Journal of Sonic Studies - Call for papers: Sound in the (Post-) Soviet Realm


When an empire falls, does it make a sound? And who is there to hear it?

The sonic history of the USSR and the Post-Soviet realm that succeeded it, is rich and turbulent. The 2013 book Sound in Z by Andrey Smirnov introduced the world to the daring sound experiments of the Soviet avant-gardists of the 1920s. From the city-wide noise symphonies of Arseny Avraamov to the first electronic instruments of Leon Theremin to experiments with sounds drawn on paper or film, the futuristic optimism of the first decade following the revolution unleashed an explosion of sonic artistry. While the strict censorship and state control over the arts forced sound artists underground or into applied work, the Soviet sonic creativity persisted on the margins, or even wholly outside, of the state-controlled art world: in the kinetic sound sculptures of the Dvizhenie art group, the explorations of light and sound by the researchers of the Prometheus Institute, or the extravagant performances of the Pop-Mechanics movement, for example.

However, the familiar history of the Soviet culture being shaped by the antagonism between official state-sanctioned art institutions and underground art communities conceals a different, colonial narrative. In the colonial structures of the contemporary world, the position of the Post-Soviet realm remains ambiguous: not quite part of the Global North, yet not fully in the Global South. Decolonial scholars investigating the Post-Soviet have called Russia/USSR a “subaltern empire” (Morozov 2015) or “poor North” (Tlostanova 2011), shedding light on the double oppression of its colonies: “the South of the poor North.” While sound art from the Russian capitals of Moscow and St. Petersburg/Leningrad is slowly being integrated into global sound histories, much less is known about the sound cultures and art of the Russian and Soviet colonies, both former – such as Kazakhstan or Georgia – and extant – the lands of Siberia and the Russian Far East.

In this issue of the Journal of Sonic Studies we will explore how these entanglements of coloniality, ideology, creativity, and resistance are reflected in the sound culture and art from the Soviet and Post-Soviet realm. We welcome article proposals related to, but not limited to, the following topics:

●Sound art and sound poetry from the USSR and Post-Soviet territories

●Soviet and Post-Soviet soundscapes, between megacities and tundras

●Indigenous sound cultures of Siberia, (Post-)Soviet Asia and the Caucasus

●Sound cultures of ethnic groups in USSR and contemporary Russia

●Sound and music of the Soviet Underground in capitals, provinces, and national republics

●Sound design in Soviet and Post-Soviet cinema

●Soviet instrumental inventions: from the ANS synthesizer to the electronic bayan “Topaz”

●Soundscapes of military aggression and resistance in the Post-Soviet realm: in Donbass, Abkhazia, and Nagorno-Karabakh, for example

●Ideological implications of indoor and outdoor sonic practices

●Sound in Soviet and Post-Soviet architecture and urban planning

●Sacred and secular sounds in Soviet and Post-Soviet environments

●Sound, music, and politics in the USSR and Post-Soviet countries

●Sound in Soviet and Post-Soviet academic communities

Please send your abstract (300 words) and short contributor biography (100 words) to Vadim Keylin and Ksenia Mayorova by February 1, 2022.