The new “Dialogues of Plato”

One of the biggest events of Book Arsenal was the presentation of the book To Wait for the Music by Valentyn Sylvestrov

By Lesia OLIINYK, art critic

To Wait for the Music was released by the Kyiv publishing house Spirit and Letter, which is famous for its intellectual and cultural work. Its author Valentyn Sylvestrov is a Ukrainian composer whose music left the borders of our national culture half a century ago and whose creative work has in many respects defined the modern development of musical space.

The book’s subtitle indicates that it focuses on lectures and conversations. It is based on a series of public performances and accompanied by the great master’s music. The author of the idea and the organizer of these meetings is Valentyn Sylvestrov’s junior colleague, the prominent Ukrainian composer Serhii Piliutikov. He claims that these lectures-conversations are a kind of extension of the lectures in Plato’s Academy and Socrates’ conversations with his disciples. The proposal to publish the book belongs to the director of Spirit and Letter Kostiantyn Sigov. They were interpreted and edited by Alla Weisband.

The last year’s Russian edition of the book To Wait for the Music (with a pressrun of 1,500 copies) sold out in a flash! They have now been released in Ukrainian. The translation was done by Valeria Bohuslavska, who has translated the poetry of Byron, Tsvetaeva, Tarkovsky, and Emily Dickinson into Ukrainian.

Sylvestrov’s book defies classification. Sigov assessed it as follows: “I would say it’s the new “Dialogues of Plato,” about music and the new human philosophy, only in our time and space. In my opinion, it’s like a new anthropology, a new understanding of communication in music and through music. In this regard, the author can certainly be called both a philosopher and a thinker who develops the philosophy and music of the future.” Another definition is: “It’s a book in which you read and hear music.” By the way, both editions are supplemented with a disc of Valentyn Sylvestrov’s music.

The presentation, which lasted about three hours and brought together several hundred representatives of different generations and professions, evolved into a meeting of people interested in communication and fascinating conversations about music, poetry, creativity and philosophy. And each of the composer’s responses became the subject of a separate discussion. For example, the question of The Day’s editor-in-chief Larysa Ivshyna, about the musical preferences of the Ukrainian scientist Serhii Krymsky, turned into a conversation about the continuity of music and philosophy. A question about the linkages between the national and the universal in art led to a quotation of Shevchenko: “A cherry garden near the house.” According to the composer, this means a Ukrainian metaphor of Paradise — one that cannot be transmitted in another language.

The culminating moment of the presentation was the performance of Sylvestrov’s music — slowed, quiet, and bewitching. The meeting was concluded by the composer himself when he approached the grand piano and played his Spring Pastoral. It was truly a voiced philosophy of Valentyn Sylvestrov.


Serhii PILIUTIKOV, composer, the book’s mastermind:

“This book is not just a project but an important part of my life. I am so pleased with it that now I have a feeling that my life was not spent in vain. To Wait for the Music is a very important event both for me and for Valentyn Sylvestrov. Although this publication concerns, first of all, solely professional issues pertaining to music, composing and performing, it is read by very different people, because the book turned out very light, readable and interesting. You know, when I received the first copy, I was reading it all night long, although I knew the entire text by rote. Our first Russian edition was literally sold out in two months! Hopefully, the Ukrainian edition will also be well received. The format of ‘lecture-conversation’ is historical, going back to Socrates. During the conversation it was interesting for us to clarify some things for ourselves, to think things over. And, of course, such a format is very good for the promotion of contemporary music for a broader audience. I want to continue the series. The lectures with the composer Olexandr Shchetynsky are almost ready; then I want to make a book with Myroslav Skoryk and other masters of music.”

Valentyn SYLVESTROV, composer:

“Serhii Krymsky, my companion and a good friend of The Day, which he treated with special respect and used to read every day, was one of the most educated music lovers in the post-Soviet space. He heard and felt music very precisely and in details, and on a profound conceptual level. He also discerned the connection between music and poetry, which is important for me. Serhii Krymsky was interested both in contemporary music and in the music of different epochs and directions. For example, he had gathered a collection of liturgical music, which was not easy to do in Soviet times…”

Tamara BOIKO, TV director, screenwriter, one of the founders of the Culture channel:

“I got acquainted with the book To Wait for the Music (then in Russian) in the Cinema House, where there was a presentation of the film about Sylvestrov. The film was shot in Riga. Here we somehow couldn’t get in touch with the composer. Actually, the aforementioned publication was presented there. I invited the Honorary President of the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy Viacheslav Briukhovetsky and the director of the Spirit and Letter publishing house Kostiantyn Sigov to my Dialog [a program with famous scientists and artists on the Culture channel. — Ed.] We talked about Sylvestrov and the edition. This program could barely fit into two parts, so it was full of interesting, albeit little known facts and impressive people (we’ve used fragments of the film and other records).

“Sylvestrov produces a deep impression on me. He’s a philosopher, a thinker and an educated person — this is clear from his music. But his manner of thinking and analysis of literary works, including poetry (the book has a chapter ‘Music and the word’), is simply fascinating! He hears the melody of poetry. Obviously, this is because he speaks about it in a much more interesting and clear way than many literary critics. He’s actually talking about very complicated things in a very understandable manner. For example, he called the Anthem of Ukraine an intense version of Hallelujah, a church work.

“Valentyn is huge figure. Without megalomania, but with dignity. He is simply a HUMAN.”

Fedir VOZIANOV, designer:

“I read the book To Wait for the Music four months ago, in a burst of inspiration. It seemed to me that, in terms of the creative technology, it was one of the best editions I have ever read. In my opinion, the profound philosophy of Valentyn Sylvestrov is very interesting in the context of all arts, not just music.

“In fact, I have no idols, but there are obviously those whom one immensely respects. Clearly this composer is such a person. Actually, there are many things about him that I find impressive. First of all, the dynamics of his creativity: making music for so many decades and keeping to high standards all the time. Even lifting them higher and higher.

“It’s difficult to say where inspiration comes from. I’m sure music is such a source. For me, personally, it is the music of Valentyn Sylvestrov.”

Interviewed by Nadia TYSIACHNA, The Day, Oleh KOTSAREV. Photos by Kostiantyn HRYSHYN, The Day