Great Artists Serving Stalin Like a Dog

Richard Taruskin

in On Russian Music

Published by University of California Press

Published in print December 2008 | ISBN: 9780520249790
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520942806 | DOI:
Great Artists Serving Stalin Like a Dog

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This chapter traces the motivations behind the revival of Stalinist triumphalism, clearly noticeable in Ivan the Terrible, a nationalistic film by the great director Sergey Eisenstein with music by the great composer Sergey Prokofieff. Ivan the Terrible, film and score alike, was dedicated to the proposition that abstract historical purposes justify bloody acts in the present. To make his music as measurable as possible, Prokofieff cast most of it in ostinatos and thumping chords that could be counted out to precisely the required length. The chapter purports to defend the claims of art against what is now called political correctness by those who might once have called it puritanism. Sergey Eisenstein wanted to inspire his viewers with “a feeling for the vaulting power of the Russian state.” That is why the music thunders and blares so thrillingly. It is political awe that he and Prokofieff sought, most successfully, to instill, and awe is a form of fear.

Keywords: Stalinist triumphalism; Ivan the Terrible; Sergey Eisenstein; Russian state; Sergey Prokofieff

Chapter.  2937 words. 

Subjects: Musicology and Music History

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