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St Petersburg

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old coloured postard of Nevsky prospekt

Sounds of St Petersburg



Every city has its own distinctive tapestry of sounds.

St Petersburg is an acoustically harsh environment during the periods - sometimes short, but these days often quite long - when there are no leaves or snow to soften the sounds bouncing off the many hard surfaces.

Of course, the city's acoustic background has changed over the years. Many of St Petersburg's audible signatures - the cries of street traders, the horns of factories and of vessels on the city's waterways, horses' hooves thundering on cobblestones or tripping over the wooden 'parquet' of Nevsky prospekt - have died; others have survived intact.

Here are some characteristic sounds from both past and present:

- the ghostly chimes of the the Peter and Paul Cathedral in the Peter and Paul Fortress

- Anna Netrebko sings Olga's aria in Tchaikovsky's Evgeny Onegin

- voice of tsar Nicholas II

- March of the Preobrazhensky regiment (the Preobrazhensky, founded in 1691, was was Peter the Great's own regiment and played a key part in the victories over the Swedes)

- Fyodor Chaliapin sings Ochie chernie (Russian folk song)

- Fyodor Chaliapin sings Iz-za ostrova (Russian folk song)

Aleksandr Blok: Night, street, streetlamp, drugstore (1910)

- Pavel Morozov recites Nikolay Gumilev's The stray tram (recital + video clip) (the poem was written in 1920; for a translation and the story of the poem's inspiration, click here and here)

- the sound of the Leningrad metronome during the siege (video clip with documentary footage + (?) some staged scenes showing the terrible deprivations of the besieged city)

- Shostakovich's 7th ('Leningrad') symphony (performed in Leningrad by an emaciated orchestra on August 9th, 1942, at the height of the siege)

- Anna Akhmatova reads 'The last toast'

- the Peacock Clock in the Hermitage

- sounds of the Petersburg kommunalka (communal apartment) (scenes tsken from the life of a Petersburg kommunalka)

- the midday firing of the cannon in the Peter and Paul Fortress (a practice originally introduced by Peter the Great to inform inhabitants of the time and warn them of flooding

- Sergey Kurekhin and his Pop Mekhanika (Kurekhin, Afrika, and Grebenshikov, very alternative rock, documentary,1985)

- Viktor Tsoy, gruppa Kino, 'Blood group' (1988)

- Viktor Tsoy, 'Summer will soon be over (I'm waiting for an answer)"

- Shnur (Shoelace, gruppa Leningrad) sings 'Leningrad dot ru (that's my address for today)'