Artemiy Artemiev: Interview:  

(Article for l/E)

Sometimes having a famous father is a burden, Sometimes its a blessing. For electroacoustic music composer Artemiy Artemiev, son of Moscow's most famous film music composer and electronic music pioneer Edward Artemiev, no doubt ifs the latter. His father scored some of the most famous Russian films, Andrei Tarkovsky's "Solaris", "Stalker" and "The Mirror", as well as A. Kontchalovsky's "Inner Circle", "Homer & Eddie" and "Odyssey", the American TV series. Edward provided Artemiy with the initial spark of interest in electronic music by bringing his son along with him to where he created most of these classic film soundtracks, Moscow's Experimental Studio of Electronic Music. Given encouragement but not preferential treatment by Edward and personally guided not by privilege but passion, Artemiy is making his own indelible mark on electronic music in Russia.

Artemiy's greatest accomplishment so far has come not only from producing some of the most innovative electroacoustic music available today (see reviews), but also by galvanizing a now vital electroacoustic and experimental music scene in Moscow.

Artemiy instigates all of his composing and organizing activities from his modest four-room flat in Moscow with his wife Tatiana, son Artemiy Jr. and a white cat, Dikusha. Artemiy makes his living scoring films and TV shows, but not with any help from dear old dad. "My father once said, "If you want to be a composer then try to find work by yourself. I won't help you in this. If you score at least flue films, then you'll survive in this cruel music world. Well, from the period 1989-1998 I have scored fifty three Russian feature films, six documentaries, two soap operas, five theater plays, one radio play and a lot of music for TV programs and advertisements."

Artemiy grew up with as much diverse music in his ears as anyone in Cold War Soviet Union. He marveled at the music of Richard Wagner, Igor Stravinsky and P. I. Tchaykovsky but also absorbed John Cage, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Steve Reich and Edgar Varese. His rock tastes progressed to Pink Floyd, Genesis, Yes and King Crimson but also gravitated to electronic artists Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Vangelis as well as contemporary jazz artists Jaco Pastorius, Terje Rypdal and Herbie Hancock.

But it was at his father's recording sessions at the Experimental Studio of Electronic Music in Moscow Where he became mesmerized by the process of sound manipulation. "I saw how my father worked with instruments and different people and I tried to understand the process of creating electronic music. For me it was magic. And my father was the magician-surrounded by various apparatuses, synthesizers, lamps, e. t. - making sound on all of these incredible machines".

At ESEM he first heard the Synthi-100 modular synthesizer and then one of the most unique custom-built electronic music instruments of all time the ANS, the first ever Russian built synthesiser which Edward used on "The Mirror" and "Solaris". Developed by Russian scientists Eugene Murzin who spent 20 gears from 1937-57 creating the instrument, the ANS "joins three processes together, music creation, recording and performing", Artemiy explained. "The ANS had a very complicated process for creating music, it made sound by notes that mere cut on glass discs covered with a special layer. You'd see this amazing instrument twinkling from different lamps, with the rotating discs. The drawings on the glass discs mere the notes, the engraving mould transfer into music!" Murzin named the ANS after AIeksander Nikolaevitch Scriabin, having been inspired by the noted composer's "Poem of Ecstasy".

Artemiy's first keyboard was an old electric organ a German-made Vermona given to him by his father in 1982 at the age of sixteen. He formed a rock band called "Doctor", for which he also rented a Crumar Synthesizer, Vamaha DX-7 and a Korg Poly-61 for gigs. In 1986 Edmard gave him his first sampler, an Ensoniq Mirage. In 1989, after four albums, Artemiy quit the band and began an intensive exploration of electroacoustic music, using samplers and computers. "My last recording with Doctor "A Look Upon Life" (1988 was practically my first solo album. I composed all of the music and made it sound experimental and electronic". His equipment list was limited due to the incredibly harsh Soviet Union economic conditions at the time. "In '89 I had only two keyboards, the Mirage and an Ensoniq SQ-80 and Yamaha music computer, the CMX-5. I began with those instruments as they mere the only ones I could get in the former USSR".

The Cold War thawed and so did the ability to buy instruments. "It's not so difficult to obtain instruments and recording gear in Moscow now. Although I don't know about other cities, but in the heart of Russia you have thirty-flue big specialized music firms and more than two hundred small companies that distribute and sell various musical gear. The prices are twenty-five to fifty percent higher than in the States. Also, it's very difficult for any composer to work without his own studio, as rates are one hundred to three hundred U.S. dollars per-hour". Currently, Artemiy's studio consists of a wide variety of electronic gear, digital recording equipment and processing too long to list.

Artemiy is clearly a serious film buff listing Bertolucci, Fellini, Visconti, Fassbinder and Schlondorff as directors of films that have influenced him. Naturally, his early work in electronics led to him scoring student films at the Russian Institute of Cinematography noting that "many future film directors mould come to our rehearsals and asked me to create sounds for their films or scoring them. It was great practice for me and besides many students became my friends and later on I continued to work on their films".

In the 90's, Artemiy began in earnest to integrate himself and his projects into the Moscow and international electronic music scene. He began recording his own music that mould eventually be released as his first recordings, "The Warning", "Cold", "Point of Intersection" and "Five Mystery Tales of Asia". Finally in 1997, he became a member of the Russian Association for Electroacoustic Music (Edward is president! located in the Moscow House of Composers. The group meets twice a month and present concerts of electroacoustic music as well as the festival "Alternativa" with outside and local performers. This was an important move for Artemiy because it allowed him to connect with other composers around the world and to witness first hand, the interest of the public for new and experimental electronic music.

"Many people, young ones, who attend these events, mould tell me that they are sick and tired of techno, pop, rap, hip-hop and other pieces of commercial shit! Really I have met them from all over the Europe and they're very interested in listening and buying electroacoustic, electronic and avant-garde music". Artemiy was very pointed in his criticism of pop culture lamenting, "now the cultural situation in the world is very sad and our country is no exception. Nobody wants to read serious books, match serious films to listen to serious music. They call techno or rap the "highest level art" and me can see the tears of joy on their faces while they listen to 120-beats-per-minute! When we ask them mho is Michelangelo or Leonardo Da Vinci they say, Oh, I know, those are the names of the famous turtles, mutant heroes. My God, it scares me!"

Enter Atemiev's close friend and ally Vladimir Krupnitsky, himself a talented film and music producer at the Moscow Acoustic Laboratory. Their answer to the cultural black- hole of post-Cold War-modern Russia was to form Electroshock Records and start producing "Electroshock", a Moscow cable TV show that features videos, concert footage and interviews about electronic music. The pair is also researching opening a record store. "People tell me that it's practically impossible to find CD's of Francis Dhomont, Pierre Schaeffer or AIejandro Vinao for example".

Artemiy just finished scoring two Russian feature films, "Poor Sasha" (director Tigran Keosayan) and "Mitar" (director Oleg Fomin) and is currently busy in his studio with collaborations. "In the autumn of this year I'm planning to put out two collaborative CD's, one with American composer and musician Phillip B. Klingler and another with German composer Frank Klare. Klingler's style is more experimental and mine more electronic. Klare's is more of so called popular electronic music-very rhythmical. So I'll try to make it sound more electroacoustc and experimental. I'm also working on my fifth solo music project. It should be finished by the end of '98 and will be out in early '99".

Other planned releases on Electroshock Records include a double CD of Russian electroacoustic composers "Electroacoustic Music Vol. I" and "Volume II" of the same series featuring works of western composers. Also scheduled is "ANS 1964-1971" a compilation of music made on the famed electronic music instrument featuring his father Edward, Alfred Schnittke, Edison Denisov, Stanislav Kreitchi and many others.

It might be surprising to some to hear Artemiy's answer to what he feels is the future of electronic music. "I think that the future of electronic and electroacoustic music is in a union between chamber and modern music". Pierre Schaeffer (the infamous French "musique concrete" composer) once said, "through the noise comes the sound and through the sound comes the music". And he began doing these kinds of sound experiments in 1948! I like classical and electroacoustic music, especially electroacoustic because it combines classical form and leaves more space for experimenting with sound, samplers, acoustic instruments, noises and computers".

"I think that it's the freedom of creating sound and atmosphere. You're standing in the heart of the process of making music and you create music with your own heart, soul, mind, body and hands. I don't have a set system for composing music. I try to create atmosphere not by presets on a synthesizer, but through the combination of the atoms of sound that was created by yourself with the help of the instruments or computer or the human voice. You mix all that you need together to create your own specific sound, one that makes people feel your music with their whole body. I think that electronic music is the music of imagination. A person can sit, switch on a CD of electronic music, close his eyes and fly away. But it depends upon the composer to inhere he will fly. Will it be a relaxation flight or will it be a journey to the unknown places of the person's soul and mind?".

By Dwight Loop

now available on earwaves


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