Russian Rock Culture In Context Of Modern Humanitarian Knowledge


The article studies the issues of rock culture as a specific open discourse system being a part of the Russian national culture. The article aims to identify the most promising ways for comprehensive analysis of this phenomenon in the context of modern humanitarian knowledge. The terms “cultural studies”, “discourse”, “synthetic text”, and “rock text” are specified. The article addresses a rock text and rock poetry at the present stage of humanitarian knowledge development; components determining the nature of the rock text compared to other poetic texts; a method that can describe the rock text as a complex synthetic phenomenon. The research purpose is to study the Russian rock culture in terms of modern humanitarian knowledge. The following methods were used: comparative, integrated, statistical, and linguocultural analysis. The article concludes that the rock work is closely associated with poetry, melody, musical rhythm, vocal, audience factor, and stage behavior. It can be considered as a synthetic phenomenon. The rock text cannot be interpreted and studied within narrow disciplines. Its nature and configuration cannot be the subject of individual scientific disciplines. Such large-scale, developing, holistic cultural phenomenon can be studied only within cultural disciplines with their specific methods. In particular, linguoculturological and culturological methods can be combined to study this phenomenon.

Keywords: Rock culturesynthetic textlinguisticpersonality


At present, rock culture is an object of extensive interdisciplinary researches. It speaks for a special role of this phenomenon in modern culture. The issue of rock is being actively developed in philology, cultural studies, history, sociology, pedagogy, philosophy, art history (Blake, 2017; Brooke, 2017). Researchers of rock culture focus on gender (Coates, 2007; Afanasyev, 2018), national aspects (Dyukin & Samoylova, 2018; Boyarskaya, 2016; Kozhevnikova, 2013; Kumichev, 2014), art criticism (Pigulevsky, & Mirskaya, 2018), authorship (Boykov, 2013; Gulyaeva, 2008), pragma-linguistic aspects (Khokhlova, 2016). However we can see an obvious contradiction: being bright, holistic musical-poetic theatrical action for listeners and viewers, rock music is stratified into various scientific disciplines and various research aspects.

Problem Statement

Contrary to the tradition of philological analysis of rock texts typical of the Russian rock culture, it is easier to define it as part of music culture, since music is a polysemantic concept which involves almost the whole reality in its associative sphere: polysemantics of this word allows us to consider it as an art form and sounding harmony of the universe, musicality of the soul, poetry, art, culture, era, etc. ”(Sidneva, 2014, p. 4). As a part of musical culture, rock is a specific phenomenon of modern mass music, which is located at the low level in the value hierarchy of music knowledge. However, the most important achievements of rock culture are considered masterpieces by musicians, and all legendary rock bands consisted of professionals graduated from academies of music. Musical typology of rock often ignores its social pragmatics and philosophical and poetic aspects.

According to G.S. Knabe, “rock music - counterculture - culture - society - history are members of one series <...> rock has never been just music, it is a lifestyle and social position. The sociocultural meaning of this position can be understood when associating it with other aspects of this phenomenon "(Knabe, 2006, p. 20).

Thus, “rock music” is a heterogeneous, synthetic (Schider, 2002, p. 121), and complex anthropological and social phenomenon. None of these components can become an explanatory paradigm. Moreover, each of the components is a systemic phenomenon expressing the nature of the whole phenomenon. New researches emphasize the need for a “structurally anthropological point of view”: “Sound substance representing rock - electrotembroism -and modifying the usual sound of acoustic instruments organizes its own semantic space <...> reveals quite unique and paradoxical properties of timbre characteristics of rock music” (Miakotin, 2006, p. 7)

Research Questions

The article addresses the following research issues:

- What is a rock text and rock poetry at the present stage of humanitarian knowledge development?

- What components determine the nature of the rock text compared to other poetic texts?

- What method can describe the rock text as a complex synthetic phenomenon?

Purpose of the Study

The research purpose is to study the Russian rock culture in terms of modern humanitarian knowledge.

Research Methods

The following methods were used: comparative, integrated, statistical, and linguocultural analysis.


In modern science, the terms "rock text" and "rock poetry" are not conventional due to instability and redundancy of their semantics and a great number of interpretants. S.V. Sviridov says that “this term can be understood both as a “verbal component of rock”, and as “a single poetic text of rock”. It can have a lot of interpretants. It has a bunch of homonyms "(Sviridov, 2002, p. 14). In addition, according to Yu.V. Domansky, ideas about the nature and structure of rock poetry are evolving, i.e. they are historical in their nature: “At the initial stage of rock studies, we defined rock poetry as a verbal component of rock composition <...> later, rock poetry was interpreted as a whole paradigm of rock art <...> now rock poetry is a term defined through the scientific prism ”(Domansky, 2013, p. 10). In our opinion, the approach suggested by V.A. Gavrikov who focuses on the internal meaning of the term “rock poetry” and concludes that its definition is better to imply than to use is more correct (Gavrikov, 2011; Gavrikov, 2013).

The most heuristic is the concept of “rock culture” that has been used since recently. On the one hand, due to the borderline of this phenomenon, “there are no clear criteria for identifying its nature” (Chebykina, 2007, p. 6). There are musical (pop music, author's song) and social (composition of subcultures) confusions. On the other hand, the concept of “rock culture” fully describes the phenomenon as “a phenomenon including a) musical components, b) verbal components (poetic song lyrics, youth slang vocabulary), (c) behavioral components (performing techniques used by rock musicians - timbre-articulatory singing manner, stage behavior style), (d) subject components (costumes and attributes as a part of the rock musician image), (e) sociocultural components (traditional social forms of rock music: youth parties, rock concerts) ”(Vasilyeva, 1999, p. 27).

Russian rock and Russian rock culture is an integral national part of the global rock movement. Russian researchers emphasize the “logo-centricity” of Russian rock is due to special semantic connotation, involvement of rock poets into the general structure of the Russian culture (Chebykina, 2007; Shadursky, 2002; Shestakov, 1990; Maslova, 2015; Ivanov, Shaklein, Mitrofanova, Mikova, & Deryabina, 2018).

There are a lot of diverse definitions of rock (including Russian rock). Each definition actualizes one or several characteristics of rock culture as a special type of discourse. This fact indicates that this phenomenon in the meta-discourse cultural space has not been identified yet. At the same time, rock texts are considered to have specific synthetic characteristics, including sub-textual components of different nature. This concept is fully consistent with the type of audience - addressees of the rock text (listeners and viewers rather than readers) and authoritative opinions of rock musicians. But the statement about obvious inadequacy of philologism – despite the significance of the textual component in Russian rock - raises a number of issues.

The synthetic nature of the rock text which has verbal, musical, articulatory and visual components is one of the issues.

The synthetic nature causes 1) the urgent need for complex systemic analysis of the discursive space of the Russian rock culture and discourse of Russian rock in terms of its formation, structural features and evolution; 2) the need for identifying general disciplinary coordinates for studying the rock culture.

Russian rock is a large-scale, developing, integral phenomenon of culture; for a synthetic text of the rock culture, there is an enclosing scientific field of synthetic origin and integrative purpose. It is cultural science.

During the 20th century, theoretical studies on culture were developing within history, literary studies, philosophy, aesthetics, semiotics, art studies, etc. Culture as the only product that people do not share with animals required development of a unique synthetic discipline which would describe and analyze its nature.

L. White is considered a “father” of cultural studies. He defined culture as an integrative and integral self-organizing system, substantiated the role of cultural science in cognition. However, extreme complexity and heterogeneity of culture as a research object, a variety of methods in genetically preceding cultural disciplines made cultural science, its categorical, conceptual and methodological apparatus a field of scientific discussions.

According to Yu.M. Reznik, “today it is difficult to define the subject of this discipline: it can be “systemic relations and laws”, “laws of cultural and historical processes”, or “internal (semantic) relations and cultural structures”, etc. It is necessary to identify the culturological status of culture to stop disputes and discussions” (Reznik, 2008, p. 23).

Cultural science should use objective knowledge. However, as a humanitarian field, cultural science cannot be reduced to “pure” objectivity and uniformity.

Heuristic multiplicity of cultural studies can be seen through listing. For example, Feubleman's cultural studies are a project of the “united great science”, in relation to which anthropology, ethnology, sociology and social psychology should become “sub-sciences” (Feybleman, 1997, p. 160). The cultural studies of K. Girts synthesize traditions of American cultural anthropology and European social theory and philosophy. He focuses on the theoretical model rather than on practice of “deep description” (Geertz, 2004, p. 11), on semantic interpretation and interpretation of sociocultural facts rather than on discovery of new laws.

At present, semiotics of culture, personality, discourse and text is of special interest (Kroo & Torop, 2018; Nöth, 2018). Representatives of Tartu-Moscow school (Yu.M. Lotman, B.M. Gasparov, Yu.S. Stepanov, B.A. Uspensky, et al.), relying on the works by C. Pierce and F. de Saussure developed a holistic concept of semiotics of culture which considers “interaction of different-level semiotic systems, internal unevenness of the semiotic space, need for cultural and semiotic polyglotism” (Lotman, 1992, p. 129). Within semiotics of culture, traditional semiotics is being changed. Key concepts of culture, discourse and texts are being revised.

Specific views on textually determined nature of culture are the first semiotic prerequisites of the article. The idea of text-centeredness gives rise to the idea of culture as a system of various sign systems interacting with each other, constituting a heterogeneous, multi-layered, permanently transforming semiotic textual space. The concept of text has many other interpretants. It can have a specific semiotic meaning and being applied to messages in natural languages or it can have a holistic (“ textual ”) meaning being applied to ceremonies, works of art or musical pieces” (Lotman, 1992, p. 215). This approach is the second semiotic prerequisite of the present study.

The third key prerequisite is specific interpretaton of discourse and discursive space which. It is actualized in the modern cognitive discursive paradigm.

Modern cultural studies are cultural and semiotic studies aiming to describe various "languages" of culture and decode relevant texts. The basic model for that theory in relation to rock culture is linguoculturology assuming inseparable relations between language and culture.

Currently, in literary studies, linguistic studies, discourse of psycholinguistics, cultural studies, cultural linguistics, there is a trend to actualize the anthropocentric paradigm (Kováčová, & Ciprianová, 2016; Muir, Joinson, Cotterill & Dewdney, 2016; Wilson, & Dymoke, 2017). In linguistic culturology, “personality is an integral concept uniting cultural identity and linguistic personality <…> Personality is a creative basis for culture and language. There is no culture, no language without a person” (Zykova, 2013, p. 39).

Successful development of linguistic cultural science is largely due to its dual orientation (both to the language and to the person in culture) actualizing and intensifying relations between linguistics, literary studies, cultural studies, sociology, psychology and other sciences. It allows for new comprehensive analysis of various relations of language, personality and culture. The approach can be actualized due to the nature of humanitarian knowledge of the 21st century which is characterized by fundamental openness, landscape, heterogeneity, permeability, and mobility of conventional boundaries.

The scientific school of Yu.N. Karaulov ("Russian language personality") plays a special role. It deals with five research issues which reveal specific perspectives of the unified system “language - personality – culture”. The researchers study “1) linguistic personality, cognitive and conceptual structures of linguistic consciousness and their evolution caused by changes in national culture and society; 2) the ethnocultural nature of linguistic personality – linguistic signs of the Russian world view, mentality and Russian national character; 3) intercultural and interethnic comparison of linguistic consciousness - typological parameters; field researches, compilation and analysis of multilingual associative dictionaries; 4) discourse image of the native Russian speaker; types of linguistic personalities: social, territorial, historical, professional, gender, age; 5) linguistic personality of writers and poets: text associative fields as an invariant of literary translation ”(Potapova, 2009, p. 46-47). It is evident that specific position of the scientific school “Russian language personality” is due to the universality of the research object. The linguistic personality turns into the communicative personality actualizing discourse-related issues, (discourse personality and discourse thinking) (Bashkova, 2015). The levels of linguistic personality described by Yu.N. Karaulov (verbal-semantic, cognitive, pragmatic) run through the structure of discourse being the components of discursive personality and discursive thinking.

In general, the category of discourse itself is one more conceptual “framework” for our approach. According to the conventional definitions, “discourse is a complex communicative phenomenon that includes both linguistic and extra-linguistic factors (knowledge of the world, opinions, attitudes, goals of the addressee” (Karaulov & Petrov, 2000, p. 8). It is necessary to emphasize that the levels of linguistic personality, running through the structure of discourse, connect and organize its classification features, turn them into a system.


Thus, analysis of any component of the synthetic rock text is promising. Anyone who attended rock concerts of any band, recognizes the significance of visual series, i.e. a visual aspect. Within our integrated approach, it is possible to describe the image from the semiotic perspective (as a symbolic image formed with verbal / non-verbal signs); from the communicative perspective (as a symbolic image, as an image of Self created for others while interacting with them), from the socio-psychological perspective (as a socio-psychological phenomenon and a product of social cognition), from the cognitive-oriented perspective (as a significant cognitive structure). A language interpreted as a semiotic system embodied in competences of a social subject and expressed through linguistic (semiotic, discursive) personality is a pivot that connects all these approaches. The anthropocentric and integrated approaches open up new horizons, create a new space for scientific description with regard to the complexity and scale of cultural phenomena under study. The need for such interpretation of rock culture is due to its nature as a complex and dynamically changing phenomenon, a living “open system”.

On the other hand, since the rock work is closely associated with poetry, melody, rhythm, vocals, etc., the rock text can be considered as a synthetic product. To identify this phenomenon, an integrated linguistic and culturological approach is needed. This approach combines studies on speech activities and cultural projection.


The article is published within the initiative research 050323-0-000 The Russian Language in Different Linguistic and Cultural Surroundings.


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29 March 2019

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Igorevich, I. D., Mikhailovich, S. V., & Stanislavovna, M. S. (2019). Russian Rock Culture In Context Of Modern Humanitarian Knowledge. In D. K. Bataev (Ed.), Social and Cultural Transformations in the Context of Modern Globalism, vol 58. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 1555-1561). Future Academy.