January 01, 2017

The Museum of Forgotten Music

You open the door and the strong smell of fresh wood hits you. You feel like you are in a workshop, not a museum. Then you see the instruments: pipe, gudok, gusli, and many other well-known and mostly forgotten Russian folk instruments. They have all been collected here, in Voronezh’s Museum of Forgotten Music, by Sergei Plotnikov, 53, who, since the museum’s founding in 2007, has filled every role simultaneously – from chief to curator, from custodian to guide.

“To understand what real folk music is,” Plotnikov says, “you need to live with it and in it... Folk music performers didn’t and still don’t create songs in order simply to sing them from the stage – they live with them. For example, my mother was a spinner and she sang while working at her spinning wheel. When I was a kid, I thought she was singing some sort of prayers, but now I believe they were sacred songs and psalms... She never spun in silence – only with a song that helped her work. Some people would sing while weaving, others while mowing. Each life situation had its song.”

The story of the museum can be traced to the end of the 1990s, when Plotnikov’s wife, Inna, gave him a book on folk music instruments that included plans for how to craft them on one’s own. Inna wanted her husband to make a pipe (дудка) or a rattle for a children’s camp, where he was working part time as a leader and educator.

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