“For God’s sake, put on your сuffs, they are asking whether we have a culture!”, Ukrainian modernist poet Pavlo Tycyna famously exclaimed in 1920 when the short-lived Ukrainian People’s Republic was clearly losing its struggle for existence. As always in the Ukrainian case, the political recognition of the country went hand in hand with the question of its cultural recognition. Ukraine was often relegated to the status of a “peasant culture” in teh shadow of more powerful Russian and Polish legacies. However, this is not completely true.
Even today people who are familiar with things Ukrainian – let alone members of wider public – feel they are in an uncharted territory when topic shifts to Ukrainian culture. Hardly any writers or painters can be named (unless the person is a narrow expert). We intend to publish concise overviews of Ukrainian culture in our blog, and we do start with Ukrainian classical music.
Professional Ukrainian music originated in the 18th century on the ground of the local tradition which merged folk, church and court music under significant influence of the Western European musical culture (first Italian, later, in the 19th century, also German). It shared a lot of features common for the professional music of other Slavic nations (such as political implications and involvement in struggle for independence, extensive use of folk music material, non-standard harmonic consequences, changing meter, asymmetrical music phrases and periods, unusual modes such as “Roma” minor or Dorian mode etc). And yet at the same time it is highly specific and original even against the showy Slavic background. (more…)