Artemiy Artemiev is one of the most famous Russian composers of new generation. His music is well-known not only in his motherland but also abroad. Artemiy's music is played on the radio a lot, many American and European radiostations have included his compositions in their playlists.
What is there in the music of this composer what attracts such a close attention of listeners all over the world? It is really poetic and I would call this music integrated. It's not just a naked emotion, it is balanced emotionally and mentally, which brings wholeness and makes it clear that it is a master's work. There's a depth in it which opens for listener new, more wide vision, puts off limits of perception.
Something is present in this music, something that makes you listen to it with all your attention, quiet, absorbing. What is it, how to describe it? It is very individual: It's the Artemiy Artemiev's Universe: It's the unlimited creativity of the infinite being:
Lately he has agreed to give an interview which we would like to propose now to your attention.
-- First of all, as we ought to say, we're interested in your "roots" and "beginnings" of your creativity. How did your childhood days influence your steps to electronic music? Which music did you listen to those days? Where did you study music?
-- I want to say that such thing as "happy childhood" passed me over. The thing is that all my childhood days I have spent near the grand piano keyboard. My friends were running and playing in the yard and I was busy with the scales and etudes of Mr. Cherni. Back then I was really indignant and irritated, but when I got older and more into music, I understood how right my parents were and now I am really grateful to them that they taught me music, despite all my scandals and rebellions.
I started studying music at the age of 4. My mom was the supervisor of my studies. She was a professional pianoplayer in her young age and was teaching in Moscow Conservatorium of P.I.Chaikovsky when got older. I was learning piano from her about 3-4 hours in a row at home and three times a week I was going to private teachers. It was up to age of 7. Then I went to the specialized English school and also entered a 7-year school at the Conservatorium of P.I.Chaikovsky. The number of private 5teachers didn't get less, on the contrary, their number got bigger, making a proportion to the number of subjects I was studying. As you would guess, my free time came to three hours a day. School in the morning, in the afternoon - homework and the lesson (sometimes even two) with private teacher, then music school, then homework again and then to bed.
At the age of 8-9 I started visiting an Experimental Studio of Electronic Music, the meeting place of very interesting composers - my father Eduard Artemiev, Vladimir Martynov, Alexei Rybnikov, Edison Denisov, Alfred Shnitke, Stanislav Kreichi, Sofia Gubaidulina, Shandor Kallosh, Alexander Nemtin; musicians - Tatiyana Grindenko, Gidon Kremer, Alexei Lyubimov, brothers Sergei and Yuri Bogdanov; film-directors - Andrei Tarkovskiy, Andrei Mikhalkov-Konchalovskiy, very young at those times Nikita Mikhalkov; painters - Mikhail Romadin, Sergei Alimov, Vladimir Serebrovskiy, Pavel Anosov and quite many people who are well-known now. I was lucky to meet there two famous men - Italian & American film-directors Michelangelo Antonioni and Francis Ford Coppola.
In that studio the world felt absolutely different. It was 1974-79 period - "the scent of Sovetic flowers" and in there, in the dark of the small hemispheric room amazing happenings went on. There was played music of Herebert Eimert, Luciano Berio, Yes, King Crimson, Genesis, Klaus Schulze, Tangerine Dream, The Who, UK, Isao Nomita, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Luigi Nono, Pierre Schaeffer, Gyorgi Ligety, Edgar Varese, Milton Babbit, Pierre Bouleze, Francis Dhomond, John Cage, Pierre Henry, Earle Brown, York Holler, Takehisa Kosugi, Steve Reigh, Henri Pousseur.
It was not just a simple listening to concerts played on the tape-recorder with son et lumiere (which was very "cool" and avant-garde in those days). It was a detailed discussion of every musical composition.
Performances of my father's band "Boomerang", playing electronic music and art-rock also were on in the studio of electronic music. A lot of people were coming. And those gatherings were more like a Bolsheviks' meeting at one of secret addresses that was just about to be busted by the tzar secret service then a cultural "underground" arrangement.
I was more than intrigued by that and while listening to the music of the above-named composers and to the discussions after, naturally, was inspired by it and started getting more seriously interested in genres of electronic, electroacoustic and serious rock music.
-- In what way did the fact that you were born and brought up in the family of famous composer of electronic music influence you, and on the whole how did Edward Artemiev's music influence you (or how is it influencing you now)? Maybe your father's fame got in the way of your own growth? Do you think you inherited something from your father's creative work or your style is absolutely different? Could there be musical co-projects of Artemiev-son and Artemiev-father?
-- My father's fame absolutely didn't prevent my creative growth, because I disengaged myself from that. All I achieved in my life I owe my parents who brought me up and gave me the needed education. But I made everything happen myself. Once, when I was already playing rock music in the group called "Doctor", my father asked me about my plans for the future. I told him that I wanted to play electronic music and music for movies. Father said that it is a tough road, but if I wish to try it, then in order to learn about the whole thing. I have to go through it myself. If I make it through - I win, if I drown, means I am not fated to it.
In 1988 our base for repetitions was on the territory of the VDNH in the Montreal pavilion. M.Gorky Filmstudio and VGIK were near about. Many young cinematographers and budding actors, script-writers and cameramen would come to our base. I became friends with many of them and one day Tigran Keosayan asked me if I could write music for a "diploma" movie he was making. I said yes. After that came Nikolai Viktorov, Bakhtiyar Khudoinazarov, Aleksander Trofimov, Igor Ahmedov and other young directors. Then, suddenly, there was a phonecall from Odessa and I got an offer to score a feature film about karate "The Fan" (director Vladimir Feoktistov). The invitation to Odessa Filmstudio was on Alexei Serebryakov's initiative, he was the lead in that movie. I got acquainted with Alexei at one of the parties in VGIK. He would come to our repetitions with the "Doctor" to listen to our music. He liked it a lot and that is why he recommended me to Vladimir Feoktistov. We worked well together with Vladimir and I made music for all three movies he had directed before he left for Israel.
Indeed, my father's creative work influenced me very much. Watching him, I was learning to compose, listen and understand music. At first he was like a magician for me, surrounded by different kinds of machines. He created music, created sound, disappeared, dissolving into the sound space, and appeared again, wrapped in a cobweb of magically beautiful timbre.
One day, I remember, I decided to make some sounds of that kind too. I came from school early. There was nobody home. I took father's synthesizer Yamaha DX-7 (it cost a lot in Moscow in those days) and switched it on. Started to play. I played and played and then decided to change the timbre. I started pressing all the buttons and suddenly the instrument stopped playing, no sound at all and there was nothing I could do to make it sound again. I thought "this is it, this is the end". I started shivering, my hands got cold, my hair stood on end and I got the feeling that there would be a scandal, maybe even with the use of some physical force. My presentiments proved to be right.
As it turned out, I had managed to erase from instrument's memory everything possible. It took my poor father a month to restore it. Naturally, he used not very popular disciplinary measures and sanctions.
When I worked for a while in cinematography, people started confusing me with my father. Moreover, his name in the passport was Edward and his Christian name was Alexei. That would bring some confusion into directors' and cinemacritics' minds and they were getting used to it for quite a long time (they thought that my father has a brother) and then I came up, so first 2-3 years people were mixed up. Although they distinguished our styles and manners of playing.
In the very beginning of my solo career and cinematographic work I discovered sprouts of my own style and my own musical language. Creative works of mine and my father's are now easy to differ. He moves in classic way of electronic music, symbiosis of classical, academical music and electronic. I am more into avant-garde-experimental musical aesthetics - symbiosis of electronic, natural and artificial noises, acoustic timbres of ethnic instruments and the style of music I play.
I am not sure if we are going to produce anything together with my father. For now it is neither in his nor in my plans (although a lot of people ask me about it). I think I hasn't reached his level yet. For me my father is not just father, but he always has been and always will be a teacher, who helps me spiritually, showing me different sides of the art of music and who is very critical about my creative work. He is a fantastic, amazing man and genius composer. He is a friend whom I really love.
-- Could you tell us what your first musical projects were? How did everything start? How was your first album recorded and released?
-- It started with rock music and my rock group "Doctor", where I was a keyboardist and one of the composers. From 1984 to 1988 the group produced four albums on tapes with my participation and one (1986) without me. In 1988, after recording with the group my last album "Look Upon Life" (which happened to be my first solo album) I left the group. The guys wanted to play rock and I was more interested in experimental and cinematographic music. I left and started working independently. But up to 1994 I had been inviting the musicians from the group to take part in some works for cinema and in my first CD, called "The Warning". It was recorded at the Gorky Filmstudio in 1993 and released by my record company "Electroshock Records" in 1997.
-- What is the most important for you to say and to bring to your listeners through your music? What does it mean for you - to compose and play music? Could you say a few words about the creative process of your music?
-- The process of creation is quite a routine. Looking for timbres, fitting them together, sound-work, search for the idea, the concept, until I find the right form and content. The most interesting part for me is the soundmixing after everything is recorded in computer sequencer or on multitrack digital recorder and the process of magic starts, sounds and timbres, flowing, playing with each other, evolving in some integral work of art. I mean you not only compose music, you create it, breathe life in it, with the help of different sound processors, reverbs, delays, pitchshifters, compressors, limiters and so on you create that magical music space which brings life into a composition.
Composing music for me is to live, to create, to work, to meet with interesting people, make money with my own hands and to be an absolutely free and independent man.
I do not try to bring something sacramental or very important to listeners' ears. I am not a supporter of expressing any ideas. I just paint images, musical images. And when I sit at the instrument and start composing something new, I am not thinking neither about what I am aiming at with that composition nor about the images which it has to bring to the mind's eye. Everybody understands music in his own unique way. The same tune can bring tears of memories or joyous feeling, it depends on who is listening to it. The same music can be thought-provoking for some people, while for the others it can be just fun. It is very private. When I compose I imply one thing and listeners hear absolutely different things.
-- Which of your albums mean a lot to you, which of them have a concept behind them? Which of your works (your solo albums and music for cinema) are the most dear to you?
-- On the one hand, all the CD works I made mean a lot to me and published on CD's, on the other hand, when a music project is finished, I lose my interest in it. Of course, not at once, but about a month or two after it's finished and then I start to compose something else.
As far as my 6 albums of solo works concerned, the music on them I can briefly classify as:
"The Warning" - 1993 (1997 ELCD 001) - 90% is music for cinema. Looking for my style.
"Cold" - 1995 (1997 ELCD 002) - gloomy electronic dark ambient with elements of avant-garde and noise. Still looking for a style, but now much closer.
"Point Of Intersection" - 1997 (ELCD 003) - The style found. Point of intersection between electronic dark ambient and experimental electroacoustic and noise music.
"Five Mystery Tales Of Asia" - 1998 (ELCD 007) - one of my favorite projects. Sounds a little like with the previous CD, but more alive and with natural sound of a great number of Asian ethnic instruments.
"Mysticism of Sound" - 1999 (ELCD 009) - continuation of experiments with the style, which began on the third CD, with the only difference that this album is the gloomiest from ever released ones. Although it had a great "concept".
"Forgotten Themes" - 2000 (ELCD 017) - compilation made of tracks of my solo work unreleased before plus one track recorded in September 2000 for my solo album which is to be released by the end of 2001.
Speaking about my work for cinematography, I don't think that it is my main thing. It's just that basically all my music that I compose and release on CD continues in the cinema or was taken from some movie to be remade and released on CDs. Oleg Fomin's picture "Publican" contains two themes from "Five Mystery Tales of Asia", it's "Tale#1:Gonk Kong 01.07.1997", which sounds at the end of the movie and "Tale#5:Night On Khangay Mountain", which became a leitmotif of the movie.
--What are in your opinion the most interesting works for the cinema you took part in? Would you recall any interesting meetings or incidents during your cinema-music projects? In general, how would you describe the specificity of this work?
-- First, I want to tell you, that in order to work in cinematography you have to own a strong body that accepts and does not tear away alcohol, vodka in most cases. This is the specificity of the work. You have to drink a lot sometimes. Naturally, all meetings and happenings related to my cinema work go on mostly at the table, in a company of very interesting people - great talkers, well-educated, very intelligent: and who could drink a lot.
I would mark my works with Oleg Fomin ("Publican", "Way Of Your Life", "Sweet Ap", "Cave People" - play), Tigran Keosayan ("Poor Sasha", "Family Fun" - soap-box opera), Isaac Fridberg ("Scaffold Walk", "Alphabet of Love" - soap-box opera), Andrey Smirnov (play "Supper"), Oleg Tabakov (play "Champions") and Georgiy Parajanov ("I Am A Seagull").
-- In your opinion, is the style of your works close to that of famous Hans-Joachim Roedelius? What do you think about it? What would you say about the works and the personality of this musician? Do you have any friends in "Aquarello"?
-- You know, this question about "style closeness" is difficult to answer. I am not a critic of my music. If you think our styles are alike I would be only flattered.
Me and Hans-Joachim Roedelius are pen-friends. I am connecting through mail with many composers and musicians. I appreciate and love his work. He has sent me his CDs, I have sent him CDs released under our label. He liked it and wished to participate in one of our compilations "Electroshock Presents: Electroacoustic Music". He wrote on purpose and sent to us the composition "Message From The Ivory Tower" for our 3rd compilation, released in 1999 "Electroshock Presents: Electroacoustic Music. Vol. III" - 1999 (ELCD 010). Also a couple of years ago I interviewed him and published this interview in Russian Music magazine "Music Box". He is a very nice man and a very talented composer.
-- What musicians do you regard as co-travellers? What kind of music are you currently listening to?
-- I like electroacoustic and classical music. Gustav Mahler, Richard Wagner, P.I.Chaikovsky, Igor Stravinsky, Antonio Vivaldi, Edward Grieg, Claudio Monteverdi, William Bird, Perotinius - are my favourites in classical music. Modern composers - Eduard Artemiyev, Gyorgy Ligety, Edgar Varese, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Milton Babbit, Brian Eno, Pierre Bouleze, Francis Dhomond, Ennio Morricone, John Williams, John Cage, Jerry Goldsmith, Pierre Henry, Alejandro Vinao, Earle Brown, Herbert Eimert, York Holler, Takehisa Kosugi, Steve Reigh, Henri Pousseur, Klaus Schulze, Pierre Schaeffer, Graham Bowers, Steve Roach, Luigi Nono, Harold Budd, Hans-Joachim Roedelius, Gordon Mumma. Vangelis.
-- Do you have many friends-musicians? Do you regard any collaboration with any musician or composer as special for you? Which musicians would you like to work with in the future?
-- I have a lot of "pen-pal friends". Some contacts are business, some are for creativity's sake, some are out of friendship. I have over one thousand pen-pals all over the world, they are composers, musicians, radio-dj's, journalists, magazines' and newspapers' editors, movie-directors.
Up to now I have released two CDs of music we played with western composers - Phillip B. Klinger (PBK) and Peter Frohmader. I liked a lot working with them and hopefully next year we will continue our collaboration and released two more musical projects on which we are currently working.
For the next year I have plans with Christopher de Laurenti (USA), Matthias Grassow (Germany), Adrzej Dudek-Durer (Poland), Miroslaw Rajkowski (Poland), groups "The Interstellar Cementmixers" (UK) and "Kadra Estra" (UK).
-- You travel a lot. Do you like travelling? What countries, interesting meetings and accidents do you remember best?
-- Actually I like being at home. I like to sit in my studio creating music. If I am on a trip, I like to drive and the longer the trip the better. I panic when I think about flying. I just can't believe that thousands of tons of iron can lift up in the air and fly. I understand it theoretically but practically - no. For me it is mistifying, the last achievement of magic.
Out of all countries I have visited in the last ten years I like Italy best, especially the north of the country and Milan. I don't know exactly what strikes me that much about it and make me come to this country so many times and stay there for so long. Actually, it is in Italy where I meet all my western colleagues. In Europe everything is close - 1-2-hour flight. Somebody comes to Milan to have lunch with me, we talk about everything, fly to Paris, Berlin or Rome - to have dinner and then we part - I go back to Milan, my colleague back to the place where he came from.
The most interesting accident in the world of modern music, in my opinion, was the celebration of 50th anniversary of electroacoustic music which was held in "Teatro Alla Scala" in Milan in 1999. This series of concerts was visited by all popular musicians, the best compositions were played there, many of them were played for the audience for the first time.
I was lucky to represent Russia at this music celebration. I was the only Russian composer who was chosen to be a participant in this great event.
-- We know that you were making a TV-program on the russian TV-channel for one and half a year. Would you tell us some details of that experience and that side of your creative work?
-- Yes, this sad thing did happen. The program was called "Electroshock" and was on the cable channels of the Russian TV for a while. I was making it for two years, but creating music, taking care of "Electroshock Records", producing CDs, giving out lectures and struggling with TV-bureaucracy was too much for me. I quit the program saving everything else. I didn't get more time but I saved my nerves. Honestly, I don't want to talk about it, because there are no good memories. I have spent on it a lot of my own money, nerves and health. Thank God it's over.
-- Your music is well received in the West, you are invited to the international festivals of electroacoustic music, your compositions are played on western radiostations. What are the differences and similarities in your music work and people's attitude towards it considering the West and Russia?
-- The similarity is that there is the same interest in electronic and electroacoustic music and the modern art in general. The difference is also only one - in the West marketing of such music is easy. Here in Russia this kind of art is considered as "too elite", not easy to understand by masses. "This music is to be given in small portions. The smaller the better. People don't understand and its influence is kind of hallucinations caused by drugs: You can't make money on this music, it is not Russian pop-music, so why is it needed at all?" These words I will remember forever and I am quoting them without any censorship. They were said by one of our TV-bosses in 1998 when I was making a TV-program and nothing has changed since then. So I prefer to release, market and distribute of "Electroshock Records" CDs in the West.
-- There, composing, releasing and selling this kind of music you can live on it. Here it is not possible yet. But I think that businessmen, bank-owners and mecenats will get interested in it soon. People are already interested in it, it means there's a demand already. Demand means market, market means investments.
-- How would you characterize your creative work?
-- I think it's the question to critics. I never analyze what I am playing. Otherwise it can cause tearful narcissism.
-- Your music is very visual. Do you visualize anything when composing?
-- When I write music for CDs I never visualize anything. If it's for a movie, then, naturally, I look at the monitor and compose for definite episodes.
-- And the last question, what are your plans and new projects?
-- Now "Electroshock Records" released five new CDs:
The first solo CD of the talented composer and engineer, the keeper of synthesizer "ANS":
Stanislaw Kreichi "ANSiana" - 2000 (ELCD 016),
My sixth solo album:
"Forgotten Themes" - 2000 (ELCD 017),
The third solo project at "Electroshock" of the maitre of Russian electronic music Edward Artemiev "Book of Impressions" - 2000 (ELCD 018),
The first solo CD of the very interesting Moscow composer
Anatoliy Pereslegin "Download the God" - 2000 (ELCD 019),
and, finally, the sixth volume of our CD-compilation from the series
"Electroshock Presents: Electroacoustic Music Vol. VI" - 2000 (ELCD 020).
Also my plans for the next year include the production of my co-project with the famous American painter Laurence Gartel, with a tour around Europe and the USA. He is making an exhibition of his paintings, I am writing music for his six new paintings. Then, he is making the CD-cover, and I am releasing it on "Electroshock".
Then, as I have said before, the release of our second CDs with the co-projects with Peter Frohmader and Phillip B. Klingler.
The release of the co-project with Christopher de Laurenti.
The release of the fourth Edward Artemiev's project.
The release of the seventh volume from our series "Electroshock Presents: Electroacoustic Music".
I hope that I won't forget to release my seventh solo CD.