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May 02, 1959 - Image 2

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1959-05-02

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Slonim Discusses
'Soviet Realism'

-Daily-Robert Kaplan
COMPOSER DISCUSSES-Virgil Thomson formulates a point at
a discussion yesterday afternoon. The musical world is at a low
ebb, he says, and it shows up in several ways. A former music
critic, he will conduct three of his pieces this afternoon.
Virgil Thomson COmments
On Widespread Artistic Dip

For 40 years, starting in 1918,
the Soviet State tried to build a
society and create a new human
type through '"Soviet realism" in
literature, Prof. Marc Slonim of
Sarah Lawrence College said yes-
But from 1953-57, there.was an
interval of freedom, the literary
trends of which can be compared
to those of the period of censor-
ship, he said.
"Impetus did not die after the
overthrow of the Soviet regime,
but there was a continuation of
pre-Revolutionary literary trends,"-
Prof. Slonim said.
Complexity Continued
During this -- what he termed
"the most interesting period of
Soviet literature with regard to
its movements" - the. interest in
complex forms of literary expres-
sion continued, he explained. But
while the national development of
literary forms continued, the State
and the Communist Party slowly
began to control the literature.
"They had to control it," he
added, "since literature in the
Soviet Union had always been a
tremendous 'factor in the intel-
lectual and political life of the
During the 1920's and '30's,,
authors therefore conformed to the
theories and practices of the Com-
munist State, he said. The Party
had reached practical and theore-
tical conclusions, which would ef-
fect the ideological change they
Didactic Duty
First, there was the didactic
duty of literature: Soviet realism
was to work in such a way as to
become an educational means for
bringing about the ideological.
transformation of the people.
But, at the same time, the litera-
ture had to represent only certain
aspects of realism. The Union of
Soviet Writers, which Prof. Slo-
nim called. "a party organiztion,
a system of censorship," led the
movement to a uniform literary
Between 1934 and 1953, litera-
ture became "something of a very

agers are actiye. "But rather than
record contemporary music, re-
cording companies are remaking
the classical repertory in stereo
and recording very little contem-
porary music.
As for music critics, he said, "I
think all critics are a little tired
of music. I don't think they like
the music they hear, except in
Buenos Aires and Tokyo.
Public Tired
"There the public's not flooded
by gramophones and radio sta-
tions. With us, you can't get into
a bus without covering your ears.
Books stay in the covers and
paintings. in museums, but with
music you're a captive public. The
public's a little tried of music too."
And where should an American
composer look for a libretto? "Un-
der rocks and stones," Thomson
remarked. "But I don't look for
librettos, I look for guys I can
work with. Then we get a subject
we can both work with."
When he wrote "Four Saints in
Three Acts," in 1928, Thomson
said, he set the stage directions
to music. The libretto, by Ger-
trude Stein, intentionally doesn't
always make clear, overt sense.
Still Thomson wrote an opera
that has been received as tuneful
and pleasant and also meaning-
ful until one listens hard to the
Working on Opera
Thomson added that he is work-
ing on another opera and that its
libretto should be finished by
June. He has written two so far-
"Four Saints" and "The Mother
of Us All," about the life of Susan
B. Anthony.
"University music departments-
don't have the intense profession-
al attitude that conservatories
have. They don't do quite so well
by the performer."
"By the coijposer," however,
"they do rather better. Univer-
sities have worked well at two
levels - composition and produc-
ing many standardized teachers."
Music Is Important
Making an opera "out of a
super-dramatic situation" is not a
good. idea, Thomson said. The
situation "will nearly always over-
power the music, and besides it's
not that exciting. A good piece
would be more exciting."
Soph Show
Sets Meeting
Committee meetings for next
year's Soph Show have been
scheduled, according to Susan
Smith, '62, and Steve Vile, '62, co-
chairmen of central committee.
Central committee has already1
met twice to consider one original,
and several Broadway scripts for;
the production. The next meet-
ing is slated for 4:30 p.m. on
Tues., May 5, at the League. 1
The spring publicity mass meet-
ing will be held at 7:30 p.m. on
May 12 at the League. There will1
be tryouts for poster, stunt, gen-I
eral publicity and program com-1
mittees then.
Septtember 24 is the date for
the mass meeting in the fall.1
Soph Show will be presented7
November 12, 13 and 14. J

dull and rather boring experience."
he said.
The Period of Zndanov, from
1946-48,- was described as the
Party's attempt to reduce litera-
ture "to a complete slave in the
hands of the Communist organiza-
tion. Zhdanov believed the Soviet
Union should prevent any per-
nicious influences from the West,"
Prof. Slonim explained.
In theory and practice, Com-
munist nationalism therefore per-
vaded the literature. There was
such a conservatism in form that
Prof. Slonim was able to para-
phrase the plots of many novels of
that period.
"First there is always the self-
made, steel-like, party-loving sec-
retary of the local organization,
whose father was in prison and
'whose mother helped the Revolu-
tion in 1905. He attempts to step
up production in the factory.
Villain Foiled
"But the villain, an old engineer,
doesn't believe that production can
be increased," Prof. Slonim con-
tinued. "Of course, he is discovered
to have been in the White Army,
his parents have emigrated to the
United States and he is an agent
of Trotsky~ or the counterintel-
The story ends, with an en-
raptured couple, a male and a fe-
male factory worker successful in
increasing production, aleeping
happily ever after under pictures
of Lenin and Stalin.
This type of literature continued
for a long while. Critics who de-
fended it tried to prevent any re-
turn to the vices of decadent
Formalism Stressed
They stressed "formalism, art
for art's sake," he said.
But in March, 1953, Stalin died
and "various changes took place
in Russian inner-conditions and
policy, with those in the arts not
being the least ones.
"The door that *was shut so
tightly opened slowly and fresh.
air came in," Prof. Slonim com-
mented. "The tone and even the
way of writing changed."
Some writers who had been
liquidated, sent to concentration
camps or denied publication had
their names "rehabilitated" in
1953, '54 and '55.
The rehabilitation of their work
went hand in hand with de-Sta-
linization, Prof. Slonim said. "Sta-
lin was taken down from hispedes-
tal and there was acquittal of those
who had been considered literary
Although literature of the period
was "esthetically inferior," it
treated human beings in a more
realistic way. Characters were no
longer "paragons of virtue," he
People Starved
The Soviet people were starved
for literature' with emotion. From
1953-57, literature with feeling
evolved and hatred for the West
was abandoned, with translations
from Western literature and a
movement in the theater. towards
"Now in 1958 and 1959, we have
this attempt at setting the clock
back, but the counter-offensive is
weaker than former movements of
this sort," Prof. Slonim noted.
In fact, "there are many signs
that the Soviet readers and writ-
ers are resisting. I believe that
there is still a movement towards
the liberalization of Russian art
and literature," he concluded.
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Use Amram
Mood Music
In 'Macheth'
David Amram, noted young
American composer currently rep-
resented on Broadway by his mu-
sical score for "J. B.," will pro-
vide the incidental music for the
University Drama Season produc-
tion of "Macbeth" starring Charl-
ton Heston.
IAmram has written the music
for all Phoenix Theatre plays for
this season and also for the
Shakespearean plays whh in the
past have been done in New York
City's Central Park.
The Season has also signed sev-
en additional actors for the five-
week series which opens May 11
in the Lydia Mendelssohn Thea-


... in Macbeth

tre. Chief among them is the sign-
ing of Charles Hohnian, previous-
ly set to co-star with Leon Ames
in "Howie," for a second starring
assignment in "Summer of the
Seventeenth Doll."
Joining Heston and the pre-
viously signed players in the sea-
son opener, "Macbeth," will be
JoyceBallou, Jonathan Abel, Mel
Arrighi and John Straub.,
Miss Ballou, wife of the Sea-
son's set designer, appeared last
season in New York in "The
Legend of Lizzie."
"Waiting for Godot," starring
Paul Hartman and Earle Hyman,
will also be presented in the fes-
The box office will open on
Monday for the sale of both regu-
lar and student season tickets.
DIAL NO 2-3136

I i


... on sea scrolls

and her bosom companions
in a BILLY WILDER Production
L kE iT

To Talk.
On Sea Scrolls
Highlighting a two-day visit
here, the Rev. Dr. Krister Sten-
dahl will speak on "The' Dead Sea
Scrolls and Their Influence on
New Testament Studies," at 3:15
p.m., Monday, Aud. D, Angell Hall.
Professor of New Testament
Studies in the Harvard Divinity
School, Dr. Stendahl will also be
Lutheran Student 'Center and
Chapel, Hill St. and S. Forest
Ave. His sermon concerning the
theme, "Is It Selfish to Pray?"
will be given at both the 9 and 11
a.m. services.
The Lutheran Student Associa-
tion will also host Dr. Stendahl
at 7 p.m. tomorrow, when he will
speak in the Center lounge on
"The False Quest for Relevance."
Stendahl was a Christian youth
leader in his native Sweden before
joining the Harvard faculty in
1954. He edited "The Scrolls and
the New Testament" in 1957, and
now serves on a research team of
the Lutheran Church, Missouri
While in Ann Arbor Monday,
he will also address the National
Lutheran Council Pastor's Con-
ference at Zion Lutheran Church.


2 Great Hits Return


Come to the
Tonight..: May 2, 1959

Ciemta rdI4
Saturday 7:00 and 9:004
Sunday at 8:00

First Show
Today at 12:45


NO 2-2513




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