By Ukrainian- Canadian composer Solomiya Moroz

I am writing this on the 14th day of the unprovoked Russian invasion of Ukraine, a war Putin has imposed on the Ukrainian people which started at 4 am on February 24, 2022. Before this unjustified assault on the peaceful Ukrainian skies, culture and people, in a rumbling 2-hour speech, the aggressor equated Ukraine to a country that did not exist before Lenin, that was a historical mistake, a place without a significant cultural heritage. As most of the people reading this text, you may know that it is not true but to those doubting, I only hope you do like to read history or listen to facts. Here is a brilliant podcast with historian Timothy Snyder on more of Ukraine’s history, debunking Putin’s fabrications.

 

This article however is not about Ukrainian history but rather about its lively musical scene that was alive and thriving right before the first Russian rockets hit residential buildings across Ukraine. From the Eastern regions to the West, Ukrainian contemporary and electronic music has been gaining recognition around the world. Before the war, Ukrainian composers were busy writing music and getting ready for international premieres and appearances in contemporary festivals. One such festival that will suffer from a lack of Ukrainian composers’ presence this year is the Ukrainian Contemporary Music Festival (UCMF) taking place in New York City, March 17-20. My electro-instrumental duo SAS with Ukrainian musician/composer Volodymyr Voyt was about to perform at this vibrant new festival, however, due to the war and a resultant inability to travel out of Ukraine, we will not be able to perform there this year and we are not the only musicians in this situation. Another is the great Ukrainian composer Alla Zahaykevitch, the founder of the first Electroacoustic studio in Kyiv, who has recently written a monumental multimedia opera Embroidered, and another is a duo of composers/performers Illya Rozumeiko and Roman Grygoriv who were going to perform a chamber version of their opera Chernobyldorf.
Already in this list, you see the talent and breadth of work that New York will not be able to experience because of the lack of these artists’ presence. This unfortunate lack of Ukrainian musicians/composers on the international scene is nothing new. As a result of repressions during the USSR, many do not know about Ukrainian composers that were part of the serial, avant-garde and contemporary music movements in the 50 and 60s. The Ukrainian Institute has been active in promoting today’s contemporary Ukrainian music and from the repressed Soviet years. One successful project is the publication of Ukrainian avant-garde composers featuring the music of Leonid Hrabovsky, Volodymyr Zahortsev, Vitalii Hodzatsky, and Volodymyr Huba published as a chamber music anthology “The Kyiv Avant-Garde”. In the 1960s, these artists were among the first in Ukraine to go beyond the ideologically “correct” Soviet musical style and turn to advanced avant-garde compositional techniques and concepts that were being actively developed in the work of their Western European colleagues.

In addition to the spirited contemporary music scene, Ukraine has been developing an active multimedia and electronic music front. It is no surprise as all the so-called Russian futurists were Ukrainian, thus Ukraine has always been at the forefront of contemporary, cutting edge interdisciplinary thinking. The festivals that demonstrate the depth of multimedia thinking are Tetramatyka and Vox Electronica in Lviv, Ukraine both in-part originated by composer Ostap Manulyak. Tetramatyka strives to unite artists from different disciplines and with different ideas through experimental sound and art. It is an international festival attracting artists from around the world in addition to promoting Ukrainian artists.

Ukrainian electronic music has been increasingly active on the international European scene with Kyiv as the capital of such activity, also the residence of sister electronic music labels from Berlin and all over Europe. In addition to a vibrant experimental electronic music scene, it also boasted an impressive clubbing scene no less exciting than that of Berlin or other European capitals.

Today at this moment when the Ukrainian people are heroically fighting the invasion of the Russian aggressor, the world wants to hear the music of Ukrainian composers. You can find the collection of scores compiled here with the help of the Lyatoshynsky Club and the Ukrainian Institute. I hope you can peruse this growing database and consider programming some Ukrainian music at this time to support many voices of Ukrainian composers, some of whom are currently taking up arms and joining territorial defence of their cities instead of continuing their creative work. War times call for different measures and I am sure once the war is over, these artists will create work of great strength, importance and vitality.

Slava Ukraini!

 

Solomiya Moroz is a Ukrainian-Canadian composer-performer and researcher based in the UK. She has a PhD in music composition from the University of Huddersfield. Her music compositions have been presented as part of Gaudeamus Muziekweek, Darmstadt International Summer Course for New Music, Contrasts International Contemporary Music Festival in Lviv and other festivals. As a flautist and electronic performer, she has performed at numerous festivals with the Thin Edge New Music Collective and in a duo String Air Synthesis (SAS) with Volodymyr Voyt. Recent premiers of her compositions have been performed by Ensemble Apparat, accordionist Teodoro Anzellotti, Quasar saxophone quartet, Bozzini string quartet and accordion duo XAMP. She is a recipient of grants from the Canada Council for the Arts and Fonds Québécois de la Recherche sur la Société et Culture.​