Festival and conference Power in Sound/Found in Time to highlight the Soviet avant-garde, the works of Galina Ustvolskaya

From October 5th through October 7th, the University of Chicago will host a festival and conference series, focused on the music of the Soviet avant-garde from the turn of the 20th century. 


Though the Bolshevik Revolution was followed by a period of widespread innovation in the arts, from the late 1920s forward Soviet cultural authorities suppressed experimentation, attacking deviations from the rigid party line on culture. In the 1930s charges of “formalism” often signaled the end of an artist’s public life, or served as a prelude to arrest. However, some continued to experiment, pushing against the limits of Soviet and international aesthetic convention, even when it meant toiling in danger and obscurity. Finding this work is difficult, and often requires a long period of collective searching. The Departments of Music and Slavic Languages & Literatures at the University of Chicago will host a three-day symposium reporting on new discoveries in this process. The conference will be held on October 5-7, in conjunction with a music festival featuring the music of one of the boldest voices of Soviet artistic dissent, Galina Ustvolskaya.


Power in Sound: The Music of Galina Ustvolskaya Festival is a 3-day immersion into Galina Ustvolskaya's powerful and intense music. Named "the woman with the hammer,” (Elmer Schonberger) for her use of heavy, homophonic blocks of sound, Ustvolskaya's music is rarely performed in the Unites States.

Organized/curated by Nomi Epstein and Shanna Gutierrez, this will be the first major multi-day festival celebrating the music of Galina Ustvolskaya (1919-2006) in the United States, and only the second outside of Russia. The festival unites some of the city’s most prestigious musicians: Seth Parker WoodsLiz Pearse (Quince Contemporary Vocal Ensemble), Shanna Gutierrez (Collect/Project), DePaul University's Ensemble 20+ led by Michael Lewanski,  Kevin Harrison (Axiom Brass), Jeff Kimmel (a.pe.ri.od.ic), Andrew Rosenblum (Memoria Nova), Christopher Wendell JonesAnn YiTara Lynn Ramsey (dal niente), Kuang-Hao Huang (Fulcrum Point New Music Project), and more.

The Ustvolskaya Festival will feature 3 concerts of her solo, small and large chamber works, in connection with a 3-day conference, ‘Found in Time: Forgotten Experiments in Soviet Art, 1940-1960’ open to the public. Providing a dialogue between Ustvolskaya’s work and music by an emerging Russian composer, the festival will feature US Premieres by the acclaimed Marina Khorkova (b. 1981) and Dariya Maminova (b. 1988). With pre-concert talks by Richard TaruskinMaria Cizmic, and Olga Panteleeva, performances will be presented at The Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts and PianoForte Studios.

This is a rare and important opportunity for a city’s artistic and scholarly community to unify in the presentation and discussion of something new to the ears of Chicago audiences. Ustvolskaya’s music is presciently relevant in today’s climate of concerns regarding gender and artistic expression and a complicated political environment.

View conference/festival program 

More information about attending the event

Event sponsors:

Power in Sound: The Music of Galina Ustvolskaya is supported by New Music USA, made possible by annual program support and/or endowment gifts from Helen F. Whitaker Fund, Aaron Copland Fund for Music. Additionally, this project is partially supported by an Individual Artists Program Grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events, as well as a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency, a state agency through federal funds provided by the National Endowment for the Arts. Further, this conference is sponsored by the Mikhail Prokhorov Foundation.

Found in Time: Forgotten Experiments in Soviet Art, 1940--1960 would not have been possible without the generous support of the University of Chicago Department of Music, Franke Institute for the HumanitiesGraduate CouncilCenter for East European and Russian/Eurasian StudiesUniversity of Chicago Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, and University of Chicago Language Center