marxism and music

Persimfans, 1937

We have seen above, that the first step in the revolution by the working class is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class to win the battle of democracy. The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degree, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralise all instruments of production in the hands of the State, i.e., of the proletariat organised as the ruling class.

– Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto

In 1922, spurred by the revolutionary ideologies championed by Marx and Lenin, Moscow musician Lev Tseitlin formed the group Persimfans–short for Pervïy Simfonicheskiy Ansambl’ bez Dirizhyora, meaning “First Conductorless Symphony Ensemble.” (Aren’t you glad they shortened the name?) As you may have guessed, this post-revolutionary ensemble was formed with the ideal of escaping the tyrannic dictatorship of the conductor’s baton. Musical decisions were made by committees, and the orchestra sat in a circle to aid communication and collaboration, with an orchestra member sitting out in the audience to report on issues of balance and projection.

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