Columbia University in the City of New York

Harriman Institute




Between Serialism and Suprematism: Nikolai Roslavets’s Modernist Music

This event was held virtually as a Zoom webinar and streamed via YouTube Live.

Please join the Ukrainian Studies Program at the Harriman Institute, Columbia University for a presentation by Leah Batstone (Hunter College, CUNY). Moderated by Mark Andryczyk.

The compositions of Nikolai Roslavets, one of many Ukrainian composers often mistaken for Russian, demonstrate the unique musical position of Ukraine in the history of early twentieth-century music. As a mediator between the compositional serialism of the Second Viennese School of Arnold Schoenberg and the developing aesthetics of Kazimir Malevich’s Suprematist philosophies, the works of the ‘first dodecaphonic composer’ illustrate Ukraine’s important position at the center of aesthetic change. Roslavets’s unique stylistic tendencies can be linked to a tradition of Ukrainian openness to new modes of expression, in both a symbiosis with Austrian musical development from Gustav Mahler to the Second Viennese School and the most avant-garde artists and thinkers of the early Soviet period. Leah Batstone explores Roslavets’s musical exchange with both East and West, and aims to more specifically identify a unique space for the compositional contributions of Ukrainian composers in the first two decades of the twentieth century. Through an exploration of the cultural parallels between Austrian and Ukrainian society, including an emphasis on intellectual experimentation and multiethnic collaboration, as well as the ideological resonances between serial composition and Malevich’s Suprematist ideas that shaped artistic output from Moscow, Batstone contextualizes the aesthetic and political foundations of Roslavets’s style that allowed a new form of Soviet music to develop from Ukraine. Batstone outlines the musical correspondences between Roslavets and contemporary musical movements against the backdrop of Ukraine’s intellectual and aesthetic history in the years surrounding the Revolution (Shkandrij, Mudrak, Marcadé). By demonstrating the way in which this experimental Soviet composer engaged with ground-breaking aesthetic traditions from East to West, Batstone also draws parallels with the climate of Ukrainian music today.

Leah Batstone is a musicologist and professor of music history at Hunter College, CUNY. Her research concerns the intersections of music and social and political change, with focus on fin-de-siècle Austria and 20th-century Ukraine. Her doctoral dissertation on Gustav Mahler and Friedrich Nietzsche was completed at McGill University (2019), for which she was awarded a Fulbright-Mach fellowship to Vienna. Her research has also been supported the Taras Shevchenko Foundation (Canada) and by the Center for the Humanities at the Graduate Center, CUNY. She has presented at several international conferences including the American Musicological Society annual conference, both the International Biennial and North American Nineteenth-Century Music Conferences. She serves on the editorial board of Artistic Culture. Topical Issues, the journal of the Modern Art Research Institute of the National Academy of Arts of Ukraine (Kyiv) and is the organizer of the annual festival of Contemporary Ukrainian Music Festival, which first took place in New York City in February 2020 ( Recently, Dr. Batstone received a 2020-2023 Marie Sklodowska Curie Action REWIRE fellowship at the University of Vienna to research her book project on Ukrainian art music of the past 100 years.

Event Video