12-05-2008
On whose side are you, master of culture?
Does music have to be outside of time?


Daniel Kotsubinskiy

In discussion about, whether the masters of culture have to bend under the authority or oppose it (or maybe just dont notice it, and quietly devote themselves to their craft), participated representatives of almost all refined departments: rock-musicians, literary man, painters, and actors. Just one group of Apollos priest kept their distance from the relevant discussion, the academic musicians.

Why the representatives of the high music didnt want to openly answer the question on whose side they are? One the side of Yuri Shevchuk, who gone out on a mass-meeting of people not agreeing with recent president elections, or on the side of Andrei Makarevich, who participated in the concert in support of Dmitriy Medvedev? Does the classical music really have the lucky property to always stay out of time, forever hovering above the fight? Or does behind this visible equidistance of academic art from the fight hides its global conformism that at times shows itself, like in the story with Valeri Gergiev, who took a contract for a television commercial of gas-scraper?

About this debated in an interview to Delo the duo with a distinctive name In Temporalis (out of time). The pianist Polina Fradkina and the percussionist Yoel Gonzalez Portilio, whose ethnic-classic project became one of the most vivid events of Saint-Petersburgs concert life this year.

Yoel Gonzalez. As for the relationship of music and authority, in my opinion the most important is that a musician is not supposed to threaten someones tastes but just play the music he wants to perform. This is his contribution to the fight for freedom. To not let push you around by public and authorities and at the same time trying to become famous and successful, is in my opinion the most important task of a musician, who doesnt want follow the path of conformism. I once had an occasion to perform on a corporative event in Valdai; there were present Putin and Medvedev. But I performed my program and didnt play on order.

Polina Fradkina. I too think that a musician doesnt have to every second climb on the barricades to claim the ideals of freedom and protection of the rights, and always be implicated in the things that happen around him. Our name In Temporalis doesnt mean that we declare that we step aside from the time we live in. With our name we only state our main idea absolute equal rights of music from different eras and different nations. We decided to defy the out-of-date and all in all false notion of music development as some forward process passing from lower steps to higher steps, apotheosis of which is the European music of new and newest time. In fact a European ear often cant grasp the sense of not European music. Meanwhile we are convinced that in fact there is no abyss between different musical traditions; the abyss is just in the traditions of mass perception. This is what we aim to show, we take classical music as a base and pass it through a prism of complex rhythms, and also adding the sound of ethnic instruments and even elements of ethnic choreography. And it turns out that the famous March of Montague and Capulet of Sergey Prokofiev is not just compatible with African-Cuban ragged rhythmic base, but absolutely organically spills over to voodoo motets and even dance that was performed on our last concert, in Smolny cathedral, by a black Cuban dancer.

In these terms, our project, in my opinion, is of current importance and is closely related to my own treatment of todays social process. From my point of view the main disease of the Russian society is slavish, serf psychology and intolerance of foreign. One is deeply connected to the other; a slave always looks for someone to vent ones anger for his own inferior self-appraisal, and this convenient object usually turns out to be the alien or just anyone who stand out in the crowd.

All this corrodes the society. As a mother of a schoolgirl I saw that even in kids surroundings there is an active stratification on the base of national characteristics. And the teacher indifferently looks how classmates torment their comrades of Moslem origins. From little up I perceived the question of nationality very painfully, because I knew about the genocide of Jews in the time of Second World War. My grandfather Israel Finkelshtein was fired from Leningrads conservatory in the years of fight against kinless cosmopolitism. Any national intolerance hurts me very much. Unfortunately in our country we can observe an evident tolerance of xenophobia from the government, and its growing stronger

- But if so, then way do you not participate in protect actions against this authority; you do not announce your civil disagreement?

P.F. Few years ago my mother convinced me to go to an anti-fascist meeting with her, she assured me that if I dont go something terrible and irreparable will happen to the country. To not to upset my mother I came with her. There were about hundred people, half of them were communists they seemed aggressive. The other half consisted of quite nice and decent people. But as a whole it seemed so pitiful and helpless because of their small number Since then as far as I can tell the street activity of democratic oriented citizens exhausted itself, in spite of some splashes in the time of first marches of not agreeing. So we can hardly accuse the classical musicians in civic inactivity. Its just that today I (and I think Im not alone in this) feel the obvious inanity of any kind of protest mass actions.

And the things we do with Yoel, Im sure are not less important than anti-fascist mass-meetings, because it is also directed to the affirmation of the bases of multiculturalism and tolerance. We not only proclaim the equality of representatives of different ethnology and cultures, but also clearly show on the music material: the music of Russia is as perfect as Argentine tango, and ethnic Armenian instrument, duduk, can have an equitable dialog with Revels impressionism. But at times, we come across prejudice in the sphere of high forehead musicians, who are convinced that ethnic music is somewhat of a primitive art that is supposed to be regarded though kindly, but on the whole condescending, by classical musicians

Y.G. I want to support Polinas thought. I came from Cuba and I lived in Saint-Petersburg for fifteen years. And for all this time Ive seen that a lot of musician colleagues perceive the Latin American music as some sort of exotic, which is to bring some variety and entertain the ones who want to divert themselves from serious music. But after all the Latin American music including Cuban has the same heights of composition and performance mastery as in the European music. A person brought up on European traditions at times cant pick up the beauty of a musical pattern, composed of different rhythms that the musician renders on several percussion instruments at once. And even when I come rehearsing to the Conservatory I often hear skeptical notes from the musicians, Here come the bangers! But when we propose some of our academic colleagues to perform with us, their scepsis disappears very fast, because they understand that playing in high Latin American style is almost more difficult than in classic European

- Its all true, one cant help but notice that unlike literature, painting and music that is customary called pop, the high art (classical music, ballet) almost do not strive to actively influence the minds, tastes and moods of people, but only try to build in the current system as a sort of living museum exhibit. But it was not always like this. In the era of romantic-ism the classical music called the people to climb the barricades; many operas played the role of songs of protest against stagnation and injustice of social order

P.F. The grate music was not always rebelling against the authorities. If we take the era before romanticism, everything looked different. Gaiden, for example, literally prayed to the prince he was serving to

But clearly, we cant help but notice that compared to XIX century and even the first half of XX century, the classical music, in spite of all avant-gardism experiments continuing till today, quasi retired, withdraw into itself, in the memories of the former glory, and doesnt even try to become truly modern and calling.

I think there are several explanations for this. In the past century a question became relevant, who killed the classical music? It was killed by the rebellion of the masses that overthrew the old aristocratic regime and destroyed the social environment that for centuries upheld the high standards of musical culture. The other reason is the narrow-mindedness of many modern classical musicians, their limited outlook. Often they dont know anything except their specialty, and dont take interest in almost anything except it. Should we expect active civic position from them, or an aspiration to at least throw down an artistic challenge, or to call someone somewhere?

- But there is the example of Mstislav Rostropovich, a grate performer of classical music, and not less grate citizen of his country

P.F. Rostropovich is one of the last representatives of a generation that heard the classical music before it was killed. Until the middle of XX century the musicians felt and sensed the music completely differently, they felt they were co-creators of the grate and were in an equal dialogue with the public. For example Rachmaninov could add something of his own to Chopin. Shalapin did this too, performing the classical arias, and other artists too. And on the concert in the hall of Noble assembly (now the Philharmonic big hall) the public behaved like on a modern rock concert, the public could whistle and stamp with feet in the middle of the performance.

The academic musicians are perceived now as priests of an ancient cult, the esoteric meaning of which can be understood only by enlightened. And this is a dead end. It seems to me that by trying to unite classic with ethnic, it is as though me and Yoel are trying to find a pulse on a seemingly dead body. I think if the classical music will wake up from its coma, which was caused by the music itself in many respects, and can become not just a cult, but truly alive, unpredictable, then we can make the same social demands as to rock-music, literature and even journalism. Y.G. To tell you the truth I dont have any illusions that we, musicians, or the society in the whole, can somehow affect the authority, make it take people in consideration. More than a half of my life I lived on Cuba, now I live in Russia, and as far as I can see the authority lives only for itself and not for the people. And I dont know if we can change that

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