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Red StrainsMusic and Communism Outside the Communist Bloc$
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Robert Adlington

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780197265390

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197265390.001.0001

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Black, White, and Red

Black, White, and Red

Communism and Anti-Colonialism in Alan Bush’s The Sugar Reapers

(p.193) 14 Black, White, and Red
Red Strains

Joanna Bullivant

British Academy

The opera The Sugar Reapers (1962–5), by Alan Bush (1900–95), is doubly outside the communist bloc: the work of an English communist, set in the remote South American colony of British Guiana. Yet far from being an isolated curiosity, it addresses crucial aesthetic issues in post-war communism. As an enthusiast for the call for nationalist socialist realism that emanated from the Soviet Union in 1948, Bush faced particular difficulties in composing a work for British Guiana. What did national music mean in the context of an ethnically and culturally diverse population? And how was the danger of exoticism to be avoided? Tracing Bush's use of Guianese music, this chapter reveals a work indicative of the paradoxes of socialist realism, and creative in navigating these paradoxes. The work's political context and performance history are addressed as starting points for further investigation of communist cultural engagement with the Third World.

Keywords:   Alan Bush, communism, exoticism, anti-colonialism, British Guiana, Sugar Reapers, socialist realism, opera, Third World

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