Performing a la russe: Russian Émigré Music in 1920s Harlem
An online lecture by Dr. Natalie Zelensky
While much has been written about the Russian émigré communities of Paris, Berlin, and Prague, the cultural mileiu of Russian émigrés in New York City has been little explored. In this talk, Dr. Zelensky will share her work on the lively musical culture that developed within the Russian émigré enclave in 1920s Harlem. Focusing on popular music genres, Dr. Zelensky will demonstrate the central role of music in giving voice to a collective nostalgia, in constructing discourses of being “Russian Abroad,” and in allowing the émigrés to navigate their newfound reality from both a psychological and practical perspective. Dr. Zelensky will also examine the ways that Russian émigré music influenced the New York cultural scene, documenting the “Russian vogue” that took place with regard to the musical sphere of 1920s Gotham.
About the Speaker
Natalie K. Zelensky is associate professor of music at Colby College. Her research and publications on the music of the Russian emigration have engaged the topics of migration and diasporas, Russian-American summer camps, Russian nightclubs in 1920s New York, Cold War musical programming, US sheet music and film, and, most recently, embodiment and memory. Her book, Performing Tsarist Russia in New York: Music, Émigrés, and the American Imagination (Indiana University Press, 2019), examines the popular music culture of Russian émigrés in New York from 1920s to the present and its intersection with US culture and politics. Among her other work, Dr. Zelensky helped translate and write the footnotes for W.W. Norton’s 2011 edition of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov and in 2013 she was an NEH Fellow at Columbia University’s Harriman Institute.
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