Sounds Beyond

Kevin Karnes


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The University of Chicago Press
19 November 2021
ISBN: 9780226801902
216 pages

From the publisher

Sounds Beyond charts the origins of Arvo Part's most famous music, which was created in dialogue with underground creative circles in the USSR.

In Sounds Beyond, Kevin C. Karnes studies the interconnected alternative music and art scenes in the USSR during the second half of the 1970s, revealing the audacious origins of some of Estonian composer Arvo Part's most famous music. Karnes shows how Part's work was created within a vital yet forgotten culture of collective experimentation, the Soviet underground.

Mining archives and oral history from across the former USSR, Sounds Beyond carefully situates modes of creative experimentation within their late socialist contexts. In documenting Part's work, Karnes reveals the rich creative culture that thrived covertly in the USSR and the network of figures that made underground performances possible: students, audio engineers, sympathetic administrators, star performers, and aspiring DJs. Sounds Beyond advances a new understanding of Part's music as an expression of the aesthetic and religious commitments shared, nurtured, and celebrated by many in Soviet underground circles. At the same time, this story attests to the lasting power of Part's music. Dislodging the mythology of the solitary creative genius, Karnes shows that Part's work would be impossible without community.