Edward Artemiev is a composer whose
name for many people is associated with
electronic music. With unusual soundings,
easily discernible in the present-day sound
environment by their abundance of nuances
and unaccountable acoustic comfort. With
a peculiar world of imagery, sense of space
so striking for the mind.
A wide variety of views on Artemiev's music
is pronounced, dealing with its different
aspects such as technical - "it's impossible to
understand the way it's done", esthetical - "it's
infinitely beautiful", and spiritual sides - "an
encounter with the truth".
Artemiev accomplished his academic musical education at the Moscow
Conservatoire in Yuri Shaporin's class of composition. His meeting with
engineer Eugene Murzin - one of the first in the world to invent a
synthesiser - sealed his fate: "Incredible prospects for creativity were
opened up by electronic music. That was a real "terra incognita".
omposers had never set foot on it in their practical activities". It happened
in 1960. And in 1968 the Italian press reported after Moscow is the venue of
one of the leading centres of electronic avant-garde" ("La Stampa", June
Nowadays Artemiev is an acknowledged leader of Russian electronic
music. Many of his experiments and discoveries have been realised in the
sphere of electronic synthesis, where he is a researcher of authority and a
highly poetical master.
The cultural trends of his time have been originally interpreted in the
composer's creative evolution, with different facets of his individuality
revealed in an alternation of stylistic orientations.
His compositions written in the 60s-the early 70s belong to the aesthetics
of avant-garde. Thank to electronics, which enabled 'to enter a qualitatively
different acoustical world, sound colour and timbre became the field where
a search for new musical laws and relationship could be undertaken.
"Sound is a palette with most subtle and lavish nuances of colours.
Electronics lends some new qualities to it: peculiar acoustical sounding,
unlimited duration, abundance of timbres". It is in electronics that Artemiev
finds what most appeals to his gift. For him the synthesiser is a possibility to
compose" sound, timbre, to sculpt it, to lend form, "colour", energy, duration.
A most fascinating task for the musician with a creator's imagination, a
colourist's talent and an inventor's intuition!
His findings in the sphere of colouring have expanded the limits of timbre
perception. In the composition "Mosaic" (1967) "sonors" - timbres
become independent means to express the motion of sounds in space.
"Mosaic" won recognition at the festivals in Florence, Venice, Cologne,
"The possibility of penetrating into the microcosm of timbre, of searching
in the field of controlled-spaces creation" has been realised by Artemiev
in his composition "Twelve Glimpses on the World of Sound" (1969).
Here the unique technical conception - the creation of a series of acoustic
"variations on one timbre" - symbolises the idea of the unity of micro- and
macrocosm. Artemiev compares "the space of timbre" with perspective:
"Such variations can be continued for as much time as one would like, for
the given amount of overtones (as the one present in the timbre of
temirkomuz - M.K.) can be combined indefinitely". "Mosaic" and
"Twelve Glimpses" were included into LP record "Musical Offerings"
(1990) & also were published on CD "Electroshock Presents:
Electroacoustic Music. Vol. IV. Archive Tapes. Synthesiser ANS 1964-
971"on "Electroshock Records" label in 1999.
Kindred to the aesthetics of avant-garde is his incidental music for films of
Andrei Tarkovsky. The unordinary tasks set by the director required
similar creative efforts on the part of the composer. Writing the music to
"Solaris", "The Mirror", "Stalker" resulted in serious experiments in
electronics and the specific sphere of audio-video contact.
From the mid-70s Artemiev's style underwent a change in the direction of
"new simplicity". The dialogue between the academic tradition and
rock-aesthetics tended to meet other, "more global tasks: to assimilate
the styles, genres . Resonant with those tasks was also his desire to try his
hand at an openly emotional, intuitive self-expression. "Polychromaticism
of timbre" still preserved its significance for the composer, however, the
traditional elements of writing were more actively introduced, accompanied
with a new sense of melody, rhythm, harmony.
Those creative aspirations of his were embodied, though differently, in a
number of compositions. Declaratively, in his cantata "Ode to Herald of
Good" to the text of Pierre de Coubertin, written for the Olympic
Games in Moscow decided to take the road not of a synthesis, but of a
"symbiosis" of all expressive means at my disposal, and to write each
movement of the cantata in a special technique and in different genres,
with electronics' expressive possibilities as a unifving pivot"(the author's
annotation to the phonograph record of "Ode" ("Ritual").
In a variety of proportions and combinations the synthesis of "musics" was
realised in his quasi-symphonies "The Seven Gates into the World of
Satori" and "Peregrini", in the poems to Lithuanian texts "White
Dove", "Summer", "Vision", in the music for the films "Sibiriada",
"Fox Hunting", "The End of Eternity", "Moon Rainbow", in the
cantata "The Warmth of the Earth", in the opera "Crime and
Punishment" based on F. Dostoyevsky's novel.
There is a new quality perceptible in the works written in the late 80s: a
blending of the democratic aspirations inherited from the aesthetics of the
70s with the ideas of avant-garde, of the rational with the intuitive. Here
first mention should be made of his nostalgic cycle based on the music of
Tarkovsky's films "Solaris", "The Mirror", "Stalker" (1989).
An international response has been gained by another work of the
composer - "Three Glimpses on the Revolution" written for the
Bicentennial of the French Revolution and commissioned from the
organisers of the Electronic Music Festival in Bourges (1989). The review
in the Portuguese newspaper Diario de Lisboa" ran: "... the work "Three
Glimpses on the Revolution" by Russian composer Edward Artemiev
has become a real discovery: his powerful music built with great skill is
remarkable for outstanding accomplishment. This is a work of typically
Russian composer brought up in the traditions of Mussorgsky, Stravinsky,
Shostakovich… This is a music of great epical might and undoubted
expression" (from Jorge Peixinho's article "Synthesis" and "the French
Revolution", October 27th 1989).
A good deal of interesting music has been created by Artemiev for the
cinema. He is one of the most acknowledged masters of film music. Film
directors are hopeful of success if Artemiev is involved in the film. The
composer's name on the poster or advertising announcement is a lure attracting
cinema-goers. It is not a surprise that phonograph records containing his film
music, in particular, the disc "Mood-Pictures" with fragments from several of
his film scores & double CD "Music to Films of Nikita Mikhalkov" enjoy
such popularity. Abroad there is a growing interest in Artemiev's film
music. In France a record had been issued with his music to Andrei
Konchalovsky's serial "Sibiriada". A compact disc has been released in the
Netherlands containing his voluminous electronic cycle based on his music to
Andrei Tarkovsky's films and also including the composition "Ocean"
written in memory of the late film director (1989). This particular CD was re-
issued by "Electroshock Records" in 1999.
Over 140 "scores for sound" created by him for the cinema impress with a
diversity of themes, plots, genres and heterogeneity of artistic tasks, no
matter whether they are solved by means of electronics or symphony
orchestra. If necessary, the composer makes use of samplers, or acoustical
instruments, or orchestra.
In creative communion much depends upon Artemiev's individuality as a
composer. That was the way he collaborated with Nikita Mikhalkov when
working on all the films and the stage production of "An Unfinished
Piece for Mechanical Piano" at Teatro di Roma: "When I first heard his
music", recollected N. Mikhalkov, "the thing that most appealed to me
was its wonderful melodiousness,.. At the same time the composer has a
staggering sense of style".
"Artemiev has a wonderful sense of the screen", notes Vadim
Abdrashitov. "He never writes illustrative music. His music is a
counterpoint to the image, adding to and revealing the inner meaning of
the sequence. He can cope with any most sophisticated task. I'm sure that his
potentialities have not been fully realised so far". His music for the film
"Fox Hunting" has been included into the first cycle of "Mood-Pictures".
"You ask why I invited Artemiev to work at the film "Homer and Eddie",
reflected Andrei Konchalovsky. "Of course, first of all because he is a
gifted man and I feel easy with him". The collaboration, which originated in
the film "Sibiriada", in the opera "Crime and Punishment" (its stage
conception belonging to Konchalovsky), has been going on at the stage
of Theatre de l'Odeon in Paris in A. Chekhov's "Seagull", in the Hollywood
studios, in the films "Duet for One", where "Credo" from Artemiev's
electronic Requiem is sounding, and "Homer and Eddie" (1988).
Artemiev's music appealed to Andrei Tarkovsky with its audiovisuality,
spatiality, with his ability to conceive intricate associative turns, to create
generalised symbols-images. Artemiev contributed to three films of
Tarkovsky, as well as to the stage production of "Hamlet" undertaken by
Tarkovsky in Moscow in the 70s.
Feeling of ensemble is a valuable quality in a composer working in the
cinema. Artemiev is fond of and knows how to create ensemble. His
subtle understanding of the director's cinematographic language, manner
and style is both his experience and his special gift. "The sequence on the
screen has a miraculous effect on me. I'm always patiently waiting for
whatever will be shown me by the director, and then his style, language, his
imagery of thinking will evoke a response in me".
Following his path in the cinema, the composer encounters different
historical styles. The traditions of 19th-century dramatic-lyrical symphonies
may be discerned in this music for the film "Gobseck", while the lofty
spiritualness of baroque has been achieved in the "old-style" music for
Stradivari instruments ("A Visit to Minotaur"). A charmingly sensitive
interpretation in retro style has been found for the film "The Love Slave".
A European tune of the 15th century, arranged in the manner and sounding
typical of Dzen Buddhists meditations, signifies the sophisticated
interlacement of the cultures of the Orient and the West ("Stalker").
Usually it is the collaboration of the composer and the engineer that yields
serious achievements in electronic and computer music. As for Artemiev,
his amazing "technological versatility" makes it possible to combine them
in a single person. He is the author of the composition and a programmer and
also the man to find a technical realisation for his musical ideas. In addition, he
is a performing artist and a sound producer.
Long periods of reclusion at his studio where Artemiev creates his
compositions alternate with trips to electronic music festivals - to
Baltimore to attend "Res musica" International Electroacoustic
Music Festival, to Bourges to take part in "Synthese" Festival
International de Musique Experimentale de Bourges, to recording
companies or film studios, as well as to take part in the activities of the
International Confederation of Electroacoustic Music (ICEM),
UNESCO. Russian Association for Electroacoustic Music of which Edward
Artemiev is President is comprised as a national section into this International