(E-E) Ev.g.e.n.i.j ..K.o.z.l.o.     Berlin                                                  

      Leningrad 1980s

• Sergey Kuryokhin and Pop Mekhanika – all documents
• Сергей Курёхин и Поп-механика – все документы

Sergey Kuryokhin: Improvisations and Performances

by Hannelore Fobo, 2017 / 2018

Part Two

Pop Mekhanika in the West
Chapter headings >>

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page 4 • The principle of spontaneity

What Kuryokhin might not have expected was that leaving the boundaries of his own country and inviting guest musicians from the cities where he would perform, he inevitably changed one of Pop Mekhanika’s key parameters – the easy-going, informal attitude between musicians and performers of his Leningrad performances. It had allowed him to change a pre-established sequence or other arrangements at any moment, and he did so to the delight of those on stage – a group of friends and acquaintances, among whom Kuryokhin enjoyed authority and trust.

In the West, Kuryokhin was able to realise some part of his ambitions, and he ordered from the organisers, according to Kan, “people – a local folklore group, a children’s choir, an opera singer, a string quartet, a rock group, or a jazz big-band.”[1] Often animals were also ordered – geese, goats, even snakes. All of a sudden, Kuryokhin was confronted with the formalisation of his principle of spontaneity: orders resulted in contracts, and contracts resulted in payments of fees and royalties. In other words, participants’ conditions had to be fixed.

Such liabilities would affect Kuryokhin’s ultra flexible “Leningrad” approach, about which we read in an interview published on the occasion of the release of “Popular Mechanics: Insect Culture”, Liverpool (1987) mentioned in chapter one.[2]  

    Describing his influences as a random grab-bag of classical, Indian, Spanish, jazz, European avant-garde, traditional Soviet folk, operatic, electronic and rock, Kuryokhin says that their performance will naturally depend on their mood that particular day. “It’s never too planned out,” he explains, “and we tend to do one thing at the rehearsal and something completely different at the actual concert. I find that what I like best changes very quickly. What I like today may be different from what I like in half an hour.”[3]

There is quite obviously a risk in trusting chaos to form order, and it is inversely proportional to the time spent on rehearsals – the shorter the time, the higher the risk. Would thesis and antithesis achieve the higher form of synthesis? With some few hours of rehearsal – according to Sergey Letov, no more than three[4] –, Kuryokhin placed a bet he was not ready to lose.

All of a sudden, the key asset of his approach became a problem – the minimum time spent for rehearsals, which would automatically keep the tension high during the performances. But now he had to instruct musicians and artists who were not familiar with his work. Additionally, there was the language barrier. To explain participants the “skeleton” of the performances, he had to rely on the interpreter’s faithful translation of his instructions.

In a documentary about the Liverpool concert in January 1989, British producer Collin Fallows says about Kuryokhin: 

    “He always gets incredibly high-doped before these [concerts]… ‘cause the performances largely are spontaneous, he only writes the script of the performance the night before the rehearsal, and then rehearses for one day only. So he controls only about twenty per cent of it, and the rest of the time he spends struggling to keep it in some form of order.[5]

But the highly limited time for rehearsals had another consequence. If Kuryokhin couldn’t be sure that participants knew their role, participants couldn’t be sure that Kuryokhin would treat them as equals. There wasn’t enough time to build up mutual trust and understanding. This affected Kuryokhin’s natural authority.

Reference list >>

[1] […] здесь запрашивались люди – местный ансамбль народных инструментов, или детский хор, или оперная певица, или струнный квартет, или рок-группа, или джазовый биг-бэнд.

Kan, Skipper, digital version, p.79

[2] “Insect Culture“ documentation (permalink) on http://www.e-e.eu/Insect-Culture/index.htm

[3] The text was published with one of (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov's pictures from 1985 taken for the record. A copy of the interview without information about the place and date of publication is in my archive and available on http://www.e-e.eu/Insect-Culture-review/index.htm

[4] Sergey Letov “Репетиции занимали не более 3 часов перед представлением. / The rehearsals took no longer than three hours.”

Йя-Хха / Yahha, 20. 7. 2007 http://www.yahha.com/article.php?sid=126

[5] Transcription from Сергей Курёхин и Поп - механика в Ливерпуле (январь, 1989) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hWQaalkb87s at 11:35 min.

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Russian names: Сергей Курёхин, Поп-механика,

Alternative writings: Sergey Kurekhin, Sergei Kurekhin, Sergej Kurjochin, Kuryochin, Pop mechanics, Popular Mechanics

Uploaded 26 March 2018