THE ELECTRONIC MUSIC
IN EASTER EUROPE
By: Jorge Munnshe
It is impossible to attempt to compress the musical universe enclosed behind the iron curtain by decades in a single mini-series. A basic approach to the reality of the musical avantgardein each one of the multiple, rich cultures of this great unknown which is Eastern Europe, nowadays in full development, would need the making of a book. Therefore, this mini-series will only be a brief vision, perforce incomplete, of these innovative styles sustained on cultures maybe as ancient or even more so than those in the rest of Europe.
Edward Artemiev is a colossus. He has been doing electronic music for over 30 years. A mixture of a hippie, intellectual, and artist, he has drunk from the fountains of scholarly classical music and the most avant-garde Rock. His music has progressed from the polarity of both trends up to a fusion of world music within the bosom of electronics, exploring streams that range from cosmic music to unclassifiable sonic experiences. He is the author of about a hundred and fifty TV and movie soundtracks. He composed the cantata of the Olympic Games in Moscow in 1980, for a symphonic orchestra, choirs, a Rock band and synthesizer; a very unorthodox daring for those times and country. In 1989 he composed a work for the Bicentennial of the French Revolution, commissioned by the organisers of the Festival of Electronic Music in Bourges. Some of his best known works are: "The Seven Gates into the World of Satori", "Mood-Pictures", "The Warmth of the Earth", "Peregrini", and of course his movie soundtracks for the films of Andrei Tarkovski (on whose memorial he composed a special theme), as well as those of Andrei Konchalovski and Nikita Mikhalkov. He alternates his studio work periods with frequent trips to the international festivals where he is invited as a guest artist. During the Perestroyka he received some political criticism, mainly from other musicians, due to the fact that any artist receiving a certain official recognition in the Communist Era was regarded as a suspect of sympathising with this regime, a fact that after the fall of communism was taken advantage of on the part of envious, unscrupulous people who hated the fact that he was the most prestigious electronic musician in his country, as well as one of the earliest pioneers in the world. These criticisms have no sense at all, since Edward Artemiev has received honors in several countries which cannot be considered communist in the least, as for instance the United States, and he has also been appointed for a variety of important posts, as for example one in the International Confederation of Electroacoustic Music, of the UNESCO. On the other hand, as soon as the political situation in Russia made it possible for the full freedom of movement of its citizens, Artemiev was one of the first to leave, settling in California, where he began to compose soundtracks for the movie industry in Hollywood. Nowadays he continues to have a house in Moscow, yet he spends much of his time abroad.
Artemiy Artemiev, the son of Edward Artemiev, is another composer with a noteworthy work in the field of electronic music. Born in 1966, his activities are tightly related to the cinema industry, television and theatre. Since 1989, he has composed the music for over 60 Russian productions (television, theatre, radio...). He began his career as a keyboardist for several Moscow rock bands. In 1987 he started to experiment with sound as well as the possibilities offered by synthesizers, samplers and computers. In 1996 he began to produce the television programme "Electroshock", devoted to electronic music, electroacoustics, experimental and avantgarde. In 1997 he became a member of the Russian Association of Electroacoustic Music. Also in 1997, together with his friend the producer and film director Vladimir Krupnitskiy, he founded the label Electroshock Records. He was one of the participants in the 1997 edition of the Electroacoustic Music Festival in Bourges, held from May 30 to June 8 in France.
Anton Batagov combines his activity as a composer with that of a piano performer. In the latter capacity, the one that has made him most popular indeed, his concerts have tended towards avantgarde music near to New Age or Minimalist styles. He has been one of the earliest Russian pianist to divulge the works of Philip Glass, Steve Reich and Morton Feldmann in his country.
Boris DeArt is a composer from Moscow with a background of a scholarly classical education as well as Jazz, which he is currently complementing with his studies as a sound engineer. He is very well regarded. Listening to his enigmatic music, the first thing the listener becomes aware of is the complete cultural isolation the Eastern European artists used to be educated in. Their music has nothing similar at all to what has been going on in the Western countries. It looks as if a different evolution had taken place starting from the orchestral music of the 1930s. Nevertheless, he uses the same Japanese synthesizers available to any Western musician. Guitarist Oleg Ivanin sometimes colaborates with him.
Another Moscow-based musician is Mijail Chekalin, colloquially described by his colleagues as "the man who always keeps borrowing for a night the synthesizers belonging to others". Chekalin develops his main musical activity in setting music to exhibitions of avantgarde painters, yet he has also released some albums.
Uri Kassyanik is a very peculiar artist, quite difficult to classify. Although most of his work belongs to the field of New Music and that of Electroacoustics, he has also explored such styles as Jazz, Cosmic Music, and numerous experimental paths. The most remarkable trait in the artistic approach utilized by Kassyanik in his musical activity is the great importance he attaches to improvisation. There are many artists who improvise and release their improvisations more or less redone. However, with respect to Kassyanik, this trait reaches an unprecedented degree. He conceives his musical production as an almost exclusively improvising exercise, up to a point that he defends the idea that, at least as far as he is concerned, improvisation surpasses the possibilities of the pieces elaborated in the traditional method of composition. Kassyanik even utilizes the definition of "improphonies" to differentiate his improvised works from conventional symphonies.
Vladimir Martinov has combined the most ancient with the most modern, in a career initiated in the late 1960s. Having studied the piano and composition at the conservatory of Moscow, he soon placed himself in the sphere of musical avantgarde, participating in festivals and similar events. Interested in the ethnic musics, he travelled a lot so as to contact firsthand the folklores from various regions. In 1973 he began to work in electronic music. Two years later he led the rock band Outpost, and at the same time he released a series of European polyphonic music series of the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries, later followed by other works of reconstruction or re-creation, such as his "Missa Russica" (1992) based on the Russian musical liturgy of a thousand years ago.
Igor Len was the keyboardist of the band Nikolay Kopernik, and collaborated with the orchestral-Rock macroconcerts by Edward Artemiev. In the early 1990s he became known at a more international level thanks to his first solo album, devoted to Russian poet Arseniy Tarkovski and to his son Andrei (the well known movie maker). The music by Igor Len, based on the guitar and synthesizers, can be classified as New Age, with a touch of Russian Vangelis on a mystic plane.
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