Pioneers of Sound

Andrey Smirnov

Pioneers of Sound exhibition aims to rescue from oblivion some forgotten pages from the history of electronic music, and unique devices and concepts ahead of their time. Curator Andrey Smirnov juxtaposes Russian and European utopias of the early 20th century, offering solid proof of the consonance between the two cultures that, in the 1910-1920s, constructed a new reality in science and art independently of one another. In this reality, innovative musical technologies were created not by academically trained composers or engineers but by artists, actors, film directors, and poets.

After the revolutionary utopias of the 1920s, the reality of totalitarian era followed: independent creative groups were eliminated, a centralized system to control the intelligentsia was built, and the strengthening of censorship and repressions led to almost full termination of experiments in the USSR of the late 1930s. The names of people who undertook a cultural breakthrough in the tumultuous 1920s are scarcely known in the world and almost totally forgotten in Russia, which never managed to use well those brilliant technical solutions created by lonely geniuses.

Pioneers of Sound exhibition continued the series of displays entitled Generation Z. It included instruments and documents from private collections and archives of researchers, family members, and friends of the inventors: Marina Sholpo, Sergey Zorin, Lidia Kavina, and Andrey Smirnov. More works were borrowed from the collections of Polytechnic Museum (Moscow), Center for Electro-Acoustic Music at the Moscow State Conservatory, Institute of Media Archaeology (Austria), Max Brand’s archive (Austria), and the State Library of Vienna.

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