New Weird Russia
Richard Foster , March 19th, 2019


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Sound Museum And Dmitry Shubin

The Will of the People isn’t this writer’s favourite phrase but exception can be made for the remarkable non-profit venue Sound Museum whose owner, despite wanting to close the space down, continually bends to the wishes of the public and musicians who play there frequently. Politicians, take note.

Alexey from local ‘Dark Jazz’ band [sic! See New Weird Russia columns passim] Yojo described this remarkable space to me. “In the centre of the city, you pass through several backstreets, find a big wall covered with graffiti, find a small door, and make your way to the fifth floor via an unpleasantly narrow staircase. Then you pull another door open, walk down corridor, open one more door, and finally, you appear in a small room; which is Sound Museum. On the walls there are graphic notations inspired by John Cage, Cornelius Cardew, Earl Brown, etc. The authors of these pieces are modern St. Petersburg avant-garde composers, or free improv artists who wanted to experiment with unconventional notations. All these music pieces were performed in Sound Museum at least once. Besides these notations on the walls, there are different self-made musical instruments in this room. All of them were made by several SPb musicians who play in Sound Museum. On the ceiling, there is a quadraphonic sound system. At the far corner of the room, there's a stage with a drum kit, and some speakers and mixers. There are rows of chairs behind the stage. Yes, in Sound Museum people peacefully sleep right amidst the concerts (but only if it's not a loud free jazz gig).” A fantastic prospect, I am sure you agree.

The space - which boasts a good sound - hosts lectures, (sound) theatre, documentaries and live gigs. A resident core of a dozen or so musicians combine and experiment in “pop up” gigs. Reports talk of a married couple recruiting their small kids as an avant-garde backing band. Or an orchestra playing on all kinds of old mobile phones. The curator of all this madness is the inspiring Dmitry Shubin, a 50-something, smokin’, drinkin’, black-wearin’ Beat who is also leader and a conductor of Saint-Petersburg Orchestra of Improvisation and founder of the [local] School Of Improvisational Music.

A good feel for the sort of ‘high wire’ experimental scene Shubin nurtures at Sound Museum is heard on this inspirational and exacting improv piece; which conjures up the caustic ghost of Conrad Schnitzler and a heap of Fluxus activity with some aplomb. His other release on Bandcamp, Emphasis, is mellower in texture but also well worth your time.