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Arcadiy Severnyj (Arkadiy Dmitrievich Zvezdin)
(March 12, 1939 - April 12,1980)
Underground star, popular singer of 1970-s

                            The Biography

Arcadiy Severnyj (Zvezdin) - the popular Leningrad (St. Petersburg) singer, the great Russian chansonnier, the famous underground bard, "king" of a street-song (prison-folk song). He was very popular in Soviet Union in 1970-1980 because of extraordinary style of performance anti - Soviet and prison''s songs.  He wrote down more than 1000 songs (criminal folklore, songs from S.Esenina, L.Utesova, P.Leshchenko, A.Vertinskogo, V.Kozina, A.Galicha, J.Aleshkovskogo, A.Lobanovskogo, A.Dolskogo, V.Vysotskogo's repertoir and a songs of other authors). Arcadiy Severnyj worked with well known Russian jazz and restaurant musicians. He recorded more than 80 albums, both solo and orchestral.

There are plenty of legends that have circulated about Severnyj during his lifetime. Many people were sure that he was born in Odesa. They said that the bard was jailed more than once and learned the prison repertoire there. Others believed that he emigrated to America and still lives there today. But the most fantastic rumor was that Severnyj was an unregistered son of the peopleТs commissar of Stalinist times Mikoyan.

Early life

Arcadiy Zvezdin (his real surname) was born in the town of Ivanovo near Moscow in 1939. Contrary to popular belief, in his childhood years he was neither a hooligan nor a pupil with poor grades. On the contrary, he belonged to the so-called Уgolden youthФ, with his father occupying a very high position with the Ivanovo railroad. The young lad had good achievements in his studies, showed exemplary behavior and loved to play on a seven-string guitar. Thanks to a very good memory,  he could perform a large number of songs.
His older sister once gave him a thick copybook filled with texts of songs, including numerous prison songs; he quickly learned this peculiar repertoire and eagerly sang such songs in polite company.

After finishing school in 1957, Arcady left for St. Petersburg, where he enrolled in the Forest and Technical Academy (Timber College S.M.Kirova), and participated in amateur work, ensemble of students sang songs in English, and imitating Louie Armstrong. Having become completely engrossed in studentТs amateur art, he did not study very diligently and after each term was on the verge of being expelled. Finally, he had to discontinue his studies for a while and took academic leave of absence.

First recordings

Once in the company of friends Arcadiy sang about a dozen songs that he had recorded on tape. In 1963 his first recordings with a total recording time of 35-40 minutes were released.
Upon receiving his degree in 1965, he was given an administrative job at SoyuzEksportLes (Wood Export Union).  Nevertheless, working in an office environment was of little interest to him; he wanted to sing, and two years later destiny gave him his chance.
In the summer of 1967, Arcadiy became acquainted with one Rudolf Fuchs, a person who recorded singers and songwriters on guitar. Fuchs had the idea of making the noviceТs first album in the form of a refined hoax, specifically a non-existent radio program, which was allegedly broadcast on the airwaves. Severnyj performed prison songs on the radio at the request of the programТs listening audience.

There was good reason for Arcadiy choosing the pseudonym Severnyj. First of all, he wanted to lend more credibility to the artificial image of a prison singer, since many convicts were sent to prison in the north of Russia (СsevernyjТ is Russian for СnorthernТ). Secondly, the pseudonym served its purpose as a conspiracy, since in those years one could have been sent to prison for giving underground concerts.
In any case, the fake radio program turned out to be a major success. The audience was intrigued not so much by the songs as by the question: how could such a program appear on Soviet radio? No one could even guess that it was a joke.


In 1968, Arcadiy was taken off to the Soviet army where he served as lieutenant for a year in a helicopter regiment not far from St. Petersburg. Having demobilized, the singer learned that during the period of his mandatory service in the army his popularity as a singer had grown considerably. He then received an invitation from producer Sergei Maklakov. Arcadiy performed his songs throughout the entire evening at MaklakovТs place. The result was 500 meters of recordings on the now outdated reel-to-reel that were quickly disseminated throughout the entire Soviet Union and eventually gave rise to the popularity of the performerТs prison songs. It was with great pleasure that music lovers all over the country listened to the singerТs slightly hoarse voice performing such revived songs as Roast Chicken, School of Ballet Dances, I Lived in Noisy Odesa, Mother, IТm In Love With A Pilot, Tram #10 Passed By, and many others. During the recording Arcadiy Severnyj would repeat: "In Odessa-" "Back when I was in Odessa-" and so forth. Because of this, and  of the stylized "Odessa" manner of performance of the songs, quite a few people believed that the singer himself was from Odessa.
It's strange, but many of the "old" recordings don't have such an atmosphere about them, and don't bring back the era as much as those of Arcadiy Severnyj.


Severnyj managed to combine and concentrate practically the entire intonational lexicon of the "prison song" genre.  Moreover, although it was understood that all this is a stylization, the genre remained one of the most prominent in the 70's and 80's, in camouflage.
One more circumstance that comes to mind while listening to the album: the official culture of the Soviet "stagnation" period was not only countered by the light non-conformism coming from the direction of the intelligentsia, but also by the dark culture of the criminal world.
Unrecognized by the authorities as a singer, he was nevertheless a cult figure in the USSR with the entire country going mad over recordings of his private concerts.
Russian criminal culture became an essential integral part of the greater Russian culture...

© Copyright 2004 Kyev Weekly
All rights reserved

                                                                      Brillanten  für die Diktatur des Proletariats:  Arkadij Severnyj  

Severnyj wurde 1939 in der Kleinstadt Iwanovo als Arkadij Zvesdin geboren. Mitte der 50er kam er zum Studium der Forstwirtschaft nach Leningrad und in der Stadt an der Neva verbrachte er auch sein kurzes Leben. In diesem kurzen Leben waren nur zwei Dinge wirklich wichtig: Singen und Trinken. In welcher dieser beiden Disziplinen Severnyj professioneller war,  lässt sich nur schwer sagen. Es heißt, Severnyj habe auf dem Höhepunkt seiner Karriere ein Repertoir von weit  über Tausend Liedern gehabt. 1000 Lieder! Zudem bezweifelt heute kaum jemand, dass Severnyj der bedeutendste russische Chansonnier des 20. Jahrunderts ist.

© 2003 DeutschlandRadio





By Marina Aptekman (Dept. of History, Brown University)

In Soviet times, city folklore and criminal song ("street songs") never received serious critical attention. This situation has changed in recent years. City folklore is coming to occupy a large place in official culture. Russian publishing houses are bringing out anthologies of street and criminal songs, while such projects as Eduard Uspensky's radio series "Ships Came to our Harbor" and Mark Rosovsky's "Songs of Our Communal Apartment" have resulted in a number of CDs, TV programs, and concerts. The only American scholar who has studied these genres is R. A. Rothstein (see references below).

Official Soviet culture banned street songs and banished them from mind. But they were always a cherished presence in the Russian popular mind. The reason for their popularity lay in the fact that they gave a voice to the "little person," whose perspective on events they expressed.

The average Russian thinks about criminal song as a uniform genre, making no distinction between such famous songs of the 1920s as "Murka," labor camp songs of the 1930s such as "Kolyma," and the early songs of the post-Stalin singer Vladimir Vysotsky. However, the songs of each period were different.

The origin of the earliest Soviet criminal songs can be traced to the "city romance" of the first decade of the 20th century and its popularization in the cabaret culture of Moscow, St. Petersburg, and (from the early 1920s) Kiev and Odessa. Their emergence owed much to the domination of economic life during the New Economic Policy (NEP) by newly rich profiteers, many of whom had criminal connections. They reflected the breakup of the old society, its structure and rules -- not only by detailed description of criminal activity, but also through unexpected development of traditional plots of city romance.

A good example is the song about Yenta, the rabbi's daughter. The situation portrayed is typical for city romance. A Jewish girl falls in love with the director of a new factory, a Russian and a Bolshevik, and runs away with him, leaving her father a short note: "Goodbye, I've left. Citizen Ivanova." But the typical tragic ending is replaced by a finale that is most unexpected and in tune with the general "emancipation" of the new society. The rabbi shaves off his beard, leaves for Odessa, becomes a successful businessman dealing in foreign currency and jewels, and dances Argentine tango every evening. Such mocking twists to traditional plots occur in many songs of the 1920s, placing them close to parody.

The songs of this period express a cynical attitude toward the new regime. Relations between the criminal world and the Soviet authorities are always negative, and the person who wants to become a part of the new society is considered a traitor and has to be punished. Soviet functionaries are disdainfully portrayed as poor and dirty. In the most famous Soviet criminal song "Murka," the female character who betrays her fellow criminals and takes a job in the police station because she falls in love with a police officer is condemned to an impoverished life with no good clothes ("without a single pair of stockings"). The heroine is killed for her direct contact with the police.

It is important to note that the 1920s were the only years in Soviet history when the criminal song was still permitted as part of official popular music culture, being sung not only in restaurants but also in concert halls by such famous singers as Leonid Utesov.

In the 1930s a new genre was added to criminal song -- the labor camp song. Camp songs had not been part of the pseudo-criminal cabaret culture, nor were most of them composed by criminals. Long before the first written works about the Gulag appeared, songs like "Kolyma" and "People with Enormous Terms Are Going North" bemoaned the fate of innocent people destroyed in Stalin's purges. Many songs combined criminal and non-criminal elements, being a product of an environment in which criminal and innocent non-criminal prisoners were held together.

The majority of camp songs, like the songs of an earlier era, were by unknown authors. Many circulated in a number of versions. Often one version was more criminal, another more political, as was the case with the song "The Express Train Vorkuta-Leningrad."

The next period in the development of the criminal song was that of the post-Stalin Thaw. During the late 1950s and early 1960s, when many people returned from the camps, the anonymous camp song suddenly acquired a very broad audience. The famous bard Alexander Gorodnitsky recounts in his memoirs how he got to know these songs for the first time during his summer student practice in the mines near Vorkuta: "I kept asking who was the author of these songs. The reply usually was: 'The music is a folk melody. The authors of the lyrics will be released soon.'"

In the general intelligentsia mind, the criminal song that openly and honestly spoke about the horrors of Stalin's camps and rebelled against official Soviet norms became a symbol of freedom. Such an attitude changed the original meaning of criminal song. The classical criminal songs of the NEP period expressed rebellion not specifically against the Soviet system but against any state system, since in any country a criminal is always in opposition to the state. However, the Thaw intelligentsia interpreted these songs in symbolic terms, transforming their heroes into dissidents rebelling against the norms of Soviet totalitarian society. Criminal folklore, coming from below, confronted the Soviet pseudo-folklore created from above and imposed by force.

This attitude of the intelligentsia led, as many bards themselves believe, to the birth of "bard song," which at first was greatly influenced by criminal song. The 1960s witnessed many imitations of criminal song by authors who had nothing do with the criminal world but were actors, poets, or engineers. The best-known of these "bards" was Vladimir Vysotsky. The symbolic interpretation of criminal song is clearly seen in his lyrics. In one of his pseudo-criminal songs, a person asks a cab driver to take him to the famous Taganka prison, only to discover that it has been demolished. He than asks to be taken to the Butyrka prison, and learns that it has been demolished as well. He then declares: "Wait a moment, first let's have a smoke. Or better let's drink to the hope that one day there will be no prisons and no camps in Russia at all!"

At this time the history of criminal song entered a new stage. Previously it had been an anonymous genre. Authorship had been of no importance. Songs were frequently rewritten, new couplets or rhymes were added, and new versions might have very little in common with the original. In the 1960s, the era of pseudo-criminal song, the author was quite present and often sang his songs himself, as did Gorodnitsky and Vysotsky.

However, by the 1970s the Thaw had given way to Brezhnev's "era of stagnation." Criminal songs became if not officially forbidden then definitely unwelcome in official cultural circles. Some authors, such as Yuz Aleshkovsky, the author of the famous song "Comrade Stalin, you are a Great Scientist," emigrated. Others, like Gorodnitsky, shifted to officially approved genres. Yet others, including Vysotsky himself, simply grew out of their criminal-song phase.

But the songs themselves remained very popular. No longer performed by their authors, they returned to their former position as anonymous products of the common people. Sometimes they were attributed to a different author. For example, Aleshkovsky's songs were for a long time attributed to Vysotsky. Some songs were even attributed to a real criminal, who was considered long dead. Gorodnitsky recalls how on a research trip to the Russian North he was shown the grave of an anonymous criminal who allegedly wrote his own famous pseudo-camp song "Do Not Swear from Cruel Anguish." When Gorodnitsky tried to explain that the song was actually his, he narrowly escaped a beating. From then on, he did not try to contest such false attributions.

With the end of the Soviet era came a radical change in the position of criminal song. From an underground phenomenon it suddenly turned into one of the most influential trends in official popular musical culture. I believe that the underlying reason is the similarity between the situation in Russia in the early 1990s and the situation during the NEP. In the early 1990s, as in the 1920s, the economic and political system was -- as in some areas it still remains -- largely controlled by wealthy criminal or near-criminal figures.

If criminal song is so popular in Russia today, it has nothing to do with the symbolism of freedom or other dissident underground motifs. First, let's recall the Russian saying that "the one who pays is the one who orders the music." The people with a criminal past, who now have a very stable and powerful presence in Russia, pay to promote the songs they enjoy. Second, the interest in criminal imagery is part of the general interest in the world of criminals, which also reflects current social conditions. Detective and crime novels and films were among the most popular forms of entertainment in Russia in the 1990s. Moreover, many of these books and films, such as "Bandits' Petersburg" and "The Brother," do not show that a criminal gets caught in the end. Quite the contrary. They either romanticize the image of the criminal or demonstrate how the police have been totally corrupted by the criminal world.

This romanticization of the criminal world can be seen not only in numerous recordings of old criminal songs, but also in the enormous popularity of new groups -- like "Lesopoval" (Tree-Felling) and "Leningrad" -- that make extensive use of pseudo-criminal lyrics and old criminal tunes. One "Leningrad" song says: "Maybe at this moment we are both looking at the same bird, but I am in prison and you are free." The sympathies of the singers are clearly on the criminal's side. Another "Leningrad" song is about a little boy who works as a thief at a railroad station and is beaten to death by police officers:

"On byl parnishkoi malykh let Rabotal vorom na vokzale V odin prekrasnyi letnii den' Ego menty s polichnym poviazali Oni lomaiut emu ruki I kirzachami biiut boka A on krichit Kharkaia kroviu: "Ne nado, diaden'ka!"

He was just a young lad Working as a thief at the railroad station One splendid summer day The cops caught him red-handed They break his arms And kick him in the sides with their boots And he cries out As he coughs out blood: "Don't do it, granddad!"

The story of the development of criminal song in Russia suggests that over the last 80 years Russia has now come full circle and returned to the era of the NEP. It seems to me that criminal song helps us better understand both Russian cultural life and Russian political history.

By Marina Aptekman (Dept. of History, Brown University)


R. A. Rothstein. "Popular Song in the NEP Era" in Sheila Fitzpatrick and Alexander Rabinovich, eds. Russia in the Era of NEP: Explorations in Soviet Society and Culture. Bloomington IL, 1991.

R. A. Rothstein. "How it Was Sung in Odessa," Slavic Review, No. 4, 2001, pp. 781-802.




                 Magnitizdat as Cultural Practice
               A paper prepared for the conference

УSamizdat and Underground Culture in the Soviet Bloc CountriesФ

University of Pennsylvania
April 6-7, 2006
J. Martin Daughtry, UCLA

"ќн стоит, как монумент и,
«аполн¤¤ всю квартиру,
ѕотихоньку т¤нет ленту
» питанье из сети."
(Yevgenij Isakevich)

УIt stands like a monument and/filling the entire apartment/it quietly pulls the tape/and electricity from the outlet.Ф Excerpted from his song, УNiodnoj nenuzhnyj gajkiФ (Not a single unnecessary screw). Picture, by Valerij Indiushin, is the cover of Uklejn 1991.

March 20, 1974: Soviet musicologist Vladimir Frumkin sits with his wife Lydia in the departure hall of LeningradТs Pulkovo airport. Within minutes, they will be on an airplane, flying off to an uncertain future in emigration. But for now Frumkin waits anxiously for his luggage, which is undergoing its final customs inspection. In his bags, aside from clothes, books, and personal items, he has packed a selection of reel-to-reel tapes representing his favorite recordings of songs written and performed by his friend Bulat Okudzhava, recordings that he and his colleagues had made in Moscow and Leningrad apartments over the past decade. He left behind his treasured tapes of another friend, dissident bard Aleksandr Galich, suspecting (no doubt correctly) that they would never be allowed out of the country. He has risked bringing the others, though, having been assured that they will not be confiscated. (The day before, he had submitted the tapes to the customs officers for review, and waited four hours before they emerged, smiling, to return the tapes and approve their export.) Nonetheless, it is with no small amount of relief that Frumkin reclaims the suitcases with the recordings from the customs officer for the final time. Later, upon arriving in the United States, Frumkin will discover that his recordings have all been effectively erased: the customs officers brought them into contact with a powerful magnet, randomizing the particles on the tape surface until only abuzz remained. Thus, it would seem, is magnitizdat demagnetized.
. . .
I have chosen to begin this paper with FrumkinТs story of departure because it throws into high relief a number of themes that I will develop below. First, like samizdat, magnitizdat is a complex phenomenon in which a fragile artifact (in this case, sounds captured on tape) is made resilient, if not indestructible, through a concerted practice (in this case, dubbing). For the customs officersТ casual act of sonic vandalism may have destroyed FrumkinТs tapes, but it was unable to destroy the sounds encoded upon them. Those sounds had already been transferred onto hundreds if not thousands of other tapes by the incessant labors of a vast ad-hoc network of enthusiasts that, by the late 1960s, spread out from Kaliningrad to Vladivostok, from Arkhangelsk to Alma-Ata.

while the erasure of FrumkinТs magnitizdat tapes was not an act without precedent, the mere fact that he considered it worthwhile to attempt to bring several kilograms of recordings with him into emigration demonstrates a crucial difference in the regimeТs attitudes toward magnitizdat and samizdat. To wit: it is harder to imagine an exile sending a suitcase full of the complete works of Solzhenitsyn through customs in the mid-1970s. Lastly, this story underlines an important epistemological difference between magnitizdat recordings and samizdat texts. Frumkin, in addition to being an accomplished musicologist, is himself a gifted performer of avtorskaia pesnia, the genre his recordings represented. As such, he no doubt knew, and could perform from memory, most if not all of the songs recorded on the bulky reel-to-reel tapes. That he would use valuable space in transporting the tapes is testament to the extraordinary value of performance, a value that both encompasses and exceeds the written text. In Russian, the word for the intangible, performative aspects of a song, that which is not captured bytranscription of words and notes onto paper, is intonatsia. It was the intonational value of OkudzhavaТs breathy voice and slightly-out-of-tune guitar arpeggiations that made the recording a unique and valuable artifact for its owner. For comparisonТs sake, if you knew a collection of Joseph BrodskyТs poems by heart, losing a samizdat copy of them would not be a tragedy: the poems could be completely recovered by typing them out on paper.
The same cannot be said of losing a recording; your ability to perform OkudzhavaТs songs, inspired and valuable as your rendition may be on its own terms, would not be a one-to-one replacement of the rich intonational world enacted by his original interpretation. When dealing with magnitizdat, then, it is important to remember Frumkin, Vladimir, personal communication March 2006.

To be fair, something would be lostЧthe visual and tactile sensations of the book itself. As Ann Komaromi (2004) has noted, samizdatТs material aspect Уbegan to seem symbolic of the era, an integral part of the special experience of reading samizdatФ (603). that the term assumes a practice (dubbing and distribution), a medium (tape), and a subject: not УtextФ but the performanceЧthe intonationЧof text. This paper is divided into three sections. In the first, I make some general remarks about the historical and socio-political significance of magnitizdat as it pertained to avtorskaia pesnia, the genre most closely associated with it during the Soviet era. In the second, I discuss the extent to which magnitizdat recordings of avtorskaia pesnia served as a method for disseminating unofficial poetry to a wide Soviet audience. In this section I also engage in a fairly fine-grained musical analysis of a number of songs in an attempt to demonstrate the profound ontological changes that occur when a poem is delivered musically. Then, by way of conclusion, I briefly compare and contrast the historical practice of magnitizdat with contemporary methods of the dissemination of avtorskaia pesnia, focusing in particular on the different modes of listening engendered by each. My overarching goals here are twofold: first, to provide a broad sense of magnitizdatТs significance to the avtorskaia pesnia tradition; and second, to identify the points of contact and divergence between magnitizdat recordings of sung poetry and the samizdat publication of poetic texts.

Part I: Situating Magnitizdat

The word magnitizdat has been the victim of some terminological confusion, having been frequently misused as a synonym for the musical genre of avtorskaia pesnia.

As this paper deals with their interrelationship, the distinction between the two needs to be spelled out at the onset. Avtorskaia pesnia is the genre of unofficial and semi- official sung poetry that enjoyed its first efflorescence during the post-Stalinist Thaw and continues in attenuated form to the present day. The genreТs performers, called УbardsФ

See Platonov 2004:29. As has been argued elsewhere (e.g., Platonov 2004, Sokolova 2002, Daughtry 2004 and forthcoming), the term avtorskaia pesnia (commonly translated as УauthorsТ songsФ but perhaps better rendered, as Svetlana Boym (1995:148) suggests, as Уauteur songsФ) is itself highly contested. Other terms used to define the genre in question include but are not limited to samodeiatelТnaia pesnia (amateur song), bardovskaia pesnia (bard song), gitarnaia poezia (guitar poetry), and poeticheskaia pesnia (poetic song). (in Russian, УbardyФ), are singer-songwriters who compose their own music and verse, and accompany themselves, usually on acoustic guitars.

During the genreТs Soviet peak, the genre became associated with: (1) a compositional aesthetic that radically privileged poetic value over musical sophistication; (2) a progressive ethics that promoted sincerity, friendship, and individualism; and finally, what is important for our discussion, (3) a grassroots method of dissemination that circumvented the state censorship apparatus. It was this unique dissemination network that came to be known as magnitizdat. The term, derived from the root to the Russian words for magnet, magnetic tape, and tape recorder, thus overlaps with avtorskaia pesnia but is not coterminous with it. It describes a mode of dissemination that encompassed all unofficial recordings: poetic recitation, novels read on tape, interviews, and music, from gypsy romance to jazz to rock to the music of the bards. Nonetheless, avtorskaia pesnia was unquestionably the genre most closely associated with this practice. Magnitizdat was enabled by the arrival, in the early 1960s, of affordable reel-to- reel tape recorders in Soviet stores.

As ethnomusicologist Peter Manuel has demonstrated in India, the advent of the tape recorder posed a global Уchallenge to the one-way, monopolistic, homogenizing tendencies of the СoldТ media,Ф one in which Уoppositional or affirmative tendencies or potential may lie less in the specific content of the media than in the means of production of that contentФ (1993:2). In the Soviet case, the echo of Marx here is especially piquant: by relinquishing control of the means of (musical) production, did the ruling class unwittingly furnish the masses with a weapon for waging revolution against the existing regime? If so (and switching metaphors), was this dose of pure Marxism the straw that broke the back of the Leninist state? Some bards have argued exactly this: that the nationwide avtorskaia pesnia movementЧenabled by

The genreТs most prominent three figures were Bulat Okudzhava (1924-1997), Vladimir Vysotskij (1938-1980), and Aleksandr Galich (1918-1977). Other important Soviet-era practioners who continue to perform today include Veronika Dolina, Aleksandr Dulov, Aleksandr Gorodnitskij, Iulij Kim, Mikhail Kochetkov, Iurij Kukin, Viktor Luferov, Sergej Nikitin, Aleksandr Mirzaian, Aleksandr Sukhanov, and Aleksandr Turianskij. In addition to these a vibrant younger generation of post-Soviet bards has emerged in recent years.

Gene Sosin (1975:277) cites figures originally published in Narodnoe Khoziaistvo to the effect that domestic production of reel-to-reel recorders went from 128,000 in 1960 to over one million a decade later (also cited in Smith 1984:95, Platonov 2004:27). the tape recorder, fed by the bardsТ uncensored songs, and celebrated en masse at numerous major festivals across the country beginning in the 1960sЧconstituted the first truly alternative mass movement in which Soviet citizens were allowed to collectively imagine and perform alliances that challenged the unified authority of the regime. It should be noted that this view, resembling what Ann Komaromi (2004:599-600) describes as the Уidealistic СheroicТ discourseФ characterizing Cold War attitudes toward samizdat, is held by a relatively small minority. Most members of the avtorskaia pesnia community acknowledge that the genreТs relationship to the regime was much more complicated than the labels of УoppositionalФ or Уprotest musicФ would suggest. Indeed, it is widely known that, in addition to the technical and literary intelligentsia who made up the backbone of the movement, magnitizdat recordings were enjoyed by secret fans at the highest levels of state power. Of all bards, Vladimir VysotskijТs popularity with state officials was unmatched, as the following story illustrates:

The famous Polish actor Daniel OlТbrykhskij writes: УThe chekists liked (VysotskijТs) recordings so much, that at their next, I think it was the fifty-fifth, anniversary of the Cheka-NKVD-KGB they approached the leadership with a request that Vysotsky be invited (to perform) for this gala event. They offered, by the way, an enormous honorarium. Clearly, Vysotsky accepted the summons. On the tape of that concert I heard thunderous applause. (Perevozshchikov 1997)

Among VysotksijТs several hundred compositions are a number of songs that fairly transparently criticize the regime. The irony of his popularity within the KGB ranks was not lost on Vladimir Novikov, one of the genreТs most prominent scholars, who was recently interviewed on the radio station Ekho Moskvy: Novikov: The people who worked for (the KGB) were the first Vysotskij scholars. First of all, they listened to him with pleasure. Interviewer: So the relationship between (Vysotskij and the KGB) was a normal one. If you translate it to the human level. Here and throughout this paper all translations are my own. Perevozshchikov notes that, as of his writing, documentary evidence of this concert had not yet been uncovered. For an example, see the song УOkhota na volkovФ (The wolf hunt), a transparent allegory for the relationship between the authoritarian regime and its brainwashed public. Novikov: Have you read Orwell? Do you know what doublethink is? They listened to him with pleasure. Then they went to work and (picked up where they left off), arresting peopleЕ (Novikov 2005)

The inherent oppositional charge of avtorskaia pesnia continues to be a subject of debate among the genreТs historians. According to Novikov, Уavtorskaia pesnia was a form of opposition [placing] the thinking segment of society against the communist regimeФ (2000:10). By contrast, in the words of physicist and accomplished bard Aleksandr Mirzaian: УAvtorskaia pesnia is not a form of protest, as some have tried to present it, but a method of comprehension [sposob osmysleniia], a form of dialog with one another and with the worldФ (1996:4, see also Platonov 2004:31). As the Thaw sputtered and the Stagnation expanded, a number of bards, most notably Aleksandr Galich and Iulij Kim, did use the genre as a vehicle for oppositional thought. But these figures represented a very small minority in relation to the overwhelming mass of bards whose music wasЧon the most obvious, representational levelЧresolutely apolitical. Magnitizdat archivist Vladimir KovnerТs summation of the truly subversive in avtorskaia pesnia confirms this: Looking back, I see that, as far as I am aware, no one was imprisoned for distributing magnitizdat (thank God!). I think that from the point of view of undermining the foundation of the state, samizdat was much more dangerous. A large portion of samizdat was sharply-political (which for the KGB was a synonym for anti-Soviet). ItТs enough just to look at the most popular works of samizdat : Varlam ShalamovТs УKolymskie rasskazy,Ф Evgeniia GinsburgТs УKrutoj marshrut,Ф the works of Solzhenitsyn, PasternakТs УDoktor Zhivago,Ф the works of Sakharov, AmalТrik, Bukovskij, Turchin and many more. On that УexplosiveФ level in magnitizdat (I would only place) the songs of Galich, including two songs co-written with Shpalikov and a song cycle of KimТs where everything was called by its name. To this list you could add a pair of OkudzhavaТs songs: УChernij kotФ and УMaster Grisha,Ф where Bulat speaks in highly transparent allusions. (Kovner 2004b) Yulij Kim himself agreed with this assessment. In an interview discussing the social impact of magnitizdat, he downplayed its image as an inherently oppositional medium by saying: "Magnitizdat was relatively limited in its repertoire. For the most part, it circulated songsЧonly songsФ (2002). KimТs dismissive qualifierЧУonly songsФЧ presumes that the truly subversive material lay elsewhere: namely, within the pages of samizdat.

Indeed, the relative dearth of overtly oppositional songs, along with the institutional ties that developed between the bard movement and the Komsomol in the late 1960s, collectively served to distance magnitizdat from the more consistently subversive samizdat in the eyes of Soviet authorities. While the central figures of the magnitizdat world were subject to surveillance, searches and occasional seizures, their KGB handlers seemed to regard their activities as distributors of unofficial music as secondary, concentrating instead on their activities, however peripheral, in the world of samizdat and/or dissidence. In a set of memoirs on the Уgolden era of magnitizdat,Ф Vladimir Kovner related more than one incident in which the KGB confiscated materials from his or his friendsТ apartments; in each of these incidents the KGB chose to keep all of the samizdat publications they found, but eventually returned the magnitizdat recordings to their owners. This does not mean, however, that the purveyors of magnitizdat lived without fearЧfar from it. During an interview with the KGB shortly before he emigrated, KovnerТs interrogator brought up his illicit distribution of Galich recordings. УСYes, but no one has ever been imprisoned for [circulating] Galich,Т I note. СNo one has yet been imprisoned,Т is his ominous answerФ (2004c). Perhaps the most important difference between samizdat and magnitizdat, from a socio-historical perspective, was that of scale. While the grassroots, underground nature of samizdat and magnitizdat distribution makes their quantification a necessarily speculative exercise, it is clear that the latter was an order of magnitude more vast than the former. Once again, Kovner is a reasonable authority: In comparison with magnitizdat, the work involved in distributing samizdat was terribly labor-intensive and slow; therefore it was much easier for the KGB to find and isolate the УpublishersФ . . . and, as we know, in some cases, the readers as well. On the other hand, magnitizdat was growing like a snowball. After every performance of a bard in an apartment-concert or even on a concert stage new sources of magnitizdat quickly appeared; after every instance of dubbing more In 1968 the Komsomol began actively collaborating with the Moscow Amateur Song< Club (Klub samodeiatelТnoj pesni, commonly referred to by the initials KSP) (Karimov 2004:85). and more people turned into Уpublishers.Ф Of course, the KGB could always seek out the ten most active people, but among the masses, if (they were to decide to make arrests), they would have to grab hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people who possessed recordings of bard songs. To our happiness, neither Khrushchev nor Brezhnev had an appetite for repressions on a Stalinist scale. (2004b)

As these examples indicate, in magnitizdat we have a historical phenomenon that is clearly related to, but in a number of important ways distinct from, its older sibling samizdat. A common uncensored, rhizomic distribution structure binds the two practices together, as does a partial overlap of audience. More precisely, the smaller audience of samizdat was almost totally subsumed within the exponentially larger audience of magnitizdat: nearly all people in the Soviet Union who were actively reading samizdat were also listening to magnitizdatЧwhile the opposite cannot be said, as KovnerТs comment illustrates. In the matter of scale, then, as well as in the concentration of overt oppositional thought, the two practices diverge. Before consigning avtorskaia pesnia and its magnitizdat distribution to the realm of the pseudo- or faux-oppositional (as Pyotr Vail and Aleksandr Genis famously did), I would like to at least briefly note one argument in favor of the subversive nature of the genre, an argument that relies upon the performative dimension of song that I mentioned earlier. For the entire length of its Soviet-era existence, avtorskaia pesnia was condemned by its detractors and hailed by its proponents for the degree to which its musical dimension sharply diverged from that of official song. Indeed, the Spartan musical field opened up by the bards was instantly recognizable: the untrained voice, ranging in intensity from an intimate whisper to a hoarse shout, adhering to pitches only slightly more than the singer of Sprechstimme, striving for the sonic representation of sincerity, was paired with the lonely, Уprimitive strummingФ of the guitar, which, as often as not, was slightly out-of-tune. These sounds, so distinct from the more polished tones and lush ensembles of the official Soviet stage (estrada) and the burnished voices and marshal accompaniment of the mass song compelled some people on both sides of the

In an article critiquing Vladimir VysotskijТs oppositional bona fides that extended to the entire genre, Vail and Genis wrote: УPseudo-protest is always attractive, for it simplifies life, providing a necessary outlet for negative emotions, while carrying no obligation for serious thought or . . . action.Ф (1978)

ideological fence to see in them the grounds for imagining an alternative universe, one in which the intonation of the individual replaced the grand march of history, in which the largest functional collective was the kompaniia, the group of friends gathered in a kitchen or around a campfire to sing. That these sounds were distributed independently of the will of the state multiplied any subversive dimension that listeners chose to hear in them, regardless of the apolitical nature of the texts. My phrase, Уchose to hear,Ф is central: the genre as a whole was at most latently and implicitly oppositional, and as such was always open to the subjectivity of the listener.

Part IIЧThe Effect of Music on Verse

In his presentation at the now-legendary 1967 УAll-Union Seminar on Issues of Amateur (AuthorsТ) Song,Ф organized by the Komsomol on the banks of the Klyazma near Petushki, Vladimir Frumkin issued the following challenge: [We mustnТt] forget that a song is a synthetic work of art; it acts incredibly subtly on various aspects of the psyche, and music plays, perhaps a subservient, but in no way an insignificant role. And so, I call upon all of you hereЕ: letТs adopt a comprehensive approach to [the analysis of] songЕ Literary scholars work very
confidently with texts, musicologists analyze intonation and rhythm. But letТs try to unite the one with the other. (1967) In the decades that have elapsed, very few people have heeded this callЧthe vast bulk of scholarship continues to examine avtorskaia pesnia as a collection of poetic texts, the musical dimension of which is largely bracketed off, or at best described journalistically. TodayТs conference, however, has compelled me to pick up FrumkinТs forty-year-old glove in order to provide some sense of the important ontological differences between magnitizdat recordings and samizdat texts. For if the magnitizdat phenomenon deserves a term of its own, it is less because of the distinction between mediaЧtapes versus printed pagesЧbut because of the experience of the fusion of music and text that it enables. I have chosen to focus here, for reasons that will become clear below, on one of the peripheral regions of the avtorskaia pesnia corpus: songs composed to extant poems of underground poets. In the decades preceding perestroika, a number of bardsЧ Aleksandr Dulov, Evgenij Kliachkin, Sergej Nikitin, Viktor Berkovskij, Aleksandr Sukhanov, and Aleksander Mirzaian, among othersЧbecame well-known for performing musical interpretations of other poetsТ works. While some of these poems were officially recognized, a great many of them were only available in samizdat and tamizdat editions. This phenomenon begs a number of questions. How did the bardsТ treatments of these poems affect their distribution? What effect did singing a poem have on its reception? Most fundamentally, what is gained when a poem is delivered musically? Why sing a poem instead of reading it? Answering these questions will shed additional light on the differences between samizdat and magnitizdat. On the most practical level, the presence of a formal melody (as opposed to the more metaphorical Уmusic of the verseФ that can be argued to exist latently in a printed poem) provides an powerful mnemonic device for the audience. In this sense, the musical dimension can be likened to rhyme, meter, and other periodic devices that lend structure to oneТs experience of text. Beyond helping a poem УstickФ in the mind of the listener, the twin musical paradigms of melody and rhythm can function symbolically as a separate text, interacting with or playing off of the verbal text. Leningrad bard Yurij Kukin famously illustrated this very property by singing the text of a Soviet-era advertisement:
УTU-104 samyj luchshij samolet!Ф (The TU-104 is the best airplane!) to the melody of ChopinТs funeral march. The ironic clash of meanings that ensues is one in which music provides metacommentary on the verbal text that augmentsЧor, as in this extreme case, invertsЧits referential meaning. While often de-emphasized in the bardsТ discourse, where the supposed primacy of the poetic text is sacrosanct, in fact the dialectical relationship between music and text is an ever-present element of avtorskaia pesnia in performance.

In addition to this expansion of the field of reference that music provides, the phenomenology of a poem, the way it is experienced in the flow of time, is profoundly altered when it is sung. How a poem УunfoldsФ when read from the page is a matter controlled by the reader, who is free to move back up and repeat a line, pause while digesting a metaphor, or even skip to the end. A poem sung, by contrast, unfolds in a unilinear temporality determined by the singer. Most frequently, this results in the poem becoming stretched out across a broader expanse of time than a reader, or a declaiming poet, would feel comfortable using. This act of temporal stretching, augmented by the manipulation of pitch and rhythm, allows the singer to alter the listenerТs experience of the poemТs sense and structure. Taken too far, temporal and other musical manipulations can impede oneТs comprehension of the text. (This is an exceedingly common phenomenon in popular musicЧindeed, I am at a loss to explain the lyric content of a number of my very favorite American pop tunes, whose melody and rhythm seem to wrestle lyrical content into a subservient position.) But in the case of avtorskaia pesnia, generic expectations demand that the text remain comprehensible. Here, then, the implicit goal of synchronizing and slowing down our experience of a poem is to provide new opportunities for enhanced apperception. Lastly, within the Soviet context, the musical setting of poems often served to mask their true authorship. As I mentioned above, during the pre-perestroika period, a number of bards sang songs based on the works of poets who were commonly regarded as ideologically suspect, and some of whom were actively censored. Moscow bard Andrei Anpilov once listed the poets that his friend Aleksandr Mirzaian performed. After gaining access to samizdat and tamizdat texts: [i]t seemed natural that Aleksandr would turn to composing songs based on the verses of various poets. But what poets! Tsvetaeva, Kharms, Brodskij, Sosnora, Tarkovskij, Chukhontsev, Kuznetsov. This poetry was unsoviet, unliberal, lacking sentiment, icy and scorching, Nietzschian, fatal. (2002) Even earlier, Leningrad bard Evgenij Kliachkin gained a quiet notoriety for singing songs to the texts of Joseph Brodsky, whose verse, by the mid-1960s, was almost completely banned. As a result, in concert Kliachkin often sang these songs without attributing them. Many people I have spoken to have said that they discovered Brodsky not through samizdat publications but rather through magnitizdat recordings of KliachkinТs (or, to a lesser degree, MirzaianТs) interpretations. In this sense, bards of the period played an important role as popularizers of poets who had no official outlets for publication. BrodskyТs relationship to the bards is a complex one. While it is known that he was at least somewhat interested in guitar poetry when young, he later expressed disdain for bardsТ attempts to set his poems to music. When asked how he felt about Evgenij KliachkinТs settings, Brodsky famously promised that if he met Kliachkin on the street he would break his guitar over his head. The aesthetic reservations of the poet notwithstanding, I propose that the bardsТ musical renditions of Brodsky are worthy of our attention, both on their own merits and for their socio-historical role as vehicles for disseminating his poems. In the remainder of this section I examine a number of interpretations of a single poem by Joseph Brodsky, entitled УStanzasФ (УStansyФ). Written in 1962 in the album of his close friend Elena Valikhan, the modest poem of three stanzas has been given radically differing treatment by a half-dozen bards. Here is the poem in its original printed form, along with word-for-word and poetic translation: In 1963, Vladimir Frumkin met the 23-year-old poet at the apartment of their mutual friend Aleksandr Rutshtejn. Frumkin had brought along his reel-to-reel recorder in the hopes of making a magnitizdat recording of Brodsky declaiming his verse. To his surprise, Brodsky refused to read his own poems, and rather sang a number of Уunderworld songsФ (blatnye pesni), including the legendary УMurka,Ф as well as several pieces written by Gleb Gorbovskij (excluding the famous УKogda kachajutsja fonariki nochnyeФ but including the equally infectious УNa divane, na divane, na divaneФ). (Frumkin, personal communication, see also Frumkin 2005:73-4)

(Figure 1)
—тансы (1962)
Stanzas (1962)

Ќи страны, ни погоста
I do not wish to choose
Neither country nor graveyard
My country or my grave.
не хочу выбирать.
But IТll return to die
Do I want to choose.
On Basil IslandТs shores.
Ќа ¬асильевский остров
In darkness I wonТt find
To VasilТevskij Island
Your houseТs dark-blue walls.
¤ приду умирать.
Between the faded rows
I will come to die.
Upon the street IТll fall.
“вой фасад темно-синий
Your dark-blue fa&#231;ade
My soul will ceaselessly
¤ впотьмах не найду.
Hurry into the night,
I will not find in the darkness.
And flicker past the bridge
ћежду выцветших линий
In PetrogradТs thick smog.
Between the faded rows [of houses]
And in the April rain,
на асфальт упаду.
The snow beneath my head,
I will fall on the asphalt.
I''ll hear a voice call out:
ЂGoodbye, my little friend.ї
» душа, неустанно
And [my] soul, untiringly
My cheek pressing on my
поспеша¤ во тьму,
Indifferent fatherland,
Hurrying into the darkness,
IТll see a pair of lives
промелькнет над мостами
Across the river bank,
Will flicker above the bridges
And like two sisters from
в петроградском дыму,
The years I will not see,
In the Petrograd smoke,
TheyТll run onto the isle
и апрельска¤ морось,
And wave goodbye to me.
And [there will be an] April drizzle,
под затылком снежок,
Snow beneath my head,
и услышу ¤ голос:
And I will hear a voice:
Ц до свидань¤, дружок.
Goodbye, friend.
» увижу две жизни
And I will see two lives
далеко за рекой,
Far across the river,
к равнодушной отчизне
To the indifferent fatherland
прижима¤сь щекой,
Pressing [my] cheek,
Ц словно девочки-сестры
As if two little sisters
из непрожитых лет,
From unlived years,
выбега¤ на остров,
Running onto the island,
машут мальчику вслед.
Wave to a boy.

The first magnitizdat performance of this poem that I will present is one by the author himself. In an undated recording, Brodsky performed the poem thusly:
(TRACK ONE: Brodsky reading УStansyФ)
 BrodskyТs idiosyncratic reading style, resembling nothing so much as liturgical chant, has been the subject of much scholarly comment (e.g., Brodsky 2002, Loseff and Polukhina 1999). It is, in its own way, quite musical. So much so, in fact, that it lends itself surprisingly well to musical notation. Expressed in musicological terms, BrodskyТs performance of the poem conforms to a meter of five beats. Each line of the first stanza is a variation on a single melodic pattern: scalar movement up a minor third, then a pause for a clear caesura, followed by a brief jump of roughly a half step and a return to the third scale degree (musicologists would call this an УappoggiaturaФ). The pattern could be notated like this: (INSERT transcription) Brodsky eliminates the caesura after the close of the first stanza, while transposing the melodic pattern upward by roughly a quarter tone in the second stanza, before descending several steps for the last one. His rendition builds in intensity and volume over the first two stanzas, and sharply falls off in the third to a lower pitch and volume. The effect is that of a classic dramatic arc: a gradual increase in tension to a clear climax followed a rapid denouement. The building blocks of this arc are the hypnotizing waves of the five- beat performed line. Strict adherence to this formal structure of delivery produces a grand dramatic effect, but does so at the expense of emphasis on individual words, all of which feel as if they are held captive by the form. This declamatory style, while idiosyncratic for a Russian poet, is absolutely idiomatic for Brodsky; with slight variations, it is the pattern he applied to all of his readings. At this point, before we even reach the bardsТ sung versions, the difference between text and performanceЧor, for our purposes today, between samizdat and magnitizdatЧare already clear. While the poem in printed form looks as I typed it aboveЧa regular succession of three four-line stanzasЧBrodskyТs declamation alters its perceived structure. By articulating an exaggerated caesura throughout the first stanza, heightening the salience of stanza two over stanza one and, through inversion, of stanza three over stanza two, BrodskyТs reading effectively reformats the poem. His performance can be graphically translated thus:

Figure 2: Joseph BrodskyТs recitation of УStansyФ

Ќи страны,
ни погоста
не хочу выбирать.
Ќа ¬асиль-
евский остров
¤ приду умирать.
“вой фасад
¤ впотьмах
не найду.
ћежду вы-
цветших линий
на асфальт
» душа, неустанно
поспеша¤ во тьму,
промелькнет над мостами
в петроградском дыму,
и апрельска¤ морось,
под затылком снежок,
и услышу ¤ голос:
Ц до свидань¤, дружок.
» увижу две жизни
далеко за рекой,
к равнодушной отчизне
прижима¤сь щекой,
Ц словно девочки-сестры
из непрожитых лет,
выбега¤ на остров,
машут мальчику вслед.

While BrodskyТs verse was seen in samizdat form and heard in his voice by many among the Leningrad and Moscow elite, a far greater number were introduced to it as interpreted by Evgenij Kliachkin, who composed music to the text in June 1965. Kliachkin (1934-1994), an engineer by profession, began writing songs in his native Leningrad in 1961. By 1965 he had entered his УBrodsky period,Ф by the end of which he would have accumulated over a dozen songs based on BrodskyТs poems. A member of the Leningrad song club УVostok,Ф Kliachkin never performed his Brodsky cycle there, having been warned that there would be two KGB agents at every performance (Frumkin, personal communication). Nonetheless, as I mentioned above, he frequently performed the Brodsky songs elsewhere, usually without attributing them, and recordings of these performances Уenhanced BrodskyТs popularity immensely in the Soviet UnionФ (ibid). Kliachkin, although a self-taught musician, was widely praised for being one of the most musically sophisticated of the bards. He interpreted BrodskyТs poem as an erratic, almost carnivalesque waltz, with a wildly unpredictable chord progression. KliachkinТs tight, tense vibrato, while out of the ordinary for bards (who generally prefer a more speech-like intonation that conveys the УsincereФ and unfettered communication of the bard to the listener), is highly infectious here, propelling the song forward. Twice in the piece Kliachkin introduces a short instrumental figure that does not fit into the meter of the waltz. To my ear, this figure has the effect of magnifying the salience of the line preceding it. Text is also magnified through melodic ornamentation. In a move that further contrasts with the hyper-realistic, conversational tone of most avtorskaia pesnia, Kliachkin stretches a number of words out, often singing multiple notes per syllable. The result, roughly transcribed onto the page, with emphasized words in red underline, looks like this:


He did take music theory lessons with Vladimir Frumkin for two months. At the end of this period, Frumkin advised his student to quit, fearing that a systematic understanding of theory would stifle KliachkinТs fresh, idiosyncratic approach to harmony.

Figure 3: Evgenij Kliachkin performs УStansyФ

Ќи страны, ни пого-oста
не хочу выбирать.
Ќа ¬асильевский остров
¤ приду умирать.
“вой фасад темно-си-иний
¤ впотьмах не найду.
*instrumental figure*
ћежду выцветших ли-и-иний
на асфальт упаду.
» душа, неуста-анно
поспеша¤ во тьму,
промелькнет над моста-а-ами
в петроградском дыму,

This progression repeats twice, and in so doing Kliachkin makes one of the more radical rewritings of the original: BrodskyТs three stanzas are here heard as two.


и апрельска¤ мо-орось,
под затылок снежок,
и услышу ¤ голос:
Ц до свидань¤, дружок.
к равнодушной отчи-изне
прижима¤сь щекой,
*instrumental figure*
¤ увижу две жи-и-изни
далеко за рекой,
Ц словно девочки-се-естры
из непрожитых лет,
выбега¤ на остров,
машут мальчику вслед.
машут мальчику вслед.

Taken together, the mood of KliachkinТs piece is, to put it mildly, markedly different from BrodskyТs trance-like reading, with a different set of images in the foreground, a different stanzaic structure, a different, more drawn-out temporality, and the addition of a whole new set of musical signifiers. Over the years, BrodskyТs poem has been given a number of interpretations by the bards. Aleksandr Mirzaian composed a version soon after Brodsky emigrated to the U.S. in 1972. Modest, sparse, sung with a restrained energy bordering on fury, MirzaianТs version evokes the tradition of gypsy guitar playing that has inspired more than one generation of bards. Here, while MirzaianТs intonation of the text is rather neutralЧ neither melody nor enunciation are employed to emphasize individual words Чhis rewording of several lines of the original poem is so thorough as to render the result something approaching a co-authored work, what in Russian would be called a song Уpo stikham Brodskogo.Ф (Changes to the original are written in bold italics.)


Of course, Kliachkin also makes a number of purely textual alterations: BrodskyТs line Уya pridu umiratТФ becomes Уya vernusТ umiratТФ; Уpod zatylkom snezhokФ becomes the nonsensical Уpod zatylok snezhokФ; and the last line is repeated. Kliachkin also reshuffles two sets of lines (Уya uvizhu . . .shchekojФ becomes Уk ravnodushnoj . . . rekojФ) in a way that seems to me more logical than the original.

Figure 4: Aleksandr Mirzaian performs УStansyФ

Ќи страны, ни погоста
не хочу выбирать.
Ќа ¬асильевский остров
¤ приду умирать.
“вой фасад темно-синий
в темноте не найду.
ћежду замерших линий
на асфальт упаду.
» душа, словно странник
уда뤤сь во тьму,
проплывет над мостами
в петроградском дыму,
√де мен¤ с радиолой
∆дет последний трамвай
» услышу твой голос
» отвечу, Ђпрощай.ї
» увижу две жизни
далеко за рекой,
к равнодушной отчизне
прижима¤сь щекой,
Ц словно девочки-сестры
из непрожитых лет,
выбега¤ на остров,
машут мальчику вслед.
выбега¤ на остров,
машут мальчику вслед.

These textual changes, as well as the more subtle ones effected by Kliachkin, parallel the Уloss of control over a text, once it was released into samizdat circulation,Ф discussed by Ann Komaromi in her recent article on samizdat (2004:604). Interpretations of BrodskyТs poems have continued well into the post-Soviet era, Most recently, Oleg Mitiaev, who bears the double-edged distinction of being the most commercially successful of the genreТs post-Soviet practitioners, released an album of Brodsky songs composed by his friend and frequent collaborator, Leonid Margolin. In Margolin and MitiaevТs hands, BrodskyТs poem is transformed into a transparently nostalgic, sentimental romance. While a financial success, this version has received decidedly cool reviews within the avtorskaia pesnia community.

Figure 5: Oleg Mitiaev performs УStansyФ

Ќи страны, ни погоста
не хочу-у-у-у-у-у-у выбирать.
Ќа ¬асильевский
¤ приду-у-у-у-у-у-у умирать.
“вой фасад темно-синий
¤ впотьмах не найду.
ћежду вы-ы-ы-ыцветших линий
на асфальт упаду.

Perhaps the most thorough rethinking of BrodskyТs poem was accomplished by an obscure bard from Dnepropetrovsk named Oleg Lubiagin. While he had heard of Brodsky earlier, Lubiagin was introduced to the poetТs works about ten years ago, when a friend brought him a fish wrapped in a newspaper upon which was printed one of BrodskyТs poems (what to call thisЧrybizdat?). In any event, that inauspicious introduction sparked a period of deep study that resulted in over twenty compositions. LubiaginТs musical language is more cosmopolitan than many of his compatriots, steeped in jazz and rock but also grounded in the homegrown tradition of underworld songs (blatnaia pesnia), and in particular the works of Arkadij Severnij. Like MitiaevТs romance, LubiaginТs interpretation is in a two-beat (duple) meter, contrasting with KliachkinТs and MirzaianТs waltzes and BrodskyТs five-beat recitation. But within the regular one-two-one-two pulse of this piece, the space between lines varies considerably: LubiaginТs phrases are dropped in at irregular and unpredictable intervals, creating a sense of spontaneity. Lubiagin also uses instrumental breaks more frequently than the other bards, creating a lineation that matches the stanzaic breaks of the original, while setting off the last two lines of each stanza for special emphasis. There is so much space around the lines in this performance that the effect for me is the opposite of MirzaianТs performance: every line here feels emphasized. On the page, LubiaginТs rendition would look something like this:

Figure 6: Oleg Lubiagin performs УStansyФ

Ќи страны,
ни погоста
не хочу выбирать.
Ќа ¬асильевский остров
¤ приду умирать.
“вой фасад темно-синий
¤ впотьмах не найду.
*instrumental figure*
ћежду выцветших линий
на асфальт упаду.
*instrumental break*

In the second stanza, however, Lubiagin conspicuously stretches out one syllable, effectively raising its salience above all others:

» душа-a-a-a-a-a,
поспеша¤ во тьму,
промелькнет над мостами
в петроградском дыму,
и апрельска¤ морось,
под затылком снежок,
*instrumental figure*
и услышу ¤ голос:
Ц до свидань¤, дружок.
*instrumental break*

The end of the poem is followed by an extended, cathartic instrumental section that concludes with a muted restatement of the musical figure that began each interstanzaic instrumental breaks.

I am tempted to read this figure as a conscious leitmotif for the dusha that was so drawn out in stanza two. Even if one rejects this extra bit of musical symbolism, LubiaginТs rendition is an example in which the musical aspect of performance is approached as a separate generator of non-referential meaning. Ultimately, whether one prefers BrodskyТs ritualistic chant, KliachkinТs eclectic waltz, MargolinТs sentimental romance, MirzayanТs modernist treatment, or LubiaginТs cosmopolitan jazz-rock, it is clear that these songs represent radically different readings of the poetic text. So different, in fact, that one could easily argue that they constitute different poems, different works altogether. (Insert Figures comparing the five performances) The point I am trying to illustrate here is not the superiority of one performance over another, but the way in which music composition and performance can transform a singular samizdat artifact into a multitude of new texts, each with its own subtexts and contexts. One could, I suppose, use my analytical sketch as the basis for critiquing one or another of these performances, arguing for example that the collection of words Kliachkin emphasized in his performance are less central to the poem than those emphasized by Lubiagin. But, as any ethnographer knows, such structural matters are not the basis upon which people generally establish aesthetic preferences. In an informal survey I conducted on an internet forum dedicated to avtorskaia pesnia that I moderate, respondents threw their passionate support to Kliachkin and Mirzaian, arguing over which variation was better, but found Lubiagin to be so far off base as to be unworthy of comment, despite my repeated calls for them to critique his version of BrodskyТs poem. Meanwhile, MitiaevТs commercially-produced song, while predictably derided by my respondents, is circulating among ever greater numbers of listeners, writing over the legacy of KlyachkinТs recording and even BrodskyТs original to become the definitive performance for thousands of Russians. This is the challenge for scholars of music the world over: balancing historical inquiry and philological/musicological analysis with a study of reception, of the ways in which sound lives in the lives of performers and listeners. In addition, the scholar of magnitizdat must also focus on a host of factors specific to the medium: the quality of the recording, its source, the political and logistical barriers that impeded its distribution, the paths by which it was disseminated, the presence of alternate recordings and competing performances, and the effect of deterioration. This last factor cannot be overemphasized: there really was no pure reproduction in magnitizdat, only a parade of related but distinct cultural artifacts, combinations of composition, performerТs intent, the recorderТs talents, microphone levels, tuning of the guitar, ambient sounds, and, with each generation of dubbing, the ever increasing entropic wave of the tapeТs hiss. More alarming is the literal deterioration of the fragile tapes themselves, many of which are now approaching the half-century mark. Despite the heroic efforts of magnitizdat archivists, every day more and more tapes crumble into dust, the passage of time accomplishing that which the< Leningrad customs officers could not.

Part III: Magnitizdat vs. the Internetizdat

A Comparative Phenomenology of Listening I remember [in the mid-1960s] a tiny room, four pairs of friends (not without beer, of course), in place of airЧblue tobacco smoke, and the magnitofon with tapes of Okudzhava, Vysotskij, Galich, until two or three in the morning. I assume such a scene was completely typical for those times.

¬ старой песенке поетс¤:
ѕосле нас на этом свете
ѕара факсов остаетс¤
» страничка в интернетеЕ
(Vitalij Kalashnikov)

In magnitizdatТs heyday, from the mid-1960s to the late-1970s, the recordings themselves were prized as objects, dependent upon but distinct from the specific content encoded on them. Obtained through great effort, and surrounded with a perceived (and very sexy) whiff of danger, the reel-to-reel tape conferred significant symbolic capital upon its owner. The ministrations required to keep a magnitizdat dubber operational Kovner 2004a. УIn an old song it is sung/After we depart this world/A pair of faxes will remain/and a page on the internet.Ф This excerpt is the epigraph on the website. Vladimir Frumkin told me a story about a friend of his whose substantial collection of jazz tapes earned him respect and popularity among the Leningrad intelligentsia. After emigrating to the United States, FrumkinТs friend was dismayed to find that, in his new social milieu his unique and priceless collection of jazz masterpieces had been instantaneously transformed into an odd pile of poor-quality reel-to-reel recordings that were time-consuming and labor-intensive. The thin and extremely fragile tapes ("Svema" or УType 6Ф from the town of Shostka, the eponymous tape of PereiaslavlТ, German Agfa if you were very lucky) were in constant danger of stretchingЧcausing the pitch to Уswim,Ф (zvuk plavaet)Чor breaking altogether. Gluing broken tape together with minimal audio interference was regarded as a crucial УartФ for magnitizdatТs craftsmen (Kovner, personal communication). The compact recorders, whose cost was roughly equivalent to an engineerТs monthly salary, moved, incognito, from one kitchen concert to the next, nestled inside backpacks on their ownersТ backs. The very names of the recordersЧ "Spalis", "Astra", "Iauza" Ч took on a slightly numinous quality, especially after one of them was immortalized by Galich himself in his famous ode to uncensored culture, УWeТre no worse than HoraceФ (My ne khuzhe Goratsii):


Ѕродит  ривда с полосы на полосу,
Untruth roams from region to region [or page to page],
ƒелитс¤ с соседской  ривдой опытом,
Sharing her experience with the neighboring Untruth,
Ќо гудит напетое вполголоса,
But that which is softly sung in half-voice [loudly] resounds,
Ќо гремит прочитанное шепотом.
But that which is read in a whisper thunders.
Ќи партера нет, ни лож, ни ¤руса,
There''s no concert hall, no balconies,
 лака не безумствует припадочно,
No sycophants hired to wildly rave,
≈сть магнитофон системы Ђяузаї,
There is a Iauza tape recorder,
¬от и все!
That is all!
ј этого достаточно!
But that is all that''s needed!

could in no way compete with the quality of commercially-available records. With his treasure re-read as trash, the social magnet lost his attractive charge, a fact that he lamented greatly.

The Iauza-5 reel-to-reel recorder The magnitizdat recordings that emerged from the avtorskaia pesnia enthusiastsТ machines simultaneously enabled and demanded a particular type of listeningЧthe contemplative group, huddled silently around a recorder, as in the quoted description above. The primacy of text over music, which consequently privileged comprehension of the unfolding lyrics over embodied engagement with the musicТs Уgroove,Ф combined with the poor sound quality of recordings to create a situation in which these songs were listened to with an intense concentration bordering on furiosity. The groups of people who gathered to listen to the latest tape of Galich, acquired through the untiring efforts of one or more members, did not consider his songs to be in any sense Уbackground music.Ф

Picture of Iauza courtesy of <> (Accessed 25 March 2006. Permission requested.) According to the bard enthusiastsТ reminiscences, this was focused, social listening toЧ no, devouring ofЧsound. Fast forward to the present day, and we are confronted with a state of affairs that involves both continuity and radical disjuncture with magnitizdatТs past. The onset of a crude form of market capitalism in the post-Soviet space has been given much attention elsewhere, as has the removal and partial replacement of censorship (e.g., Shleifer 2005, Klein 2001). Suffice it to say that the avtorskaia pesnia community was not immune to these societal changes; in fact, the mere survival of the genre is testament to its creative engagement with them. In the late 1980s, faced with the ascendancy of the Russian rock scene, an influx of previously unavailable foreign music, and the gradual dismantlement of the aesthetic system against which the bards had defined themselves, many figures, including the patriarch himself, Bulat Okudzhava, predicted the death of avtorskaia pesnia (1997). Indeed, the cultural salience of the genre is surely not what it used to be in the 1960s and 1970s, when avtorskaia pesnia was a Уcraze [that] swept the country like a forest fire,Ф until Уfrom every window, every courtyard, emanated the voices of
Okudzhava, Vysotsky, GalichФ (Sarnov 1998:392). But neither is it moribund. TodayТs situation is a complex one, involving the nostalgic presentation of classic first- and second-generation bards (such as Okudzhava and Kliachkin), the commercialization of a number of younger ones (such as Mityaev), and a creative efflorescence on the margins of the marketplace. (Lubiagin, who has no commercial releases and rarely concertizes, is marginal even within this group).

A burgeoning supper club scene in Moscow provides multiple concerts of avtorskaia pesnia most nights of the week. At the Gnezdo Glukharya, in the old city center, 250-300 rubles will purchase a ticket to hear well-known bards perform lightly- amplified songs while efficient waiters quietly serve the audience, which sits, eating dinner, drinking, and smoking at small tables arranged in a fan around the guitar-shaped stage. Compact disks, generally priced at 150 rubles, are sold in the foyer. In keeping with new and evolving social patterns and the wide availability of recordings and playing devices, listening to avtorskaia pesnia has become more of a solitary activity, something conducted in your car (if you have one) or on earphones at the computer terminal. At outdoor festivals, by contrast, singing around the campfire remains the intense social activity that it was during the Soviet period. Non-commercial, magnitizdat recording continues at festivals and house-concerts, although these recordings are increasingly distributed not from hand to hand but as digital files on the internet.

Of course, the death of music censorship did spell, in a strict sense, the death of magnitizdat. However, according to some, the old pressure exerted by authoritarian government strictures has to some extent been replaced by a new pressure exerted by commercialism and emergent consumerism. Where avtorskaia pesnia was once positioned as an aesthetic alternative to official music, it is now marketed as an aesthetic alternative to American-influenced popular music (popsa). The result: grassroots music distribution still has a place in 21st-century Russia. The paragons of the contemporary distribution networksЧof what one could logically call internetizdatЧare two websites:, run by computer programmer Sergej Kalinin out of Krasnoyarsk, and, operated from music producer and computer entrepreneur Andrej KhorlinТs apartment on the outskirts of< Moscow. As of this writing, KhorlinТs website contains 37,772 songs, as well as thousands of song texts, over 7,000 photographs, and hundreds of scholarly and journalistic articles. In addition to serving as an immense and easily-accessible virtual archive of classic and contemporary recordings (all of which can be listened to gratis as a low-fidelity mp3 file, many of which can be purchased as high-quality WAV files on compact disks through the website), KhorlinТs website and a growing number of avtorskaia pesnia-related chatrooms have vastly increased communication among members of the far-flung avtorskaia pesnia community, effectively blurring the border between those musicians and fans based in Russia and those in the Russian-speaking &#233;migr&#233; world. In the digital age, with the distinction between original and copy rendered moot and the barriers to distribution effectively removed, the formidable challenges and subsequent triumphs that characterized Soviet-era magnitizdat have largely disappeared. At the same time, many members of the older generation insist, the genre is taking on the contours of pop music. See Daughtry forthcoming for a discussion of the tension between opposition to pop and emulation of pop within the avtorskaia pesnia community.

Replacing them are an emerging set of challenges imported from the West. For example, the issue of intellectual property did not generally trouble those on the production or the distribution side of the magnitizdat network forty, or even fifteen, years ago. Some people did sell recordings in the 1960s and 1970s, it is true, but the majority of participants passed recordings on to their friends free of charge. As a rule, neither artists nor recorders placed any restrictions on the dubbing of the tapes they made and distributed. That a recording made in a Moscow kitchen would eventually make its way to the far reaches of the Soviet Union was considered the singular mark of a bardТs success.

In todayТs financially-strained environment, however, with an increasing number of bards turning to music as their sole professional activity, dubbing a recording for a friend means that a struggling artist was deprived of a potential 150 rubles. Khorlin, the manager of, recently encountered a bard who angrily demanded that the songs from one of his recent albums be removed from the website, as they were placed there without his permission and were giving people free access to music they might otherwise buy. Khorlin, in rebuttal, has argued that his website serves as a powerful advertisement for the bards, giving people a sense of their music through free access to lo-fi mp3, and encouraging them to purchase hi-fi recordings. When placed upon the background of economic uncertainty and general privation that effects the overwhelming majority of the avtorskaia pesnia community, the potential for the genreТs commodification, lamented as it may be by those who enjoyed the free flow of music and ideas in the Soviet period, holds out the prospect of a slim financial lifeline for a large number of struggling bards. Their ambivalence toward this situation is crystallized in a recent song by a young bard from the city of PermТ named Grigorij Danskoj. The song, entitled УGrustnye razmyshleniia meditativnogo kharaktera o sushchnosti denegФ (УMelancholy Reflections of a Meditative Character on the Significance of MoneyФ), provides a window into the tribulations of post-Soviet avtorskaia pesnia, and an apt stopping point for this discussion of magnitizdatТs post-Soviet iteration.

Ќе говори со мной о деньгах Ц
Do not speak to me of money Ц
я не знаю что это такое.
I do not know what that is.
ѕоговори со мной о покое.
Speak to me of peace of mind.
ќ счастье со мной поговори.
Of happiness speak to me.
Ќо ты говоришь: Ђƒеньги, деньги!ї
But you are saying, Ђmoney, money!ї
 ак будто бы ¤ экономист.
As if I am an economist.
ј ¤ никакой не экономист.
But I am no kind of economist.
я самоде¤тельный артист.
I''m an amateur artist.

© J. Martin Daughtry. Rough Draft, Not for Attribution, Submitted 29 March 2006.
Ethnomusicology, University of California , Los Angeles.

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