I started to compose music seriously in 1958. Most of what I heard around me then held little appeal for me. Not only was avant-garde music unknown, but so was also neoclassical music of Hindemith, Bartok, or Milhaud, for example. Stravinsky was inaccessible. It was not until about 1960 that some of Prokofiev’s unfamiliar works appeared on G. Rozhdestvensky’s TV programs. We discovered his 2nd–4th Symphonies and the operas The Flaming Angel and The Gambler, only in excerpts at that time. I experienced through Prokofiev, later – Stravinsky, and others, but the one work that impressed me most was the Symphonie Liturgique by Arthur Honegger, – even to this day I deeply appreciate this work. Next came Edgar Varиse and finally Luciano Berio – the Sinfonia.

Besides this, my main sources included Russian folklore (in the mid 60s I made several expeditions across the North of Russia in search of surviving folk songs), Eastern traditional music, and Romanticism. At various times, I listened to Chopin, Schubert, Scriabin, Wagner, and Bruckner. This was the material that nourished me. Here I am speaking of spiritual influences, and not of purely musical ones, for I have never imitated any style. I have always tried to find my own way, and my symphony, Way to Olympus, is but one major landmark in this quest. As things turned out, my way was to be achieved by various means, and I began my research into the elements of musical language from my own point of view. At different times, I have focused on different aspects: intonation, rhythm, harmony. My first task was to make a personal system of expressive intonations: of sounds and their interconnection (“melody”). This was initially accomplished in my Sonata for clarinet solo of 1966. Later works pursued this emphasis, specifically the Confession for clarinet solo of 1971 and the Recitations for various woodwinds of 1975-1981. A second important problem I worked on was the development of different forms and combinations and attainment of a maximum of rhythmic expression and of melodiousness for percussion. Thus appeared my Totem (1976), A Sonata of Meditations (1978), and Incantations (1981). The third phase focused on a search for expressive harmony —connections between complexes of sounds. Works that exemplify this search include the Star Wind (1981), Moonlight Dreams (1982), Hymns of Sudden Wafts (1983-85) and Lamentations (1985). The latest stage is a turn towards polyphony, which, is, for me, the simultaneous combination of diverse textures, characters, and images that oppose or complement one another. I have already produced some such samples in my Sola Fide (1986-87) and I am continuing this pursuit at the present time.

Besides all this, each work has its specific tasks, of course. But the important thing for me is not structure, but meaning. I do write different kinds of music; yet all my works are the facets of a single composition – of one hidden image. For me, music is an expression of the life of the human soul – of the composer’s soul as a manifestation of Anima Mundi. Thus I now find that my actual interest is in the expression of the profundity of existence, of the deepest and innermost events – in other words, the way inward.

There may be different kinds of interior music such as Awakening (1978) or Incantations, Dreams, Hymns. It all depends upon the task and the means. I call it penetrata. This word does not refer to style, but rather to the intended result: a penetration into the heart of an emotional world that is charged with lofty aspirations. This Other World can be found only in the depths of the human heart. After all, nothing ever passes away or disappears from this world except for “gloria mundi”. For an artist, there is nothing left for it but to remember.

Sound is something one cannot hide behind – a composer’s whole personality is evident in it. One needs but to know how to perceive it. An artist is an exposed nerve, a light, a conscience. He must not obscure himself, but rather, must change the world, along with himself. As the Apostle says: “But we are all with an open face beholding as in a glass the Glory of the Lord, and are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord”.

I believe in the transfiguration of the created world through music. From this point of view, my Symphony of Elegies (1977) is singular, I feel sure. It is unique not in form, but in substance. The score is headed by an epigraph from D.T.Suzuki :“All this is but moments in our innermost life, which are revived and brought into touch with Eternity.” The Elegies were written for the most part in the Armenian mountains, and may be closer to the Heavens because of this. It is interesting that while I was there, I was trying to compose an entirely different work, but something compelled me to write these Elegies instead. Could this be a message?

After composing the Symphony of Elegies I became less interested in my immediate musical environment. Its spirit didn’t satisfy me. And I saw more clearly than ever my aims.

Penetrata is also a way. I think it is the way of Vivaldi, Bach, Mozart, Schubert, Chopin, Webern, and Varese – the main stream of music. In Russia it was Scriabin who was the last to belong to this trend. Now I hope to take a step further.

V. Artyomov (1988)

Retold by S.A.Whealton