The ANS Synthesiser Pt 3: Film Soundtracks
November 28, 2007
I came across this interview of Edward Artmiev by Anneliese Varaldiev from the Electroshock site and thought I’d include it in the ANS post…
“A . V .: What was the first piece of electronic equipment you used?
E . A .: It was in 1960, just after I graduated from the Moscow Conservatory. I met a man named Yevgeny Murzin, who had created one of the world’s first synthesizers. It was called the “ANS“, which are the initials of the great Russian composer Alexander Nikolayevich Scriabin. Murzin had completed this invention in 1955. Utilizing a series of optical generators, it produced a unique photo-electric system of synthesis, and even today, there is nothing comparable to it. I wrote my first composition specifically for this instrument in 1961.
A . V .: Did you ever study or compose for the Theremin?
E . A .: I was friends with Leon Theremin-1 spent a lot of time with him, in fact- but I never actually used the synthesizer he invented (called the “Thereminovox” in Russia) in my own work, because my introduction to electronic music was through the ANS synthesizer, and for me everything else paled in comparison.
A . V .: When did you decide to try using a synthesizer to create music for film?
E . A .: I composed my first film score in 1961, using the ANS synthesizer. It was a feature called “Meeting the Dream “, and I was asked to create aural settings for several of the film’s fantasy sequences-a job which today would be known as sound design. The first important cinematic work for which I used the synthesizer, however, was “Solaris “, almost ten years later. And although we also used an orchestra in that score, it too basically functioned as one gigantic synthesizer. Then, in the mixing, we combined the sounds of these two different elements-acoustic and electronic-to achieve a seamless musical texture.
A . V .: I know that you took on the role of sound designer in other films–a number of years, in fact, before this term was officially coined…
E . A .: Tarkovsky often said to me that, for him, it was more important for the composer to create an overall conceptual idea for all the sound used in a film, rather than to simply write themes or melodies that accompany the images. In “The Mirror “, for example, I had to create orchestral textures which were added to the natural, non-musical elements of the soundtrack, in order to give them a certain spiritual dimension that he wanted. The orchestra’s purpose here was to play the role of “living water” (a term in Russian folklore having to do with spiritual regeneration and renewal), m the entire picture there is only one actual music cue, in the usual sense of that term and even then I used variations on only a single chord-an E-minor chord, with constantly changing instrumentation-and this sequence is ten minutes long!
A . V .: I think your score for “Stalker ” is a perfect illustration of what you spoke about earlier–the idea that something completely new and unique can come about when the parallel lines of acoustic and electronic sound finally connect. Not just merge or collide, but truly connect…
E . A .: There were actually two versions of the score for “Stalker “. The first one was done with an orchestra alone-no synthesizer-but Tarkovsky rejected it, which surprised me, because he loved the idea of live music-making. The second version, which he accepted, was basically created on the Synthi-100 synthesizer, along with solo acoustic instruments that were extensively manipulated using various sound processors. At that time, Tarkovsky was very interested in Zen Buddhism, and wanted the music to reflect certain contemplative elements that are part of Eastern religion and philosophy. To achieve this quality, I borrowed from the Indian classical tradition of using a single basic tonality, whose rhythmic patterns are slowly and constantly changing, creating a background over which the melody of a solo instrument can soar.”