Composer Anton Batagov: “the Apocalypse is still going to get you”

Premiere of new classical music forms — a rare phenomenon, especially if these forms of talking to a lover on some sharp and disturbing themes. So, in the two capitals are now the premiere of the famous composer and pianist Anton Batagova “Where we are not. Letters to the mother superior Seraphim” is a series of piano pieces based on the letters of Natalia Janson (1895-1988), abbess of the Novo-Diveevo monastery. “MK” talked to the composer about the history of the cycle of emigration, as well as the relationship of text to music.


So, your cycle is “Where we are not” written in the Wake of a trip to Novo-Diveevo monastery (USA). Tell me how was he born? Is it a continuation of your previous “Letters Rachmaninoff”?

— In a sense. But when I wrote a piano cycle “Selected letters of Sergei Rachmaninoff”, the letters as a historical document wasn’t there, it was fiction, and “Where we are not” another story. I went to Russian Orthodox Novo-Diveevo convent near new York city, and in this monastery there is a cemetery where are buried those who left Russia after the revolution of 1917. I immediately felt that on the basis of this impression get music. I wrote about this post in social networks and in comments I answered the girl I at the time did not know personally, Natalia Janson: “My great-grandmother was abbess of this monastery.” And then I thought it would be good if it is not just a cycle of piano pieces, but also a documentary, a true story that happened to someone of those who are buried there. I asked Natalia, not preserved letters to her grandmother. We began to chat with her and her father, Michael Janson – “Leningrad St. Petersburg” (as they call themselves), and so gradually, from letters, formed the plot of this musical composition. It turned out that my idea has found particular documentary shape. And now I’ve just got back from St. Petersburg, where I spent my performance…

— At the St. Petersburg concert came the descendants of the mother superior Seraphim?

— Yes, of course. And for me, and for them it is important event in the history of their family became part of the musical art. And in may I played world premiere of this series in the Perm Diaghilev festival. Judging by the reaction of the listeners there and in St. Petersburg, our project it turned out just fine. Let’s see what the reaction would be here in Moscow, at the House of music.

— Music speaks an international language? Or the public in America takes your works differently than in Russia?

— No more international and universal language than music. In America even before the official release date some of this album sounded in a popular radio program New Sounds. It is the most famous program about contemporary music that makes the same people every day for over 30 years. America consists of people from somewhere came and my album “Where we are not present” — a very clear theme. Now the world has changed in a sad way: a huge number of people have to leave their homes and somewhere to emigrate… not even just to emigrate – to escape. And they become refugees. And it is now a daily reality on our planet.

— You talked about the forced relocation of people, carefully avoiding the word “emigration”. What is it you do not like?

— This word has some shade which does not always reflect the meaning. There are people who have no other choice but to leave their country and settle somewhere else. And there are those (especially creative) who live simultaneously in several places, this is due to quite other phenomena. And it’s not an escape, but on the contrary, free movement towards something new. For me it is quite natural that some of the time, I live in America, and it’s just a personal decision to move light and temporary settlement in another country. What is associated with emigration is a huge complex of processes, when people lose something of their own, trying to adapt to the configuration of the country in which he moved. And they won’t be Americans or French, for example, but cease to be who they were. But in fact, every man is free to a much greater extent than it might seem. Even in some forced situation. And addictive to another place and life can be productive and sometimes not. It’s every man for himself decides for himself. Matter which way we turn our new opportunities. You can always discover something new, but don’t lose something valuable that we have. The world, the culture, the country cannot exist in isolation from everything else.

— How you consider, whether the composer to respond urgently to the challenges of modernity?

— It would be strange to live in an apocalyptic world and pretend that I’m not interested. To pretend it is possible, but the Apocalypse is still going to get you anywhere from him not going anywhere. If you are a creative and artificially cut off from everything, it will hurt you and your art. Unlikely to happen in the history of periods when all is well. The only question is how to respond to that. Unfortunately, most often the reaction to what is happening now, for example, in Russia, is a collective hysteria and it’s sad.

— Go back to your cycle anywhere, where we are not?

— Question: “And where we actually are?”. This applies not only to faraway places, but also bygone times. We complain that it was better, but our ancestors also complained that it was better to them.

Is good plays woody Allen in the movie “Midnight in Paris”.

— Yes, there is such an endless process. But we must remember that we are not just born in some place at some time.

— You talked about documentary in text-based musical composition. Know that you have worked with texts oberiutov, futurists, shifted to the music Khlebnikov and Kharms… What is the role of the text in the composition? I always thought that the world literaturotsentrichna, don’t you?

— I don’t. For me, music begins where words end. Although the words are enormous. Khlebnikov, for example, my favorite poet, were actually doing with words what normally words can not. I mean, sometimes he composed are actually mantras. He created his own language, and that language affects us magically. With regard to the interaction of words and music, it can be quite different. Here in my essay “Where we have” there is a chain of piano pieces, 9 of them. There is a sequence of texts (the excerpts from letters), 10. At the concert I read them myself in the microphone, not getting up from the piano. Of them made up the story, and the music lives parallel like thinking about all of this. And Studio album, which is now out — just music. The lyrics in the booklet. I wanted the audience to read them yourself, to be your perception. Here is the free interaction of text and music. But it’s different, like in my rock cantata “the One who went there” where the sound of Buddhist texts written in the second century, in the XII century. They are completely different impact on the process of writing music and the process of hearing. And it’s an ancient tradition, with a length of many centuries, in line with which to write this music in our time. So the possibilities are endless, up to the most radical experiments.

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