Music on the Frontline : Nicolas Nabokov’s Struggle Against Communism and Middlebrow Culture book cover
1st Edition

Music on the Frontline
Nicolas Nabokov’s Struggle Against Communism and Middlebrow Culture

ISBN 9781138277342
Published November 28, 2016 by Routledge
168 Pages

USD $59.95

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Book Description

The story of Nicolas Nabokov's involvement with the CIA-funded Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF) is a story of the politics and sociology of culture; how music was used for political ends and how intellectual groups formed and functioned during the Cold War. The seemingly independent CCF, established to counteract  apparent Soviet successes in the fields of the arts and intellectual life, appointed Nabokov (a Russian emigre and minor composer) as its Secretary General in 1951. Over the next ten years he gave music a high profile in the work of the organisation, producing four international musical festivals, the first and most ambitious of which was 1952's L'Oeuvre du XXe Siècle in Paris, an event which showcased the work of no less than 62 composers. As Ian Wellens reveals, Nabokov's musical involvement with the CCF was in fact a struggle on two fronts. Apparently a defence of Western modernism against 'backward', 'provincial' Soviet music, Nabokov's writings show this to have meshed closely with the domestic concern - shared by many intellectuals - that high culture was being undermined by an increasingly culturally aware middle class. His attacks on Soviet cultural policy, and his unflattering assessments of Shostakovich, are seen to be not merely salvos in the cold war but part of a broader campaign aimed at securing the authority and prestige of intellectuals.

Table of Contents

Contents: Preface; Great books and wise men: Nabokov’s road to the 1950 Berlin Congress; Waking the twilight sleepers I: on Soviet music and Shostakovich; Waking the twilight sleepers II: on provincialism and Prokofiev; A very popular fiasco: the 1952 Festival in Paris; Filling the gap: the CCF as surrogate Ministry of Culture; Paris/New York: Congress divided; One end against the middle: intellectuals behind the high culture stockade; Authority and exclusion: the Cold War and ’difficult' music; Appendix: L’Oeuvre du XXème Siècle: list of works performed; Bibliography; Index.

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'... highly perceptive exploration... the interdisciplinary connections [drawn] between theoretical philosophy, politics, and music [...] are deeply illuminating and thought provoking... Wellens skillfully raises a complex of issues that must be considered to understand the intricate and often hidden dynamics of music and politics in the early years of the Cold War.' American Music