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Putting the Empire to Music. The Phenomenon of Vocal-Instrumental Ensembles (VIA)

Nov 23, 2021



APPARATUS No. 13 (2021). DOI: https://doi.org/10.17892/app.2021.00013

Special Issue with articles by Irine Beridze (FU), Manuel Ghilarducci (HU), Clemens Günther (FU) and Christiane Schäfer (FU). Edited by Clemens Günther and Christiane Schäfer

Throughout the Soviet Union, from Belarus to Central Asia, from Moscow to Georgia, the VIA phenomenon (Vokal'no instrumental'nyi ansambl') played a central role in popular music and culture. So far, however, it has not received significant scholarly attention internationally and remains largely unexplored. The aim of this Special Issue of the journal Apparatus is to bring this field into focus for the first time and to establish the VIA phenomenon as an interdisciplinary field of research. With a thematic introduction and three articles, Putting the Empire to Music sheds light on late Soviet popular culture und cultural policy, on its international interconnectedness, as well as inherent strategies of canonisation and subversion.

The label VIA refers to musical acts that differ distinctly from other musical genres and subcultures (bards, punk, rock and jazz) and was promoted by the Soviet authorities in the early 1960s to counter the growing influence of Western pop music on the Soviet Union. During the Brezhnev era, the so-called epoch of stagnation, the VIAs flourished. Through their performances at festivals in the Soviet Union and abroad, on special pleasure boats and on state television, the VIAs became a genuinely late-Soviet musical phenomenon that went beyond a simple adaptation or 'indigenisation' of Western musical, aesthetic and lyrical devices. Also through their processing of traditional musical or aesthetic forms (melodic and harmonic line, song material or folk costumes), VIAs had a great influence on regional, national and multinational concepts of identity and left a lasting mark on Soviet and post-Soviet collective memory.