FRESH production

Igor Stetsyuk`s moovie music

Igor Stetsiuk is a famous composer, wonderful musician, brilliant arranger, pianist, bandleader, and author of music to nearly forty films, professor of P. Chaikovskyi National Music Academy of Ukraine, Honored Art Worker of Ukraine.

Creative output of Igor Stetsiuk includes work with directors like Mikhail Belikov, Boris Nebiyeridze, Les Sanin, Stepan Koval, Viktor Prikhodko, Zaza Buadze. Mr. Stetsiuk also cooperated with the following foreign representatives of cinema art: Valerii Todorovskii, Artur Brauner, Mario Cottone – the master of Italian film production school.

This interview has been given by the musician at the Department of the National Music Academy of Ukraine, where he teaches his own author course of modern composing technologies «Electronic Sound Synthesis» to young Ukrainian composers and musicologists.

– Is it true that as a child you used to see the same movie in cinemas over and over again just to hear the music?

I.S.: Yes, it is true. In early 70-ies of the past century Tarkovskiy’s Solaris was released. I was stunned by the film. I remember walking around for several weeks, all out of head, reflecting, re-creating many details in my mind – so bright and so memorable … My head was filled with Bach’s choral prelude changed by Eduard Artemiev – composer whose name at that time was unknown to me. I was so impressed by electronic textures emerging at the moments of the highest emotional tension that I was literally taken by electronic sound which provoked a feeling near to an air pit in my soul. I was determined to collect all the available electronic sound records and I started going to every movie with the music by Eduard Artemiev, sometimes saw one for many times…

In a way this determined my destiny. It was then when I realized that, firstly, I wanted to compose music for films, and, secondly, that I had to see this Marcian spaceship wreckage – electronic sound synthesizer! And also I wanted to meet Eduard Artemiev.

Everything a dreamed of came true. In middle 80-ies I was invited for the recording of Artemiev’s music – as performing musician. By that time I had a certain experience in composing and had a fairly good synthesizer. As I showed some of my works to Artemiev my heart was racing and pounding. He was very surprised to discover that someone else was interested in serious synthesis… He behaved naturally and friendly despite our difference in age and experience. He asked not to call him Eduard Nikolayevich, but Liosha – like all his friend called him.

This acquaintance was the beginning of a long warm personal relationship. And not just them … Artemiev gave the first impulse, helped me into the movies by recommending me to directors he knew. Since then I have composed music to abut forty films produced in Ukraine, Russia, France, Italy, Germany, USA …

– Which of your works do you consider your favorite and therefore the best one? What is the pride of your film music?

I.S.: The answer will not even take thinking – the best one is the last one … And this is probably true for many artists. My last composition was made for the Fresh Production film making company: I composed music for the film «The Sunwheel». This is a film of an extraordinary genre that is hard to determine. Drama – and at the same time not so much. Melodrama? Possibly. Tragedy? There are definitely some tragic notes … But mostly this is a modern fairytale. Harsh, very emotional, sacral I would say, but yet a fairytale.

The whole story with this film had also a very extraordinary development. When I saw the completed film material it impressed me with its novelty and revealed emotionality. But the deadlines requested were so tough that they seemed completely unreal … The producers took an unprecedented step and prolonged music production. There was a lot of it – a lot! – Practically just as much runtime as the video itself, and even more! Yes, I even had to delete some passages – for there was sometimes even too much of it. You see, I was taken of my feet.

I will try to do without the professional slang and describe everything in plain words. The film music contains two emotional spheres – two orchestra palettes, two image circles. Electronic sound is on one hand – music near to the man-made sounds. I should stress: this is the sound not imitating symphony orchestra instruments. This is a sphere representing quite certain emotions, the harbor of the dark, unconscious that presses us and sometimes is manifested with the hardest and most negative consequences, sometimes even illnesses. This is what happens to the lead at the beginning of the film. (I can’t help telling that in the very middle of composing this musical material I had a fire at my apartment! A real one! The blaze was coming on so fast that calling 01 – what we are taught to do in such cases – would take too much time and my whole apartment would simply burn. I had to get the fire under by myself and I will remember it for the rest of my life with scars of my palms reminding me of that …).

The other image sphere is an opposite in all its expressions. It is light and lyrical, it is dramatic – it is life itself … love itself …

It tells about how love transforms life. Such an image circle may be expressed only by live orchestra. The beginning of the film is filled with much of electronic noise-music, but the further it gets the clearer it becomes that this is the topic that evolves out of a tiny embryo. It is very concealed and fragile, it is not even a melody at the beginning of the film … Only hints, rustling accords … But the further it gets the vaster, strung-up and full-flowing it becomes. Passion takes over the leading hero. An almost accidental fellow traveler saves her not only from physical death, but also from spiritual catastrophe … Love comes to the lead hero, it becomes the sense of her being. Anyway, this is how I see it. But the best thing about such «multi-layer» works is that every viewer will find something of his own: for someone it will be the story of painful road to motherhood, for someone else – an eternal struggle of material and divine nature of our world, and someone will simply follow the intrigue with interest …

– Working with the Fresh Production company, what can you say about the team and company in whole?

I.S.: Every time I am going to Fresh Production I catch myself smiling. To put it simply – they are professionals. And in detail … I have known Sasha Kurii, the chief sound producer, for the longest time – since the times we were students. I have also known Oleg Scherbina for a while. I met Julia Cherniavskaya in about 2006 when we were working at the film Money for the Daughter. And I also graded a state specialty exam for Boris Peter, one of the soundman, when I was the head of the State Committee at the Theater Institute … Talking about this company I must say there are two key points I cannot separate. Here is the first one. The Fresh Production team consists of very creative and emotional people, they have their own opinion and know clearly what they want … And in case they do not clearly understand what they want they say it directly: «We do not know» – and this is a very honest constructive approach. In other words, they trust their colleagues, professionals … There were several situations when one expected me to make a decision that seemed the most obvious for an episode, but I offered an alternative – of course, motivating my decision, showing the melody accompanying the picture and explaining why it should be done this way. And I should do justice – my offers were often accepted which happens quite rarely in film production. (Unfortunately this production – which becomes rather a rule than an exception in our «market» film world – involves rare «subjective» precedents, not so many authors’ decisions, film production is a bit about «cooking»). Therefore I admire the fact that the company manages to balance on a thin edge between creating a highly artistic authors’ product – on one hand, and nevertheless to stay on the market with head held up high – on the other one!

The other key item – is purely human hospitality, the atmosphere present on every level of communication in the studios and offices of the company. Both technical worker and general producer will always meet my wishes … People are ready to spend their own time to help you even if your request has nothing to do with production … I have noticed many times that the following happens – during hot discussions, in everyday talk, for example with Oleg, Julia, Dima Krivoruchko, or in a simple conversation which doesn’t seem to impact the composing process in anyway … I do not know how it happens, maybe it’s the aura, the atmosphere … — but I start hearing melodies! I walk out of the office after brainstorming and make several steps along the embankment (I almost never go home right away). The place is really nice and inspiring, I would say (Yes! The Fresh Production company is located in the very right place … I think it actually suits them! … ) … And I walk along the embankment and think, and I hear music playing in my head … And this will seem unbelievable: in 90% it matches the image exactly! You know, I have never put aside or radically changed anything that emerged in the result of communication. And if the folks do not mind I would call it a certain kind of the primary creative impulse coming from them which is near to what is called co-authorship in music.

– What method do you use while teaching students?

I.S.: In fact, there is no such discipline as «film music composition» in higher educational institutions neither in our country, nor, as far as I know, in our closest neighboring countries – Russia (Moscow or Saint Petersburg) or Belarus (Minsk). It simply does not exist! But it does in other countries. There are special faculties for film making where students are taught to do things like that. That’s why what I do in this connection should be called sporadic efforts of an enthusiast used in the context of other teaching courses. So far the only teaching class which may be fully dedicated to this very discipline is workshop that I am invited to conduct in different educational institutions of the country. This is when I can show what I am capable of. But I never learned this from anyone … In general there is no soviet or post-soviet composer who was taught specifically to compose for films … I don’t know, maybe there is something especially valuable about this fact … You develop your own original methods and techniques (in army it is called «battle reconnaissance»).

I have always dreamed to work in film making and everything I compose is applied in my mind to a situation, mise-en-scene. What methods do I use? I can give you an example: I take an image – this may be several arranged roof panorama images. I play music passage … for example light, playful, positive music, and I say that we are watching a family comedy. The audience responds with a characteristic animation, everyone starts smiling. Then I say: wait, we are going to watch a detective – and I play the correspondent «intense» music with a sharp pizzicato, with bursts of xylophone, unexpected pauses – and we are having a real detective. Then I say that we are watching a love story and I play lyrical music, a typical love theme – the audience is quiet, everyone is tuned into the love film. I can allow myself a seemingly complete profanation: I say that the tempo-rhythm of camera movement depends on music. The tempo of the primary roof panorama is moderate but I play an expressively dynamic music with some unexpected orchestra bursts, with drum explosions … I say: let’s see how the action would look like. And something unbelievable, impossible happens! The tempo-rhythm of the camera actually starts changing and seems much more dynamic, and the frame sequence and the whole story become more saturated and anxious.

– What do you read?

I.S.: Endless instructions to programs and plug-ins, which I never finish as new are being issued … Just kidding! I love classic. To me Vladimir Nabokov is number one in the list. His prose is so self-sufficient in its literary advantages that it does not surprise me at all that this man did not know much about music and in fact hated it.

– What do you think is the prospect of Ukrainian cinema?

I.S.: In modern world cinema is a commercially successful production, therefore, of course, as the country welfare will grow the cinema will grow with it. Maybe our cinema will follow the path of many companies and there will be more joint production than purely Ukrainian. I do not think that this is bad. Moreover – there were not so many Ukrainian films even in the soviet times. Russian actors were invited, just like Ukrainian actors were invited to Moscow, and not only Ukrainian, and not only actors … Composers were invited as well – people from Baltic, Moscow, Moldova worked at Kiev Cinema Studio. We can even call it a sort of tradition.

– And what is the prospect of the genre of music for films?

I.S.: I do not want to sound shocking, but film music may remain the principle carrier of the symphonism created in the XXI century. Symphonic film music contains the entire palette of expression methods of the past – all the best there is. Why do I think this will happen? Because today symphonic music is probably emotionally the strongest and deepest carrier of music culture. Leading directors who are experts in these issues will want to have symphonic music in films. This music suits any genre, any styles in any consequence – all that humanity accumulated in many years. And it will be perceived very easily by an unprepared audience. In the film context the audience will enjoy the music that it would unfortunately never go to hear in a philharmonic.

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