My research interests are guided by a broad question of what inspires contemporary composers, in particular, the influence of spiritual or philosophical beliefs on their music and its reception. My current research focus is music during the last two decades of the USSR.


Stony Brook University
2013 – present    PhD in Music History and Theory (expected in spring 2020)
Dissertation: “A Forbidden Fruit? Religion, Spirituality and Music
in the USSR before its Fall (1968-1989)”
2010 – 2013       MA in Music History and Theory
MA thesis: “Vertical Time in Sofia Gubaidulina’s Hommage a TS Eliot”

National University Kyiv-Mohyla Academy/Kyiv School of Economics
2004 – 2006     MA in Economics


“’Open’ Work One Step further: from John Cage to John Zorn,” Perspectives of New Music, vol. 55, no.2 (Summer 2017)


           “A Forbidden Fruit? Religion, Spirituality and Music in the USSR before its Fall (1968-1989)” (dissertation in progress)

My dissertation addresses the 1960s spiritual upsurge in the USSR that flared up despite of state atheist policies, and investigates the impact of cultural environment and changing state censorship on religious themes and spirituality in concert music during 1968-1989.

I discuss the reasons for the interest in spiritual and religious topics among composers in three European countries of the former USSR, and the official and audience responses to the spiritual content of their musical works. The four main chapters are each dedicated to one of the major cultural centers – Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Kyiv and Tallinn – and, after discussing historical context and general issues with censorship in a specific city, focus on selected works by composers who worked there during the period of my study.

Extended Techniques, a podcast and blog about contemporary music with an emphasis on timbral innovations (founder and host, ongoing).

Music and Nature: Between Scientific Reason and Divine Power, Stony Brook Graduate Music Symposium (chair and head organizer, February 2014)

Upcoming Talks and Conferences

“A Requiem for the USSR: State Atheism and Secular Enchantment,” forthcoming
at “Sound and Secularity” Symposium, Stony Brook University, NY, April 12, 2019.

“Off Radio – On Screen: The Impact of the Prague Spring on Music in the USSR,” in a panel series “Prague Spring on Screen” at the 50th Annual ASEEES Convention, December 6 – 9, 2018.

“Algorithmic Method and Delicate Patterns in Leonid Hrabovsky’s Concerto Misterioso,” presented at the SMT Global New Music Interest Group meeting, at the 2018 Annual AMS/SMT conference, San Antonio, Texas, 1-4 November 2018.

“Sofia Gubaidulina’s Early Spiritual Works in the Context of 1960s-70s Religious Revival in the USSR,” forthcoming at the 2018 Annual AMS/SMT conference, to be held in San Antonio, Texas, 1-4 November 2018.

“Mythologizing Religious Music in Soviet Ukraine during Brezhnev Era,” presented at the 39th Annual Meeting of the North East Slavic, East European and Eurasian Conference, April 4, 2018.

“From Revolution to Quietness: Valentin Silvestrov’s music after 1968,” presented at Russian and East European Music Study Group Annual Conference 2017: Music and Revolution, Goldsmiths, University of London, December 15, 2017.

“Theory and Practice of Vertical Time in Music,” presented at the 20th Congress of International Musicological Society in Tokyo, March 21, 2017.

“Zen Buddhism and the Music of Valentin Silvestrov, Ukrainian Avant-Garde Composer in the USSR,” presented at The Greater New York Chapter of the American Musicological Society fall 2016 Meeting, Mannes College of Music, October 2016.

“Podcasting in Teaching Music History,” presented at the conference “Teaching Music History” organized by the Pedagogy Study Group of the American Musicological Society, Metropolitan State University of Denver, June 2016.

“Phil Minton’s Feral Choir: Radical Music of the 21st Century,” presented at the conference “Music and Radicalism, Radicalism in Music,” The Graduate Center, City University of New York, April 2016.

“Life as Music or Music as Life: “Open Works” in New York – from John Cage to John Zorn,” presented at the conference “Composition in the 21st Century,” Trinity College Dublin, March 2014.


Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES)
American Musicological Society (AMS)

Oksana Nesterenko

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