The lecture by Andrey Smirnov is devoted to the forgotten pages of the history of electronic music and a role of Russia in the development of the world musical 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 synthesising and transforming sound.
The Theremin, early synthesizers, noise orchestras, ornamental and paper sound, computational methods of synthesising 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 have created the concepts and methods, that outstripped time for 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 centralised 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, not in the last instance, of the ideas of those inventors who had broken new cultural ground within the revolutionary 1920s, and which are to this day 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.
Andrey Smirnov is an interdisciplinary artist, curator, composer, educator, researcher, author, and developer of interactive computer music techniques.