(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, September 2017

Part One

• page 1 • Preliminary Remarks

• page 2 • Hans Kumpf and Sergey Kuryokhin

• page 3 • 1980-1981: the first meetings

• page 4 • Leningrad Collective Improvisations 1983: pictures and text

• page 5 • Timur Novikov and Ivan Sotnikov: the Utiugon.

• page 6 • Leningrad Collective Improvisations 1983: music and audio recording (4min 12s fragment)

Leningrad Collective Improvisations: documents and audio files

• page 7 • Hans Kumpf: description of the first part (German / English)

• page 8 • Sergey Kuryokhin: Introduction (4min 37s) to the first part. Voice recording and transcription with English translation

• page 9 • Sergey Kuryokhin: introductions to the second part. Transcription with English translation and six audio fragments

• page 10 • Reference list


Part Two

Pop Mekhanika in the West (forthcoming)



Part One

• page 4 • Leningrad Collective Improvisations: pictures and text

In August 1983, when Kumpf returned to Leningrad, Sergey Kuryokhin arranged a free jazz session during an exhibition at the Kirov Palace of Culture. Ultimately, the musicians were not allowed to perform there and had to seek asylum at the “Club 81” on Pyotr Lavrov Street (present-day “Furshtatskaya”), a small flat used as a venue by progressive writers and poets.[1]

The Club’s full name was “литературно-творческое объединение Клуб-81 при Ленинградском отделении Союза советских писателей”  [Literary-Cultural Association Club 81 at the Leningrad branch of the Union of Soviet writers],[2] and “81” was a reference to the year of its foundation, 1981. Its assignment to the Union of Soviet writers was a condition imposed and negotiated by the KGB. It served a double purpose: on the one hand, it gave the organisation a legal status which it wouldn’t have attained otherwise. On the other hand, this very legal status allowed the KGB to supervise more effectively activities of club members.

Each side would, of course, try to use the situation to its own advantage. To give an example: the “Club 81” affiliated Kuryokhin’s “Contemporary Music Club” as “musical section”[3] when the CMC had to leave its premises at the Lensoviet Palace of Culture in spring 1982 after a scandalous concert.[4] Its impact on the Leningrad cultural scene is undisputed. Boris Ivanov, one of its founder members, called it “an island of freedom”.[5]

At any rate, the “Club 81” was one of a highly limited number of places available for spontaneous meetings, and the list of Kumpf’s partners reads like a who’s who of the Leningrad (and Moscow) 1980s music and art scene: Vladimir Boluchevsky (saxophone), Igor Butman (saxophone), Arkady Dragomeshenko (poetry), Vyacheslav Gayvoronsky (trumpet), Boris Grebenshikov (acoustic guitar, saw, toy horns, radio, and tea pot), Alexander Kondrashkin (percussion: crash cymbal, floor tom and iron stand with pots, saucepans and soup cans), Sergey Kuryokhin (saxophone), Sergey Letov (saxophone, bass clarinet), Timur Novikov (utiugon), Ivan Sotnikov (utiugon) and Vladimir Volkov (bass).

Of the participants, Grebenshikov, Kuryokhin and Dragomoshenko were club members (and perhaps others, too). Most were in their late twenties or early thirties, and those still alive – Butman, Grebenshikov, Gayvornovsky, Letov, Volkov – are today well-established in Russia’s cultural world.

Courtyard of 'Club 81' on Pyotr Lavrov Street (=Furshtatskaya), August 1983 Participants of the "Leningrad Collective Improvisations”,  from left to right: Hans Kumpf (clarinet), Vladimir Boluchevsky (saxophone), Ilona Henz-Haberkamp, (musicologist, public), Igor Butman (saxophone), Boris Grebenshikov (guitar and "small" instruments), Sergey Kuryokhin (saxophone), Arkady Dragomeshenko (poetry), Timur Novikov (utiugon), Sergey Letov (saxophone, bass clarinet), Ivan Sotnikov (utiugon), Alexander (Aleksandr) Kondrashkin (percussion) front row: Vladimir Volkov (double bass) Not in the picture, but also participating at the jam session: Vyacheslav Gayvoronsky (trumpet) Leningrad, 1983 • Archive Hans Kumpf.

Courtyard of 'Club 81' on Pyotr Lavrov Street (=Furshtatskaya), August 1983
Participants of the "Leningrad Collective Improvisations”,

from left to right:
Hans Kumpf (clarinet), Vladimir Boluchevsky (saxophone), Ilona Henz-Haberkamp, (musicologist, public),
Igor Butman (saxophone), Boris Grebenshikov (guitar and "small" instruments),
Sergey Kuryokhin (saxophone), Arkady Dragomeshenko (poetry), Timur Novikov (utiugon),
Sergey Letov (saxophone, bass clarinet), Ivan Sotnikov (utiugon),
Alexander (Aleksandr) Kondrashkin (percussion)
front row: Vladimir Volkov (double bass)
Not in the picture, but also participating at the jam session: Vyacheslav Gayvoronsky (trumpet)
Leningrad, 1983 • Archive Hans Kumpf.

Also present was artist (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov, a member of the New Artists (as Novikov and Sotnikov), who, like Hans Kumpf, documented the jam session with his camera. His photos from the 1983 session are now in Ivan Sotnikov’s archive.[6] They show Kumpf taking pictures, just as Kumpf’s pictures show Kozlov with his camera. Kumpf used two cameras, one with a black and white and another one with a colour slide film. Colour photography was rather uncommon among Leningrad artists; Kozlov used black and white negative films not only because of the cost, but also because he could develop and print them in his own laboratory. Kumpf’s colour pictures are therefore particularly interesting. Besides, their brownish colours give them a rather nostalgic – vintage – touch, reminiscent of East German “Orwo” low-resolution films, although they are not Orwo films.

The thirty square metres flat [7] on Pyotr Lavrov was located on the half-basement of a two-storey courtyard building; the other flats were used as temporary dwellings for people awaiting relocation. To block the view from the outside, the lower half of the windowpanes had been covered with big strokes of white paint. From the paint, someone had accurately wiped out the name of the venue. We read it mirrored: Havanna Club 81.

Alexander Kondrashkin, percussion Club 81, Leningrad 1983 • Photo: Hans Kumpf

Alexander Kondrashkin, percussion
Club 81, Leningrad 1983 • Photo: Hans Kumpf

The club members had received the flat in a deteriorated state, full of debris, and had so far been able to do only the most urgent repairs.[8] In the pictures we notice the partially ripped-off wall-paper laying bare the bricks. It gives the venue an uncared-for appearance, but otherwise there is everything that is needed for gatherings, including chairs and benches to seat the audience. Musicians and audience are sharing the space of the larger of the two rooms, and some more guests are watching the event through a door to the other room.

Several musicians dressed up for the occasion. Boris Grebenshikov and Sergey Kuryokhin, the former wearing a shiny black cape, the latter a tailcoat, look quite extravagant. Kuryokhin is holding a tenor-saxophone with both hands, and Grebenshikov, imitating the same diagonal posture, is presenting a saw. It is no wonder Alexander Kan chose this picture for the cover of his already mentioned 2008 publication about Soviet Jazz.[9] Grebenshikov, better known for his melodious pop songs, proved to be the most radical musician during these musical improvisations. In his article about the meeting, Kumpf wrote about the leader of “Aquarium” (Аквариум[10]):  “Equipped with an axe, he demolishes a chair, destroys a bench and smashes bottles: a happening of a destructive kind. Before that, Grebenshikov had produced sounds from a tea-pot, wind instruments and – with a bow – from an acoustic guitar, proving that this smart-looking guy is not at a loss for ideas for provocative experiments.”[11]

Kozlov captured Grebenshikov on several photos destroying the chair (apparently Grebenshikov’s part of a duet with Hans Kumpf); another one shows Grebenshikov attacking a bicycle wheel with the saw. Bicycle wheel and saw had been hanging next to each other on the wall, and they might have come in handy for a bit of show.

Boris Grebenshikov, Ivan Sotnikov, and Timur Novikov Club 81, Leningrad 1983 • Photo: (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov

Boris Grebenshikov, Ivan Sotnikov, and Timur Novikov
Club 81, Leningrad 1983 • Photo: (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov

Boris Grebenshikov, Ivan Sotnikov, and Timur Novikov
Club 81, Leningrad 1983 • Photo: (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov

With regard to show effects, Grebenshikov and Kuryokhin dominated the scene. We see them lying on the floor laughing, perhaps having tried to extract sounds from a saxophone (Kuryokhin) and a toy horn (Grebenshikov).

Sergey Kuryokhin and Boris Grebenshikov Club 81, Leningrad 1983 • Photo: Hans Kumpf

Sergey Kuryokhin and Boris Grebenshikov
Club 81, Leningrad 1983 • Photo: Hans Kumpf

As a matter of fact, the session was carried out in a strange combination of expensive musical instruments, toy instruments and some self-produced, almost folkloric instruments. Alexander Kondrashkin’s “extended” percussion is an example of the latter. Kondrashkin was the acclaimed percussionist of the rock group “Strannye Igry” or “Strange Games”.[12] While the crash cymbal and the floor tom were professionally manufactured, multiple small percussion instruments had obviously been collected in a kitchen: pots, saucepans and some empty tin cans, one lid removed. These artefacts were skilfully mounted on a horizontal rack supported by two tripods. A small can that preserved its label looks especially exotic: its content had once been “Суп рыбный любительский“, which is not  “fish soup for amateurs”, as the word любительский (lyubitelsky) might suggest, but simply an ordinary fish soup; in other words, a mass product. The label’s bright fish design immediately catches the viewer’s attention. If we enlarge the picture to its maximum size, we can even see a decorative wavy pattern along the rim, created by the cutting wheel of a manual can opener.

Alexander Kondrashkin, percussion, detail with tin cans Club 81, Leningrad 1983 • Photo: Hans Kumpf

Alexander Kondrashkin, percussion, detail with tin cans
Club 81, Leningrad 1983 • Photo: Hans Kumpf

In a way, Kondrashkin’s soup can recalls Andy Warhol’s “Campbell’s soup cans” from 1962 – an earlier example of soup can finding a new utility. But if Warhol turned it into a pop icon, that is, converted it into money, Kondrashkin gave it a very pragmatic use: as a substitute for the “real” thing – out of necessity if not for acoustic or aesthetic reasons, or perhaps as an expression of laconic humour.

Incidentally, a couple of years later, in 1986, Joanna Stingray brought her Leningrad friends Campbell soup cans signed by Andy Warhol. According to Timur Novikov, the Russian artists and musicians proceeded in the most natural way: they opened the cans to eat the content.[13] I assume that they used the same type of can opener as Kondrashkin did with his fish soup can. Whether Warhol’s empty cans obtained any appropriate function thereafter remains unknown.  

next: • page 5 • Timur Novikov and Ivan Sotnikov: Utiugon. >>



[1] Kumpf, Hans.  “Sowjetischer Jazz” [Soviet Jazz]. In Darmstädter Jazzforum 89. Beiträge zur Jazzforschung. Edited by Jost Ekkehard. Hofheim: Wolke Verlag, 1990, p. 63

[2] Иванов Б. И. [Ivanov, Boris] История Клуба-81 [The History of the Club 81]

[PDF for Digital Editions version] Saint Petersburg: Издательство Ивана Лимбаха [Ivan Limbakh Publishing House] 2015, p. 86

Available at https://www.litres.ru/boris-ivanovich-ivanov/istoriya-kluba-81

[3] Ivanov, B., p. 57

[4] Кан, Александр [Kan, Alexander / Aleksandr]. Курехин. Шкипер о Капитане [Kuryokhin. The Skipper about the Captain], [PDF for Digital Editions version] Saint Petersburg, Amfora, 2012. pp. 33 Available at http://lifeinbooks.net/chto-pochitat/kurehin-shkiper-o-kapitane-aleksandr-kan/

Graham Duffill gives an account of the concert in his interview with Sergey Kuryokhin from 1982 more>>

[5] Ivanov, B. p. 159

In his book, Boris Ivanov gives a detailed account of the ongoing working relations between KGB officers and Club 81 representatives and discusses its consequences for both sides. However, authors make different assessments with regard to the relative independence of the Club 81. Eduard Shneyderman confirms it, while Yuri Kolker, in his article form 1984, accuses the Club members of collaborationism.

Шнейдерман, Эдуард [Shneyderman, Eduard] Клуб-81 и КГБ [The Club 81 and the KGB], Звезда [Zvezda] 2004, 8  http://magazines.russ.ru/zvezda/2004/8/shei15.html

Колкер, Юрий [Kolker, Yury] Ленинградский Клуб-81[Leningradsky Klub 81] http://yuri-kolker.com/articles/Club-81.htm

[6] See preliminary remarks

[7] Ivanov, B., p. 136

[8] Ibid. p. 43

[9] Kan, Jazz

[10] Available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aquarium_(band)

[11] Kumpf, “My trips to Russia”, p 79

[12] Странные игры / Strannye Igry (1982 – 1986). Available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strannye_Igry [Accessed 23 August 2017]

During his 1983 visit to Leningrad, Kumpf also took several pictures of Kondraskhkin with Viktor Sologub, another “Strange Games” musician.

[13] Andreeva, Ekaterina “A New Wave of Classical Aesthetics: the Paintings and Graphic Art of the New Artists.” In The New Artists. Edited by Ekaterina Andreeva, Ksenia Novikova and Nelly Podgorskaya. Moscow: Moscow Museum of Modern Art, 2012, p.23

Russian names: Клуб-81, ул. Петра Лаврова, Фурштатская ул., Клуб современной музыки, ДК Ленсовета, Борис Иванов, Сергей Курёхин, Владимир Болучевский, Игорь Бутман, Аркадий Драгомощенков, Вячеслав Гайворонский, Борис Гребенщиков, Александр Кондрашкин, Ханс Кумпф, Сергей Летов, Тимур Новиков, Иван Сотников, Владимир Волков, (Е-Е) Евгений Козлов, Александр Кан.

Last up-dated 27 October 2017

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