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Petr Aidu – about what Persimfance is and about a new book dedicated to the centenary of an orchestra without a conductor

Date: March 26, 2023 Time: 14:54:06

In 2022, not only Russian jazz, but also another musical phenomenon – Persimfans – turned 100 years old. The first Moscow City Hall Symphony Ensemble operated from 1922 to 1932 and became the first orchestra in history without a conductor. Since 2009, Persimfans has been back in concert life. Petr Aidu and other members of the legendary ensemble created a book dedicated to Persimfans, and we asked them what is so special about such an orchestra.

At the time of our century, I wanted to summarize some results of the work and tell a wider audience about Persimfans. In fact, since the mid-1930s, the history of the First Symphony Ensemble has been artificially silenced and distorted. We have accumulated a large number of interesting materials, texts and images related to both the life of the ensemble in the 1920s and its newer period, starting from 2009. In addition, in the book we state the principles of our activities and plans for the next 100 years.

This is not a simple question at all, because the driver has many different functions. In our ensemble they are redistributed among the musicians.

Human society is by nature hierarchical. The orchestra is its cast, a miniature model. A product of the 19th century in both repertoire and dress, the traditional orchestra exploits romantic stereotypes. In a practical sense, it is easier for a large ensemble to focus on gestures, it is often difficult to hear a colleague at the other end of the stage. In the creative arena, the task of just playing together and not falling apart has long since ceased to be hot. To plunge into the depths of musical meaning, you need to rehearse and find mutual understanding. This is how a symphonic ensemble works: everyone must know the score, come to a common opinion about their performance, establish all the interactions, and co-exist convincingly on stage. A conscious performance filled with the desire to play together is how a symphonic ensemble works.

In the first quarter of the XIX century. This is a young profession.

One of our goals is to combat conformism, the desire to do everything according to the rules. We create new standards. Orchestras can exist in the world with or without conductors. Persimfans has its own unique style and method of working, unlike other orchestras that play without a conductor. We are in favor of an individual approach.

This is a controversial topic: a utopia is something that does not exist and cannot exist, while Persimfans, as we know, exists. But we often talk about Persimfance as a utopia, which means we set tasks that are fundamentally more complex than just playing music, and we try to incorporate ideas that don’t come true on their own and at first seem impossible. When we started to revive Persimfans in 2009, we were told that nothing would work. But they were wrong, because they thought in terms of comparisons with known existing examples. If you think like this, then much of what is created by man is unreal. However, you will find a more detailed answer to this question in our book.

It’s hard to imagine people playing complex music while unconscious. But in a symphony orchestra, sometimes the actions of the musicians really reach such automaticity that they can watch a movie and write messages while playing a Tchaikovsky symphony at the same time. At Persimfans, this is not possible.

A very important principle in our group is the constant change of roles. The lead changes between different musicians, and it’s always hard to say who exactly dominates. In general, we are against someone “dominating” us.

The principles of making music together are not unknown, we are all used to the fact that a rock band or a string quartet can handle it, and this question does not arise. In general, it can be said that the hierarchy of roles is determined by the score that is being played at the moment.

We play without a conductor in any composition, depending on the tasks set by the composer. The number of musicians in Persimfance can reach one hundred and fifty people, and sometimes more.

So far, we have not found a single composition that cannot be played according to our principles. As for the freedom of action, it is difficult for me to answer this question. I can say that the absence of a director makes the musicians responsible for the interpretation.

Probably thanks to the right hand of God.

If we talk about us, then the authorities, thank God, do not notice us. Although we have carried out several projects thanks to the Presidential Scholarship Fund. In the late 1920s, the friends of the Persimfans party were deposed and many were subsequently repressed. These are Lunacharsky, Olga Kameneva (Kamenev’s wife and Trotsky’s sister), journalist Lev Sosnovsky, commissar of the ensemble and author of the book “Five Years of Persimfans” Zucker. The press in 1920 called the ensemble “the headless horseman” and “the only communist organization in the Soviet state capitalist system” (Manchester Guardian). All reviews are positive these days.

There is no such connection.

The answer to the first question is simple: the 21st century has arrived and Persimfans exists. It is easy to draw a conclusion from a comparison of these two facts. As for the forecasts for the future, they are quite optimistic and ambitious. We will talk about this in the section “Plans for 100 years”.

Hansen Taylor
Hansen Taylor
Hansen Taylor is a full-time editor for ePrimefeed covering sports and movie news.

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