Caption: Avraamov conducting the Symphony of Sirens in Moscow. November 7, 1923., Credit: Andrey Smirnov
Image by: Andrey Smirnov 
Avraamov conducting the Symphony of Sirens in Moscow. November 7, 1923. 

The Symphony of Sirens, Revisited

From: Charles Maynes
Length: 13:44

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In November of 1923, a Soviet composer named Arseny Avraamov stepped onto a Moscow rooftop clutching two oversized flags. His plan: to conduct an orchestra comprised of the city itself. Enthralled with the Russian Revolution's break from the past, Avraamov envisioned a «music of the future» made from a strange choice of choirs: factory sirens, barge foghorns, soldiers' footsteps, artillery fire, workers songs, steam whistles, and proletarian shouts. Together, it was music. Every city had it. Only how to arrange it? 'The Symphony of Sirens' was his answer.

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In November of 1923, a Soviet composer named Arseny Avraamov stepped onto a Moscow rooftop clutching two oversized flags.  They may as well have been magicians’ wands. For his plan was audacious enough: to conduct an orchestra comprised of the city itself.  Enthralled with the Russian Revolution's break from the past, Avraamov envisioned  a «music of the future» made from a strange choice of choirs: factory sirens, barge foghorns, soldiers' footsteps,  artillery fire, workers songs, steam whistles, and proletarian shouts.   Together, it was music.  Every city had it.  Only how to arrange?  'The Symphony of Sirens' was his answer.  

2.5 attempts were made – in Baku, Moscow, and (.5) Nizhny Novgorod.  Yet no recordings exist – making the performances all the more the stuff of legend.

Equal parts detective story and R. Murray Schaeffer's sound treatise 'The Tuning of the World',  this radio feature revisits Avraamov's famed magnum opus by mining for details about Avraamov.  What did he hear?  And are there traces still to be heard today?  Using flights of audio fancy and real world reporting, Moscow-based producer Charles Maynes introduces listeners to both the sirens that were, and the symphony that has become.  


Piece Description

In November of 1923, a Soviet composer named Arseny Avraamov stepped onto a Moscow rooftop clutching two oversized flags.  They may as well have been magicians’ wands. For his plan was audacious enough: to conduct an orchestra comprised of the city itself.  Enthralled with the Russian Revolution's break from the past, Avraamov envisioned  a «music of the future» made from a strange choice of choirs: factory sirens, barge foghorns, soldiers' footsteps,  artillery fire, workers songs, steam whistles, and proletarian shouts.   Together, it was music.  Every city had it.  Only how to arrange?  'The Symphony of Sirens' was his answer.  

2.5 attempts were made – in Baku, Moscow, and (.5) Nizhny Novgorod.  Yet no recordings exist – making the performances all the more the stuff of legend.

Equal parts detective story and R. Murray Schaeffer's sound treatise 'The Tuning of the World',  this radio feature revisits Avraamov's famed magnum opus by mining for details about Avraamov.  What did he hear?  And are there traces still to be heard today?  Using flights of audio fancy and real world reporting, Moscow-based producer Charles Maynes introduces listeners to both the sirens that were, and the symphony that has become.  


2 Comments Atom Feed

User image

Cool story, fantastic sound design

This story made me hear the city in a new way. Listen with your headphones, the sound design on this piece is deep and frequently surprising.

Caption: PRX default User image

A lovely story, well produced

We have all thought this, but here was a Soviet showman in the 1930s who tried to demonstrate it.

Intro and Outro

INTRO:

Have you ever thought of your home town as having its own ‘sound’? Or, just maybe, its own soundtrack? That was a question posed by Arseny Avraamov (ArsSEN-ee AvrAAmov)-- a little known composer from the Soviet Union who heard music from an unusual choir: the city itself. In this sonic detective story, Moscow-based producer Charles Maynes explores the legend of Avraamov and his forgotten masterpiece, the Symphony of Sirens.

OUTRO:

This production is part of the Global Story Project, with support from the Open Society Foundations. Presented by PRX, the Public Radio Exchange. Our story was produced by Charles Maynes in Moscow.

Musical Works

Title Artist Album Label Year Length
Pobeg MIkail Tariverdiev 17 mgnovenij vesny (soundtrack). Kino Studio M. Gorkovo 1973 04:43
Dreaming Lee Rosevere The Ambient Baby. Kazoomzoom 2011 05:59
Symphony of Industrial Horns (reconstruction) Sergei Khismatov (Arseny Avraamov) unreleased. n/a 2011 15:00

Additional Credits

This production is part of the Global Story Project, with support from the Open Society Foundations. Presented by PRX, the Public Radio Exchange. It was reported and produced by Charles Maynes in Moscow.

Related Website

http://generationz.org/