Seroff’s book is another biography of Sergei Prokofiev. Chapter 26 of his book opens up with Prokofiev’s journey to the US in early 1938 and ends a year later when Prokofiev himself conducted the first performance of the cantata Alexander Nevsky, which he adapted from his score for the movie. The chapter is heavily based on primary sources - Prokofiev’s and Eisenstein’s statements about each other, their quotes and letters about their collaboration on Nevsky, but it also includes an article that Prokofiev wrote later on about his journey to the US, which includes his opinions on contemporary American music. Seroff gives a full picture of the character of Prokofiev’s composition, ranging from the “upside-down” means of orchestration, to placement of the microphones and mixing experiments in the studios. He also examines the “exceptionally harmonious relationship that stemmed from Eisenstein’s understanding and knowledge of Prokofiev’s works, and of Prokofiev the man” (217), but also asserts that “the two collaborators, however, did not always agree” (219). Seroff also talks about Prokofiev’s “nationalistic” music, but agrees with Eisenstein that through his “true originality in the Hegelian sense, Prokofiev was both national and international” (218).
Evaluation & Analysis:
Seroff’s discourse on the nature of collaboration between Eisenstein and Prokofiev is exceptional, although Seroff mistakenly dates Prokofiev’s visit to United States to 1939, instead of 1938. Unlike Robinson, Seroff acknowledges the fact that Prokofiev bought home with him some technical knowledge in sound-film production, which he had acquired while visiting film studios in Hollywood. Although they both explore Prokofiev’s guiding principle in using Russian folk music of the 13th century by recomposing it with the instrumental possibilities of the 20th century orchestra, Seroff adds another dimension to his music by convincingly presenting Prokofiev’s score not only as profoundly nationalistic, but also as very international, due to the variety of his musical language that incorporates not only purely national, historical or patriotic themes, but themes of Renaissance Italy and Shakespearean England. This logically implicates that there was also a temporal juxtaposition in Prokofiev’s score on various levels – using contemporary orchestra to recreate the Russian folksongs of the 13th century but also drawing the inspiration from the past, from the heroic deeds of Russia in 19th century (defeating Napoleon), while simultaneously subtly integrating into the score the elements from the Byzantine and European cultures of medieval times. Based on this, the affinity between Eisenstein and Prokofiev has a common ground; one that might be labeled paradoxical synchronization. For Eisenstein, it would be the non-synchronization of sound to visual images (music not as mere accompaniment) and his endorsement of the contrapuntal use of sound, while for Prokofiev it would be a two-layered paradoxical synchronization of a huge variety of musical themes (old & new, national & international).