Back in the USSR

{mosimage}It all started in the Stalinist Russia of 1936, when someone posted an “anonymous” editorial attacking Shostakovich’s formally bold opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk in the Communist newspaper Pravda. The officially authorized critique ushered in an era in which the Soviet government’s restrictive pronouncements on the correct uses of art, music, film and media had a dampening impact on the creative schemes of Russian and Soviet-bloc artists.

As part of the L.A. Phil’s ongoing Shadow of Stalin music, film and symposia series probing in part that most excellent side-product of political tyranny — deviously deepened artistic expression — there’ll be a night titled “Pravda” on Saturday, May 26, at Disney Concert Hall, where an astutely chosen group of DJs, VJs, visual artists and live musicians will absorb, interpret and thoroughly transmute the art and music of the Stalinist era, including mashups and meltdowns of recordings by Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Gubaidulina, Schnittke, Popov, Mosolov and others, as well as films such as Battleship Potemkin, Alexander Nevsky, The Cranes Are Flying and Soy Cuba, along with rare footage from Russian documentaries, interviews and propaganda films.

The program boasts a crucial team of progressive and genre-wiping artists in the DJ/electronic sphere, equipped with turn­tables, laptops, yes, real live instruments, plus vid-jockeying software and projectors to pull the Russian reactive/defensive art of the mid-20th century into an unfamiliar yet sympathetic context. Conceptual artist DJ Spooky is among the highest-profile artists in the lineup. Spooky’s a far-reaching pointy-head turntablist who has collaborated with and/or refigured such “serious” composers as Iannis Xenakis, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Pierre Boulez and Steve Reich, and whose work has been presented in the imposing monoliths of the Whitney Biennial, the Venice Biennial for Architecture, the Kunsthalle in Vienna and the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. L.A.’s most extremely radical (but funky) DJ/musique concretists Cut Chemist, J-Rocc, Peanut Butter Wolf, Mumbles & Gone Beyond and guests from the exhilaratingly open-minded Dublab Soundsystem further thaw out and reconstruct the Russian masters. Of particular note is the appearance by Brazilian-Anglo DJ/sound artist Amon Tobin, whose highly cinematic structures built on arcane sample sources and dark-velvet low end is a strange and beautiful thing to see, hear and feel; he’ll be incorporating material from his superb new Foley Room disc on Ninja Tune. And all the while, Norton Wisdom will paint quite spontaneously onstage.

At midnight, local pipe-organ wizard Christoph Bull performs a specially themed set of material, and there’ll be an appearance by a 10-theremin orchestra that will re-create the 1932 Ten Theremin Orchestra concert at Carnegie Hall conducted by the instrument’s inventor, Leon Theremin. The evening also features a special tribute to the late Robert Moog, in celebration of his birthday. Stroll the entire grounds to glimpse Russian films and propaganda images projected on TV monitors and various surfaces of the hall; music will be broadcast outside the main auditorium as well, and BP Hall becomes a DJ danceteria till the wee hours o’ the morning — context, all is context...

Note for those reading this on Thursday, May 24: “Russian Chanson,” at 8 p.m. at Disney Hall, features Denver’s bouzouki-mad Gypsy-folk ensemble Devotchka, bearded alterna-folk icon Devendra Banhart and esteemed freestyle-speedstyle poet-rapper-writer Saul Williams plus additional guests in a program exploring the history of underground “anti-folk” musical movements with roots in Russian protest.

“Pravda,” Saturday, May 26, 10 p.m.; Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., dwntn.; $30-$50. (323) 850-2000.

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