Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
So, I'm sure a lot of you have heard about the results of the location decisions for the FIFA World Cup in футбол. Here's some more info on it and its other sporty activities :)
Taken form the BBC News Website:
The impact of winning the bid was illustrated in the headline "Russia, live with the World" which appeared in one of the main Russian newspapers.
And analysts suggest that the World Cup will improve the institutions of civil society and the well-being of the nation.
Government support was a key factor in securing the tournament for Russia and the country will be a focus for major sporting events in the next eight years.
Apart from the Winter Olympics and Kazan Universiade, there will be a first Formula One grand prix in Russia in 2014, the World Athletics Championships in 2013 and, more than likely, the ice hockey World Championship in 2016.
Also, my recordings are with David Kincaid's post.
The 1985 film Come and See is a Soviet era film about the Belorussian resistance against the Germans during World War II. The Russian language film is shot from the perspective of a young Belorussian boy who joins the partisans at the height of the German occupation of the Western Soviet Union. After finding a Soviet rifle in the remains of a battlefield, the boy, Florya, leaves his rural village fight for the partisans.
With his rifle and what little belongings Florya has, the young Belorussian enters the partisan camp in a forest. Shortly after joining the camp, the partisans leave to fight the Germans, but Florya is considered too young by the camp’s commander and is left behind. He soon meets a girl near his age as German bombers start to strike the camp. German paratroopers then begin to land outside of the camp and Florya and his new friend face a surprise attack. The film continues into a violent and disheartening tale of pain and despair as the young partisan faces death at every corner.
Come and See is a shocking portrait of the brutality that the Soviet citizens faced at the hands of the Germans. The film does not shy away from the violence and horrors of war, which provides as close as possible an accurate visual of World War II. For most of the film, Florya is not fighting, but rather trying to survive and cope with the horrific scene of death surrounding him. Come and See is not a propaganda film, but instead a film about the struggle of the Soviet Union through the eyes of rural peasants trying to avoid slaughter at the hands of the Germans and perhaps being able to exact their revenge.
Recording with Patrick Bailey: http://www.box.net/shared/2v8hz8cluf
Russian yetis start a war with bears
An expedition that was looking for the mysterious yeti in Mountain Shoria – a faraway region in the Siberian taiga - has recently returned home. The expedition’s members claim that the forest fires of this extremely hot summer made Altai yetis move to the Kuzbass region, where they have started a “war” with local bears.Searches for this mysterious creature, also known as “bigfoot” or “snowman”, started several decades ago. People look for yetis – or, at least, their traces – elsewhere: in Canada, Europe, Mongolia, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan and Russia. Several times, yetis’ traces have been found – footsteps that resemble that of humans but are too big for a man, flocks of hair or gigantic branch shelters in forests. In 1967, a certain Roger Patterson even filmed a yeti in northern California, but experts still argue whether this shooting is real or fake.
Source: Voice of Russia.
What is interesting is a study that was done on Russian organized crime and the higher echelons of government, showing a relationship far greater than one may have previously believed. Bribes to upper level officials are believed to exceed 10% of the entire country's economy. What was believed to a loose and undisciplined mob in Russia is apparently strongly connected to the government on all levels, and is protected against prosecution.
Monday, December 6, 2010
Although the Russian Mafia has been known to be one of the worst sources for underground smuggling, outsourcing, fraud, and criminal acts, the Russian government is now taking control back from the mafia. They are providing protection to those feeling threatened and are making it impossible for the mafia to remain in control.
To read the full article from the New York Times, click here.
This one amused me. It seems that, in the years to come, nowhere will be safe from the craziness of super stores. Godspeed to you, Russia.
On the other hand, there might be good news: Wal-Mart heads to Russia as unemployment soars.
Dialogue: Laura Foster and Keri Dillet, p. 151, #1
The article, as per usual for EnglishRussia, is full of neat pictures from the early 20th century--snapshots and posters advertising ice cream. I can't tell if they're advertising specific brands or just the concept of ice cream; both of them seem equally likely for the USSR. My favorite snapshot is this one, though. Never too cold for ice cream!
Link to full article for moar pictures.
The opera opens on the Larin Country Estate and focuses on the two daughters of the house, Olga and Tatyana. Tatyana, the elder daughter, is engrossed with a romantic novel but when she speaks of it she is chided by her mother and sister who tell her that real life is nothing like the book. Soon after, Olga's love sick fiancé Lensky (tenor), a young poet, and his friend Eugene Onegin (baritone), a world-weary St Petersburg 'drawing-room automaton arrive and Lensky promptly begins to serenade his undying love for Olga... too bad the feelings do not seem to be completely mutual. Onegin, on the contrary, seemingly falls smitten with the introverted and dreamy Tatyana and thus the drama begins.
Later Tatyana is with her personal nurse when she professes that she has fallen irreversibly in love with the dashing Onegin. She has decided that she must marry him or she will simply die of longing. Despite the nurse's warnings (because since when does a crazy teenager listen to the voice of reason) Tatyana chooses to write a long and thoroughly damning confession to Onegin and demands that the nurse take her letter to the church the following Sunday to give it to the object of her affection. Not surprisingly, Onegin receives the letter and rather gently rejects her claiming that he is unsuitable for marriage. Obviously Tatyana is embarrassed and unable to respond.
In the next act, a party is thrown for Tatyana's name day and all the villagers are in attendance. Onegin and Lensky are also present although Onegin becomes increasingly irritated by the party goers who all seem to be trading rumors over his behavior towards Tatyana. In retribution to Lensky, who he quite unfairly blames for dragging him to this mockery, Onegin dances with Olga who flirtatiously obliges him. Lensky absolutely loses it and challenges Onegin to a duel. The long in short of it: Neither actually wants to go through with the match but since both men are too stubborn to back out Onegin ends up killing Lensky. He flees to escape the guilt.
A little while later Onegin finds himself at a nobleman's house. At this point he his racked by remorse and ruined by his past. It therefore comes as quite a shock to him when the Prince walks in with his bride who happens to be none other than the ravishingly attractive Tatyana. In a desperate attempt to regain her affections, Onegin writes her a letter and eventually finds himself in a room with her alone. Tatyana suspects that he only loves her for her social status but Onegin vehemently claims that his love for her is sincere. In tears, Tatyana admits that she still has feelings for him but that he is too late. She is married and she will not be unfaithful to her husband. Talk about Karma!
The letter scene is one of the most famous moments of the opera. Below is a recording of Tatyana's aria. Enjoy!
For my last blog entry (sob) and in honor of Russian being chosen for the 2018 World Cup, I thought it would be fun to explore the history of the Russian national soccer team. Since they are hosting the tournament they automatically qualify to play. They hold the ninth spot in the FIFA rankings, beating out England, Portugal, Ukraine, and the United States. The team played their first international game in 1912 where they lost to Finland 2-0 and a devastating loss to the Germans, 16-0 (no doubt forshadowing the bloodshed to come). After the rise of Communism, Russia continued to play soccer even erecting pitches in Red Square for May Day. The Soviet Union joined FIFA (the world organization for soccer) in 1946. During the Soviet era the team consistantly made the quarter finals and regular appearences in European championships. Thier greatest triumph came in 1972 when they made it to the finals, but lost to East Germany 2-0 (those damn Germans!). After the breakdown of the Soviet Union Russia entered on its own. They were good, but they suffered a humilitating defeat in 2002 against Japan.
Today Russia remains a powerful force in European soccer. They are currently first in their division in qualifying for the 2012 European Cup. Their best offensive threats are Alexander Kerzhakov and Pavel Pogrebniak. Overall, Russia has a very good team, and they should be worth watching when 2018 rolls around.
Sunday, December 5, 2010
Taking old World War II photos, Russian photographer, Sergey Larenkov carefully photoshops them over more recent pictures to make the past come alive. There are pictures of places like Berlin, Prague, and Vienna that are captured in ways we could have never imagined. It gives a new appreciation to history.
Personally this reminds me of the scene from Pinocchio with the dancers.
Original Dialogue with Josh : http://www.box.net/shared/16q1738i86
Book Dialogue : http://www.box.net/shared/omf2ni048i
Thursday, December 2, 2010
1. If you invited a girl or a woman somewhere be prepared to pay for her everywhere. If you invited a man, he’ll pay for himself, and there's a good chance he'll pay for you as well without telling you about it.
2. When you are invited to the party bring something with you - beer is usually accepted with pleasure.
3. Men should be strong and assertive and women should be smart and beautiful. That's just one of our stereotypes.
4. We believe in magnetism. The thing is, that every so often the sun sends some electro-magnetic signals and this affects the whole course of events on the earth, including our mood and feelings. So, if you see two housewives discussing how bad their day went because of the electro-magnetic storm that happened in the afternoon - don't think they are adepts of some sort of new age philosophy, it's completely normal here.
5. We like all things fancy. But our understanding of it is very original. You will often see men in suits or tucked-in shirts and office trousers (even in clubs on Friday night), while women prefer noticeable and sexy outfits. The colors for men are usually dark or grey, while women like light and white colors. This is a generalization and of course you'll see a lot of different people and outfits.
All of this information (and more!) was found at : http://www.waytorussia.net/Practicalities/Traditions.html
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
The Kontinental Hockey League (Континентальная Хоккейная Лига), or KHL, is the strongest organized hockey league in Europe. It's 23 teams come from Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Latvia, though most reside in Russia. Due to money problems within the league and teams, the fate of the league (like it's multiple predecessors) is constantly on the forefront.
Saturday, November 27, 2010
This Month, Putin hosted a tiger conservation summit in St. Petersburg. There, the thirteen countries with wild tiger population worked out a way to save the endangered animal, whose population in the wild is only about 3500. They want to double the population of tigers within the next 20 years, but using new conservation techniques, and by insuring that existing laws to protect the tigers are enforced. In order to pay for these measures, World Bank has pledged $100 million to combat poachers. American actor Leonardo DiCaprio, who attended the conference for some reason, has pledged $1 million of his own funds.
Friday, November 26, 2010
Alexander, born in 1220, was the fourth son of the prince of Vladimir and therefore seemed to have little chance to inherit the throne. However, he was elevated to the status of prince for Novgorod and served as their military leader against several invasions by Swedish, German and Muslim forces. In 1240, he routed the Swedish army at Neva and gained the name "Nevsky" (literally, of Neva), but was soon required to leave Novgorod for political reasons.
Less than a year later, he was summoned yet again by the leaders of Novgorod and sought to defend the region from the Livonian Knights, a branch of Germany's Teutonic Knights. Nevsky managed to do so, defeating an army of heavily-armored knights with his own forces comprised largely of simple foot soldiers.
By 1251, Alexander had sent envoys to Norway to secure a peace treaty with the nation and, within the next five years, managed to defeat the Swedish army in Finland.
Now, it must also be noted that virtually all of this occurred during the period of Russia's occupation by the Mongolian Golden Horde, with whom Alexander had a fairly good relationship. In fact, it was largely a result of his friendship with Sartaq Khan, a great-grandson of Genghis Khan, that he acquired the position of Grand Prince of Vladimir. Khan and Nevsky eventually became sworn brothers (or "anda"), while Batu Khan actually adopted Nevsky as a son.
"Fun" Fact: Nevsky's cousin, once-removed, was married to Sartaq's daughter Theodora. Their descendants include Ivan IV.
Unit 5 Recording:
Игровые Ситуации from Page 151, 5-16, Number 3 (with Collin Dougher)
Monday, November 22, 2010
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Saturday, November 20, 2010
Roman Belenky at 5:04 PM Friday, Nov 19, 2010
Roman Belenky is the proprietor of MIR, a Russian criminal tattoo fashion company
Russia is a country where every third man has either done time or been through the camps during the Soviet era. The "Bosses" and "God-Fathers" in the Kremlin knew the value of free labor. So it's not surprising that some of my own family had been through the Soviet prison system. Its also not surprising that when we went to the beach in Russia, prison tattoos were abundant. I remember looking at the tattoos as a young child, images of religious icons, cathedrals, devils, cats, etc. I was fascinated, I must been like 7 or 8. I didn't even know they were called criminal tattoos. That name didn't come to mind until the Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopaedia came out. In Russian they were called simply, nakolki, a slang word for tattoos.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Anna Netrebko is the latest great soprano to come out of Russia. This 39 year old singer was discovered by the Russian conductor Valery Giergiev whilst she was cleaning the floors of the Saint Petersburg's Mariinsky Theatre at the age of 22. She's gone on to be one of the leading ladies of opera for her generation. Possessing a powerful voice with sensuous control. Not to mention she's absolutely gorgeous, so she's one of my favorites :).
Here she is singing the aria "Song to the Moon" from Rusalka by Czech composer Antonin Dvorak.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Battleship Potemkin is clearly a propaganda film with the complete intention of showing the justified and righteous nature of the Soviet regime and demonizing Tsarist Russia. From the onset, the audience knows who the heroes (proletariats) are and who the villains (bourgeoisie) are. Each event from the serving of meat with maggots to the mutiny to the massacre on the Odessa Stairs by the Cossacks was designed to create loyalty to the soldiers who would presumably lead the revolution in 1917. Even the cinematography and soundtrack create intensely dramatic shots and scenes that must have been breathtaking for audiences at the time.
Battleship Potemkin is not a historical account of the actual 1905 mutiny, but rather an idealized and whitewashed version provided by the Soviet government. Nevertheless, the film depicts the anger and frustration felt by some Russians during the unstable years before the 1917 Revolution. Eisenstein’s film was critically influential to filmmaking and is a prototype of propaganda as an art form that was used not only by the Soviet Union, but Nazi Germany and other regimes.
Unit 4 Recording: http://www.box.net/shared/sl1gtxd36i
Monday, November 15, 2010
Baryshnikov is associated in particular with promoting modern dance and premiered dozens of new works, including many of his own. He has also had success as a dramatic actor, which has helped him become the most widely recognized contemporary ballet dancer.
The Kennedy Center Honors Mikhail Baryshnikov
Dialogue with Keri Dillet
*Since I spent so much time on this paper I figured it would be a good idea to post it on the blog. DISCLAIMER: I did not include my bibliography in this blog post nor are the sources cited. Although I compiled the research and wrote it in a cohesive manner, I am not the original author of the information presented.
The History of Early Russian Music
Courtney Van Cleef
Quite unfortunately, Russian music before the 19th century is often overlooked due to its so called lack of development. The truth, however, is that the Russian culture is rich in its music history with ancient pagan and spiritual traditions. Much of these assumptions can be blamed on the fact that many of the early folk songs were not written down until the reign of Catherine the Great in the 18th century but certainly a lack of notation is not equivalent to a lack of material. Furthermore the rise of the Orthodox church influenced many development in liturgical music practices that are comparable to their western European counterparts. This paper aims to explore Russian music history from its origins and throughout its medieval times.
In its early history there is much evidence that Russians employed music in many of their day to day activities. The Obryadovye, or ritual songs were full of symbolism that imitated work. Ritual songs that represented the harvest were called Zazhynky and ritual songs that celebrated the completion of the work were referred to as Obzhynky. The idea was that if music simulated work tasks such as reaping and sowing it would “promote productivity”. Women would commonly join in singing together when they met to spin in the winter.
Young people especially enjoyed performing Khorovod or dance songs. Such songs would be entirely vocal and would cover tales of romance between royalty. People of all ages were also fond of singing Starina meaning “what is old”. These epic songs would tell the achievements of heroes real and fictional. This form of song was a lasting tradition and when Moscow became the center of Russian culture by the 16th century, many Starina were rewritten to include figures in the big city. In the 1830's the Starina was given a new name, Bylini, meaning “what has happened”; however, peasants continued to call it by it's old name.
Games and songs of all kinds varied with the seasons. For example, in the spring “dance songs often featured pastoral deities like “Did Lado and Lei”. Vesnjanki, another kind of spring song, was sung to call the birds back from their migration. Haivky represented songs in the form of a game that was commonly played in the spring. In the winter, a particularly interesting tradition is that of the Kolyada. Much like Christmas caroling, bands of young people would go from household to household on the winter solstice and ask to sing their Kolyada songs. The songs would be a narrative, first telling the story of them finding the home, then offering the family blessings, and finally asking for food. Depending on the quality of the food singers would then continue to either praise the family for their generosity or “give comic abuse and promise misfortune.”
Russian peasants were superstitious and once again music played an important role in their various traditions. Fortune telling songs called Podbliudnyia ("under the plate songs") were sung on New Year's day by women. The women would place their rings in a bowl of water that was concealed with a plate and then sing a song with themes ranging from marriage to death. A ring would then be selected at random and the owner of the ring would have the fortune of whatever song had just been sung.
An important characteristic to notice in early Russian music is its use of heterophony. Heterophonic music is a type of polyphony where two or more performers produce essentially the same melody with slight modifications on the parts. Heterophony suits Russian music in that the rules that govern its form are vague and allow for the performers to have some freedom to choose interesting tonalities without making any one voice more prominent than another. There would however be a leader singer called a Sapevala. The Sapevela would start the piece by singing the melody as a solo, thus directing the general course of the music. The rest of the ensemble would then join in, splitting suddenly into separate parts that eventually converge into a unison ending. Concerning tonality, most Russian folk music contains a dubious tonic and the performers were never queasy when it came to employing parallel 5ths, octaves, and other dissonant parallel intervals. The problem with this wide use of heterophony is that its nature makes it difficult to notate, thus contributing to the lack of records of early Russian music.
The fact is that the majority of Russian music was meant only to be vocalized. Very likely, the reason for this lack of music instrumental repertoire was the lack of money to buy musical instruments. Many Russian peasants lived in poverty making vocal music a much more practical way to participate in the art. As a result, many of the old Russian instruments that music historians are aware of are simple in build and can in fact be constructed by the performer. One such instrument is the 2-stringed Domra of oriental descent. It is widely believed that the Domra was delivered to Russia in the 12th or 13th century by Mongolians who were ruling Russia at that time. With a body not unlike the lute, it is either strummed or plucked to produce sound. The Domra would later give rise to the three-stringed Balalaika in the 17th century. The Balalaika is particularity prominent in Russian music history because a brand of street musicians known as, Skomorokhi commonly used it in their performances where they frequently made jokes concerning the Tsar and the Orthodox church; this eventually led the Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich to order a public burning of all instruments under the rather severe penalty of death.
Another popular instrument in traditional Russian music is the Bayan or, more commonly, the button accordion. Before the 19th century the Bayan would be called a Garmonika which derives from its Asian ancestor called the Shen. It is likely that the Garmonika was introduced to the Russians by the mongols in the mongol invasion of the 10th- 13th centuries. Originally it was made with a single row of buttons and large bellows up to two meters long.
Other instruments of old Russia include an array of percussive instruments. For example the Treschyotka is a rattle constructed of wooden slats threaded together on a string. This instrument is played by stretching the string and then constricting the slats together. The Treschyotka would often be used in ceremonial occasions such as weddings. The instrument could be decorated with ribbons and bells to give it a more festive look. Evidence stemming from its construction and use in weddings also points that the Treschyotka may have been believed to play a role in protecting newlyweds from evil spirits. Another percussive instrument whose origins are traced back to the early Slavic people is the Lozhky or musical spoon. The spoons would be made of thick wood with longer handles and a polished surface. Sound was produced by clanging the spoons together and different pitched could be obtained from variations in size. Russians also used their version of the tambourine called the Buben. The Buben was also a popular instrument used by the Skomorokhi.
All Russian wind players were referred to as Svirels which covers a variety of pipe instruments made from hollow reeds and branches. In particular, a double pipe consisting of a whistle and three holes per pipe is recognized to most likely be the traditional Svirel. Although the origins of these instruments are unclear an archeological excavations of the Old Novgorod in 1951-1962 yielded two pipes that suggest they precede the eastern slavic community. One of the pipes dates back to the late 11th century with four finger-holes while the second pipe dates back to the early 15th and has only three holes.
The Gusli is the most ancient of Russian instruments with it's origins in the sixth century. The Gusli of the 12th century resembled a harp with it's five strings attached to a long board. The Gusli is played by using a play stick to press down on the open strings. If a string was not to be played, it could be muted with the left hand. Although the Gusli could be played as a solo instrument, it was widely employed as an accompaniment to a song.
Russia throughout history has remained a largely isolationist country. The separation from the rest of Europe dates back to the fall of the Roman Empire. Whereas the western European countries then turned to the Catholic Church, Russia inherited the Byzantine civilization and the practices of the Greek Orthodox Church. At the end of the 10th century when Vladimir I came to power in Kiev he made it his priority to convert his subjects and also to bring in priests along with their choristers. This led to a huge revolution in Russian music; the shift from the old pagan traditions to a world of christian music. In truth, music in the ceremonial part of church began in the Byzantine Empire where vast amounts of poetry were written to be set to music and spice up the liturgy. The Byzantine Chant was almost entirely vocal without instrument accompaniment. It is from the Byzantine chant that the Russian Znamenny chant evolved.
Znamenny chant at its inception was sung in Greek but over several hundred years it eventually was sung entirely in Russian. Znamenny chants were written in Kruik, a musical alphabet derived from Neume notation of its western counterparts; however, there were quite a few differences between the notational systems which makes it difficult for historians to know exactly how the music would sound. The positive is that liturgical music was written at all, making it much more accessible to historians than the unwritten folk songs. Instead of being written in an echoi, Russian tonality in Znamenny chant is based on glassy. Each glas may contain up to 90 melodic patterns that distinguish one glass from another. A glas is less like a mode built on a series of whole and half steps but rather it is more like a set pattern that the people chose to standardize. The rhythm of the Znamenny chant never included eighth notes or lesser value but rather it used whole and half note values to make the text particularly easy to understand.
Unlike the western church, Russian church music forbids the use of any musical instruments including the organ. Only a series of wooden boards called a Semantron could be struck with hammers to produce a percussive rhythmic accompaniment; however the Russians hardly considered the Semantron to be recognized as a musical instrument considering the sound that it makes is not much different from any of the normal sounds of daily life. Furthermore the vocal parts are almost entirely monodic with subtle polyphony only occasionally in the form of a drone.
When the Znamenny chant eventually began to see changes in the form of innovations such as elaborate coloratura passages, the Tsar became distressed that it would lead to corruption of the text. Thus when Ivan III came to power in 1462 a school was erected to train young musicians the proper way to perform liturgical music. These young men (women were not yet eligible for school) were known as “The Tsar's Singing Deacons” and their primary role was to prepare and perform the Divine Liturgy at the Imperial Chapel.
The composers who wrote the Znamenny chants are elusive of identity because generic patterns were given and the performer was expected to use and tailor the patterns appropriately to fit any new words (for glorifying new saints or celebrating other church occasions). Thus the performers can be thought of as the composers too. The first composer of the chants that can be clearly identified by name was the Tsar Ivan VI. During the mid 16th century he is credited with writing two Stichera (collections of more elaborate canticles) at the ripe age of seventeen. Furthermore, the fantastic singers whom he attracted played a key role in identifying classic master in Russian church singing. Now the Gospel Stichera (the morning resurrection hymns) was identified as being composed by the Byzantium Emperor Leo VI in the 10th century. Also the commonly sung Christian chant was connected to the Pope Feodor (surname Christian). Although it is unconfirmed as of yet, the famous musicologist Maxim Brajnikov hypothesizes that Feodor was also responsible for the creation of the Greater Chant and more importantly is responsible for injecting folk song patterns into the liturgical repertoire. This is particularly important because should his theory be valid it could prove that Feodor was also proficient in folk singing and that the arts of folk singing and church singing are more closely related than previously thought.
A curious phenomena during the age of the Znamenny chant is the complete lack of a secular counterpart. Unlike the west which had madrigals and allowed artists to explore music outside the domain of church, the strict policies of the Orthodox church prevented any secular art song form from taking root. The church was especially against the folk songs sung in households that represented the old pagan views. Nevertheless, a strong attachment of the Russian people to their traditional songs at least allowed a class of musicians known as minstrels to continue performing them. Since the clergy were strict on banishing these wandering performers from the big cities, minstrels generally stuck to Russia's river banks so they could move more easily between smaller towns. The early minstrels were welcomed by the people as a relief to the pressures placed on them by the church. In fact, aristocratic homes would often invite minstrels to perform in their homes on special occasions. Unfortunately the minstrels never achieved a high status in society unlike their counterparts in the west such as the great Troubadours in France. The church eventually managed to root them out almost completely leaving only a few desperate performers who often sang vulgar songs and stole from the villagers
Another refreshing example of bending the strict rules placed on Russian Music was the art of bell ringing highly developed in Novgorod. As previously mentioned instruments were largely forbidden from church ceremonies; however, the practice of casting the brass bells in the city led church leaders to allow bell ringing to be an important part of the church practices in certain large cities. People appreciated the aesthetic differences between the bell and the percussive Semantron. Since the ringing of bells was often used to signal the beginning of church and also certain patterns were recognized to begin various parts of the service, people associated the bells as something positive. The sound of bells meant a pause from the hard labor of their day to day lives.
The so called polyphony of the Znamenny chant began to appear in the 16th century when suddenly as many as four lines of neumes were written per line of text. The debate lies in whether or not all these lines were meant to be sung together simultaneously. A larger half or Russian theorists including Odoyevsky in the year 1867 believed that it out of the question to sing the lines simultaneously. The main argument to support this theory points to the fact that the lines do not seem to have any harmonic relationships and that extensive use of successive parallel fifths and seconds make it nearly impossible to sing. Others including the theorist Smolensky in1888 argued that the seemingly rough harmonizations are simply derived from the heterophonic music of the folk songs. The idea is that Russian music is not governed by the same rules and modes observed by the western church composers such as Palestrina, thus the sound is merely something different that what the western ear is used to.
When studying music history it is often important to take into account the politics that surround the era being covered. For example, unlike the western European countries who left the medieval times and entered into a great renaissance due to vast innovations, Russia was ravaged by the Mongol invasions and thus remained stuck in its dark ages for several more centuries. Old systems of hierarchy with the barbaric levels of serfdom had long left the west but remained in tact in Russia; thus the development of new ways of thinking was often hampered by the Tsars or the powerful leaders of the Eastern Orthodox church. Important to note, however, is that despite the mongol occupation of Russia from the mid-thirteenth century until the 15th century, little about the culture was actually changed in Russia. The mongols only wanted to dominate Russia, not necessarily rule it, thus the Eastern Orthodox Church and its practices were left untouched.
There is no doubt the history of early Russian music is obscure for a variety of reasons. The total lack of written forms of the early folk songs and indeed the heterophonic forms of the music itself makes it difficulty to identify the traditional music of pre-Eastern Orthodox Russia. The situation was little improved when the byzantine church came to power with the use of the archaic Kruik music alphabet that differs enough from the neume notation of the west to cause a fair amount of uncertainty in the performance of Znamenny chant. Furthermore, the tight hold that the Clergy and the Tsar kept on any developments in secular music, instrumental accompaniment, and real polyphony add to the myth that Russian music before the late 18th century was largely negligible; however, through careful research and surviving documents that have been unearthed fairly recently, music historians can factually support that Russia indeed had very unique and specific developments in its music from its origins and through its dark ages. The much appreciated music compositions of Russia's later centuries may have borrowed many traditions of the western European nations, but its distinctly Russian qualities with origins in the homeland are what separate works of Russian art from those of any other country.
and in honor of Putin appreciation day (Rachel) here's a video of Putin practicing judo, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that Putin is manlier than any of us. Apparently, during his KGB days he rose to the rank of black belt and was the judo champion in his home of St. Petersburg. Yet despite all this he is still modest about his achievements. A quick note: the video claims judo translates as "the soft way". That is entirely untrue seeing as how judo is anything but. A more realistic translation would be "the flexible way"