(E-E) Ev.g.e.n.i.j ..K.o.z.l.o.     Berlin                                                  

      Leningrad 1980s

• Sergey Kuryokhin and Pop Mekhanika – all documents
• Сергей Курёхин и Поп-механика – все документы

Sergey Kuryokhin: Improvisations and Performances

by Hannelore Fobo, September 2017

Part One

• page 1 • Preliminary Remarks

• page 2 • Hans Kumpf and Sergey Kuryokhin

• page 3 • 1980-1981: the first meetings

• page 4 • Leningrad Collective Improvisations 1983: pictures and text

• page 5 • Leningrad Collective Improvisations 1983: music

Leningrad Collective Improvisations: documents and audio files

• page 6 • Hans Kumpf: description of the first part (German / English)

• page 7 • Sergey Kuryokhin: Introduction (4min 37s) to the first part. Audio recording and transcription with English translation

• page 8 • Timur Novikov and Ivan Sotnikov: utiugon. Pictures and audio recording (4min 12s).

• page 9 • Sergey Kuryokhin: introductions to the second part. Transcription with English translation and six audio fragments

• page 10 • Reference list

Part Two

Pop Mekhanika in the West (forthcoming)

Part One

page 1 • Preliminary Remarks

In the last years I have published several articles about Leningrad’s art scene of the 1980s, focusing on the “New Artists” group, founded by Ivan Sotnikov and Timur Novikov in 1982. (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov, an important member of the “New Artists”, extensively documented their activities in his photographs, and his large photo archive has been the main basis for my research. A recent article was dedicated to Timur Novkov’s “ASSA Gallery”. more>>

Kozlov predominantly employed black and white negative films he developed and printed in his own laboratory. He used the prints for his own artworks, but also gave them away in large numbers to those portrayed in them: Georgy Guryanov, the New Composers Valery Alakhov and Igor Verichev, Timur Novikov and many others more>>. As his own archive is no longer complete – many negatives are lost – his gifts to his friends help to reconstruct it.

In June 2017, I was able to have a look at Ivan Sotnikov’s photo archvie, kept by his widow Tatyana von Stackelberg (Sotnikova). A documentation of a happening with Sergey Kuryokhin, Boris Grebenshikov[1] and other musicians caught my attention. One the reverse of one the pictures, Ivan had written a comment: Курехин и Гребенщиков 1982 г в клубе 81 на ул. Петра Лаврова. Концерт Кумпфа с утюгоньщиками. / Kuryokhin and Grebenshikov at the Club 81, Pyotr Lavrov street, in 1982. Concert with Kumpf and the utiugon-players.“

Sergey Kuryokhin and Boris Grebenshikov
Club 81, Leningrad 1983
Photo: (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
Archive Ivan Sotnikov

Reverse of Kozlov's picture with Sotnikov's explanatory notes:
“Курехин и Гребенщиков 1982 г в клубе 81 на ул. Петра Лаврова. Концерт Кумпфа с утюгоньщиками.” [Kuryokhin and Grebenshikov at the Club 81, Pyotr Lavrov street, in 1982 . Concert with Kumpf and the utiugon-players.]

Sotnikov was wrong about the year. The concert took place in 1983.

Tatyana told me that some other pictures from the series were currently in London, at Anya Stonelake’s White Space Gallery, where Sotnikov’s paintings had been shown several weeks earlier. Tatyana suggested that the series of pictures might have been taken by Kozlov. However, Kozlov’s archive has no proof of it, and Kozlov himself could not remember whether he took them or not.

Boris Grebenshikov, Ivan Sotnikov and Timur Novikov
Club 81, Leningrad 1983 • Photo: (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov

I decided to find out more about Mr. Kumpf – quite obviously the gentleman playing the clarinet in a number of pictures. Thanks to modern technology it took me only a couple of seconds: the German musician Hans Kumpf has published many articles in the German online magazine “JazzPages”,[2] and when I wrote him I immediately got an answer.

Unknown, Vladimir Volkov, Sergey Letov, Hans Kumpf, Sergey Kurokhin
Club 81, Leningrad 1983 • Photo: (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov

To my surprise (and delight), Hans Kumpf had not only published an article about this meeting after his return to Germany (Stuttgarter Nachrichten, 26 August 1983; Ivan Sotnikov had erroneously dated the meeting to 1982). Kumpf had also documented it with a large number of photographs, of which several showed Kozlov with his camera. In this way, the riddle of the provenance of Sotnikov´s pictures was solved. Hans Kumpf and I decided to publish Kumpf’s article with his own and Kozlov’s pictures on Kozlov’s website. more>>

Vladimir Volkov (bass) Vyacheslav Gayvoronsky (trumpet) Vladimir Boluchevsky (saxophone),
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov (with camera), Sergey Kuryokhin (saxophone) and Igor Butman (saxophone)
Club 81, Leningrad 1983 • Photo: Hans Kumpf

Our collaboration could have ended at that point, but I soon understood that what I had received from Hans Kumpf was only a small part of his documentation on the 1983 Leningrad Collective Improvisations, as he has now called this session.[3] His material would allow me to continue my research.

And the pictures, texts and audio files from the 1983 improvisations were, in turn, only a small part of his entire documentation about Sergey Kuryokhin’s musical activities during the period of the 1980s. It is especially detailed with respect to Kuryokhin’s pre-Pop Mekhanika period (before 1984), but also holds information about two Pop Mekhanika concerts (Moscow, 1984 more>> and Moers, 1989 more>>).

The Pop Mekhanika (also translated as “Popular Mechanics” or “Pop Mechanics”) concerts had been very important for joint activities of Leningrad’s avant-garde musicians and artists. Kumpf’s documents complement our own archival material about Pop Mekhanika concerts: Kozlov’s pictures from 1984 to 1986 (partly published, more>> and more>>) and my own pictures from 1991 (Nantes) and 1995 (Berlin). Besides, there had been a direct collaboration between Kozlov and Kuryokhin: in 1985 Kozlov had taken a series of pictures for the release of an LP by Kuryokhin with the New Composers, “Popular Mechanics: Insect Culture”, released in Liverpool in 1987 more>> and more>>. Kuryokhin also acquired from Kozlov a series of his painted photo-portraits, but most of them seem to have been lost.

In this way, Kumpf’s documents help to re-establish exact data about single events (who, what, when, and where) and their succession (before or after). Generally speaking, such information is not easy to retrieve. In fact, many biographies published in recent years rely on the recollections of their protagonists, or, in the case of biographies of those who are no longer among us, they rely on the memories of their contemporaries. But as we all know, the human memory is not a computer (for better or worse). It is sometimes accurate with regard to facts, and it sometimes only appears to be accurate, as the example of Sotnikov’s inscription on the back of Kozlov’s picture demonstrates: 1982 instead of 1983. For the researcher, apparent accurateness is even worse: it leads to false conclusions. In this regard, a complete lack of information is less problematic. At least we know what we don’t know.

Whether we pay attention to such discrepancies or consider them as irrelevant depends on our commitment to the subject. If quality comes first, we need the support of like-minded people. I am grateful to Hans Kumpf for his generous supply of material, his prompt answers to any of my questions and his suggestions of articles by other authors. All this has extremely facilitated my research.

I would also like to express my gratitude to Sergey Chubraev from Saint Petersburg. He has devoted much of his time to establish an amazingly comprehensive chronicle of Sergey Kuryokhin’s public performances and has allowed me to use it while it is not yet publicly accessible.

Last but not least, studying Hans Kumpf’s material has motivated me to write about how Pop Mekahnika concerts were received in the West. I will dedicate a separate article to this question, as I hope to be able to shed some light on Kuryokhin’s sudden anti-Westerness which came about shortly before his unexpected death in 1996.  

[1] Also transliterated “Grebenshchikov”.

[3] Hans Kumpf chose this name in 2017 to distinguish it from his Leningrad Jam Session of December 1980, released on his own record label in 1981. See next chapter.


Russian names: Борис Гребенщиков, Иван Сотников, Тимур Новиков, Владимир Волков, Сергей Летов, Сергей Курёхин, Игорь Бутман, Владимир Болучевский, Вячеслав Гайворонский, Новые Композиторы, Валерий Алахов, Игорь Веричев, Георгий Гурьянов, Татьяна фон Штакелберг (Сотникова); [Ханс Кумпф]