W&J professor awarded ACLS grant for music-censorship research

Created: June 8, 2021

Last Updated: June 8, 2021

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WASHINGTON, PA (June 8, 2021)—Assistant Professor of European History Leah Goldman, Ph.D., is adding a few more notes to her previous research into Soviet-era music censorship, thanks to funding from the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS).

The ACLS selected Dr. Goldman as one of only 14 grant recipients to receive support for projects that will significantly advance humanistic studies and interpretive social sciences. Dr. Goldman will receive a $5,000 award to go toward work on her project Creative Comrades: Censorship and Collaboration in Late Stalinist Music, which she intends to publish as a book.

The project is an extension of Dr. Goldman’s dissertation research, and stems from an interest Dr. Goldman developed prior to her life as an academic.

“Before I was a scholar, I was a musician. I used to play classical music as my job. When I was in music school and when I was performing afterwards…a lot of the repertoire does come out of Russia, and that sort of turned my attention to the Soviet Union,” Goldman said. “I started to think about, ‘How did they make music that expressed what they wanted to express within a system that was circumscribed?’”

As Dr. Goldman began her research, she found that the answer to her question was a bit more nuanced than her initial hypothesis of state-sanctioned censorship and discovered a creative process wherein the composer and censor may have gone through conservatory together, held similar job roles in the Soviet society, and had creative sympathies for one another. This work provided a collaborative effort to composition that ultimately produced the style currently recognized as socialist realism.

“I argue that in the absence of clearly defined aesthetic standards and the presence of high-stakes consequences for transgression, Soviet composers resorted to collective professional self-censorship, which proved far more effective at controlling their creative production than the state could have achieved alone,” she said. “My research rejects the standard state-vs.-artist paradigm and generates new insight by introducing a more complex framework for understanding Soviet censorship and authorship as collaborative processes.”

In addition to the funding from the ACLS Project Development Grant, Dr. Goldman has also received financial support for her research from the Fulbright-Hays DDRA Grant, Mellon-CES Completion Fellowship, and Reed College Faculty Research Grants. She has published articles based on this research in Journal of Musicology, Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas, and Perspectives on Europe. This project is currently under review by academic presses.

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