, reveled in, traded on, and defended against both from within and from without." The author's goal is to explore this assumption of otherness in an all-encompassing work that re-creates the cultural contexts of the folksong anthologies of the 1700s, the operas, symphonies, and ballets of the 1800s, the modernist masterpieces of the 1900s, and the hugely fraught but ambiguous products of the Soviet period.

Taruskin begins by showing how enlightened aristocrats, reactionary romantics, and the theorists and victims of totalitarianism have variously fashioned their vision of Russian society in musical terms. He then examines how Russia as a whole shaped its identity in contrast to an "East" during the age of its imperialist expansion, and in contrast to two different musical "Wests," Germany and Italy, during the formative years of its national consciousness. The final section, expanded from a series of Christian Gauss seminars presented at Princeton in 1993, focuses on four individual composers, each characterized both as a self-consciously Russian creator and as a European, and each placed in perspective within a revealing hermeneutic scheme. In the culminating chapters--Chaikovsky and the Human, Scriabin and the Superhuman, Stravinsky and the Subhuman, and Shostakovich and the Inhuman--Taruskin offers especially thought-provoking insights, for example, on Chaikovsky's status as the "last great eighteenth-century composer" and on Stravinsky's espousal of formalism as a reactionary, literally counterrevolutionary move.

Synopsis:

"Richard Taruskin has again demonstrated that anything he writes leads to serious thinking and reevaluation of hitherto held views. His erudition and mastery of the field as well as his ability to see beyond the surface the implications not easily grasped by a non-Russian make this work required reading for anyone seeking a full understanding of music in Russia."--Milos Velimirovic, Professor Emeritus, University of Virginia

"It is most unusual for a top-ranking scholar to write both broad and deep, for the general public and for a specialized circle, in a field as technically demanding as music. In this new book, Taruskin continues to remake the map of Russian music by focusing on the Russians' experience with 'outsideness.' On the border between East and West, Russian culture has always been better at absorption and transformation than at isolation and exclusion. With its implicit hope that Westerners might become responsible, informed 'others' to the Russian tradition, Taruskin's study covers several centuries of this generous eclecticism so that it reads like a Russian novel. It is a spectacular and timely project."--Caryl Emerson, Princeton University

Synopsis:

The world-renowned musicologist Richard Taruskin has devoted much of his career to helping listeners appreciate Russian and Soviet music in new and sometimes controversial ways. Defining Russia Musically represents one of his landmark achievements: here Taruskin uses music, together with history and politics, to illustrate the many ways in which Russian national identity has been constructed, both from within Russia and from the Western perspective. He contends that it is through music that the powerful myth of Russia's "national character" can best be understood. Russian art music, like Russia itself, Taruskin writes, has "always [been] tinged or tainted ... with an air of alterity--sensed, exploited, bemoaned, reveled in, traded on, and defended against both from within and from without." The author's goal is to explore this assumption of otherness in an all-encompassing work that re-creates the cultural contexts of the folksong anthologies of the 1700s, the operas, symphonies, and ballets of the 1800s, the modernist masterpieces of the 1900s, and the hugely fraught but ambiguous products of the Soviet period.

Taruskin begins by showing how enlightened aristocrats, reactionary romantics, and the theorists and victims of totalitarianism have variously fashioned their vision of Russian society in musical terms. He then examines how Russia as a whole shaped its identity in contrast to an "East" during the age of its imperialist expansion, and in contrast to two different musical "Wests," Germany and Italy, during the formative years of its national consciousness. The final section, expanded from a series of Christian Gauss seminars presented at Princeton in 1993, focuses on four individual composers, each characterized both as a self-consciously Russian creator and as a European, and each placed in perspective within a revealing hermeneutic scheme. In the culminating chapters--Chaikovsky and the Human, Scriabin and the Superhuman, Stravinsky and the Subhuman, and Shostakovich and the Inhuman--Taruskin offers especially thought-provoking insights, for example, on Chaikovsky's status as the "last great eighteenth-century composer" and on Stravinsky's espousal of formalism as a reactionary, literally counterrevolutionary move.

About the Author

Richard Taruskin, Professor of Music at the University of California, Berkeley, is a regular contributor to New Republic, The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, Opera News, and many scholarly publications. His books include Opera and Drama in Russia, Stravinsky and the Russian Traditions, and Musorgsky: Eight Essays and an Epilogue, now available through Princeton University Press in paperback.

Table of Contents

Others: A Mythology and a Demurrer (By Way of Preface)
Pt. IDefining Russia Musically (Seven Mini-Essays)1
1N. A. Lvov and the Folk3
2M. I. Glinka and the State25
3P. I. Chaikovsky and the Ghetto48
4Who Am I? (And Who Are You?)61
5Safe Harbors81
6After Everything99
7Objectives105
Pt. IISelf and Other111
8How the Acorn Took Root113
9"Entoiling the Falconet"152
10Ital'yanshchina186
Pt. IIIHermeneutics of Russian Music: Four Cruxes237
11Chaikovsky and the Human: A Centennial Essay239
12Scriabin and the Superhuman: A Millennial Essay308
13Stravinsky and the Subhuman360
14Shostakovich and the Inhuman468
Index545

Product Details

ISBN:
9780691070650
Author:
Taruskin, Richard
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Location:
Princeton
Subject:
General
Subject:
Ethnic
Subject:
History & Criticism *
Subject:
Music
Subject:
Russia
Subject:
History & Criticism - General
Subject:
European History
Subject:
Music-Folk and Ethnic
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
September 2000
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
College/higher education:
Language:
English
Illustrations:
127 music exs., 11 figures, 3 diagrams
Pages:
600
Dimensions:
9 x 6 in 30 oz

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Related Subjects

Arts and Entertainment » Music » General History
Arts and Entertainment » Music » Genres and Styles » Folk » Folk and Ethnic
Arts and Entertainment » Music » History and Criticism
History and Social Science » Anthropology » General
History and Social Science » World History » General
Humanities » Philosophy » General

Defining Russia Musically: Historical and Hermeneutical Essays New Trade Paper
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Product details 600 pages Princeton University Press - English 9780691070650 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , "Richard Taruskin has again demonstrated that anything he writes leads to serious thinking and reevaluation of hitherto held views. His erudition and mastery of the field as well as his ability to see beyond the surface the implications not easily grasped by a non-Russian make this work required reading for anyone seeking a full understanding of music in Russia."--Milos Velimirovic, Professor Emeritus, University of Virginia

"It is most unusual for a top-ranking scholar to write both broad and deep, for the general public and for a specialized circle, in a field as technically demanding as music. In this new book, Taruskin continues to remake the map of Russian music by focusing on the Russians' experience with 'outsideness.' On the border between East and West, Russian culture has always been better at absorption and transformation than at isolation and exclusion. With its implicit hope that Westerners might become responsible, informed 'others' to the Russian tradition, Taruskin's study covers several centuries of this generous eclecticism so that it reads like a Russian novel. It is a spectacular and timely project."--Caryl Emerson, Princeton University

"Synopsis" by , The world-renowned musicologist Richard Taruskin has devoted much of his career to helping listeners appreciate Russian and Soviet music in new and sometimes controversial ways. Defining Russia Musically represents one of his landmark achievements: here Taruskin uses music, together with history and politics, to illustrate the many ways in which Russian national identity has been constructed, both from within Russia and from the Western perspective. He contends that it is through music that the powerful myth of Russia's "national character" can best be understood. Russian art music, like Russia itself, Taruskin writes, has "always [been] tinged or tainted ... with an air of alterity--sensed, exploited, bemoaned, reveled in, traded on, and defended against both from within and from without." The author's goal is to explore this assumption of otherness in an all-encompassing work that re-creates the cultural contexts of the folksong anthologies of the 1700s, the operas, symphonies, and ballets of the 1800s, the modernist masterpieces of the 1900s, and the hugely fraught but ambiguous products of the Soviet period.

Taruskin begins by showing how enlightened aristocrats, reactionary romantics, and the theorists and victims of totalitarianism have variously fashioned their vision of Russian society in musical terms. He then examines how Russia as a whole shaped its identity in contrast to an "East" during the age of its imperialist expansion, and in contrast to two different musical "Wests," Germany and Italy, during the formative years of its national consciousness. The final section, expanded from a series of Christian Gauss seminars presented at Princeton in 1993, focuses on four individual composers, each characterized both as a self-consciously Russian creator and as a European, and each placed in perspective within a revealing hermeneutic scheme. In the culminating chapters--Chaikovsky and the Human, Scriabin and the Superhuman, Stravinsky and the Subhuman, and Shostakovich and the Inhuman--Taruskin offers especially thought-provoking insights, for example, on Chaikovsky's status as the "last great eighteenth-century composer" and on Stravinsky's espousal of formalism as a reactionary, literally counterrevolutionary move.

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