Proposal for 4th Year Dissertation

Allin Gray

Political Ideology and Music

I propose to make a study of the interaction between political and cultural ideology and the production of music in Soviet Russia from 1917 and to evaluate how much and in what ways the composition and performance of music were affected by the Communist regime. I may also wish, for contrast, to discuss music under other political systems during the Twentieth Century, such as Fascist Germany.

I have considered several areas for discussion which could eventually form chapters in the dissertation, or be used as introductory background material. Firstly, a study of Marxist and Marxist / Leninist writings on the nature of art, literature and music. Marxist theory in literature is particularly well developed and may be of great use in uncovering what the Communist state regarded as acceptable art. This could be very useful in establishing a framework with which to discuss the relative merits of music to the cultural dictator.

Another area for discussion is the collective of composers, which appears to have been a form of self-regulatory group attempting to ensure that music reflected and upheld the values of the Revolution. The lives of certain composers, along with documentary evidence of their relationship with the State, would relate to this also.

A comparative study of music that was approved by the State with music that was not, and a discussion of their relative merits within the value system of communism and a discussion from a capitalist standpoint is a possibility. Along with this could be a look at the contrasting ways in which Soviet and Nazi political ideals were reflected in music. (I believe that such contrasts are almost totally arbitrary from a musical standpoint.)

A final chapter would discuss whether any specific political ideal could be predicted to have a specific effect on the musical culture of its people, or whether such effects are simply dependent on the likes and dislikes of those in power, who dictate the artistic tastes of the state. Incorporated into such a discussion, one could also discuss the relative merits of arts funding in a country such as Ireland - which would seem to encourage intellectualism - against the Soviet view, which was that art should reflect the experience of the common people.