Forging the ‘Lady’s Hammer’: A Profile of Influence in the Life and Music of Galina Ustvolskaya

Jeremiah-Foulds, Rachel Claire. 2015. Forging the ‘Lady’s Hammer’: A Profile of Influence in the Life and Music of Galina Ustvolskaya. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

The compositional oeuvre of Galina Ustvolskaya (1919-2006) was very largely unknown
outside the Soviet Union before the state’s collapse around 1991. There are still very few
studies dedicated to her work in any language. This thesis’ original contribution is to fill this
critical void, presenting a detailed biography based on unpublished materials, addressing the
philosophical and religious aesthetics of Ustvolskaya’s music, and discussing the theoretical
and technical issues involved in the music’s creation.

The thesis will argue that Ustvolskaya was one of the most important composers to
emerge in Soviet Russia after Shostakovich, and her music opened new dimensions for
Russian music by cultivating an original style in the midst of cultural and political calamity.
The striking drama of the music in her official catalogue does nothing but reinforce her
reputation – long-present in Russia and now growing in the West – as an uncompromising
composer who never failed to uphold her own individuality. Yet an examination of the
tumultuous socio-political climate of Soviet Russia, and the ideological control that the
authorities attempted to impose on Soviet artists during the period when Ustvolskaya was
most active as a composer, conveys the near-impossible situation with which she was faced.
Although some early works that were applauded by the regime were not included in her
personal catalogue, this study scrutinises these works alongside that catalogue in order to
achieve a deeper understanding of her entire compositional output.

By identifying the main artistic pursuits that were profoundly to influence
Ustvolskaya’s compositional output at its genesis, this thesis draws parallels between her
life’s work and other artistic traditions from both Russia and the West. An analytical
approach that combines social, historical, theological and political factors with musical
analysis here presents unexplored territories that enable a sound evaluation of the extramusical
content of Ustvolskaya’s musical language. An understanding of these forces
ultimately serves to locate her music in the wider context of her life and times, and aids a
deeper comprehension of exactly how The Lady’s Hammer was forged.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


Ustvolskaya, znamenny raspev, Shostakovich, Stravinsky, Soviet Union, Russia, Modernism, Orthodox Church, Minimalism, Thomas Mann, Xenakis, St Petersburg, Leningrad, Schopenhauer, Losev, Gogol, Dostoevsky, Mahler, Bach, Musorgsky, Eurasia, Avant-garde, Byzantine chant, spirituality, cryptography, Old Believers, Picasso, Messiaen, Losev

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Music > Centre for Russian Music


30 November 2015

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

22 Dec 2015 14:28

Last Modified:

12 Sep 2022 11:10


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