About project

Our project aims to acquire new knowledge and a deeper understanding of the ways in which the Polish and Lithuanian music networks and musical expression of liberation contributed to political and cultural independence before and after the end of the Cold War. Poland and Lithuania at the end of the Cold War serve as a case study for the theorization of music and politics. Although we have some knowledge of opposition cultural networks in non-democratic countries, transnational study of impact of musical cultures in Eastern Europe does not exist. The general goal of the project is the definition and contextualization of the transformative power of the opposition music networks in Poland and Lithuania in the period between independence movement to transition into European political space.
Since the end of the Cold War the shift in understanding of communist regimes and comparative research placing utopias of socialist modernization in broader context encouraged more complex approach towards nonconformist cultural actions and oppositional movements in culture and arts of the former socialist countries (cf. Yurchak 2006). When investigating the influence of political reality upon the field of culture, it is worthwhile to pay a special attention to an attitude formed in post-Communist rule years, suggesting that after 1960s, the creative freedom in the sphere of music was subject to lesser constraints due to the peculiarities of the music art. As a matter of fact, in comparison with other art worlds, musicians, composers and musical critics experienced relative freedom in the People`s Republic of Poland and less ideologically motivated control in Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic. In addition, musical space of these former socialist countries was characterized by variety of the interregional unofficial relationships and informal networks which could be identified and described as parallel reality to official culture. To be sure, in musical cultures since late 1970s, the intensification of oppositional movements and activities greatly vary from established views on vertical culture system of non-democratic state under strict ideological control. This tendency illustrates recently consolidated view that neither political or cultural control over musical life was absolute (cf. Taruskin 2009, Jakelski 2017 etc.). At the same time, main ideological conflicts in the field of music were not centred on the questions related to the content of communist culture doctrine, but were more concerned with control of the public space. This allows the researchers to discover the informal relationships and independent environments, unofficial interpretative communities, channels and networks of communication as important factors and historical practices of cultural oppositional movements.
Beside widely known Eastern European official platforms of international collaboration and exchange such as Warsaw Autumn festival, these phenomena are represented by numerous lesser known informal activities and unofficial networks of oppositional character in relation to Communist regimes. In both Poland and Lithuania, independent music festivals, artistic actions, private lectures and semi-official publications (samizdat/magnitizdat) flourished on the margins of official culture as cultural expression of liberation. From oppositional to mainstream culture festivals in Stalowa Wola, Baranów, Sandomierz, cultural activism during Martial Law such as the Traugutt Philharmonic (Poland), privately grounded youth music festivals in Druskininkai, Anykščiai, Kaunas and Vilnius, underground Fluxus movement (Lithuania) to Baltic Singing Revolution – all these cultural events and activities demonstrate the rupture between the attempts of authorities to maintain a total institutional control and the distrust of the society in it, the emancipative needs of individual. While describing the generative role of music in the formation of collectivities Thomas Turino notes that “music, dance, festivals, and other public expressive cultural practices are a primary way for people to articulate the collective identities that are fundamental to forming and sustaining social groups, which are, in turn, basic to survival.” (Turino 2008). Further, Polish-Lithuanian collaboration and cultural exchange played important role in formation and development of oppositional musical expression. Interaction of Polish and Lithuanian musical communities resulted in numerous landmark compositions, critical texts and joint cultural events. After the end of the Cold War, the period of transition from non-democratic state to the European political and economic space had a stimulating effect on cultural imagination and cultural exchange. Between 1990 and 2004, the experience of opposition music networks has been productively and intensely articulated in the artistic practice and re-figured in the cultural discourse. From Polish-Lithuanian musicians’ collaboration perspective, these processes flourished in variety of cultural activities ranging from Polish-Lithuanian musicological conferences (since 1989) to festivals of declarative nature (e.g. “Aksamitna kurtyna”, Kraków, 2000). In addition, Polish-Lithuanian musical networks contributed into transformation of images and narratives about changing cultural identities in the context of European past and present.