The AMS Cold War and Music Study Group was constituted in 2006 to provide a forum and resources for like-minded musicologists to pursue research in this area.
Recently an increasing number of musicologists have begun to investigate the music composed during the decades after World War II, and specifically the relationship between new music and the continuing global opposition between the United States and the USSR. As they refine the traditional historiography of this period, scholars have addressed a number of geographic areas, from America and Western Europe to the Soviet sphere, and a number of musical styles, from serialism to chance music and neo-Romanticism to the New Simplicity. Issues of patronage, propaganda, influence, prestige, reception, and meaning have all been raised in one form or another, yet important questions about these and other related topics remain. In response to the panel “The Cold War and Changing Ideologies of New Music,” held at the 2005 annual meeting of the American Musicological Society in Washington, D.C., the Cold War and Music Study Group was formed to continue addressing these questions on a more regular basis. This study group will meet at the AMS annual conferences, as well as hold other occasional conferences, panels, and meetings, in addition to maintaining a webpage and listserv for electronic communication.
Through these forums and media, the Cold War and Music Study Group seeks to discuss, present, and encourage new and recent research that considers the music of the Cold War from a global perspective, including music produced and consumed in the Americas (both North and South), Western and Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union, Asia, and Africa. Topics that fall under the rubric of the “Cold War and Music” include, but are not limited to: music composed under the encouragement of governmental or non-governmental agencies that explicitly engaged with the ideological issues of the Cold War (e.g. Stravinsky’s Threni and the Congress for Cultural Freedom); musical styles that tacitly or implicitly engaged with the social, political, or economic issues of the Cold War (e.g. Babbitt’s or Copland’s serialism or Schnittke’s and Pärt’s aleatory techniques); as well as music that was produced outside of either the United States or the U.S.S.R., but was nonetheless involved with political or social issues emanating from those superpowers (e.g. performances by Musica Elettronica Viva in Italy or works by Cuban composer Leo Brouwer). Music both “high” and “low,” “art” and “popular,” “cultivated” and “vernacular,” is open to discussion. The period of the Cold War is generally considered to extend from 1945-1991, though material from either the pre-Cold War or post-Cold War period that engages with the central issues of the Cold War and the arts is welcome. Issues of aesthetics, signification, representation, politics, economics, historiography, and biography are only some of the possible avenues for further discussion and research, while a wide range of methodologies are encouraged, including musical analysis, archival research, and hermeneutic, ethnomusicological, and oral-historical approaches.