Edward Artemiev: Review:  

(Electroshock Records 1998, ELCD 008)
24 tracks. Total time - 72:02


While the musical interpretations of Homer's engaging tale are too numerous to count, "The Odyssey" in this case is the soundtrack to a motion picture directed by Andrei Konchalovsky, starring Armand Assante, Christopher Lee, Bernadette Peters, Vanessa Williams, Eric Roberts and others. Artemiev is a respected composer in Russia, working in film and in experimental and electro-acoustic fields. If his name sounds familiar to "Expose" readers, it's probably because we've regularly reviewed the releases of his son, Artemiy. This film score captures all the emotion and grandeur of this epic tale of ancient Greece, utilizing the power of a full orchestra and all the dynamic range therein. The music is strong enough to stand on it's own, although the story it attempts to convey will not be obvious to the listener, which in a sense allows a wider degree of interpretation. The overall composition consists of two dozen segments that may as well be fifty or sixty - things are constantly changing and unfolding throughout, as good film music should. Artemiev skillfully brings to bear a multitude of classical, experimental, ancient folk and minimalist ideals that bring the drama and suspense of this timeless tale to life. Fans of classical and film music will find much here to enjoy.

Peter Thelen ("Expose")

And now for something completely different... I have not been a huge fan of much film music but this release by one of Russia's finest composers actually displays a great understanding of what makes a great motion picture, along with it's visual appeal tick. Based on that almighty classic Homers Odyssey, Edward's scoring for such a ambitious project ranks with that other dab hand at film work Vangelis. The music being played by mainly orchestra, at least it appears so (you can never be totally sure these days). Some stand out tracks have to be "Temple of Dead", with it's brooding undercurrent of foreboding and a female vocal to give it the full atmosphere. The track "Calypso" features a Middle Eastern sounding vocal that could be the "single" of the album such is it's appeal. Naturally some of the music presented does not suite being listened to on it's own you really have to see the film to make sense of it all, probably why I am not to keen on film music. The finale of the album perhaps is its strongest composition and is this recordings "Chariots of Fire" and indeed does remind me of the Greek maestros work, if only this track lasted a few minutes longer, it would have been a cracker, inspiring and touching. I must say that after listening to this album I would definetley go and see the full spectacle for myself, I was always partial for the odd monster in a film and those Greek myths held a certain fascination.

Mark Jenkins ("Sequences")

I never knew there was a new TV-film about "The Odyssey", yet the latest "Electroshock" release seems the definitive proof of its existence. It's quite an international movie as well, judging by the list of actors: Annand Assante, Greta Scacchi, Geraldine Chaplin, Jeroen Krabbe, Christopher Lee, Irene Papas, Bernadette Peters, Eric Roberts, Isabella Rossellini and Vanessa Williams. The film itself is a Russian project intended for television and was funded with American capital. Is this "Homeros, the Soap" (the blind & the bootijul?. L.)? I don't think so (and I can only guess, never having seen the actual film) because too many names of quality and distinction are attached to this project: Rogers Hall, Fred Fuchs, Francis Ford Coppola and Robert Halmi, for instance. "The Odyssey" was directed by Andrei Konchalovsky and filmed on the historical sites depicted in Homeros' tales with Sergei Kozlov as director of photography. Edward Artemiev got the job of creating the soundtrack to this collection of ancient tales. He composed all music and conducted the London Philharmonic Orchestra to record the 24 fragments (72') that accompany the images. Since this soundtrack was a commission, Artemiev made a 'classical' soundtrack job of it and kept his own avant-garde/electroacoustic experiments pretty well under control. Most music on "The Odyssey" is of the type you might expect with monumental historical : dramas, and the different musical fragments form the atmospheric I framework for majestic scenes of battle, great entrances, solemn rituals, impressive scenery, etc., meaning classical orchestral music with lots of' modern touches, occasionally mixed with fragments of female vocalisation or ethnic instrumentation. Conclusion: recommended classical soundtrack that confirms the compository skills of one of Russia's more unconventional music masters. Fascinating stuff.

Marc Mushroom ("Crohinga Well")

Artemiy's father, Edward Artemiev, has been a noted electronic music composer in Russia since the 1960's. "The Odyssey" is the soundtrack to the American TV movie based on Homer's Odyssey. The music is well done and, having seen the film, the imagery it conjured up totally focused my mind on the movie. Artemiev's music is highly emotional and perfect for the continual changes in action and scenary that this story presents, and I can easily see how he's been successful getting hired for soundtrack work.

Jerry Kranitz ("Aural Innovations")

This is the music from the soundtrack to a movie based on Homer's Odyssey, released a few years ago but I can't recall seeing it on any listing, so it was probably for cable only. The music, written and conducted by Artemiy Artemiev's father, Edward, and performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra is lively stuff, both reflective and action orientated, and with a layer of electronics weaving in and out of the score for effect. The opening track Introduction is an ear-opener, a full on percussion workout that slowly shifts into some Greek stylings while the LPO strings set up the ambience. There's some nice Mediterranean ambience on "The Ship Departs", enough that you visualise the scene without seeing it. Then it's onto another twenty-two tracks of music covering all sorts of moods and mind pictures dealing with the movie's action. Unlike many soundtracks this is one where you don't need to see the movie to enjoy the music, it stands on its own and is well worth seeking out.

John Peters ("The Borderland")

We kick off this recent batch with "The Odyssey". The album's an original soundtrack, written by none other than Edward Artemiev, and features some incredibly well realised music. 24 tracks make up the album, and there's some intensely stirring music on here. At times you're reminded of the journeys of Sinbad as a mix of Eastern and Western themes run through the pieces. Take, so instance, "Seagull", the 7th track. Even before I knew what it was called, I was visualising a boat on a calm sea with cliffs overlooking the scene-incredibly 'real'. Tracks such as "Sirens", "Storm", "Climbing To Circe's Palace", and "Odysseus Drifts" are so visual you are there. A full orchestral score enhances the visual aspects of the tracks. Whilst this album isn't what would normally fit into the usual "Electroshock" expectations, it does, however, open up another avenue.

Dave W. Hughes ("Modern Dance")

"The Odyssey" is the soundtrack for a movie directed by Andrei Konchalovski, based, obviously, on Homer's Odyssey. The develop of the work reflects properly the most important episodes of this story, tending to stress with its orchestration those moments which have made this poem immortal, through effective sound ambiences and identification.The music is mostly "classical", seemingly tied to the Romantic tradition of the late XIX century, and often even "enslaved" to the descriptive needs of the movie music, which in some cases exaggerates some passages, instead of emphasising them. There are also some electronic Interventions, aiming to give some "color" In some moments, and only in a couple of tracks music is actually played by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, as reported in the cover notes. Artemiev's work is anyway really appreciable, for the actual quality of his music and his arrangements, and because his music is enjoyable even without the support of the images which it refers to.

Fa ("D. L. K. The Hell Key")

The original soundtrack to the fantasy film "The Odyssey", composed and conducted by Edward Artemiev, the father of Artemiy. The music is performed by none other than the London Philharmonic Orchestra. As you can imagine, the music is adorned with dramatic percussive passages and lush string arrangements.

Robert Maycock ("Lockjaw")

The two features that make a good film soundtrack composer are a personal style and the flexibility to adapt. Therefore it seems unfair to compare Edward Artemiev's score for the Hollywood-financed television production "The Odyssey" and his classic music for Andrei Tarkovsky's science-fiction films of the 1970s. All Edward Artemiev did was adapt to the needs of the production, starting with the setting. The action of Andrei Konchalovski's film (following Homer's "The Odyssey") takes place in Greece, so the composer borrowed bouzouki melodies and included a couple of Greek folk-style singing episodes. Each piece has been tailored to suit the action of a specific scene, including orchestral cues, percussive outbursts, and horn section build-ups. The London Philarmonic Orchestra goes through the motions and in the end one gets the impression that the music stands closer to that of John Williams than Artemiev's more personal works. Too incidental and lacking strong melodies one could want to come back to, the pieces feel somewhat incomplete without the images they are meant to support. Unlike the soundtracks to "Stalker" and "Solaris", "The Odyssey" will not make history. Of appeal only to those who want to reminisce about the movie.

Francois Couture ("All-Music Guide")

Francis Ford Coppola produced this extraordinary adaptation for television of "The Odyssey". A nearly impossible task considering the scale of the epic, the story complexity, the superhuman qualities of the characters - which is not surprising, some of them being gods - without forgetting a rich catalogue of monsters, Cyclops or witches. Cinema is in its essence a naturalistic art and nothing can be less realistic than mythology or epic poetry. Most of the times attempts to adapt great myths for the screen fall miserably flat or become these masterpieces of kitsch we all enjoy to watch from time to time.

Thanks to the development of computerized special FX Konchalovsky managed to give credibility to this fantasy world where gods freely mix with human beings. But he was careful to put the emphasis on the psychological side of the story (with the help of a magnificent cast). We all know the plot: Odysseus, the conqueror of Troy, thought because of his pride (hubris) he was the equal of the gods and therefore the master of his fate. Only after being humbled and having lost everything he managed to return home where he could regain his kingdom because of Peneope's love.

The music composed by Edward Artemiev makes a formidable contribution to the film. The main difficulty was to create a sound world adapted to the scope of the story, its twists and turns, and express the remoteness of the time and place. For the composer it must have been a real challenge. One possibility was to do as Pasolini did for "Medea" where the soundtrack is made of genuine ethnic music. It gives a wonderful and strange flavour to the film. But film music has to be able to communicate to the spectators the emotions of the characters. After all "The Odyssey" is not an experimental film or an art house film as "Medea", but a TV mini series made for a very large audience. Underscore music, e.g. film music, has a long tradition. Each genre like, for example, western, comedy, thriller relies on very well defined musical codes. Arguably it was Mikos Rosza who established the rules and conventions of the antique/peplum musical genre in the biblical epic "Quo Vadis?". "As the music for "Quo Vadis?" was intended for dramatic use and as entertainment for the lay public," he said "one has to avoid the pitfall of producing only musicological oddities instead of music with a universal, emotional appeal. For the modern ear, instrumental music in unison has very little emotional appeal." (quoted by Roy M. Prendergast, in "Film Music a Neglected Art". New York; Norton, 1992).

Now although the public is more familiar with non western musical traditions, where the music is monodic, this statement somehow remains true. For example, in "The Odyssey", when Edward Artemiev had to translate into music the feelings of upheaval or elation of the main characters or to stress the emotional impact of a scene as in "Return to Ithaca" or "Odysseus drifts", he resorted to romantic symphonic music which still is best suited to describe these moods and 'moves' the public. But today of course film music composers can use a richer language than in the fifties. The audience is used to many different styles of music.

For "The Odyssey" Edward Artemiev pulls all the stops to create an extremely colorful, original sound palette to evoke the Mediterranean/Greek world. He introduces other instruments and timbres, quite unusual in a classical orchestral context, like Pan flutes, bouzouki or synthesizers . And this is where he is at his best. He is more daring in his orchestrations than Ennio Morricone or Jerry Goldsmith. Not a surprising fact: in the sixties, Edward Artemiev was a pioneer of electronic music. In Moscow, he composed music for the ANS, the first Russian synthesizer invented in the forties by Evgeniy Murzin, alongside composers like Alfred Schnittke and Sofia Gubaidulina. But also he is able to draw on every genre: tribal percussive music - "Introduction" "Escape from Calypso", jazz violin flourishes, "introduction", rock electric guitar "The Ship Departs", progressive rock "Trojan Battlefield", XX-th century orchestral music in the ferocious and flamboyant "The Horse and Burning Troy" etc... All these elements are blended with a great virtuosity in a very imaginative way. The results sound very organic and natural.

Electronic and electroacoustic tracks "Cyclops", "Temple of Dead", "Sirens" are furiously dark but powerfully evocative. Maybe my favourites. But there is neither gloom nor depression nor even introspection; there is no room for it: Odysseus is a superhuman hero and stays always confident in his powers even when he goes through terrible trials. The music carries this heroic feeling well. Also the tribulations of the hero are reflected in the diverse variations of the Odysseus theme (leitmotiv).

All in all an extremely accomplished score for a brilliant adaptation of "The Odyssey". We hope television could give us treats like that a bit more often!

Daniel Birry ("Film Music")

This is the official soundtrack to Andrei Konchalovsky's TV production, "The Odyssey" released in 1998 by "Electroshock Records" company. A great film music, similar to that written by Vangelis. The tracks are mostly light and orchestral except for some intense workouts that were used to accompany action scenes. Some sparse electronics are used to great effect on some tracks. Several pieces like "Calypso" are simply unforgettable in their elegant glory, featuring melody so strong and pleasant - it will stick in your head for ages. Recommended for fans of orchestral music, film soundtracks, and for those who simply like great professional work done by someone with a real talent and passion for music.

Artemi Pugachov ("Encyclopedia of Electronic Music")


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