Forwards to the Past

Andrey Smirnov

Senior Lecturer at the Centre for Electroacoustic Music at Moscow State Conservatory

Interdisciplinary artist, independent curator, collector, writer, composer


Forwards to the Past is devoted to the forgotten history of Russia in the development of modern music technology.  The period from 1910 – 1930 was a fruitful period in the history of sound experimentalism in Russia.  The Theremin, early synthesizers, noise orchestras, ornamental and paper sound, and computational sound synthesis are just a few examples of Soviet experiments in music technology and sound art.  However, by the late 1930s, the extensive campaign to liquidate independent creative unions and establish centralized organs for controlling the creative intelligentsia, the rapid growth of censorship and repression, and the fight against “formalism” put a stop to practically all experimentalism.

A new generation of Soviet inventor-engineers appeared in the cultural and informational isolation of the 1970s; unaware of their own history, which was banned and almost forgotten, they were generally preoccupied with replicating Western music technologies.  The irony of history lies in the fact that, in the light of Smirnov’s research, a considerable part of these Western technologies might be seen as a result of emigration from Russia, and, not in the last instance, of the ideas of those inventors who had broken new cultural ground within the revolutionary 1920s, and which are to this day almost unknown to the world and absolutely forgotten in Russia – the country which until now did not manage to utilize any of the brilliant technical solutions, discovered by these forgotten pioneers.