Suzanne Massie, in her landmark book, "Land of the Firebird" comments on the origins of Russian music:
"Today, the strains of Russian music are so familiar and beloved. a part of the world's musical heritage that it is hard for us to imagine a time without their sound. Yet during the century and a half of Westernization - from the end of the 17th century to the middle of the 19th-Russia's national music had almost disappeared from view.
The Russians are a profoundly musical people. Their magnificent liturgical music has completely different roots from that of the West. Like the icon, its form first came to them from Byzantium and Greece, but once on Russian soil it was quickly nourished and changed by the folk melodies that filled the life of the people. From the 11th century to the 13th century, in the days of Kiev, church songbooks were carefully compiled. In the 16th century, a golden age of music in Russia, hundreds and perhaps thousands of these songbooks were carefully copied and kept, written in strange neume notations which date back to early Christian days. Sadly, much of the heritage of past masters is still obscured because of this complicated and still largely undecipherable musical alphabet. Western musical notation was introduced to Russia in the late 17th century, and with it Russian music became strongly influenced by musical ideas brought in by Poles and Ukrainians and later by the many Italian singers who came to sing at the court.
But the Russian earth was fertile, and the Russian musical heritage remained alive, flowing like a spring of clear water under the earth. From the beginning of the 19th century there was a widespread cult of music and musical pastimes, especially singing. Music was present everywhere: in the izbas of the peasants, the mansions of landowners, the roadside inns; in villages, towns and ,cities. In the smartest restaurants there were orchestras of stringed instruments; in simpler traktirs, or taverns, barrel organs or bands and later Gramophones. Military bands played in the parks. There were the wandering gypsies, which all Russians loved. Church choirs were highly valued; even private institutions such as banks had choirs trained to sing in church, and the competition between them was lively. Certain churches became famous for the fine bass voices of their deacons. Some talented deacons were given a complete musical education and invited to sing both secular and ecclesiastical music in private homes."