From Folklore to Soviet National Culture - The Process of Formation of "Kazak National Music" (1920-1942) -

Copyright (C) 1999 by Slavic Research Center,Hokkaido University.
All rights reserved.

Since the time of the Russian Empire, Kazak(Qazaq) music had been described as "folk music" by scholars and musicians, and under Soviet rule, it was to be developed to create a part of the Kazak national culture. The author describes the process of the formation of Kazak national music and its systematization in the first half of the Soviet period.

To understand the changes in Kazak musical culture in the Soviet period, it is important to survey the course of Russian nationalism in the 19th century; which served as a model for the formation of Kazak national music. In Russia, Iike in other countries on the periphery of Europe, there had been interest in folk culture since the middle of the 18th century; and folk songs and music were transcribed in musical notation and arranged by composers and scholars. So-called Russian nationalist school was established in the history of European music, and composers did not simply quote Russian folk music in their works with European harmonization. At that time, it became a common practice for composers to publish "collected folk songs" a term which was applied to their own arrangements of songs with piano ac-companiment. The worth of folk songs was appreciated only when they were given arrangements or harmonization, thus transformed by composers into works of art. Folk music was always subsidiary to "art music" or "universal music" i.e., European Classical Music.

Another source of material to be transformed into works of art in Russia was the musical traditions of foreign peoples. Their motifs were inlaid in many works by Russian composers, and they evoked not only exotic but also imperialistic and patriotic feelings for Russia. The music of foreign peoples was also considered as "folk music," whether it be their ritual music or court music.

On the other hand, Russian folk music was transformed in the process of staging it. In the 1880s, V. V. Andreev "improved" Russian folk musical instruments, giving them frets and adding strings to permit the playing of more "complicated" European works. He made instruments of different sizes and registers, and these were organized into the orchestra of Russian folk musical instruments. This orchestra became instantly popular, and stimulated formation of similar ensembles.

The collection of folk music and its publication was of interest not only to musicians but to Russian ethnographers. Ethnographic research institutions formed special commissions for folk music research, which included composers, musicologists, and music critics, as well as ethnographers. They undertook the systematic collection and study of Russian and foreign music, and published the results.

Kazak music was also transcribed in this tradition. Beginning in the first half of the 19th century; it was recorded in linear notation. Many of the transcribers of Kazak music were professional or semi-professional musicians or ethnographers well-grounded in music, and some of them did arrangements in the manner of the Russian composers.

Meanwhile, Kazaks did not write their own music into notation until 1931. Since they had transmitted tr mheiusical heritage in an entirely oral-aural way, the idea of visual recording of music was unfamiliar for them. It is natural that they might have come into contact with Russian music and with European music through the Russians, as a result of their long history as neighbors. A few Kazaks at that time actually read and wrote European notation. But most people simply received the music by ear, not by a European notation system, and they never attempted transcription of Kazak music. Unlike Kazak literature, which was transformed eclectically to meet the demands of the coming new age, such transformation of Kazak music was not possible without transcription.

In early Soviet ideology, the culture of the Kazaks was seen not as "national culture," but as "folk culture." Folk culture was to be collected and recorded to educate and enlighten the people. They were expected to gradually adopt "universal culture," supplemented with their own folk elements. In 1920, when the Kirgiz [Kazak] ASSR was established, the government decided to undertake the collection of Kazak folk music as a state project. As the key person responsible for this task, the government appointed A. V. Zataevich, who had come from Russia. Since he once wished to be a professional composer, Zataevich had been interested in Kazak music before his offircial appointment, and he had himself already begun transcription and arrangements of the music. His personal purpose was to create new art music by using the motifs and melodies of Kazak music in his works as was done by the Russian composers whom he admired.

Thus the aims of the government and those of Zataevich diverged, but they were basically in agreement on the ultimate purpose of contributing to "universal art music" one by educating Kazak people, and the other by trying to bring new possibilities to art music.

Another program pursued by the government and Zataevich was the "improvement" of Kazak musical instruments and the organization of ensembles according to the Russian model. Improvement meant increasing the volume of the sound of instruments for performance on stage, increasing the number of frets and strings, and so on. This program was initiated after 1928, and took shape in the 1930s.

After the concept of the socialistic realism was formulated in the 1930s, folk culture was required to be "national in the form and socialistic in the content" through "development" in a Soviet socialistic way. In Kazak music, this development was to be realized through professionalization and popularization. Now Kazak musicians had to become "professional" by being educated in public institutions which were opened in rapid succession, and by playing the improved Kazak instruments in orchestras using notation. Education in institutions was conducted only by these "professional" musicians, and the traditional form of Kazak musical culture was designated as amateurism. It was only "professional folk music" that could become "Soviet-Kazak national music."

The first institution of higher musical education in Kazak SSR was the Musical-Dramatic Training College, founded in 1932. The government appointed A. to direct this College. was the first Kazak that learned European music in Russia (Leningrad), and he was an expert in Kazak musical culture, as well. In the College, he played a leading role in the transcription and arrangement of Kazak music, in the reconstruction of Kazak musical instruments, and in musical education. He and colleagues transcribed a large number of Kazak songs and melodies into staff notation. They were arranged to create "art music", and to provide a repertoire for the Orchestra of Kazak Folk Musical Instruments which was established in 1934.

Kazak instruments were "improved" by Russian masters who had previously worked with orchestras and ensembles of Russian folk musical instruments. The Orchestra of Kazak Folk Musical Instruments began to use a notation system for performing arranged European Classical pieces, but there were great difficulties for Kazak musicians both in the polyphonic performance style of the orchestra and in using the linear notation system. In this way, the professionalism of Kazak folk music was developed despite various difficulties.

Furthermore, this professionalism was supported by musicological research. began to write the biographies of past Kazak musicians, and formulated the concept of "the history of Kazak music." The first comprehensive work on the history of Kazak music was written by , entitled "The Lives and Works of Kazak Composers." This book apparently follows the history of masters of European music in its manner of historical and bio-graphical writing. We see that Jtibanov attempted to show the autonomous and independent worth of Kazak music by both denying and allowing the application of European terms to Kazak music. Simultaneously, though, this autonomy of Kazak musical culture was consid-ered as a thing of the past, and in this regard was unlike Soviet-Kazak professional folk music.

In this way, Kazak folk music was "developed" into Soviet national music through systematization and institutionalization. As national music was seen to have these indispensable characteristics, traditional forms of Kazak music were relegated to the realm of folk music, which was associated with "simplicity" and "amateurism".


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