Yale conference explores rock music and the death of communism

Photo collage of Eastern European rock and roll films, with text “Rocking Regimes”

A conference titled “Rock(ing) Regimes,” looking at the effect rock music had on the collapse of the regimes of the Eastern bloc, will take place at Yale Thursday-Friday, Feb. 22-23. The event — which will feature Russian, Polish, and Czech films — is free and open to the public.

The opening session of the conference will take place from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Rm. 102, Linsly-Chittenden Hall, 63 High St. A reception will precede the screening of the Russian classic “Assa by Sergey Solovyov. First shown in 1987, “Assa became a seminal work on Russian rock music and a prominent symbol of resistance to the disintegrating regime. A crime drama and a love story, it features music by Boris Grebenshchikov, Viktor Tsoi, Zhanna Aguzarova, and many others. Rita Safariants of St. Olaf College will introduce the film, and a Q&A will follow.

Friday’s session will take place from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Rm. 250 of the Loria Center, 190 York St. It will start with the screening of “The Plastic People of the Universe,” a 2001 documentary on the eponymous Czech rock band, directed by Jana Chytilová. Named after a Frank Zappa song, the band became the leader of the Czech underground scene in the 1970s and 1980s despite being banned under the communist rule. “The Plastic People of the Universe” will be introduced by Karen von Kunes of Yale University, who will also moderate the discussion after the screening. 

The second film of the day will be “Beats of Freedom,” a 2010 Polish documentary about the rebellious nature of Polish underground music. The documentary features interviews with artists and fans, performance recordings, and unpublished archival materials. It will be introduced by Tomek Lipiński, co-founder of the rock band Brygada Kryzys, who appears in the film alongside his fellow musicians from other Polish rock bands. The screenings will be followed by a roundtable discussion about the role of rock music in contemporary cultures.

This conference is sponsored by the European Studies Council at the MacMillan Center and is funded by The Edward J. and Dorothy Clarke Kempf Memorial Fund.

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Marilyn Wilkes: [email protected], 203-432-3413