Louisa Martin-Chevalier

Sorbonne University, France; louisa.martin-chevalier@sorbonne-universite.fr


In this paper, I will propose a reflection on the links between artistic contemporary creation and the tragic situation of Ukrainian exile. Exiled director Vlad Troitskyi sees the stage as a space of resistance and he uses theatre as well as music to give an account of the war. Nova Opera – the collective that he founded in 2014 – is a group of young Ukrainian artists working together to develop new creative practices. Their experimental performances are designed as works ‘devoid of aesthetic borders, freely joining avant-garde, rock, Gregorian chant, trip-hop, new baroque and traditional improvisation together’. The female collective Dakh Daughters – made up of seven women claiming to be political activists – explores the potential of underground theatre mixed up with electroacoustic as well as baroque music and traditional songs as a way to ‘resist with humour […]; it is one of our weapons’. Like Iryna Kyshliaruk who says that she ‘will fight with her music’, I will investigate whether female musicians see their music as political and, if so, in what ways. Do they make use of texts to give an account of the geopolitical developments? A preliminary survey of the works composed by female Ukrainian composers in exile reveals a specific use of electroacoustic means: the 2022 season of the Festival of Ukrainian Contemporary Music has offered a ‘journey through ancient Ukrainian landscapes, the mythologies of nature and centuries of agrarian life, up to the modern city. From forests to fields via the urban jungle, explore the various Ukrainian landscapes while contemplating on the role of music in the past, present and future of our planet’ through the performances of works such as Forest Songs, In the Field, or Anthropocene. Moreover, the recent creations of young Ukrainian female composers (as Anna Arkushyna and Yana Shliabantska, in exile in Paris) seem to display a particular interest in the themes of acoustic environment. Indeed, the participation of women among the young generation of Ukrainian composers making use of electroacoustic means appears a lot more significant than in other areas. Is there a connection between ecological concerns and feminist claims? Do the female composers that this project involves claim a connection with nature that has socio-political aspects to it? This commitment to the environment could be reconsidered as a paradigmatic element of ecofeminism: ‘the constant reference to the mother goddess in pre-modern societies allows us to confront the industrial and technological domination whose codes follow a patriarchal pattern, and oppose other types of relations and cooperation between humans and non-humans to it’. My paper will be illustrated by sound extracts from the recent creations of the concerned composers, as well as from interviews given in the coming weeks.

Keywords: Contemporary Ukrainian; Musical Creation; Gender Issues; Music and Exile.


Louisa Martin-Chevalier is Associate Professor in Musicology at Sorbonne University. She teaches Music History, the analysis of XXth century repertoire as well as thematic courses such as ‘Music and Politics’. I also co-lead the ‘Institutional and Social Contexts’ research team (IReMus-UMR 8223) and have been co-directing the committee supervising the journal Filigrane. Musique, Esthétique, Sciences et Société. Her current research follows up on the work started for my PhD which focused on the avant-garde Soviet composer Nikolay Roslavets. This research offers an insight into the contemporary artistic creation in Eastern Europe which is largely unknown in France. She is also engaged in several projects of collective research: ‘Power Organization in Musical Institutions’ and ‘From Commission to Musical Creation in Progress’. She is expanding the themes of her research to a broader geographical area that would cover Eastern Europe. She focusing now on contemporary musical creation in Ukraine, Belarus, Poland and Uzbekistan.