Since fleeing Kyiv in March 2022, the Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov (b. 1937) has received increasing international exposure, becoming a musical icon of resistance to Putin’s invasion. His music is regularly characterised in terms of its contemplative meditative qualities and its commentary on memory, and has been described by the American musicologist Peter J Schmelz as ‘a meditation on time passing’. Similarly, many commentators from Gilles Deleuze to Nariman Skakov have explored the obsessive treatment of time in the films of the Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky (1932-1986), who himself defined the ‘essence of the director’s work’ as ‘sculpting in time’. Silvestrov became fascinated with Tarkovsky’s films, particularly Stalker (1979), which he saw at the time he was composing his Symphony No. 5 (1980-1982). He later described experiencing an immediate kinship between the film and his music.
This paper will examine the nature of this kinship between Silvestrov’s music and Tarkovsky’s cinematic art, and situate this within the context of the late Soviet period – a historical moment which I suggest was characterised by a heightened cultural awareness of the intersection between time, motion, spatiality, and memory that opens up new perspectives on how one might interpret the idea of ‘Stagnation’ in social-cultural rather than purely political-economic terms.