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Shostakovich's Use of Satire in Anti-formalist Rayok with a Focus on the Music of the Character Dt Troikin

Description: In January 1989, a much-rumored work by Dmitri Shostakovich titled Anti-Formalist Rayok received its public premiere. Rayok is a single-act satirical opera/cantata for bass soloist and mixed chorus. Each character represents a prominent Soviet political figure: Joseph Stalin, Andrei Zhdanov, and Dmitri Shepilov. The text of the libretto is either taken directly from actual speeches given by these political figures or follows their idiosyncratic style of public speaking. Rayok often falls victim to criticism for its lack of musical depth, a point of view that could easily lead one to see it as one of Shostakovich's lesser works. The purpose of this document is to examine the political environment of the Soviet Union in the early twentieth century in order to provide context for Shostakovich's Anti-Formalist Rayok and to show how Shostakovich uses satire in this piece. This dissertation document looks at the broader concepts of Formalism and Socialist Realism, traces how Socialist Realism became the established Soviet cultural aesthetic, and examines specific historical events in the 1940s and 1950s that relate to Rayok. Musical examples are taken from the section of the piece centering around D.T. Troikin. These examples demonstrate how Shostakovich uses Socialist Realist clichés in order to satirize the overly bureaucratized state of Soviet musical aesthetics. This leads to the conclusion that Shostakovich created a paradoxical work of art only posing as kitsch, and that he was not only satirizing the political figures presented in disguise but also the entire Soviet Socialist Realist aesthetic.
Date: August 2014
Creator: Grabowski, Gregory
Partner: UNT Libraries