Olena Dyachkova

“Playing with sound…”: features of the Ukrainian Free Jazz in the 1990’s” (the creative practice of Oleksandr Nesterov)

In the 1990’s the festivals of improvisation music have become popular in the countries of the former Soviet Union. The concert programmes of those festivals were notable for their style eclecticism combining jazz, performance, musical, theatrical, visual and circus eccentrics, musique concrète, work with electronic instruments, professional academic music. Nevertheless, a common feature of all the festival performances was that the musicians on the stage created jointly a specific sound stream that could be defined as an endless chain of spontaneous experiments with musical material and human consciousness. From the point of view of professional composition, this process could be regarded as a free aleatoricism, essence and stimulus of which is a joint play of musicians with sound theses.

At the same time, a professional nomination of the new phenomenon was not obvious not only for musical critics but also for practising musicians themselves. The most widespread name of the new improvisation music concerts was “free jazz”. Nevertheless, the musicians had been trying to find other names for this phenomenon: “vanguard jazz”, “new jazz”, “jazz – оff”, “alternative music”, “new improvisation music”. However, none of those names became firmly established, mainly due to the shortness of time the phenomenon had been existing for.

The methods of system research of the phenomenon of Slavic “free jazz” are not yet worked out. However, with regard to this phenomenon the approaches suggested by Yuriy Lotman in his paper Dolls in the system of culture may be applied. (Lotman Yu.M. Selected articles in 3 volumes. Т. I. Tallinn, 1992, pp. 377-380), Saponov M. A. Minstrels. A book about the music of medieval Europe: a monograph. “Classic-XXI”, 2004. 405 p. and Cherednichenko T. Musical reserve. 70“s Problems. Portraits. Cases / T.V. Cherednichenko. M .: New Literary Review, Series: Library of the Inviolable Stock Journal. 2002. 592 p. In spite of different themes and research objects, the authors of the works reflect upon the features of texts of oral and writing traditions. In oral tradition emphasized is the importance of multiple-participants play for representing general meaning of the text.

In Ukraine the leader of new improvisation music was a well-known guitarist and composer Oleksandr Nesterov (1954 – 2005). At the beginning of his career he had been a bass guitarist with the jazz-rock band “Videojazz” (1985-88) that used to be popular in the USSR. Since 1988 he began to play free jazz. In 1991 Nesterov participated in the Ukrainian-French jazz festival “Dniprogastrol” where he made an acquaintance with the performers of “ARFI” association (Lyon, France), whereupon he had been invited to the international festivals.

Nesterov was a universal music performer. He played many instruments, including an acoustic guitar, piano, vibraphone, percussion, bassoon, bass viol, MIDI-guitar, experimented with electronics.

A keyword for all Nesterov’s compositions is “experiment”. Composer Alla Zahaikevych has written that Nesterov “at some moment had fully ceased his activities as a composer and concentrated on expressiveness of the present moment. He considered that adequate expression of anything to be expressed is only possible with the complete randomness”. On the other hand, Nesterov’s playing practice had been gradually becoming more complicated. Comparing Nesterov’s albums of early 1990’s and early 2000’s allows us to see the features of the work with a sound in new improvisation music along its evolution.

An album “Claustrophobia” (1991) that he had created together with Petro Tovstukha, became the first Ukrainian work in improvisation music. An album “Irradiated sounds” (2001) devoted to the Chornobyl disaster had resulted from the collaboration of Nesterov with Serhij Khmeliov, Yurij Yaremchuk the folklore ensemble “Drevo”. In both projects the dominant form of sense formation is an audial complementation that grows into general creative strategy of the musical whole. At the same time, the emphasized individualisation of sound experiments in the album of 2001 puts a question as to what is “authorship” in new improvisation music.


National Music Academy of Ukraine, Ukraine

Is assistant professor at the National Music Academy of Ukraine named after P.I.Tchaikovsky. Courses of Contemporary Music: the Trends and Concepts, Music Critic, History of music. Candidate of Science (2000). Thesis: “Metaphor as a factor of artistic activity of the music creation”. The fields of interest: music analysis, semiotics, interpretation, contemporary music, music and literature, music in cinema. Author of 25 papers, including articles about Ukrainian composers for the German music encyclopedia Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart (MGG), papers in Ukrainian and Russian collections and in Musikgeschichte in Mittel- und Osteuropa. Mitteilungen der internationalen Arbeitsgemeinschaft an der Technischen Universität Chemnitz. Participant of the international conferences and the symposiums. Member of the National Composers’ Union of Ukraine (since 2001). There are of 200 critic publications.