The rest is noise

Art of Fear

Art of Fear

Music of oppression and war

‘The world turns on its dark side’, proclaims the opening movement of Michael Tippett’s pacifist oratorio A Child of Our Time, written during the darkest period of death, destruction and cruelty the world had ever seen. Totalitarian regimes in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union under Stalin saw a nightmare of state oppression, show-trials and genocide, and would lead to the Second World War’s catastrophic loss of human life. Artists lived in constant fear for their lives and livelihoods, and many suffered at the hands of capricious censors.

In the Soviet Union, Stalin’s campaign of terror meant that every thought, movement and pronouncement was policed, with awful consequences for dissenters. Composers were no exception – Shostakovich’s Fourth Symphony caused him to be denounced as an ‘enemy to the people’, and had to be withdrawn from publication. Nazi Germany denounced ‘degenerate music’ by black and Jewish musicians, and many composers fled to America and other nations.

Hitler’s systematic extermination of Jews, gypsies, homosexuals and disabled people claimed millions of lives – an unimaginable evil that the subsequent decades would struggle to come to terms with.

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Weekend/day pass events


(From 10am - 6pm. Note, passes do NOT include entry to concerts)

Secret Police. Concentration camps. Denunciations. Segregation.

The despotic mania of Hitler and Stalin shaped the course of the arts in 20th-century Europe. 

A weekend or day pass gets you access to a programme of talks, events and debates exploring how totalitarian states attempted to monitor and control every aspect of music, politics and the arts.

See the full timetable of day and weekend pass events for Art Of Fear


The Rest Is Noise Bites give you an intense, whistle-stop tour through the need-to-know topics from this weekend.

- Used in Buddhist and Hindu imagery for millennia and as a good luck charm, discover the varied past of the Swastika.

- Animal Farm and 1984: Totalitarianism through the eyes of George Orwell.

- Historical epic director Sergei Eisenstein is known as ‘The Father of Montage’ – find out why.

- The uncomfortable and compelling masterpieces of Leni Riefenstahl.


Join top speakers for in-depth discussions.

- Orlando Figes, leading historian of the Soviet Union, surveys the political and social upheavals of the era.

- Erik Levi delves into the prejudiced, controlled and dangerous world of music in the Third Reich.

- Michelle Assay and David Fanning discuss how musicians in the Soviet Union struck a balance between artistic integrity and preserving their lives.

- Denunciations, withdrawals and exile. Stephen Johnson looks at the complicated relationship between Shostakovich, Prokofiev and Stalin.

BREAKFAST WITH...Shostakovich

Grab a coffee and come to this fun, informal and practical session to find out more about his music. Led by composer Rachel Leach on Sunday. Get to know the key work Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 7 (Leningrad).


Don’t know where to start? Let our top music experts bring music to life in these beginner’s guides. This weekend’s session is led by David Fanning.


Including Sergei Eisenstein’s Alexander Nevsky.


Free activities and events which give you the full flavour of this exciting time of change.

See the full timetable of day and weekend pass events


Photos from the weekend



The Guardian

Gillian Moore introduces The Art Of Fear weekend

The head of classical music introduces the sixth instalment of the festival, a time when 'the world turned on its dark side'

Which are the best books inspired by the second world war?

The Guardian asks which other great works were born on the battlefield

Art of fear - reviews from the archive

How the Guardian and Observer reported on music created during one of the darkest periods of the 20th century

Will Self: The rest is power: classical music in the age of the dictatorship

Hitler was a great music lover, Stalin often went to the Bolshoi – get over it! The relationship between music and dictatorship is complex. And at the heart of it is technology

The Rest Is Noise festival

All video and articles at The Guardian.


London Philharmonic Orchestra

Tippett's oratorio A Child of Our Time introduced by broadcaster and writer Daniel Snowman

Hear the podcast


The Open University

If you have been inspired by one of the many events taking place at The Southbank centre for The Rest is Noise festival, you can take your interest further with the Open University.

The Rest Is Noise at The Open University

The Concerts

1 May - 9 June 2013

Separate tickets required for each event

The Leningrad Symphony - Saturday 11 May 2013. A universal symbol of wartime resistance.  Featuring City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Andris Nelsons.


A Child Of Our Time - Wednesday 1 May 2013. A message of hope in the face of oppression.  

Composing Under Stalin - Thursday 2 May 2013.  Composers who suffered at the hands of censors.  

Strains of Russia - Friday 10 May 2013. Postgraduate students from Goldsmiths College perform a fascinating programme of music. Book now

Imprisoned Music: Quartet For The End Of Time - Friday 10 May 2013.  Composed in a prisoner of war camp, hunger and intense cold inspired Messiaen's Quartet.  

Peter & The Wolf - Saturday 11 May 2013. A concert for families.  Join Bird, Duck, Cat, Peter and the snarling Wolf.  

Music From Terezin - Saturday 11 May 2013.  Powerful music created in the horror of a Nazi concentration camp.  

The War Sonatas - Sunday 12 May 2013. Piano music composed at the height of Soviet oppression and the war.  

Satirical Shostakovich - Thursday 16 May 2013. The Prologue to Shostakovich's unfinished satirical opera OrangoBook now

3 Russian Composers - Friday 17 May 2013. 1930s music from Stravinksy, Prokofiev and Shostakovich, all writing music from different parts of the world. Book now

Turangalîla: Opulence & Sensuality - Thursday 23 May 2013.  Messiaen shocked post-war audiences with oriental ecstatic music. Book now

Messiaen: Contemplating The Divine - Wednesday 29 May 2013.  Stained-glass-like piano miniatures portraying the baby Jesus.  Book now

The Home Front - Friday 7 June 2013. Music composed in Britain in the atmosphere of total war. Book now

Composers Imagine The Future - Sunday 9 June 2013. Pianist Karin Said investigates Schoenberg's radical legacy.  Book now

Strauss Laments A Culture Destroyed - Sunday 9 June 2013.  An elegy at the end of World War II.  Book now

Zeitgeist: Why? And For What? - Sunday 9 June 2013. A heartfelt and intensely personal response to war. Book now


For more information and to buy tickets for Art Of Fear, visit the Southbank Centre ticketing website