Revolutionary music for a future which never came

An excerpt from a feature on the avant-garde music of the early Soviet Union published in issue 51 of The New European.

On a cold day in November 1922 the Russian composer Arseny Avraamov stood on a tower by the harbour of Baku in Azerbaijan and led the Caspian fleet in a performance of his new symphony.

Avraamov waved flags to orchestrate foghorns from a Soviet flotilla, two artillery batteries, several infantry regiments, hydroplanes, steam locomotives and an ensemble of 25 sirens tuned to the notes of The Internationale. A chorus of thousands of sailors and factory workers joined in to demonstrate their collective consciousness of proletarian power.

Avraamov’s Symphony of Sirens was only the most spectacular instance of the ‘new music’ the first Soviet composers sought to create for the Utopian socialist society they believed the Russian Revolution of October 1917 was ushering in.

The full story is available in issue 51 of The New European.

The image at the top of the page is a detail from In tuffo sulla città, Tullio Crali, 1939.