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      Leningrad 1980s

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Sergey Kuryhokin's introductory remarks (in Russian and translated into English) >>

Synopsis:

In August 1983, German clarinetist and journalist Hans Kumpf met with Leningrad musicians and artists for a free jazz and punk session at the Club 81; among them were Sergey Kuryokhin, Boris Grebenshikov (also written Grebenshchikov), Igor Butman, Sergey Letov, Timur Novikov and Ivan Sotnikov (see photo below). Most musiscians and artist present would join Kuryokhin's revolutionary ‘Pop Mekhanika’ concerts, which had a huge impact on Leningrad's cultural scene from the very beginning, in 1984. Kumpf's article was first published in the German newspaper Stuttgarter Nachrichten on 26 August 1983; The English version was first published in ‘Russian Jazz: New Identity, ed. Leo Feigin, Quartet Books, 1986 .

During the session, Ivan Sotnikov and Timur Novikov presented their now famous ‘utiugon’. Timur Novikov explained it in the following way: ‘The utiugon was a sound generating device. It was a table top from which irons had been hung on special strings; the irons swung freely and hit each other. It sufficed to push this contraption once for it to produce very strange sounds for half an hour, sounds that were amplified electronically. (Timur Novikov, Moscow Museum of Modern Art, catalogue, 2013, p. 121)

Pictures published on the page are by Hans Kumpf and artist (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov, who doucmented the session.

H. Fobo, July 2017

“Leningrad Collective Improvisations 1983”

August 1983

by Hans Kumpf



published in www.e-e.eu July 2017, courtesy of the author

In front of 'Club 81˚ Pyotr Lavrov Street (=Furshtatskaya), 1983 After a jam session with Hans Kumpf, clarinetist and journalist. from left to right: Hans Kumpf, Vladimir Boluchevsky, Ilona Henz (Haberkamp), Igor Butman, Boris Grebenshikov, Sergey Kurokhin, Arkady Dragomeshenko, Timur Novikov, Sergey Letov, Ivan Sotnikov, Aleksandr (Alexander) Kondrashkin fron trow: Vladimir Volkov. Archive Hans Kumpf, photo 1983.


In front of 'Club 81˚ Pyotr Lavrov Street (=Furshtatskaya), August 1983
After a jam session with Hans Kumpf, German clarinetist and journalist.
from left to right: Hans Kumpf (clarinet), Vladimir Boluchevsky (saxophone), Ilona Henz (Haberkamp), (musicologist), Igor Butman (saxophone), Boris Grebenshikov (guitar and "small" instruments, Sergey Kurokhin (saxophone), Arkady Dragomeshenko (poetry), Timur Novikov (utiugon), Sergey Letov (saxophone, bass clarinet), Ivan Sotnikov (utiugon), Aleksandr (Alexander) Kondrashkin (percussion)
front row: Vladimir Volkov (double bass)
Not in the picture, but also participating at the jam session: Vyacheslav Gayvoronsky (trumpet; see picture below)
Archive Hans Kumpf, photo 1983.

После "сейшена", организованного в честь приезда немецкого музыканта и журналиста Ханса Кумпфа в квартире Клуба-81 на ул. Петра Лаврова. Слева направо, стоят: Ханс Кумпф (кларнет), Владимир Болучевский (саксофон), Илона Хенц (Хаберкамп) (музыковед), Игорь Бутман (саксофон, бас-кларнет), Борис Гребенщиков (гитара, «маленькие инструменты»), Сергей Курехин (саксофон), Аркадий Драгомощенко (поэзия), Тимур Новиков (утюгон), Сергей Летов (саксофон), Иван Сотников (утюгон), Александр Кондрашкин (ударные инструменты). Сидит: Владимир Волков (контрабас). Ленинград, август 1983 г.
Также участвовал на джем-сейшене, но не виден на фотографии: Вячеслав Гайворонский (труба; см. ниже)

Фотография 1983 г. из архива Ханс Кумпф



Ivan Sotnikov, Timur Novikov, Utiugon / Утюгон Photo: Hans Kumpf, 1983

Ivan Sotnikov, Timur Novikov, Utiugon / Утюгон
Photo: Hans Kumpf, 1983

Two limp and lanky figures, one of them neatly dressed in a three-piece-suit, drag in a wooden table. They are carrying it upside down, with amplifiers, speakers, etc. on top of it. A session is about to begin in the LTO-81 Club, the temporary home of the unorthodox Leningrad literati. In the fuggy room without wallpaper Timur Novikov and Ivan Sotnikov put the table back on its feet and prepare it for the session. Old irons are hung from it with chords, metal bars are fixed to it, a knife is stuck into its edge. Connection with the amplifier is provided by a pick-up microphone.

Dull, shrieking and rattling patterns of sound are echoing out of the speakers while the various metal parts are set vibrating. The two 'zero musicians' , as they are called by their colleagues, practise a denial of all melodic and rhythmic conventions. But despite their rebellion they prove to have a sense of musical communication and sensitive interaction. After the concert, the two musicians go back home - no one knows where they live and when they will show up again.

And they, themselves, certainly don't know that in the West, too, there are people experimenting with metal objects, only with better electronic equipment.

Alexander Kondrashkin, percussion
Photo: Hans Kumpf, 1983

In one corner Alexander Kondrashkin has set up his percussion instruments. Necessity, meaning the lack of money to buy good instruments on the black market, is the mother of invention in this case. Some tin cans will do the trick. During an improvised concert, Kondrashkin proves a keen partner. He has jammed with various local free-jazz musicians but , normally , he is a member of a rock septet called Strannye Igry, which, translated , means 'Strange Games'. The fans are familiar with the group only through concerts (one even in Moscow) and' cassette copies: new wave with machine-like drive and repetitive stacati. Such live music sounds too anarchistic to the ears of the culture bureaucrats. During the rehearsals, however, the ensemble develops beautiful melodies in leisurely tempo.

Vladimir Boluchevsky, saxophone (left), Sergey Kurokhin, saxophone (right) In the background left, with camera: (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov Photo: Hans Kumpf 1983

Vladimir Boluchevsky, saxophone (left), Sergey Kurokhin, saxophone (right)
In the background left, with camera: (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
Photo: Hans Kumpf, 1983


Eleven musicians participate in the jam session organized for me in Leningrad. Two sax players have come from Moscow just for this occasion: Igor Butman and Sergey Lyetov. After the first part of the concert, consisting of collective improvisations, we decide to play duos and trios. Boris Grebenshikov is the first one asking me to join him. He is considered the most colourful figure among the progressive Leningrad rock musicians. Equipped with an axe, he demolishes a chair, destroys a bench and smashes bottles: a happening of a destructive kind. Before that, Grebenshikov had produced sounds from a tea-pot, wind instruments and - with a bow - from an acoustic guitar, proving that this smart-looking guy is not at a loss for ideas for provocative experiments.

Boris Grebenshikov, Ivan Sotnikov, and Timur Novikov Photo: (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov, 1983

Boris Grebenshikov, Ivan Sotnikov, and Timur Novikov
Photo: (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov, 1983

His group is called Aquarium, and singer and guitarist Boris Grebenshikov sees himself as the representative of the new Soviet wave. Many of his semi-official concerts have ended in a row. He is in trouble with the official artistic committee, where harmless texts are presented for approval, concealing the fact that during the performances more robust sounds will be heard. The pressure of their fans, he says, is becoming so strong that the monopolistic record company Melodiya sooner or later will be compelled to produce a record.

Unknown, Vladimir Volkov, Sergey Letov, Hans Kumpf, Sergey Kurokhin Photo: (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov, 1983

Unknown, Vladimir Volkov, Sergey Letov, Hans Kumpf, Sergey Kurokhin
Photo: (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov, 1983

The thirty-year-old student of mathematics gives examples: Mashina Vremeni (Time Machine'), today's most popular Russian rock band, had been active in the underground for years before receiving a contract for a record.

For the time being, however, Aquarium has to record, quite unofficially, in the studio of some theatre. The group's latest production bears the title 'Radio Africa'. The music is rather soft and entertaining. The concept of the ensemble - eight musicians altogether - is based on parody of all musical genres.

Sergey Kurokhin and Boris Grebenshikov Photo: Hans Kumpf, 1983

Sergey Kurokhin and Boris Grebenshikov
Photo: Hans Kumpf, 1983

I ask Boris Grebenshikov to write down the text of one song which is important to him . In 'Rock'n'roll Dead' he goes: 'What nervous faces! It's a drag! I remember, there was a sky, I don't remember where. We meet again, we say hello. But something's wrong. Rock'n'roll is dead, and I am not’.

Such frustrated and resigned sounds have nothing in common with the officially dictated, exultant patriotism. 'It is my intention to create an alternative reality, another dimension,' Boris Grebenshikov explains to me. The consequence: 'I can't work as a professional musician because the system in our country rejects someone like me.' Thus, he is forced to make money by working as a nightwatchman , and it is little enough.

Sergey Kuryokhin, the keyboardist of Aquarium, makes his living by playing the piano during gymnastic lessons. He also plays saxophone and has been thrown out of various conservatories on account of his nonconformist musical behaviour. He found worldwide recognition with a solo record which was released in England, but because he is not an officially recognized musician, the free jazzer can't play outside of the Soviet Union, not even in neighbouring East European countries.

Boris Grebenshikov and Sergey Kuryokhin Photo: (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov 1983

Boris Grebenshikov and Sergey Kuryokhin
In the background (from left to right) Igor Letov (saxophone), Vyacheslav Gayvoronsky (trumpet), and Igor Butman (saxophone)
Photo: (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov 1983

Restrictions, however, can't throw them off their track , these disturbing Leningrad punk rockers and jazz musicians. Boris Grebenshchikov , who calls Brian Eno his idol , says: 'I always want to continue creating different things! ' But there are considerable obstacles to his ideas: although he owns an electric guitar of inferior quality, 'made in the Soviet Union', he has to find an amplifier and speakers before every concert - somehow, somewhere ...           Hans Kumpf


Vladimir Volkov (double bass) Vyacheslav Gayvoronsky (trumpet), Vladimir Boluchevsky (saxophone), (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov (artist, with camera), Sergey Kuryokhin (sxophone), and Igor Butman (saxophone)

Photo: Hans Kumpf, 1983




Below: A replica of Ivan Sotnikov‘s and Timur Novikov’s Utiugon at the exhibtion
‘Notes from the Underground’, Muzeum Sztuki, Łódź, Poland, 2016.

Paintings by (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov:
"Love for Work" (1990), "Portrait of Oleg Kotelnikov with Moustache, Crocodile and Dot" (1988), Shark (1988)

more about the exhbition >>

Photo: Hannelore Fobo, 2016

 A replica of Ivan Sotnikov‘s and Timur Novikov’s Utiugon at the exhibtion ‘Notes from the Underground’, Muzeum Sztuki, Łódź, Poland, 2016.  Paintings by (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov: "Love for Work" (1990), "Portrait of Oleg Kotelnikov with Moustache, Crocodile and Dot" (1988), Shark (1988) Photo: Hannelore Fobo, 2016

Video of an ‘Utiugon’ performance with a replica of the first ’utiugon’
played by Oleg Kotelnikov and Ivan Sotnikov, 10 September 2009




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