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Saturday, 26 October 2013

The Rest Is Noise: Politics and Spirituality

After Stalin’s death in 1953, life behind the Iron Curtain slowly began to change – and by the 1970s the Soviet Union under Brezhnev was beginning to modernise. Symbols of the West such as jeans and rock music became popular in Soviet Russia, signalling anew era of cautious thawing of Cold War relations. In the West, the 1970s and ’80s were fast-paced decades – first a recession then economic boom years, where advertising and communications technology rapidly accelerated the pace of modern life.

To counter this materialism, some composers offered a return to spiritual values, and others resorted to overtly political music.

Much of this religious music came from the Soviet Union and its satellite states, where religious belief had been marginalised under the official state atheism. More surprising were the commercial possibilities in this sacred music. The simple, consonant songs of lamentation in Henryk Górecki’s Third Symphony unexpectedly sold over a million copies when it was released to commemorate victims of the Holocaust.

No composer exemplified this turn to the sacred more than Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, whose work conveys an intense and profound spirituality. Hans Werner Henze gave voice to oppressed peoples and political radicals such as Cornelius Cardew who tried to sweep aside the bourgeois norms of the musical establishment.

Politics and Spirituality events at the Southbank Centre include:
  • Author Karen Armstrong looks back at the global religious landscape of the 1970s and '80s. This period saw increasing secularism in the West and a return to the spiritual in the Communist bloc.
  • Author Alain de Botton investigates how spirituality fitted into an increasingly consumerist world.
  • Layla Alexander-Garrett, who worked as Andrei Tarkovsky’s translator on set, discusses the work and vision of the great Russian filmmaker with chair Gareth Evans, writer and film curator’
  • Composer and presenter John Browne leads a fun and informal workshop on Sofia Gubaidulina's Offertorium on Sunday.
  • Gubaidulina's String Quartets Nos.3 & 4 performed by the Ligeti String Quartet.
  • Extracts from Cornelius Cardew's Paragraph 5 of The Great Learning by the Guildhall School of Music & Drama and James Weeks.
  • Excerpts from Hans Werner Henze's Voices by musicians from the Royal College of Music.
  • Film screenings including Solaris, Tarkovsky's psychological space-race drama and Dekalog.

Sofia Gubaidulina - Offertorium.

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