Composing for the Red Screen: Prokofiev and Soviet Film

TitleComposing for the Red Screen: Prokofiev and Soviet Film
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsBartig, Kevin
Number of Pages228
PublisherOxford University Press
CityNew York

Sound film captivated Sergey Prokofiev (1891-1953) during the final two decades of his life: he considered composing for nearly two dozen pictures, eventually undertaking eight of them, all Soviet productions. Hollywood luminaries such as Gloria Swanson tempted him with commissions, and arguably more people heard his film music than his efforts in all other genres combined. Films for which Prokofiev composed, in particular those of Sergey Eisenstein, are now classics of world cinema. Drawing on newly available sources, this volume examines the full extent of this prodigious cinematic career. The author examines how Prokofiev's film music derived from a self-imposed challenge: to compose "serious" music for a broad audience. The picture that emerges is of a composer seeking an individual film-music voice, shunning Hollywood models and objecting to his Soviet colleagues' ideologically expedient film songs. Looking at Prokofiev's film music as a whole--with well-known blockbusters like Alexander Nevsky considered alongside more obscure or aborted projects--reveals that there were multiple solutions to the challenge, each with varying degrees of success. Prokofiev carefully balanced his own populist agenda, the perceived aesthetic demands of the films themselves, and, later on, Soviet bureaucratic demands for accessibility.

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