Saturday, December 27, 2008


I study a kind of music that is variously labeled "authorial song", "bard(ic) song", and/or "guitar poetry depending on the context and the person doing the labeling.  Usually I just call it "бардовская песня (bardovskaya pesnya)" because that combination of words seems to generate the least confusion in conversations with people about the music in which I'm interested.  Somehow I never once considered abbreviating any of these names for the topic of my research.

An acquaintance here in Moscow recently gave me a book that describes itself as a "Russian-English Cultural Dictionary."  She thought that perhaps this handy guide would help me acculturate.  I thanked her, flipped open the cover, and was immediately confronted by a one-paragraph definition of authorial song on page 17:

АВТОРСКАЯ ПЕСНЯ ж (бардовская песня) bard song.  A special musical-poetic genre that appeared in the USSR in the 1950s and has developed ever since.  B.s. is a socio-cultural phenomenon especially typical of the Soviet period...

B. s.?  Wait a second... what are you calling b.s.?

B. s. has its own 'sacred places': the Vostok Club in St. Petersberg (founded in 1961) and the Grushin Festival in Samara (since 1968). Their purpose has been to popularize b.s. in the best traditions.
This certainly isn't the first time I've worried that I might be writing my dissertation about b.s..  I just wasn't expecting a reference book to say so.

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