This dissertation presents a multifaceted examination of the complex sociopolitical contexts of contemporary popular and classical music in Russia. By attending to the competing expectations of Russian creators, government officials, impresarios, critics, and listeners, it examines how contemporary musical artists have navigated the shifting nationalistic and popular moods of the past two decades.
I argue that popular music artists Olga Kormukhina and Polina Gagarina, composer Rodion Shchedrin, and the Mariinsky Theater have transformed the works of past artists, including Viktor Tsoi and Nikolai Leskov, updating them according to a popular demand for patriotic works that the Russian state has cultivated through its media outlets and official pronouncements on cultural policy. Other rock musicians (Konstantin Kinchev and the band Bi-2) have also transformed their political identities to match the present-day demands and expectations of either Russian officialdom or their particular Russian audiences. With the exception of Bi-2 (an ambiguous counterexample), all of these transformations have led to greater associations with nationalistic sentiments or fervent support for state agendas in the contemporary geopolitical arena.
Exploring the wide variety of styles and genres in this dissertation required a methodological versatility involving archival research, reception history, the analysis of musical scores and sound recordings, an examination of prose and poetic texts, and close study of visual imagery in music videos and onstage. The approach to reception history is the most groundbreaking, for it considers a wide range of digital sources, including blogs and social media comment threads, and makes use of language partner apps to augment the pool of informants, allowing conversation with Russians living outside the limited geographical range (St. Petersburg and Moscow) considered by previous studies. This holistic approach to contemporary reception history helps us to better understand how Russian audiences from diverse regions perceive these ongoing transformations.