Music Colloquium: Musical Realisms across the Cold-War divide

The speaker is Marina Frolova-Walker (University of Cambridge).


Western musicology has shown little concern for Russian or East-European musicology: interest in figures such as Asafyev or Knepler has been intermittent and transient, and despite the efforts of individual Western scholars on their behalf, they remain marginal figures. Despite this, there are strong similarities between the social wave in Russian musicological studies during the 1920s and the “social turn” of the New Musicology in the 1980s and 90s, which continues to influence our discipline today. Are these similarities accidental or did the earlier trend influence the later?

In this paper, I propose a closer look at the composer and musicologist Norman Cazden (1914–80), an American communist who dropped out of history, largely because he was blacklisted during the McCarthy era and accordingly marginalised by the academic community. His publications and personal archive indicate that there were more connections between the two musicological cultures than previously recognized.

Cazden’s compositional work also allows us to appreciate what life was like for a “realist” composer in the USA, a kind of inverted counterpart to “formalist” composers in the USSR.

About the speaker

Marina Frolova-Walker FBA Professor of Music History at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Clare College, where she is also Director of Studies in Music. Born and educated in Russia, she studied at the Moscow Conservatoire, defending her PhD thesis on Schumann’s symphonies and their influence on Russian music in 1994, the same year that moved to the United Kingdom (“for personal, rather than political reasons”). Before Cambridge she held posts at the University of Ulster, Goldsmiths College London, and the University of Southampton.

Her research on Russian and Soviet music ranges widely, embracing the historiography of Russian music and the nationalist/exoticist myths perpetuated in it, as explored in her book Russian Music and Nationalism from Glinka to Stalin (Yale, 2007). Her next book, Music and Soviet Power, 1917-32 (Boydell, 2012), illustrated the complexity of the transition from pre-Revolutionary to Soviet musical culture, and featured an essay for each year to forge a new narrative for the period.

Her magnum opus is the book Stalin’s Music Prize: Soviet Culture and Politics (Yale, 2016), the outcome of a Major Research Fellowship from the Leverhulme Trust that provided two whole years of archival research in Moscow.

She appears frequently on radio and TV, including the BBC Proms; in 2015 she appeared on BBC Radio 3 Proms Extra speaking on Shostakovich’s Leningrad Symphony. She has also contributed to the BBC Radio 3 Stravinsky ‘A to Z.

In 2014, she was elected as a Fellow of the British Academy; in 2015 she was awarded a professorship at the University of Cambridge, and received the Royal Musical Association’s Dent Medal for outstanding contribution to musicology.

A popular public lecturer, she has given numerous public talks that have taken place in all kinds of venues, from industrial plants in Kazakhstan through to the Carnegie Hall.