Conceptually rethinking the oppressive structures of the Russian/Soviet sonic manifestation in the official anthems, Moscow-born Berlin-based artist Andrey Guryanov uncovers the hidden depths of the bureaucratic sound world of his homeland and assumed new ghostly qualities via cracking and splicing source material. Subtle, entrancing, darkly ecstatic music of hypnotic potency and experimental ingenuity blending art noise, ambient isolationism, dense drone, micro dub, and inevitable fury of disaster.
„This album reflects my initial interest in history in general, and in particular in the history of the country in which I was born, as well as in the history of sound art and sound media itself. It is based on the official recordings of the Soviet Union’s anthem from various periods. The files I received from the state archive were digital copies of the original media made from 2000 to 2010. The structure of each track originates from the analysis of the data of these recordings.
The album is based on the material of the musical pause in the Soviet anthems, that occurs between the tuning chord at the very beginning of the piece and the first verse. The сhord – a bright orchestral tutti – is there so when performing the anthem collectively, one will be able to determine the tonality and the tempo of the music.
There is an intriguing plot in how the Soviet anthem changed over the years and how it reflected the changes in the country’s life. In the beginning, there was “La Marseillaise”. It was 1917, the moment the Soviet Union appeared on the map. Then from 1918 to 1944, it was “The International“ – the benchmark of the socialist movement since the end of the nineteenth century. Later it changed to „The State Anthem of the Soviet Union“ by Alexandrov. This anthem marked the era of the Stalinism regime. For more than sixty years, from 1944 to the present time, with a ten-year break in 1990 when the Soviet Union finally collapsed, the same chord, followed by that significant pause, sounded precisely at 6 in the morning on the state radio and from public address systems on the streets, in factories and institutions. The music, composed and used since 1944, was updated three times with new lyrics and became the official anthem again in 2000, in a rather grim artistic gesture marking the return of the old regime. It is rather peculiar that there were three different texts for this score: all of them were written by the same person, first praising the Soviet Union and Stalin, then after Stalin’s death praising just the Soviet Union, and finally, a brand new state called Russian Federation based on completely inverted principles comparing to the Soviet Union.
Each piece is a research of that significant pause that follows the first tuning chord of the anthem right before the verse. I took those pauses and closely analyzed them, both manually and with various software, to see what pure sonic information I could find, or what musical information was there: the tempo and its changes, the spectrum, the tonal qualities, and how these features of the material changed throughout time. I then exaggerated every little detail that came up. In addition to those pauses, I used any results of a technological imperfection I was able to spot in the original tracks, providing information about the physical medium itself representing each period.
I have tried to be as dispassionate as possible about this work and to put aside the idea that the material I am working on is also marked by a very aggressive medium – years and years filled with suffering, exploitation, and injustice. To keep to that meaning was a point of research. I don’t believe that we can isolate ourselves from knowledge, once it is obtained, but I was interested in the body of this conflict – trying not to know what that original materials mean, knowing exactly what they are – and how this conflict will accompany me and change my decisions along the way.
For a while, I had the feeling that this work was unfinished, and that the history it resembles was unfinished as well. I was hoping for the best, expecting the worst, but I couldn’t even imagine the horrific full-scale invasion Russia started in Ukraine. Since February 24 there is nothing more to say. The track ‚2022‘ is built solely on the sound of explosions in Ukraine, collected from Youtube. War, violence, and cruelty have become the new anthem“ – Andrey Guryanov
Sound artist, composer, media researcher. Creates sound and music for feature and documentary films, theatrical productions, installations and video art, working on extending the aesthetic of cinematic music. His practice includes improvisational music and performative art, generative electronic music, concrete music, documentary sound art, media archeology etc. An enthusiastic participant of worldwide free improvisation scene.