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Popular Music in Communist and Post-Communist Europe

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Edited By Jan Blüml, Yvetta Kajanová and Rüdiger Ritter

Through selected topics, the book presents an up-to-date and comprehensive view of the popular music of communist and post-communist Europe. The studies introduce new sources, discuss transformations of the institutional background of popular music of the given geopolitical sphere, its social, cultural-political, or artistic conditions. Thanks to the time span of nearly thirty years since the fall of the Iron Curtain, the authors have in many ways revised or supplemented traditional post-communist perceptions of the issues in question. This is being done with respect to the genres such as jazz, rock, pop, singer-songwriters, hip-hop, or White Power Music, as well as across the whole region from the former Yugoslavia through Central European states to the countries of the former Soviet Union.

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Rational Consumption: Political Ideology in Stagnation-Era Soviet Popular Song

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‘We are all worried about the state of today’s popular songs.’1

~ Raimond Pauls

Abstract: This chapter focuses on the role popular composers played in the Soviet Union, and their intermediary role between dual obligations to both state and audience. These songwriters had to be extremely mindful of political implications in their work and lifestyle choices; Soviet newspapers of the Stagnation teem with composers’ pronouncements on what their genre means. The same figures also help explain how their craft can and should elevate listeners culturally and ideologically while still appealing to their youthful desires. Focusing on how Soviet ideology was transmitted and transformed by popular songwriting, I examine the case study of especially active and outspoken state composer Aleksandra Pakhmutova to explore how political ideology is present in Soviet song of the 1970s.

Keywords: estrada; Pakhmutova; Dobronravov; ideology; popular composers; Russia; Soviet Union; VIA; Stagnation; popular song

Introduction. A retrospective essay from 1987 by Latvian composer Raimond Pauls on Soviet popular music opens with the telling generalization quoted above. This epigraph encapsulates the responsibility placed upon—and in many cases, very willingly undertaken by—popular Soviet composers when it came to producing socially responsible songs that did not contain or encourage ‘primitive texts and music, a vulgar stage presence, or a total lack of musical taste and culture’.2 Soviet composers of all genres were trained to feel a pedagogical duty to their public, particularly its more youthful members; this same duty...

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