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Author`s name Michael Simpson

Do Rock and Orthodoxy Have Anything in Common?

This is an interesing conversation on important issues between priest Alexy Uminsky and Vladimir Minin, the art director and the chief conductor of the Moscow National Academic Chamber Choir
Priest Alexy Uminsky: This is just my personal opinion about rock music. I like the Russian group DDT and the songs that DDT leader Yury Shevchuk sings. What is more, I like different rock music, not only DDT, as I think this music is good and beautiful. This is wrong to reject rock music because it allegedly does not belong to culture in general. It is important to understand that rock music is a complicated and contradictory phenomenon by itself. This is true that the church cannot approve of absolutely all rock music because some rock groups are infernal and satanic. At the same time, rock music may be honest, good and kind that can be recommended to Orthodox Christians.

Vladimir Minin, the art director and the chief conductor of the Moscow National Academic Chamber Choir: I would like to focus on your words "kind music". I say that when music has good and national basis I do accept this music. Every generation goes in for light music that it likes, which is quite natural. But I am against such music that is not art at all but mere imitation of some foreign, not the best ones, examples. I do not understand why it is typical of Russia's urban population to humiliate and reject the land, the history and the culture given by God, and instead to prefer everything originating from America or some foreign place.

Alexy Uminsky: This is true that rock music came from the West. No matter whether we will or not, we do listen to western rock music. I do not mean the clergy, but the youth first of all.

- Recently, the press reported that leader of the Alisa rock group Konstantin Kinchev had a tour about Russia's Ural Region and in the city of Yekaterinburg together with deacon Andrey Kurayev. They were preaching Orthodoxy at rock concerts and attempted to use music to tell people about Christ. Do you think they did it right? Do you somehow try to accustom a younger generation to the church music?

Vladimir Minin: We took part in a concert and a lecture by Svetlana Vinogradova. I was surprised to see the audience was big and they were pleased to listen to the church music. The topic of the lecture was the prayer, the Orthodox one as well as Western.

- Is it possible to express the same ideas by means of rock music? Listening to Jesus Christ Superstar rock opera I could not find something in the music that would bring my soul to faith.
 
Alexy Uminsky:
Indeed, rock and religious classical music are different cultures and perceptions. Even the language of my generation differs from the language spoken by contemporary youth. This may be the reason why attempts of the clergy to speak the same language with the youth can be justified.

Vladimir Minin: I agree, but rock, popular and other cultures are good for people before they reach some definite physical and spiritual age. If people do not start appreciating music by Chaikovsky, Musorgsky and Rakhmaninov, do not start reading books by Dostoyevsky, Pushkin and Tolstoy by this age, it means their development stopped and they have not become adult.  
 
Alexy Uminsky:
Could you please answer one more question: how can we inculcate the immunity to vulgarity and pseudo-culture imposed by the mass media and to the mass culture in contemporary youth?

Vladimir Minin: A lullaby sung by mother is a good way to inculcate this immunity. Dandling a baby and singing a lullaby to him is a good start for inculcating this immunity; then pre-school institutions, schools and higher education institutions must contribute to the mission. This inoculation must be based on folk songs, classical and church music. Men may fall seriously ill if they are not inculcated duly.   
 
Alexy Uminsky:
Now we frequently speak about religious and spiritual upturn. However, together with the upturn in faith we can hardly see any upturn in spiritual culture and culture in general. Why does it happen?

Vladimir Minin: It is clear that culture can be successfully cultivated in people at the age of 5-6 when they are ready to absorb everything, while at the age of 25 people go in for everything fashionable. Today's religious upturn has not yet developed into something bigger than fancy for outward and fashionable ideas.
 
Alexy Uminsky:
How can we instill spiritual culture in people starting with childhood? What do we need for this purpose?

V.Minin: We need to bring contemporary families closer to the church because today's society is ill and families are poor.
One may say that today the church is separated from the school. But churches have Sunday schools and temples have choirs. My only hope is that Russian moral culture may revive through the church only. The state will not cope with the task.

Alexy Uminsky: Recently, the church has touched upon teaching the fundamentals of Orthodox culture at schools. Unfortunately, the project was rejected. Do you think it makes sense for the state to consider how to free the contemporary generation from the dominance of popular culture?

V.Minin: I would like to emphasize that if the state is seriously anxious about this issue, the discipline must be obligatorily introduced at schools. These lessons may be optional. However, if the state just pretends that it is anxious about the problem, the whole of the case will end in idle talks.
 
Alexy Uminsky:
There is a phenomenon of Orthodox entertainment nowadays that is in fact sickly-sweet songs on pious subjects. As a rule, this is plaintive singing to the guitar and the chime. Is it normal? Do we need to fight against it, to support or change it somehow?

V.Minin: Orthodox songs appeared long ago, it was always that people sang so-called spiritual poems. The music material of the genre was of poor quality, but nobody could improve it. That is why the genre of Orthodox singing died away.

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