Defining and Defending Music Analysis in the Soviet 1930s
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In the process of developing the method of tselostnïy analiz (holistic analysis) in the 1930s, its creators—Leo Mazel, Viktor Zuckerman, and Iosif Rïzhkin—tried to establish music analysis as an independent branch of musical knowledge, one that could lay claim to scientific objectivity (i.e., be positivist) and at the same time meet the demands of Marxist dialectical materialism. With its far-reaching consequences not just for scholarship but also music theory pedagogy, music analysis required rigorous cultivation, propagation, and defense—especially in the age of anti-formalism and socialist realism. Examining select writings of holistic analysts, and of their critics, this study illuminates the ideological and intellectual underpinnings of analysis as practiced in the Soviet Union at this time.
The 1930s witnessed the full centralization of arts by the Communist Party, the rise of socialist realism, the hardening of official anti-formalism, and the terrors of Stalinism. During the same decade, Soviet music theorists attempted to establish the discipline of music analysis as a “scientific,” independent branch of Soviet “musicology.” This project required that music scholars define themselves for and against contemporaneous music theory, theory pedagogy, and music history—both Soviet and Western. Leading the charge were three Moscow theorists, who developed tselostnïy analiz (holistic analysis)—a new analytical method that claimed a multidimensional approach to studying musical works. This study examines select writings by holistic analysts and by their critics in order to illuminate the ideological and intellectual underpinnings of music analysis as practiced in the Soviet Union in the years between the centralization of arts in 1932 and the beginning of World War II in 1941.
The ideological and intellectual foundations of music analysis in the USSR have largely escaped scholarly attention, even as Anglophone scholarship on the techniques of holistic analysis has continued to grow. In her pioneering examination of Russian and Soviet music theory, Ellon Carpenter draws attention to the emergence of music analysis in the Soviet Union. Carpenter’s assessment of the nascent discipline is skeptical. She is particularly uncomfortable with the sociological element—the focus on “content”—which Marxism brings to Soviet music theory. Moreover, because Carpenter views holistic analysis as the final step in a series of extraordinary music-theoretical developments taking place in the 1910s and 1920s, she reaches a dispiriting conclusion: music analysis dilutes serious theoretical inquiry in the Soviet Union, and it does so, in part, by injecting Marxist methods into it. In this article, I accept the significance of Marxism in Soviet scholarship of the 1930s as a historical given. There is no question that in promoting music analysis, holistic analysts were responding to the pressure of politics, at least to some extent. Yet, while Carpenter views music analysis as a subordinate branch of music theory, I contend that music analysis must be understood in its own terms as an independent scholarly endeavor. My historical study of holistic analysis in the Soviet Union draws attention to the novel kinds of musical insight afforded by its practice, the music-pedagogical transformations it engendered at the Moscow Conservatory, and the realignment of the sub-disciplines of Soviet musicology it precipitated. This realignment, I argue, contributed to the survival of music history and music theory, even as it further splintered Soviet musicology.
In her recent work on the early history of Soviet musicology (1917–1931), Olga Panteleeva examines the transformation of musicology from a positivist discipline to a Marxist one. My study takes off chronologically from hers and complicates the story of musicology’s transformation she outlined. My reading of the writings of the holistic analysts shows that the transition from positivism to Marxism was much more gradual, contentious, and lengthier than previously thought; perhaps so much so that the Marxist impulse failed to supplant the positivist one and the two co-existed in the writings of holistic analysts at least until 1941. Additionally, the present essay pushes against the Soviet construct of musicology in the USSR as a single and centralized “musical science” with a common purpose—a construct that still holds sway in recent reappraisals of the history of the discipline. Certainly, “common purpose” was invoked in professional publications throughout the 1930s and 1940s, but Soviet musicology was never a coherent discipline: even before music analysis transformed the field of music scholarship, music history and music theory remained separate and even espoused antagonistic perspectives on the study of music. Therefore, rather than projecting the sense of a unified “musicology,” the sources analyzed below highlight stark disciplinary divisions between music history, music analysis and music theory, supported by corresponding professional rivalries, turf wars, and instances of disciplinary vying for political prestige. The strong politicization of music theory in the 1930s has been overlooked in studies that lump the three disciplines together into a single “musicology” or envision Soviet musicology in binary terms as a field comprising history and theory. Scholars have yet to fully grasp the politics and the underlying hostilities which marred disciplinary work in music theory, music analysis, and music history in the Soviet Union.
The tripartite division of Soviet “musicology” (established precisely in the 1930s, even if never publicly recognized as such) is crucial to understanding the development of musicology as a “discipline” in later decades as well. Richard Taruskin has examined the titanic clash in the 1960s and 1970s between Soviet music historians trying to restore some legitimacy to their discredited discipline and music theorists emerging from the yoke of state-enforced anti-formalism of the previous three decades. In centering his attention on the claims of music historians and music theorists, Taruskin’s binary view neglects to properly position holistic analysts and their work in the conflict. (He problematically groups holistic analysts with the theorists.) In reality, holistic analysis was caught squarely in the middle, attacked by both historians and, especially, stalwart theorists. Bringing the sources from the 1930s to bear on the evaluation of these later polemics significantly reorients and enriches our understanding of the 1970s’ clashes, and especially illuminates the assertions of power mobilized by the debates and disputes of the period. Indeed, age-old questions animated these later debates: 1) What does it mean to know music?; 2) Who defines the methods and mechanisms by which knowledge about music is made accessible?; and 3) Who controls these, and to what personal and professional end? These questions, which all too easily mutate from the epistemological to the ideological, are already at the core of the sources examined below. In what follows, I discuss the establishment of music analysis as an independent discipline, explain its foundations, investigate the politics behind its polemics, and show how music analysis reshaped contemporaneous Soviet musicology—all within the confines of a single, albeit a particularly significant, decade: the 1930s.
Holistic Analysis: A Sketch
By the early 1930s, the changes simmering in Soviet musicology since the mid-1920s reached their boiling point. The pluralism of approaches to the study of music that characterized the first Soviet decade was being superseded by the Marxist approach, which resulted in a general reorientation of Soviet musicology away from the natural-scientific framework and toward a more cultural, or sociological, encounter with music and its history, focused on the interrelatedness of content and form, and embracing of the “everyday reality” [deystvitel’nost’]. There was also a corresponding institutional shift—from research institutes to conservatories, the latter now becoming centers of both professional training and the production of scholarship. At the Moscow Conservatory, the rapid ascent to power of the members of the Russian Association of Proletarian Musicians (RAPM), who enthusiastically embraced the principal tenets of Marxism, and especially the notion of dialectical materialism, resulted in changes to the curriculum. Their militant antipathy towards music theory—which they accused of formalism, elitism, cloistered-ness, and, ultimately, social irrelevance—led in 1931 to the elimination of the entire theory track and the dismissal of some professors of theory. In its place, a new “historical-theoretical complex” of courses was devised, aimed to “dissolve theory in history.” The technical information taught was “reduced to null.” However destructive, the tyranny of RAPM proved to be temporary—in the process of the Communist Party’s consolidation of power over the arts, the organization was disbanded in 1932 and the changes it implemented were rolled back. The ideological platform behind these changes remained, however; if anything, it continued to be supported by the emerging doctrine of socialist realism and institutionalized anti-formalism.
It was in this political and intellectual climate, and in the aftermath of RAPM’s collapse, that holistic analysis arose. Developed by Viktor Zuckerman [Tsukkerman] (1903–88), Leo Mazel [Mazel’] (1907–2000), and Iosif Rïzhkin (1907–2008), the method transformed Soviet music scholarship and pedagogy. What made the new method “holistic” was its explicit end goal of multidimensionality—of simultaneous consideration of musical structure, content, and historical context. These young professors of music theory at the Moscow Conservatory imagined music analysis as the central of three pillars of music scholarship. No longer subsumed within theory and history, music analysis was conceived as an independent and “distinct discipline,” focused on the study of musical works. The three analysts argued along the lines of Marxist thought that by its very nature music analysis was a dialectical enterprise. Analysis allowed one to take a musical work apart, examine its details and constituent elements separately, and then reconstitute the whole anew through synthesis; thus, the work was transformed in the process of analysis (6, note 1).
Although holistic analysts readily recognized music history’s and theory’s autonomy and scientific significance, they also argued that the two disciplines were too segregated. Neither studied musical works directly or in whole, and, most problematically, neither tackled the questions of musical style and musical signification. Music theory was concerned with musical laws, but largely in abstraction. With its focus on explaining the separate elements of music, music theory appeared to be forever stuck at the threshold. To cross over, it had to “take into account that interaction of elements, which unifies them into an artistic whole and in turn is determined by the general conception of the musical work, by its content” (6, Mazel’s emphasis). Musical structure and music’s signifying potential, however, could only be tackled within the confines of music’s socio-cultural and historical context (6–9)—music theory needed history. Still, that need was reciprocal: “music-historical scholarship, if it is not grounded in the data from concrete analysis of musical compositions transmogrifies, at best, into the history of the ‘musical everyday life’ [muzïkal’nogo bïta], but ceases to be the history of the music itself” (5, Mazel’s emphasis). Rïzhkin concurred: “A true theoretical study . . . must be permeated with the spirit of historicism. A true historical study cannot be successful if it refuses theoretical armament.” Where Rïzhkin went further was in supplying the ideological spin: “Total rupture between theory and history, the rupture of the historical and logical methods, is a characteristic feature of the bourgeois trajectories in scholarship”—Soviet scholarship had to transcend that divide.
“Uncovering of content” [raskrïtiye soderzhaniya] of a musical work was proclaimed to be the cardinal goal of music analysis (10–1). “One of the first tasks before a theorist is to understand the analyzed work as a part of some general socially-determined complex of ideological phenomena” (10). Still, “content” had to come from within the work (11), and to decode it, one needed the tools of music theory. Rationalizing music theory in Marxist terms, holistic analysts argued that all music-theoretical systems, no matter how formalist, represent different facets of objective reality (12–3), and, in their own work, they embraced methodological pluralism.
Holistic analysts, then, exposed the interdependence of theory and history, while foregrounding the internal limitations of each discipline—limitations that could be overcome through analysis. In other words, music analysis could actually integrate its sister disciplines, providing a holistic approach to the study of musical works, and, in the process, become the “principal vital nerve of musicology” (5). In so doing, and whether by intent or coincidence, music analysis was giving a lifeline to both of its older siblings in politically fraught times—legitimacy to theory (in the age of anti-formalism) and some scientific credibility to history (in the age of perpetual remolding of the past according to the latest party mandate).
Pedagogical Ideals and Transformations
The birth and development of holistic analysis were inextricably linked with debates about undergraduate music theory curriculum and pedagogy. Writing about music theory curriculum, Zuckerman and Rïzhkin complained that the traditional division of the “theory cycle” into harmony, counterpoint, instrumentation, and analysis of musical form perpetuates fragmentation of knowledge. There is a “firm, permanent, methodically fixed and elevated-into-principle rupture between separate elements of the musical whole.” This fragmentation “contributes to the emergence and reinforcement of formalistic views on music” in the student, who never learns how to “associate formal structure[s] with the emotional-expressive side” of music.
Although holistic analysts imagined radical curricular transformations in the future, they were willing to settle for some stop-gaps, calling for synthesis and application. In the traditional theory courses, the changes might include “considerable increase in the gravitational pull of the analytical method” and “introduction of a series of examples for holistic analysis of content and form.” Courses in music theory “should be considered not as the end goal but as a means necessary for synthesizing encounter with musical works.” That encounter would be furnished by separate courses in music analysis, which would integrate those elements already studied in the theory classroom, introduce elements not studied previously, bring in essential historical contexts, and offer fundamental knowledge of music literature. Perhaps most significantly, given the political climate, holistic analysis in the classroom could mitigate music theory’s formalism.
Agreeing on the need for change and on broader solutions, holistic theorists disagreed with each other on details of optimal “restructuring of the [theory] cycle.” For example, Zuckerman proposed placing musical style at its center (11–2). Every theory course “must connect the study of rules with styles, which gave rise to these rules, uncovering the historical development of these relationships; it should consider music as expressive musical discourse [rech’]” (5). Such emphasis on understanding what music communicates and by what means, would be useful particularly for performers (7 and 11). This accent on music theory’s practical relevance exasperated Rïzhkin, who dismissed Zuckerman’s rationale, contending that scientific knowledge does not require justification: “the essence and main goal of a theoretical cycle is a scientific understanding [nauchnogo poznaniya] of musical art, realized with logical method, aimed at uncovering content and form of musical works.” Rïzhkin’s formulation spotlights the agenda of holistic analysts, namely a reconciliation of the empirical analytical method with Marxist dialectical materialism (music as a social encoder and signifier).
Whatever their plans for future modifications, by the end of the 1930s the three holistic analysts managed to effect change in at least some areas of the historical-theoretical curriculum of the Moscow Conservatory. The first was the conversion of the course titled “Analysis of musical form” into “Analysis of musical works”—the change in the title reflecting the reorientation from schematic to processual approach. Mazel, Zuckerman, and Rïzhkin also conceived and, starting in 1936, implemented a three-year sequence of holistic analysis that would run parallel to the sequences of music history and theory. The new track would integrate theory and history, allowing students to synthesize, apply, and broaden their knowledge by examining complete musical works, with a particular emphasis on the “historical-stylistic element” and music as a communicative art form.
Celebration and Criticism of Music Analysis
To develop a new analytical method in scholarship and turn it into pedagogy was challenging enough. (After all, without ever saying so outright, holistic analysts argued for a privileged place for music analysis within the study of music. By positing analysis as a higher form of musical knowledge, the prestige that they were claiming for it threatened the institutional/disciplinary balance of power within Soviet music academe.) To sustain music analysis within the ideological climate in which anything remotely formalist came under close scrutiny was outright onerous, because such accusations could come at any time and from any quarter, especially so since the boundary between legitimate epistemological concerns and acutely political ones was always remarkably porous. Critiques of holistic analysis were written by ethnomusicologists and music historians; staunch music theorists, who certainly had a lot to say on the subject, could not contribute for fear of being exposed as formalists. A chronological reading of these critiques reveals a progressive rhetorical shift from celebrating holistic analysis (and, with it, of music analysis as a whole) to attempting to challenge or topple it. Propelling the shift was the gradual but obvious mutation in the definition of “musical science” and of its social function.
In his 1937 survey of Soviet musicology since the Revolution, ethnomusicologist Lev Kulakovsky (1897–1989) lauded its many accomplishments, but also identified numerous limitations. He dismissed some recent historical writings for their “vulgar-sociological” approach (121); theorists came for censure for their obsession with developing universal theoretical systems (122). Even as he acknowledged valuable aspects of each such system (123), he lamented that these theories were extremely one-sided and hermetic (122). Worse still, they failed to meet the demands of dialectical materialism: “not having been governed by the practical needs of musical life, [they] did not aim to uncover the content and means of expression of musical thinking, of musical images [obrazov] in all of their multifacetedness” (123). Kulakovksy then proclaimed holistic analysis as the solution: “The problem of the critical selection of all the valuable elements of these music-theoretical systems . . . was being solved in the analyses of individual musical works . . . and in the practice of the conservatory courses (lectures and talks) of our best music theorists: Zuckerman, Rïzhkin, Mazel, and others” (123).
A year later, writing a review of Mazel’s 1937 comprehensive study of Chopin’s Fantaisie in F minor, Arnol’d Al’shvang (1898–1960), a music historian, was more cautious. At the outset, Al’shvang singled out music analysis as one of the biggest achievements of Soviet musical science. To foreground its central goal, namely its focus on musical content, Al’shvang set up a foil: the scholarship of Western “bourgeois musicologists” with its “‘multifaceted’ formalism” (81). He took a particular swipe at Heinrich Schenker, discussing his analysis of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony as the epitome of formalism. Al’shvang argued that although Schenker’s study is subtitled, “Darstellung des musikalischen Inhalts” [presentation of the musical content], there is no discussion of content whatsoever:
Schenker’s complete formalism comprises total identification of the specific-musical form of the work with its content, that is, in essence of complete denial of content. Schenker does not use a single figurative expression, not one poetic comparison [or] metaphor—nothing related to the domain of feeling, or of living images [obrazov]; he is dry and consistent to the end. In essence, rejecting the problem of relationship between music and reality, Schenker replaces the infinite cultural-historical links between art and life . . . with relationships between musical symbols (81, Al’shvang’s emphasis).
In contrast, Soviet musicology sets out to discover and explicate, “by means of a strict scientific analysis, the ideological content of musical styles, understand the expressive meaning of devices used in music, interpret the creativity of one composer or another, interpret musical works [themselves]” (81, emphasis in the original). Accordingly, Mazel was “correct to attribute to analysis the primacy within the system of musical knowledge” (84).
But while celebrating holistic analysis’ self-proclaimed emphasis on content, Al’shvang went on to declare that the method failed. Musical content remained under-theorized (83), and its potential in the analytical endeavor unrealized (86). Moreover, Al’shvang rejected the holistic approach itself: “A single, universal, method, insular and not directed towards a specific goal, but all at once towards all imaginable goals is inherently impossible” (83–4, emphasis in the original). Nor was Mazel’s own analysis holistic; rather, Al’shvang insisted, it was rich formal analysis, demonstrating the unity of Chopin’s Fantaisie. Still, that type of analysis was “positively essential” for music historians, composers, and particularly performers (84–5).
Al’shvang, however, remained skeptical about Mazel’s larger project, which “deems analysis to be the sole way of acquaintance with music. . . . Doing so compromises the entire performance culture and competency of the mass listener” (85–6). “Narrow-formal analysis” with its “‘scholasticism’” precludes “true synthesis of the musical specifics with the mighty thought and culture of humanity”—only such synthesis would lead to “lively and imaginative interpretations of cultural-historical and psychological content of music” (86–7, emphasis in the original). Al’shvang closed by casting a critical gaze upon all formal analyses, which often “cross out anything that relates to the living perception of music, to its great social role. What results is ‘music for music theorists’—a usurpation of one of the vital functions of social ideology in the name of the interests of a narrow caste” (87). In spurning such theoretical “‘priesthood,’” Al’shvang called for social relevance of music scholarship.
Georgiy Khubov (1902–1981), a music historian and deputy chief editor of the journal Sovetskaya Muzïka (Soviet Music), was more aggressively negative in his 1939 assessment of Soviet “musical science.” Declaring Soviet musicology to be a “living, organic part of socialist musical culture, [and] immediate and mighty stimulus of its creative growth,” (61) he identified two principal aims for the discipline: 1) to transfer scholarship into the realm of popular culture; and 2) “to raise and solve the crucial, actual problems of Soviet musical style.” Instead of pursuing these goals, most musicological work is “devoted to narrowly-focused specialized themes” of secondary importance; moreover, “not infrequently, in these theoretical studies pompous ‘scholarly’ phraseology replaces [real] musical analysis, formal scheme—living scientific thought” (61). Discussing Soviet music theory, Khubov singled out Mazel, whose monograph on Chopin’s Fantaisie manifests the old “traditions of abstract schematism, boring dogmatism, and verbalism.” Moreover, this “laborious ‘anatomical’ study of the musical form of Chopin’s composition” fails to tackle the “problem of artistic content.” As a result, the “valuable, in their own right, theoretical observations and comments lack broad generalizing creative thought” (62). Mazel’s failures were similar to those of other Soviet theorists, whose writings were too specialized, clinical, and, by extension, elitist. The way out, Khubov suggested, was to embrace musical aesthetics and criticism—to turn scholarship into an instrument of social change, and leave the scientific analytical musings behind for good (62–3).
In Defense of Music Analysis
Such challenges to music analysis could not go unanswered, and so in 1940, writing on behalf of himself and his fellow analysts, Mazel penned an uncharacteristic rebuttal—almost a manifesto—titled “On Soviet theoretical musicology.” He took a radical, and professionally and personally risky, approach in addressing his critics, accusing Russian theoretical musicology of lagging behind its Western bourgeois counterpart, and going so far as to point out its amateurism. To assuage the claim and to foreground the accomplishments of Soviet music theory, in his introduction Mazel concentrated on the musical science in Russia before the Revolution. There were talented music critics, he asserted; there was music theory in the guise of practical textbooks, and there were brilliant theorists, with highly original theoretical conceptions (albeit “abstract” and thus “ahistorical”) that addressed universal musical laws; but music theory as an “independent and developed science, in a sense that it existed in the West (Musikwissenschaft), was absent as such in Russia before the Revolution” (16; Mazel’s emphasis). The situation changed after the Revolution, but not sufficiently.
Against this backdrop, Mazel posed some fundamental questions: “What should . . . theoretical musicology be? What are its general goals and possibilities? What can one expect of and demand from it?” He began by arguing that “musical art, as any other phenomenon of the real world, is, in principle, knowable and should (and must) be an object of scientific study” (16, emphasis in the original).
The goals of music scholarship, if they are understood deeply, can be reduced neither to solving questions of practical character nor to . . . ‘enlightening’ musicians or the broader public. Being a science, which takes music as its object of study, [theoretical] musicology can and must become an organic component [sostavnoy chast’yu] of the musical culture itself (16–7, emphasis in the original).
In laying this foundation for his subsequent argument, Mazel merged positivist and Marxist approaches, the first manifested in the form of objective knowledge of music; the second, in the socio-cultural significance of that knowledge.
At the core of Mazel’s argument lies the idea that any musical work contains limitless latent possibilities, of which its composer may not even be aware. Moreover, once the composition leaves the composer’s workshop, and even as it remains fixed as an acoustical phenomenon, it begins to evolve (17–8). The change is prompted by the culture within which the work exists; but, more importantly, every performance, hearing, critique, and analysis transforms the work itself by revealing some of its latent elements. That transformation “objectively enriches the work, increases its value, significance, [and] substance” (19, Mazel’s emphasis).
Mazel next developed an analogy between performance and analysis. Simply put, the two offer different paths toward knowing an artwork. Mazel views musicology as a “special type of music-making [muzitsirovaniya]” (19). Music analysis arises from perception; however, being a science, it also arises from a higher point of understanding that deepens and corrects perception (20). Analysis, then, not only alters (because it heightens) one’s perception of the artwork, it enriches the work itself. It is precisely in this, Mazel contends, that music-analytical knowledge is different from the purely scientific. “When an astronomer studies the movement of celestial bodies, he expands our knowledge and understanding, but does not impact that movement itself. Analysis of an artwork, however, is a way of knowing it and simultaneously . . . of affecting it to some extent.” In short, analysis is both a “scientific activity” and a “creative-musical act” (20, emphasis in the original).
Mazel distinguished between musicology and hard sciences, but he also drove a definitive wedge between the aims of music analysis and music criticism. Recognizing an overlap between the two (20–1), he closed in on the differences. “The principal objective of a truly-critical article is to give a rating of the phenomenon under consideration, to pass a justified verdict. A critic is a judge.” The principal aim of the analyst is a “cognitive understanding [poznaniye] of the artistic phenomenon, deeper submersion [uglubleniye] into its nature and . . . enrichment of the phenomenon itself” (21, emphasis in the original).
Having laid the philosophical foundation for music analysis, Mazel’s turned to holistic analysis. He began by surveying the accomplishments of Soviet theory in its first decades, touching on the work of Georgiy Conus (metrotechtonism), Georgiy Catoire (harmonic functions), Mikhail Ivanov-Boretsky (a music historian but who called for historicism in music theory)—in Moscow, and Boris Asafyev, Khristofor Kushnarev (counterpoint), Yuri Tyulin (harmony) and others in Leningrad (22). Noting that most of these theorists were composers first, Mazel drew attention to the fact that around 1930 there was a shift towards professionalization in music theory: the field began to be dominated by non-composer theorists, interested in a more systematic and objective study of music. And here Mazel singled out Rïzhkin, Zuckerman, and himself—the three theorists who worked to create a “new method of analysis of musical works that would permit a scientifically-founded approach to the expressive-signifying side of music” (23, Mazel’s emphasis). Because musical content was not the only thing that required attention, the three also had to “raise principled questions about historicism in analysis, about the problem of style”; “catch up with Western musicology with regard to the technical level of analysis”; and “continue to expand the theory of musical form” (23). These tasks, Mazel claimed, had been largely accomplished, as the three chief practitioners, whose scholarly and pedagogical contributions he catalogued, succeeded in positioning “historic-stylistic analysis” (i.e., holistic analysis) at the center of Soviet theoretical musicology (24).
Elaborating on the premises of such analysis, Mazel returned to the arguments he had put forward in the introduction to his 1937 Chopin study, but accentuated anew the method’s emphasis on content, which, answering his critics, he now tackled in a distinctly novel, and more thorough, way (24–5). To those who would ask how music signifies, he explained:
The answer is that even though individual [musical] devices, gestures, and the like, do not have in themselves definite expressive meaning, they possess a definite circle . . . of typical and natural expressive possibilities, related to the very nature of these devices. . . . Their particular realization in the musical context is tied to the historically conditioned and evolving musical expressive-semantic complexes [vïrazitel’no-smïslovïmi kompleksami]. . . . The entire totality of the found expressive-semantic complexes, the whole sum of human-made musical images is bound by rule-based ties to the actual everyday reality, [and] represents its specific manifestations (24, emphasis in the original).
What Mazel laid out was the foundation for what today one would call “Topic Theory.” His “expressive-semantic complexes” could be understood as topics or broad topical categories, which furnish a way of objectively accessing content. It is in exploring these that music history and theory could intersect most productively in analysis (24–5).
In sum, Mazel’s essay was as much a rejoinder to his critics as it was a mission statement for music analysis. He defined analysis as a serious academic discipline—one that could approximate an exact science. At the heart of holistic analysis was the study of musical and extra-musical content, which was objectively knowable. By insisting that scientific inquiry into the expressive-signifying potential of music was possible, Mazel offered a viable convergence for positivist and Marxist approaches through analysis. But music analysis was more than a science to Mazel, it was also a creative act: good analysis not only observed and described, it also interpreted and, in the process, transformed the work it studied. Because of this, the analytical act was imbued with social relevance. By fusing objective knowledge and inquiry (analysis as science) with the subjective (analysis as a creative act), and arguing for the social significance of the result, Mazel was situating music analysis within a horizon of humanistic engagement with music that would open up music theory to the enterprise of music aesthetics. Still, Mazel was explicit that analysis was not—and should not be—criticism; being a research endeavor, its aims were fundamentally different.
The backlash to Mazel’s assertions was immediate and severe. His article was already accompanied by a note from the editors of Sovetskaya Muzïka, signaling a disagreement and inviting rejoinders from others (29). The first to answer the call was Lev Kulakovsky. Since Kulakovsky was a friend, his was a preemptive critique, almost certainly meant to soften the blow from what was to follow from other quarters. Criticize he did, but he also backed Mazel on some points, and, more significantly, expanded on his thinking—in the process distracting from Mazel’s more contentious ideas.
Arguing that a musicologist should be a judge, Kulakovsky rejected Mazel’s dichotomy between music analysis and criticism as artificial and intellectually unsound (46–7). Mazel’s isolation of musicology troubled Kulakovsky: “To view criticism or pedagogy as practical supplements to theory is dangerous and harmful; only the close connection between pedagogy and criticism with musicology could furnish the last with methodological successes” (46, emphasis in the original). He disputed Mazel’s understanding of the end goal of musicology. “Incorrect and dangerous is L. Mazel’s restrictive tendency itself, one that accentuates in musicology exclusively the quest-for-knowledge element [poznavatel’nïy moment; literally, “cognitive moment”]” (45, emphasis in the original). And he reminded Mazel of musicology’s “service role in the massive edifice of Soviet musical culture” (46).
Turning to music analysis, Kulakovsky questioned its maturity and expressed concern over the risks of analysis crossing into formalism (46). One of the ways to avoid the latter was for musicology to broaden out, by paying attention to music’s “adjacent arts;” and by shifting away from “enriching musical works” in the process of analysis (and here Kulakovksy does jab Mazel) toward enriching their perception (49–50). Kulakovksy identified music perception and aesthetics as critical paths forward for musicology.
If Kulakovksy’s response focused on a few points of Mazel’s essay and raised some valid objections, the editors of Sovetskaya Muzïka took a rather different tack in the very next issue of the journal. Their 1941 article was titled, innocently enough, “Toward a discussion of Soviet musicology,” but the text reads like an official denunciation of Mazel and the “entire group of musicologists whose views he represents”—musicologists who “set the tone for music-theoretical work” at the Moscow Conservatory and beyond (91–2). Apart from two points of agreement with Mazel—1) that analysis is an essential tool of musicology, and 2) that Soviet musicology has, indeed, made progress since the Revolution (92 and 97)—the rest of the lengthy and remarkably redundant article shreds Mazel’s essay, without ever offering any substantive solutions to Mazel’s “inaccurate reflections” and “multitude of mistakes” (95). To give this article the airing that it warrants would require a separate study—one that would examine its militant rhetoric, articulation of the aims of Soviet musicology and thus of the official state platform for the discipline, and anticipation of the dicta of 1948–9. Here it would suffice to list the main points of contention as they apply to Mazel’s view of musicology and the role of analysis in it.
According to the editors, Mazel’s discussion of musicology and its tasks was wrong:
From a science with extremely broad tasks, from a science that is not only cognitive [poznayushchey] and explanatory but also formative, musicology, in comrade Mazel’s interpretation, becomes the sui generis, aristocratically refined music-making . . . in which analysis—inexhaustibly painstaking, endlessly deepening—becomes an end in itself (93).
The editors outright rejected his “dubious thesis of ‘objective enrichment’ of an artwork through analysis” (93). And they took Mazel to task for his “lengthy and inaccurate” (93) view of the relationship between theoretical musicology and criticism. Mazel’s dichotomy between music criticism and musicology would result in musicology that is “scientifically founded, equipped with a method of analysis, but—choosing on principle not to engage with everyday life issues, not to judge, i.e., choosing to be dispassionate—torn from life, and, ultimately, socially useless” (95).
The social disengagement epitomized by Mazel and his essay, the editorial argued, was characteristic of the entire Moscow Conservatory, where such “delimitation of the musical science” (96) and the resultant “academic objectivity” produce musicologists with their “arrogant neglect” of music journalism (97). The editorial then called for musicology in which scholarship is saturated “with the spirit of journalism, [and] martial spirit of contemporary social struggle and building” (97–8). The article closed by declaring that the “discussion about Soviet musicology is only beginning” (98).
And indeed it was—at least as officially dictated. The metaphorical door between the past and the future of Soviet musicology—the door that holistic analysts kept propped open by reconciling positivism and Marxism, formalist theory and historical materialism, and bringing objective scientific inquiry to bear on music and the experience of music as an art—was about to be slammed shut. The full-fledged fallout from the editorial was postponed by the start of the War in June 1941. Mazel would have to wait for his judgment day for eight years, when he would be publicly denounced as a “musicologist-anti-patriot” and the most formalist of music theorists in the country, and fired from the Moscow Conservatory. His 1940 article would be a central piece of evidence in accusing him of formalism, cosmopolitanism, kowtowing to Western scholarship, and much else besides. His fellow proponents of analysis, Zuckerman and Rïzhkin—the “silent bystanders” [molchal’niki]—would fare only slightly better in the aftermath of the 1948–9 campaign.
In developing the method of holistic analysis in the 1930s, its creators succeeded in laying a foundation for analysis as an independent branch of musical knowledge. This foundation proved to be extraordinarily resilient, persevering against the repeated accusations of formalism and cosmopolitanism. Indeed, holistic analysis withstood these accusations far better than did either music history or theory in the turbulent 1940s and 1950s. In addition to lending some legitimacy to music history as practiced in the Soviet Union, holistic analysis helped ensure the survival of music theory both in the classroom and in scholarship during the period. This was because holistic analysts always insisted that any theoretical model was valuable and consistently advocated for eclectic methodologies in the study of musical composition. The invention of holistic analysis and its disciplinary elevation in Soviet academe arguably served opportunistic ends as it safeguarded against accusations of formalism. One way to understand holistic analysis (as Al’shvang’s critique already suggested) is as a formalist practice, neatly and richly repackaged to distract, and, if necessary, to defend its practitioners against the onslaught of criticism. But to argue this would overlook the historical significance of the method and its important longevity in the Soviet context. Developed in the 1930s—possibly the most oppressive decade in Soviet life—holistic analysis was at once idealistic and liberating. It was a quintessential humanistic endeavor that valued comprehension and reasoning in the investigation of music, and integrated the study of musical structure and meaning, theory and history. Music analysts resisted the co-opting influence of specific theoretical systems, and remained committed to a process of discovery and exploration. To be sure, the invention of holistic analysis was motivated by political ideology. It answered the call to develop a Marxist scholarly practice in music which emphasized the socio-cultural dimensions of music and highlighted the social relevance of scholarship. Yet, the method far outlived the context of its creation, becoming one of the most inclusive analytical systems of the twentieth century. The originators of holistic analysis remained its practitioners for decades to come, perpetually returning to the problems of its methodology, honing their philosophical arguments, and branching out into new fields (semiotics, music cognition, aesthetics, and the like). Eventually the three holistic analysts diverged from each other and from the original method, but music analysis as they conceived of it in the 1930s remained a mainstay of Soviet musicology.
- Al’shvang, Arnold. “Ob analize muzïkal’nïkh proizvedeniy: Po povodu knigi L. Mazelya” [On the analysis of musical works: Apropos of L. Mazel’s book]. Sovetskaya Muzïka, no. 7 (1938): 80–7.
- Bakulina, Ellen. “Linear-Analytical Elements in Leo Mazel’s Work: Revisiting Chopin’s Fantasy, op. 49.” Paper read at the Fortieth Annual Meeting of the Society for Music Theory, Arlington, VA, November 2–5, 2017.
- Bukina, Tatyana V. Muzïkal’naya nauka v Rossii 1920-2000-godov: ocherki kul’turnoy istorii [Musical science in Russia in the years 1920–2000: Essays in cultural history]. St. Petersburg: Izdatel’stvo RKhGA, 2010.
- Carpenter, Ellon DeGrief. “The Theory of Music in Russia and the Soviet Union, ca. 1650–1950.” PhD diss., University of Pennsylvania, 1988.
- Frolova-Walker, Marina, and Jonathan Walker. Music and Soviet Power: 1917–1932. Croydon, UK: The Boydell Press, 2012.
- Golovinskiy, Grigoriy L., ed. V. A. Tsukkerman—muzïkant, uchenïy, chelovek: Stat’i, vospominaniya, materialï [V. A. Tsukkerman—musician, scholar, person: Articles, reminiscences, materials]. Moscow: Kompozitor, 1994.
- “K diskussii o sovetskom muzïkoznanii” [Toward a discussion of Soviet musicology]. Sovetskaya Muzïka, no. 4 (1941): 90–8.
- Khannanov, Ildar D. “Russian Methodology of Musical Form and Analysis.” PhD diss., University of California, Santa Barbara, 2003.
- Kholopov, Yuriy. “Teoreticheskoye muzïkoznaniye kak gumanitarnaya nauka: problema analiza muzïki” (Polemicheskaya stat’ya vtoraya)” [Theoretical musicology as a humanistic science: the problem of music analysis (Second polemical article)]. Sovetskaya Muzïka, no. 10 (1988), 87–94.
- Khubov, Georgiy. “O muzïkal’noy nauke” [On musical science]. Sovetskaya Muzïka, no. 3 (1939): 60–3.
- Konson, Grigoriy R. “Iosif Yakovlevich Rïzhkin.” Problemï Muzïkal'noy Nauki, no. 2 (2010): 114–8.
- ———. “O neglasnoy polemike I. Ya. Rïzhkina i L. A. Mazelya” [On unofficial polemics between I. Ya. Rïzhkin and L. A. Mazel’]. Muzïkal’naya Akademiya, no. 1 (2010): 150–8.
- ———. “Viktor Abramovich Tsukkerman (1903–1988).” Problemï Muzïkal'noy Nauki, no. 2 (2014): 34–41.
- Kulakovskiy, Lev. “Sovetskoye muzïkoznaniye” [Soviet musicology]. Sovetskaya Muzïka, nos. 10–11 (1937): 117–25.
- ———. “Zametki o sovetskom muzïkoznanii” [Notes on Soviet Musicology]. Sovetskaya Muzïka, no. 3 (1941): 45–50.
- Mazel’, Leo A. Fantaziya f-moll Shopena: Opït analiza [Chopin’s F-minor Fantasy: An experiment in analysis]. Moscow: Gosudarstvennoye Muzïkal’noye Izdatel’stvo, 1937.
- ———. O melodii [On melody]. Moscow: Gosudarstvennoye Muzïkal'noye Izdatel'stvo, 1952.
- ———. “O sovetskom teoreticheskom muzïkoznanii” [On Soviet theoretical musicology]. Sovetskaya Muzïka, no. 12 (1940): 15–29.
- Naumenko, Tatyana I. Tekstologiya muzïkal’noy nauki [Textology of Music Scholarship]. Moscow: Pamyatniki istoricheskoy mïsli, 2013.
- Panteleeva, Olga. “Formation of Russian Musicology from Sacchetti to Asafyev, 1885–1931.” PhD diss., University of California, Berkeley, 2015.
- ———. “How Soviet Musicology became Marxist.” The Slavonic and East European Review 97, no. 1 (January 2019): 73–109. https://doi.org/10.5699/slaveasteurorev2.97.1.0073.
- Raku, Marina. Muzïkalʹnaya klassika v mifotvorchestve sovetskoy epokhi [Musical classics in the mythmaking of the Soviet epoch]. Moscow: Novoye literaturnoye obozreniye, 2014.
- Rïzhkin, Iosif Ya. “Muzïkoznaniye v Moskovskoy konservatorii za piatnadtsat’ let mirnogo vremeni (1927–1941): Fragmentï vospominaniy” [Musicology at the Moscow Conservatory over a fifteen-year period of peace (1927–1941): Fragments of reminiscences]. In Iz lichnïkh arkhivov professorov Moskovskoy konservatorii, edited by G. V. Grigoryeva, 9–58. Moscow: Nauchno-izdatel’skiy tsentr “Moskovskaya konservatoriya,” 2008.
- ———. “O soderzhanii i postroyenii muzïkal’no-teoreticheskogo obrazovaniya” [On content and structure of music-theoretical education]. Sovetskaya Muzïka, no. 5 (1939): 66–71, and no. 6 (1939): 79–86.
- ———. “O vklade L. A. Mazelya v muzïkoznaniye XX veka” [On the contribution of L. A. Mazel’ to twentieth-century musicology]. Muzïkal’naya Akademiya, no. 4 (2001): 116–20.
- ———. Russkoye klassicheskoye muzïkoznaniye v bor'be protiv formalizma [Russian classical musicology in its struggle against formalism]. Moscow and Leningrad: Gosudarstvennoye Muzïkal'noye Izdatel'stvo, 1951.
- ———. “Traditsionnaya shkola teorii muzïki” [The traditional school of music theory]. Sovetskaya Muzïka, no. 3 (1933): 74–98.
- Smrž, Jiří. Symphonic Stalinism: Claiming Russian Musical Classics for the New Soviet Listener, 1932–1953. Berlin: LIT Verlag, 2011.
- Taruskin, Richard. “Found in Translation.” Min-Ad: Israel Studies in Musicology Online 16 (2019): 1–31. https://www.biu.ac.il/hu/mu/min-ad/2019/Richard_Taruskin_Found-in-Translation.pdf.
- Tsukkerman, Viktor A. “Kamarinskaya” Glinki i yeyo traditsii v russkoy muzïke [Glinka’s “Kamarinskaya” and its traditions in Russian music]. Moscow: Gosudarstvennoye Muzïkal’noye Izdatel’stvo, 1957.
- ———. “Metodï muzïkal’no-teoreticheskogo obrazovaniya” [Methods of music-theoretical education]. Sovetskaya Muzïka, no. 7 (1936): 3–13.
- Vlasova, Ye. S. 1948 god v sovetskoy muzïke: dokumentirovannoye issledovaniye [The Year 1948 in Soviet music: a documented study]. Moscow: Klassika-XXI, 2010.
- Zavlunov, Daniil. “The ‘Tselostnyǐ Analiz’ (Holistic Analysis) of Zuckerman and Mazel,” Music Theory Online 20, no. 3 (2014). https://doi.org/10.30535/mto.20.3.10.
A note on the terminology: In Russian use, “muzïkoznaniye” (musicology) encompasses music history and theory, and either discipline (or both) could be invoked when the term is employed in the writings discussed below. When the authors want to emphasize the distinction, they tend to use “teoreticheskoye muzïkoznaniye” (theoretical musicology). “Nauka” (adjective: “nauchnïy”) could be translated as “science” (literal meaning) or “scholarship.” Almost without exception, holistic analysts use the term in its former denotation to stress objective inquiry, which was at the heart of their project. Throughout this study, all translations are mine.
Ellon DeGrief Carpenter, “The Theory of Music in Russia and the Soviet Union, ca. 1650–1950” (PhD diss., University of Pennsylvania, 1988), chs. 27–28, masterfully treats holistic analysis in its first two decades, offering detailed summaries and insightful critiques of the representative scholarship that exemplify the method. Daniil Zavlunov, “The ‘Tselostnyǐ Analiz’ (Holistic Analysis) of Zuckerman and Mazel,” Music Theory Online 20, no. 3 (2014), http://www.mtosmt.org/issues/mto.14.20.3/mto.14.20.3.zavlunov.html presents a capsule history of holistic analysis in its early decades and then traces the method’s evolution after 1960. Interrogating the philosophical differences between the formalist and the integralist (i.e., holistic) analytical schools, prevalent in the Soviet Union in the second half of the twentieth century, is Ildar D. Khannanov, “Russian Methodology of Musical Form and Analysis” (Ph.D. diss., University of California, Santa Barbara, 2003). A different sort of comparative approach has informed a more recent project by Ellen Bakulina, drawing out parallels between examples of holistic analysis and Schenkerian theory. Ellen Bakulina, “Linear-Analytical Elements in Leo Mazel’s Work: Revisiting Chopin’s Fantasy, op. 49” (paper read at the Fortieth Annual Meeting of the Society for Music Theory, Arlington, VA, November 2–5, 2017).
For any study dealing with Russian and Soviet music theory before 1950, some overlap with the encyclopedic work done by Carpenter (see note 2) is unavoidable—particularly when it comes to sources. Even when such overlap occurs (e.g., the latter half of this article and her dissertation’s chapter 30), my reading of the sources often differs significantly from hers.
See, for example, Carpenter, “The Theory of Music in Russia and the Soviet Union,” 915; 983; 1028–9; 1161–3. Statements, such as the following, are common throughout the study: “With this renewed consideration of content and the resulting devaluation of technical and speculative theory, most of Soviet music theory became enmeshed in analytical mediocrity” (1057); or “The Marxist bias towards the all-embracing, comprehensive approach did not enrich music theory; it weakened it” (1161–2).
See Olga Panteleeva, “Formation of Russian Musicology from Sacchetti to Asafyev, 1885–1931” (PhD diss., University of California, Berkeley, 2015); also Olga Panteleeva, “How Soviet Musicology became Marxist,” The Slavonic and East European Review 97, no. 1 (January 2019): 73–109, https://doi.org/10.5699/slaveasteurorev2.97.1.0073.
For example, Tatyana V. Bukina, Muzïkal’naya nauka v Rossii 1920-2000-godov: ocherki kul’turnoy istorii (St. Petersburg: Izdatel’stvo RKhGA, 2010); Jiří Smrž, Symphonic Stalinism: Claiming Russian Musical Classics for the New Soviet Listener, 1932–1953 (Berlin: LIT Verlag, 2011); Tatyana I. Naumenko, Tekstologiya muzïkal’noy nauki (Moscow: Pamyatniki istoricheskoy mïsli, 2013); Marina Raku, Muzïkalʹnaya klassika v mifotvorchestve sovetskoy epokhi (Moscow: Novoye literaturnoye obozreniye, 2014).
Soviet music theory during the decade in question has not received the critical reexamination that it warrants. There is nothing comparable to the studies devoted to the politicization of the discipline of music history (and the corresponding Sovietization/Stalinization of music historiography) in the 1930s (see previous note). Although the contours are similar, the story of music theory in the 1930s is also significantly different from that of music history.
Richard Taruskin, “Found in Translation,” Min-Ad: Israel Studies in Musicology Online 16 (2019): 1–31, https://www.biu.ac.il/hu/mu/min-ad/2019/Richard_Taruskin_Found-in-Translation.pdf.
For one example of the latter, see Yuriy Kholopov, “Teoreticheskoye muzïkoznaniye kak gumanitarnaya nauka: problema analiza muzïki” (Polemicheskaya stat’ya vtoraya),” Sovetskaya Muzïka, no. 10 (1988), 87–94—the “polemical article” Taruskin cites, but does not examine.
Both the reorientation and corresponding institutional shifts are treated in Panteleeva, “Formation of Russian Musicology from Sacchetti to Asafyev, 1885–1931,” ch. 5 and Conclusion; idem, “How Soviet Musicology became Marxist.”
On RAPM’s platform, activities, political takeover and ultimate demise, see Marina Frolova-Walker and Jonathan Walker, Music and Soviet Power: 1917–1932 (Croydon, UK: The Boydell Press, 2012); also see Ye. S. Vlasova, 1948 god v sovetskoy muzïke: dokumentirovannoye issledovaniye (Moscow: Klassika-XXI, 2010), ch. 4.
This included the firing of Igor Sposobin and virtual lay off of Viktor Zuckerman. On Sposobin, see Iosif Rïzhkin, “Muzïkoznaniye v Moskovskoy konservatorii za pyatnadtsat’ let mirnogo vremeni (1927–1941): Fragmentï vospominaniy,” in Iz lichnïkh arkhivov professorov Moskovskoy konservatorii, ed. G. V. Grigoryeva (Moscow: Nauchno-izdatel’skiy tsentr “Moskovskaya konservatoriya,” 2008), 39; on Zuckerman, see Grigoriy Konson, “Viktor Abramovich Tsukkerman (1903–1988),” Problemï Muzïkal'noy Nauki, no. 2 (2014), 35.
Iosif Rïzhkin, “Traditsionnaya shkola teorii muzïki,” Sovetskaya Muzïka, no. 3 (1933), 98; idem, “O soderzhanii i postroyenii muzïkal’no-teoreticheskogo obrazovaniya,” Sovetskaya Muzïka, no. 5 (1939) [henceforth: “O soderzhanii i postroyenii,” I], 68; idem, “Muzïkoznaniye v Moskovskoy konservatorii,” 24.
For reasons of space, I can only sketch out a collective biographical vignette for the founders of holistic analysis, focusing on the decades under consideration in this essay (additional references to their and others’ biographies are interspersed throughout the text). Members of the first generation of Soviet scholars who came of age after the Revolution, the three were among those who would lay the foundation for Soviet musicology, even if often building on the ideas of their pre-Revolutionary predecessors and, in some cases, mentors. More specifically, in the 1930s, Zuckerman, Mazel, and Rïzhkin would become the originators of the music-analytical branch of the discipline, or—to be more precise—of the discipline’s Moscow wing. Zuckerman (1903–1988) arrived in Moscow from Kiev in 1926. Having already completed his studies at the Kiev Conservatory, first with Boleslav Yavorsky and then Arnol’d Al’shvang (the former the inventor of the highly-influential theory of modal rhythm [ladovïy ritm]; the latter its proponent), Zuckerman was now appointed to teach Yavorsky’s methods at the Moscow Conservatory, where Mazel and Rïzhkin were then students. Mazel (1907–2000) worked under the tutelage of Georgiy Catoire (theorist of Riemannian functionalism), Anatoliy Aleksandrov (composer-theorist), and Mikhail Ivanov-Boretskiy (music historian with theoretical inclinations). Rïzhkin (1907–2008) was mentored primarily by Mikhail Gnesin (composer-theorist-historian, known for his integrative approach to music). Rïzhkin and Mazel graduated from the Conservatory in 1930, and, with their theory degrees in hand, were immediately hired first as teaching assistants and then lecturers, while pursuing their own upper-level graduate studies. Rapidly rising through the ranks, by 1939 all three were professors, with Mazel even chairing the theory department between 1936 and 1941 (apparently sharing these duties with Zuckerman, at least some of the time). Acutely interested in the issues of music theory pedagogy, the three authored numerous publications expounding on a new system of teaching theory in conservatories. Although Zuckerman, Mazel, and Rïzhkin were card-carrying music theorists, their understanding of the discipline—both in the classroom and scholarship—was considerably broader and more fluid than the traditional definition would allow (these differences are at the core of the present essay). As they began to establish their research identities in the 1930s, the trio showed common interests, especially when it came to music analysis and questions of musical signification, but their individual intellectual orientations were distinct. Zuckerman focused on musical form and music’s communicative capabilities: he viewed form as a process, often comprising the unfolding of its expressive components, which he would explore in their historical development. It would not be an exaggeration to say that he became the founding father of what one might call Soviet “topic theory.” If Zuckerman was a musical semiotician, Mazel was a structuralist, with deep allegiance to formal unities, but studied within the confines of historical genres and styles. In addition to form, his research encompassed the theory of melody, relationship between music and language, and—a bit later—the reconciliation of speculative theory and aesthetics. Mazel and Rïzhkin’s shared fascination with the history of music theory led them to co-author two foundational texts on the subject (1934 and 1939), exploring numerous theoretical systems, Western European and Russian, from Rameau to their own present. In so doing, they introduced the history of theory as a legitimate field of scholarly inquiry into Soviet musicology. Rïzhkin’s personal research profile revealed a keen dedication to broader issues of style and large-scale historical processes as they are manifested in music. Deeply interested in philosophy, he would go on to author publications which crossed into the realm of musical hermeneutics. He was also a developer of the theory of musical imagery. Of the three analysts, only Rïzhkin was actively political. For example, he was involved in the process of the Communist Party’s centralization of arts in 1932, and subsequently became the chairman of the musicology and music criticism division of the newly-formed Union of Soviet Composers. (I cull these biographical details from various sources listed in the bibliography, but with three in particular: Grigoriy L. Golovinskiy, ed., V. A. Tsukkerman—muzïkant, uchenïy, chelovek: Stat’i, vospominaniya, materialï (Moscow: Kompozitor, 1994); Rïzhkin, “Muzïkoznaniye v Moskovskoy konservatorii”; Zavlunov, “The ‘Tselostnyǐ Analiz.’”)
Needless to say, holistic analysts were not the only ones practicing analysis; others—most notably Boris Asafyev (whom holistic analysts acknowledged as one of their many forefathers)—frequently harnessed the power of analysis in their scholarship. Asafyev’s approach was too idiosyncratic and not systematic enough to be considered a method, according to holistic analysts.
Leo Mazel’, Fantaziya f-moll Shopena: Opït analiza (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoye Muzïkal’noye Izdatel’stvo, 1937), 5, note 1. Further page references in text. I base this section of my essay largely on the ideas as presented by Mazel, supplementing them with those of his peers. Of the earliest published examples of holistic analysis, only Mazel’s monograph on Chopin’s Fantaisie deals explicitly with the aims of holistic analysis and its method. Mazel’s study served a dual purpose: as the first-of-its-kind practical guide to holistic analysis and, thus, a demonstration of the possibilities of the new method through its application to a single major work, and, concurrently, as an exploration of the topic of large-scale form in Chopin’s music (3), one that would counter the misconception that Chopin’s large-scale compositions lacked in unity and structural coherence (14–5). Mazel admitted that Fantaisie was a strategic choice: the piece was purely instrumental and not programmatic (which allowed to engage with the issues of musical content and signification in a new way), it was relatively small in scale yet complex, it was accepted as a masterwork but was not burdened by existing analytical commentary; it was by Chopin—whose music was known for the magnitude of its emotional sweep and was also of extreme import and popularity in Russia, but whose creative output has not yet received sustained scholarly attention; finally, it could link music and politics, with Mazel noting that Vladimir Lenin viewed Poland as being at the forefront of bourgeois revolutionary movements in the nineteenth century—something that any “musical-historical study on Chopin,” Mazel added, would have to take into account in exploring the reasons behind the “progressive character and enormous positive significance of his creative activity” (14).
Tsukkerman, “Metodï,” 4, rehearses some of the changes alongside the various proposals. “Undergraduate” is a relative concept here, and my use of the term is anachronistic. The Soviet system of music education followed a trajectory from “music school” to “music institute” [tekhnikum or uchilishche] (four years, if the student continued on to the next phase; five, if the degree was terminal) to institution of highest learning [vuz], including the conservatory. The holistic analysts were concerned with the education at the last two.
Mazel did not publish at length on the subject (though he touches on it in his 1940 article discussed below), but contributed to it by proposing various curricular plans and implementing some of these at the Moscow Conservatory.
“Rech’” is traditionally (and literally) rendered in Anglophone scholarship on Russian theory as “speech”; I believe that at least some of the time “discourse” is better as it foregrounds music’s communicative potential.
Mazel’, Fantaziya f-moll Shopena, 5, note 1. The course sequence was intended for musicologists, and was taught, alternatingly, by Zuckerman, Mazel, and Rïzhkin (Rïzhkin, “Muzïkoznaniye v Moskovskoy konservatorii,” 15, note 7).
This, however, did not prevent music theorists from mounting major offensives within the walls of the Conservatory, where battles—often very ugly—between the proponents of holistic analysis and their detractors (in both cases, music theorists, but of different orientations) raged for decades, shaping Soviet music pedagogy and academic discourse. Tsukkerman, “Metodï,” implies as much; Rïzhkin, “Muzïkoznaniye v Moskovskoy konservatorii,” furnishes some details; also see Khannanov, “Russian Methodology of Musical Form and Analysis.” Some of the reverberations of these contentions in the second half of the century are treated in Taruskin, “Found in Translation,” especially parts VI and VII.
By the late 1930s this was accepted as a given, so much so that even the founders of holistic analysis began to claim that “the chief accomplishment in the evolution of Soviet musicology is not so much the accumulation of separate observations on the separate elements of the musical speech as it is the development of a new method of study of musical works, which reconceives the entire formal-technical material.” Rïzhkin, “O soderzhanii i postroyenii,” II, 85, emphasis in the original.
One should stress that Al’shvang does not reject all Western scholarship, of which he is acutely aware. Other theorists past and present come up both for censure and praise, among them Adolf Bernhard Marx, Hugo Riemann, Ernst Kurth, August Halm, and Romain Rolland—all of whom, according to Al’shvang, broaden out into the cultural sphere in their work.
The very fact that Sovetskaya Muzïka—the official organ of Soviet musicology—carried his article is remarkable, making one wonder whether the article was printed with the intent of initiating a campaign against holistic analysts. Mazel must have been aware of the dangers that his article could pose to himself and others; what prompted him to go on the offensive (in other words, to protest publicly) remains unclear.
See Carpenter, “The Theory of Music in Russia,” 1144. On positivism and Marxism in early Soviet musicology, see Panteleeva, “How Soviet Musicology became Marxist.” In her dissertation, “Formation of Russian Musicology,” 145–50, Panteleeva offers a reading of the Mazel article—mostly focusing on the passages not considered above—that is significantly different from that of the present study. In part, the difference could be explained by her choice of an alternate contextual lens; and in part, by her leap from 1931 to 1940, bypassing the messy reconfiguration of Soviet “musical science” traced in the present article.
Rïzhkin says something similar: “musical performance gives us knowledge of musical art using the means of the art and creates new artistic treasures; musical scholarship gives us knowledge of art by means of science and creates new scientific treasures.” Rïzhkin, “O soderzhanii i postroyenii,” I, 68.
I use “topic theory” here anachronistically—there was no such label in Soviet theory at the time (or later); the concept of “topics,” however, was very much present. The actual analyses of the three holistic analysts produced in the 1930s easily confirm that they are, in fact, dealing with “topics.” I survey the birth and evolution of topic theory in Soviet musicology in a separate study (forthcoming).
After defining analysis and its purposes, and touching on the issues of methodology and recent application (25–6), Mazel identified potential avenues for further research (27), and offered a general critique of Soviet music theory pedagogy (28–9).
Ye. S. Vlasova, 1948 god v sovetskoy muzïke, ch. 10, “1949-y: “Delo muzïkovedov” details the campaign against musicologists, with Mazel being the central figure among those accused. Also see Carpenter, “The Theory of Music in Russia,” ch. 35. “Musicologists-anti-patriots” and “silent bystanders” [molchal’niki], which figure prominently in the documents cited by Vlasova, were two of many epithets used to brand those attacked.
This is not to say that the scholarship of the three chief holistic analysts produced in the aftermath of these attacks was not affected—it was. Three studies, in particular, exemplify how reflexive political correctness post-Zhdanovshchina could deleteriously affect scholarly work: Iosif Rïzhkin, Russkoye klassicheskoye muzïkoznaniye v bor'be protiv formalizma (Moscow and Leningrad: Gosudarstvennoye Muzïkal'noye Izdatel’stvo, 1951); Leo Mazel’, O melodii (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoye Muzïkal’noye Izdatel’stvo, 1952); Viktor Tsukkerman, “Kamarinskaya” Glinki i yeyo traditsii v russkoy muzïke (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoye Muzïkal’noye Izdatel’stvo, 1957).
And these arguments have been made. See, for example, Bukina, Muzïkal’naya nauka v Rossii, 126–31, but especially 128. Richard Taruskin also suggests as much in his “Found in Translation,” when he reads Mazel’s last published article as evidence that “the content and expressivity of the music . . . were included in the original definition [of holistic analysis] mostly as camouflage” (20), asserting that the very word “analysis” was a “euphemism for . . . ‘structure’ and ‘form’” (22). Taruskin’s reading of Mazel’s final publication is, no doubt, largely accurate (and Zavlunov, “The ‘Tselostnyǐ Analiz,’” had already offered a similar interpretation); however, such a reading still oversimplifies the situation: 1) Mazel’s essay originates more than six decades after the holistic approach was set in motion (in the latter half of his life, Mazel distanced himself from the holistic method—whether that represents an evolution in Mazel’s views or Mazel’s emergence from the “closet” is a complex topic, which is yet to receive proper airing); and 2) Mazel speaks only for himself. Zuckerman’s work from the second half of the twentieth century confirms and affirms his commitment to the expressive capabilities of music; and Rïzhkin privately and publicly disagreed with Mazel’s assertions both about holistic analysis as a method and, specifically, about “content.” (See Iosif Rïzhkin, “O vklade L. A. Mazelya v muzïkoznaniye XX veka,” Muzïkal’naya Akademiya, no. 4 (2001): 116–20; Grigoriy Konson, “O neglasnoy polemike I. Ya. Rïzhkina i L. A. Mazelya,” Muzïkal’naya Akademiya, no. 1 (2010): 150–8.) Finally, the antipathy towards holistic analysis on the part of the card-carrying formalists—like Igor Sposobin, Aleksey Ogolevets, and Yuri Kholopov—cannot be ignored.