In this fifth episode of Season 2 we return to a conversation about the ongoing war in Ukraine, this time with accomplished Russian composer Marina Sobyanina. For more than a decade she has lived in Bern, Switzerland. Her work contains and fuses a wide range of genres including contemporary classical music, experimental jazz, and sound design. Marina has long been a vocal opponent of Putin, and her opposition to his regime only increased when Russia invaded Ukraine last February. In this interview she talks about what it means to be a Russian artist who opposes Putin and the current war in Ukraine.
“It's also like, uh, some kind of a devil loop, because it's exactly a hundred years ago that there were those philosophers' boats that the Soviet authorities just threw out of the country. People like intellectuals, cultural people, artists, film directors… And now it's like a hundred years later and people are fleeing in the same directions. You know, Georgia, Turkey, Armenia.”
In this fifth episode of Season 2 we return to a conversation about the ongoing war in Ukraine, this time with accomplished Russian composer Marina Sobyanina. For more than a decade she has lived in Bern, Switzerland. Her work contains and fuses a wide range of genres including contemporary classical music, experimental jazz, and sound design. She composes for chamber ensembles, large orchestra, film, and theater. Marina has long been a vocal opponent of Putin, and her opposition to his regime only increased when Russia invaded Ukraine last February. In this interview she talks about what it means to be a Russian artist who opposes Putin and the current war in Ukraine.
Marina grew up in the town of Sarov, which is famous for its nuclear research facility. For more than a decade Marina has lived in Bern, Switzerland. Her work contains and fuses a wide range of genres including contemporary classical music, experimental jazz, and sound design. She composes for chamber ensembles, large orchestra, film, and theater. As her bio puts it, her music “morphs between delicate soundscapes, saturated polystylistic blocks and tricky rhythmical structures.”
And while her music is not overtly political, Marina has long been a vocal opponent of Putin, and her opposition to the Putin government only increased when Russia invaded Ukraine last February. In this interview she talks about what it means to be a Russian artist in the current context of global politics.
In this interview, conducted last April, Marina speaks with OneBeat co-founder Jeremy Thal. Due to her busy schedule, the best time Marina could find to do this interview was in the car outside of her 3-year-old son’s pre-school. We hope you enjoy this interview, and Marina’s insights into art and life amidst the tumult of history.
We are sensitive to the fact that we’re releasing this a year after the war began — there is a very reasonable argument that we should not foreground Russian voices in a time of Russian aggression, and another argument that anti-war Russian voices are needed now more than ever. At OneBeat we are committed to keeping an open and respectful dialogue, and understanding that within our alumni there are many differences of political opinions. So we decided to include Marina’s Interview in this season’s podcast, to provide a look at how one compassionate and thoughtful Russian musician is navigating these terrifying times
Produced and Edited by Jeremy Thal
Mixed by Jeremy Thal and Mitya Burmistov
Executive Producers: Jeremy Thal, Elena Moon Park, and Kyla-Rose Smith
Featuring: Marina Sobyanina
Music heard in this episode:
OneBeat is an initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, & produced by Bang on a Can’s Found Sound Nation.
Kyla-Rose Smith : Hello and welcome to the fifth episode of the second season of the OneBeat Podcast. I’m Kyla Rose Smith, one of your hosts on this journey, as we speak with brilliant, creative, and socially engaged musicians from across the world. This podcast is inspired by the artists we have met through the global music exchange program OneBeat.
Elena Moon Park: And I’m Kyla’s co-host Elena Moon Park! This episode features an interview with Russian OneBeat 2016 alumna Marina Sobyanina, who was also one of the artistic directors of our OneBeat Russia program in 2017.
Marina is a highly accomplished composer, pianist, and vocalist, who grew up in the town of Sarov, which is famous for its nuclear research facility. For more than a decade Marina has lived in Bern, Switzerland. Her work contains and fuses a wide range of genres including contemporary classical music, experimental jazz, and sound design. She composes for chamber ensembles, large orchestra, film, and theater. As her bio puts it, her music “morphs between delicate soundscapes, saturated polystylistic blocks and tricky rhythmical structures.”
KRS: And while her music is not overtly political, Marina has long been a vocal opponent of Putin, and her opposition to the Putin government only increased when Russia invaded Ukraine last February. In this interview she talks about what it means to be a Russian artist in the current context of global politics.
EMP: In this interview, conducted last April, Marina speaks with OneBeat co-founder Jeremy Thal. Due to her busy schedule, the best time Marina could find to do this interview was in the car outside of her 3-year-old son’s pre-school. We hope you enjoy this interview, and Marina’s insights into art and life amidst the tumult of history.
KRS: We are sensitive to the fact that we’re releasing this a year after the war began — there is a very reasonable argument that we should not foreground Russian voices in a time of Russian aggression, and another argument that anti-war Russian voices are needed now more than ever. At OneBeat we are committed to keeping an open and respectful dialogue, and understanding that within our alumni there are many differences of political opinions. So we decided to include Marina’s Interview in this season’s podcast, to provide a look at how one compassionate and thoughtful Russian musician is navigating these terrifying times
Music Interlude: Excerpt from a play, based on Lorka’s “Blood Wedding”
Jeremy Thal (JT): You're rolling.
Marina Sobyanina (MS): Yep, I am.
JT: The birds are so nice.
MS: Do you think they're going to be recorded, but that's not bad, right?
JT: I enjoy bird sounds. Can you describe where you are right now?
MS: I am near the Aare river in Bern, which is very, very bluish, greenish and very transparent.
MS: And the sky is super blue, so all the colors are like fluorescent and amazingly beautiful.
And I'm in the car.
JT: So where were you born? Where'd you grow up?
MS: I was born in back then, Soviet Union, probably, in a small town, which is called Sarov. It was called Arzamas-16 back then. It's like a closed nuclear research facility. And when I was growing up, uh, at school, I had an American pen pal from Los Alamos.
Still remember her name. It was Marissa. So I grew up there. My parents were, and my mom is still a scientist.
JT: What kind of scientist is she?
MS: She's a nuclear physicist. My dad was as well. And my mom, she can't leave the country, so she has never been here for all the 10 years that I've been living here.
The town itself, it's fenced with barbed wire, and then you have soldiers who check your identity and your cards, so you can't just come in.
MS: And then you come inside and it looks like a forest, and then it has a huge poster which says “Los Alamos and Sarov are sister cities”.
JT: So that Los Alamos sister city thing, that must have been a post fall of the Soviet Union kind of attempt to, to be friends with the US, right?
MS: Sure, yeah. Yeah, definitely not during the Cold War...
JT: So what was it like? What was it like being a kid there?
MS: Pretty much like everywhere in the nineties in Russia. My parents were not paid, but they could buy like three times more expensive the food in some credit shop, which was assigned to this institution. Yeah, so we lived basically from what we grow in the garden, and then we picked mushrooms. I remember sometimes we went like on mushroom hunts for the whole weekend, and the whole trunk of the car would be like full with all kinds of mushrooms, and then we would clean and wash them till 4:00 AM because you can't just leave them, otherwise, the worms will eat them very fast.
I didn't know anything back then, because when you grow up, you don’t question things, you know, it's like normal for you. But there were things like, for example, my second school, it was near the place where they tested the explosions. I mean, there were non- nuclear explosions, of course. And then we would sit in a math class and then suddenly the windows would shake, you know.
MS: And they were like, ah, they're just exploding things.
JT: That was normal.
MS: Just, yeah, your regular school, midday .
MS: And then people would talk really like in a Tarkovsky movie. “How, where did you pick mushrooms? Outside of the zone?”. And then people “yeah, yeah. We're now outside of the zone. We're just like going back to the zone, but we'll get in the zone soon”. So people really call it not “outside of the town” or “in the town”.They say “zone”, like in Tarkovsky’s “Stalker”.
It's like a huge area as big as Moscow almost.
MS: And it's situated in the Mordovian National Nature Resort. It's like the sick, twisted Soviet sense of humor. I dunno.
Music Interlude: “Laughter Number 2”, excerpt from a piece, commissioned by Ensemble Proton, Switzerland. For oboe, clarinet, violin and Casio SK-1. The laughter heard in the live recording is the sampled audience’s laughter.
MS: So, it was a destroyed monastery, just called Sarov Monastery. There is a saint, his name is Seraphim Sarovskii. And this monastery is very famous, ‘cause Nicholas the Second came there to pray for a son, ‘cause they only had daughters before that. And this is not good enough, you know. Well back then it was really not good enough.
And they came to pray to this monastery and after that the empress became pregnant with a boy.
MS: And then the Bolsheviks came to power. They've destroyed it. They repressed and killed all the monks, and then it just stood there, half destroyed. Then they decided to make this, uh, research facility back there.
And my grandpa, so my father's father, he went through the whole second World War. He went till Berlin, but his father, so my grand grandfather, he was repressed and he was considered like an enemy of the people. But because he served so well in the second World War, they told him “Hey, do you wanna work in Moscow?”.
And he said “Yeah, yeah, sure”. So they put him on the plane and they took him out just in the middle of nowhere, just in this, uh, destroyed monastery in the forest. And they told him, well, here you are. It's Moscow Center Number 300.
MS: It was called back then “Moscow Center 300”, that was like the secret name of the town.
MS: And in his passport, his permanent registration was Moscow, October Field. Октябрьское Поле.
MS: So it's as if he was in Moscow, but he wasn't in Moscow.
JT: Was he a scientist too, or?
MS: Uh, he was not a scientist. He was more like an HR. He was attracting scientists to this town. He also brought in Sakharov, for example, and Zedovič and Khariton. Those are all very famous scientists in Russia.
JT: Wow. So this was in the forties? Late forties?
MS: Forties, fifties. And um, everywhere else in the Soviet Union, you had nothing to eat and you couldn't buy anything. And there you had normal shops and you could buy a car and stuff, but it wasn't the whole time like this. In the nineties, you didn't have any of that left.
JT: I mean, I feel like for a lot of Americans and myself included, we don't really know what happened in the nineties. Like can you just say a little bit of like what happened after the fall of the Soviet Union for normal people in Russia?
MS: Well, it broke down. There were all those nationalized properties and enterprises, and with the new Russia, you know, with the democratic, uh, constitution, people started to have private property.
And the fast ones and the “smart,” in quote marks, ones started to privatize the whole branches, like the whole electricity branch, the whole oil branch. Like, there was this Chubais guy who's almost like a national meme character. He privatized the energy branch, basically, like he was really the owner of the whole oil or electricity branch in Russia.
So that's how oligarchs appeared, basically. But all the institutions, all the regulations, all the social perks that Soviet Union gave them, they were all gone. And the crime rate was super high. Yeah, it was like a chaos and people were really afraid of that coming back.
So when Putin came, he came when it started to stabilize already, so it was already stabilized basically, and the oil prices were up and he was playing this card like very convincingly that “I'm gonna give you stability and you will have a job”. So people bought it back then because they've been suffering like crazy in the nineties, most of them, while the others became immensely rich.
JT: So when you were growing up in the nineties, you started playing music, what was your first entry point into music?
MS: Well, I started singing pretty early and I liked drumming, different rhythms and all the surfaces that were around me. And so my parents just brought me to the music school when I was four or five.
My father loved music and he sang well, and my sister is a musician, so she went to this music school and in the nineties she started piano and she also encouraged me to do that. And there was this school choir and the choir at the music school and I just hated all those choirs ‘cause they were making me sing all those solar parts and stupid songs and stuff like
[sings a Soviet song in Russian]
And it was like just “urghhh”. I couldn't just stand all this shit. And so I remember I was like hiding in the men's toilet so that the choir teacher wouldn't find me. She was like looking for me through the whole school. And I was in the men’s toilet.
JT: Wow. What do you think about this? Like, why was the Soviet music so bad?
MS: Do you know any autocratic regime that has good music?
It's always dumb.
JT: Okay, good point. Good point.
MS: Of course, there were also talented people that were supporting the Soviet regime and profited from the perks given by the Soviet government. Like Prokofiev, for example, he wrote an Ode to Stalin to his birthday. But in a mass, no good musician will support this.
Music has to keep this freshness of being self-sarcastic and have humor.
But if you're not allowed to criticize or even say anything about the politic, it loses its liveliness. I think that's the main reason actually.
JT: So what, what was the trajectory of your education?
MS: I moved to Moscow when I was 15 and I started studying at this musical school, which was like the four-step to the Gnesin School of Music.
And there I was studying officially jazz singing, but also took as many hours as possible with a classical harmony and classical piano teacher. But then I started art history at the university and it was 2005 till 2010. I always wanted to study composition, but it wasn't even like a question because everybody told me “Hey, composers are like Chaikovsky and Beethoven, and they're all dead. And they're all men”.
MS: Like, it's like, do you know of any female composer? I mean, there, there are plenty, but just the environment where I grew up, you know, it was so small and province. I only found out about Ligeti when I was, I don't know, like 19 years old or so. For sure, I mean there are also people from the same time who were very much advanced and knew all these Sofia Gubaidullina and Galina Ustvolskaya, and Helena Firsova. You know, there are many female composers.
But just in my environment, I didn't know many of them.
Music Interlude: Valse with the air-raid sirens from a theatre play “Tableaux Vivants”, written for the State Theatre of Nations in Moscow.
**This theater piece by Polina Barskova is based on the diaries, written by two art historians, who were trying to survive in the Hermitage during the siege of Saint Petersburg, then Leningrad, by the Germans in the second world war.
JT: You ended up studying in Switzerland or what was the next step?
MS: So I was studying at this musical, like pedagogical school before you enter the conservatory, and then I switched to art history. So I had like, uh, five years of art history and restoration of temper paintings, ha-ha, because everybody were telling me like “Music is not a real profession. You're gonna be poor forever,” which for now is the truth, but, I am very optimistic about the future!
And then so I thought, hmm, I have to choose something which is not very far from music and still has something to do with culture, but not music. And that's how I found art history. And then I didn't wanna touch piano until I moved to Moscow, actually.
And then at this musical school, I really felt like I wanted to play piano, so that's why I went to a classical piano teacher. After that I started the university, and then I started my band with Sergey. So I found him through some musical forum. Then we had a love story and then it ended, but we still played. And then we've been playing together for years.
And then in 2010, I was singing in a Bobby McFerrin improvised opera. It was called “Bobble”. They staged it in Moscow. And there was a singer from Switzerland, Andreas Sherra.
We got acquainted there, and we became really close friends and so he started to invite me and our band, and then me to compose for the big band here. And I organized some tours for him in Russia. And then he started encouraging me to, he said like “Hey, have you ever thought of studying composition?” And I was like, “Uh, no. That's not really an option, is it?” And he was like, “Of course it is”.
Didn't even occur to me until he asked me to write for a big band. And I composed the thing, but then I was completely helpless in arranging it for other instruments. And that's when I realized, “Shit, you can actually learn this”.
MS: And then I had like my favorite Swedish singer and composer, her name is Sophia Yernberg, and she started at a certain composition school in Sweden, in Visbutk.
And I took a contact with a professor from there. And so they made like an audition and they accepted me. So I went there and I had like an entry visa, which I had to exchange for a residency permit. And then at some point someone lost some little paper and in the end it was already too late, so I had to leave the country.
And then I was Skyping with this friend of mine from Switzerland, and then he said, “Hey, this is just no way that things are done. You wanna study composition, I'm gonna help you”. And then he just organized everything for me to come here. So I came, I took an audition. Started from the second year here in Bern, so that's how I ended up in Switzerland.
Then life happened. I wanted to do a PhD, but then I got pregnant and.. Life is continuing to happen.
Music Interlude: JAZZATOR “Ai Bozha” (“Oh, God!”), excerpt from a tune, based on a Russian folk song.
JT: I wanna hear about this refugee center.
MS: I had to organize like a charity concert, where we played works of Russian and Ukrainian composers who were under political repressions during the Soviet regime. And it was really nice. So it's like all the money went to the refugees. And today I just like go from time to time to this center where I translate, if people don't speak German or English or French, but only Russian or Ukrainian.
JT: So what's it like at these refugee centers? When you are speaking to the Russians and Ukrainians, what kind of stories are they telling?
MS: Well, I haven't met any Russians there, because there are not many political refugees yet, and especially in Switzerland. For Ukrainian citizens… like, for example, the couple that I was talking to today, it's like my age, uh, man and wife. They have a daughter, she's nine, and they have their old mother with them. So basically they moved, uh, the whole family. And the guy, for example, normally right now, he wouldn't be able to leave the country because he's at the age where he can be taken to the army.
But there was some kind of a law that if you had a handicapped person with you, you could leave with this person.
JT: What kind of conversations are you having? Like say this, this couple with the handicapped friend, what do you guys talk about?
MS: Well, different things like they, they sent documents and someone messed up and sent it to the wrong address.
They don't speak German. And this volunteer, the father of a colleague of mine, he's teaching them German. So that's the main goal, is just to achieve some A-2 level. And with this, they can look for jobs.
JT: Do you talk about politics and the war?
MS: Yeah, we talked about like how it was for them, how are people surviving.
Not really about politics, but about the real situation, you know, not the propaganda in Russia situation. And they also have some family members in Russia, and she said, like, for example, the woman said when she's having a call, the person from Russia is like, “I can't talk politics. Sorry. It's like I'm gonna go to jail for 15 years. I'm, I'm sorry, I'm afraid.” And then they just don't talk politics.
JT: Wow. Do they see you as an ally, as one of them?
I mean as the same, or do they see, do you get a sense that like, this person is Russian and we're Ukrainian?
MS: No, not at all. They were very thankful that I helped and they were very polite.
Well, I made it clear that I don't support the war and that I find it just inhumane what's happening and, and then of course they see me sort of ally, but I don't think that a Russian person that supports this war would go there to translate.
JT: Sure. Right.
Music Interlude: Cradle song from Lorka’s “Blood Wedding”, music for theatre.
JT: Do you feel like when you speak to Ukrainian person, is there a real difference? Like maybe if they're the same age, you guys were born in the same country, right? So, or is the difference now just emerging because of the war?
MS:You mean language-wise?
JT: Yeah, language-wise and also just sort of identity-wise.
MS: Well, Ukraine is a different country. Even if it's uh, closer to Russian mentality than, I don't know, French or German mentality, it's still a different climate. I don't know, like a different political situation. They have their own different like national figures. Of course, there is this common cultural heritage, which is huge and strong and amazing. And then there are also many Ukrainian people who speak Russian as their native language. For example, I had this, I have to speak in pastime about her…
MS: So she's from Odessa, and we got acquainted here in Bern. She was doing her master, and then we had a duo, and then she became somehow very aggressive because her whole family's Odessa and she can’t do much. She organizes many benefit concerts and charity concerts and she's helping refugees. So she's doing a lot. But on the spot in Cologne, she lives in Cologne in Germany. And then she became like very aggressive towards all the Russians and she's, uh, appealing to ban Russian culture. And then, for example, I organized this concert where Russian and Ukrainian composers in the program and she was like, “This is just not the time and you have to stop with all this Russian culture egoistic bullshit. Because every time you say Russian culture, it means that you diminish the Ukrainian culture and then you have to bring to light Ukrainian composers, cuz there are so few of them that people know”.
I understand her point, but I'm Russian, you know and I don't think that it's right to ban Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov and Stravinsky, who suffered themselves so much from this bullshit regime.
it's just not the way it's, uh, the same rhetoric because of which wars are possible. It's when you start saying “them” and “us” and then there are suddenly no human beings behind them and us. It's just some mass of people zombified by some kind of idea, no matter how good or bad those ideas are. And so she cut all the contacts with me and she got very aggressive.
She's like used very aggressive lexis also like words-wise.
MS: But normally, the other people that I know from Ukraine are not that aggressive against Russian people, but I know that there are many who like say, “Yeah, you have to kill all the Russian people with their children”. And for example, I went to the swimming pool with my son and I was speaking Russian to him in the dressing room.
And then there was some Ukrainian woman. She came up to me and she spoke Ukrainian, but I could understand everything very well, cause it's, you know, these are close languages.
MS: And she said like, “I can't listen to this terrible language. You take your little asshole”. She said about my son, who's three years old. “And get outta here”.
And I was like, whoa. Okay. But then I dunno what kind of traumatic experience she had. So I prefer not to engage in a conversation with people like this.
MS: But there are Ukrainian people who pose questions like, “How come you didn't manage to overthrow Putin, to organize a huge uprising and just get him the fuck out of the Kremlin?”.
I dunno if this is really a legitimate question because you know, Russia is a huge country. To organize this you need someone like Navalny and all people like this are in jail or outside of Russia, who are able to do this. It's not like you would just organize a Facebook group and then it would grow and grow and suddenly you set up a spot and then you go out in the streets. It doesn't work like this, unfortunately. Especially in a repressive state where they have all the means and laws and military force to fight this kind of thing.
JT: And, from what I can tell, it's just gone from bad to much worse, since the beginning of the war.
MS: Yeah. Yeah. It's like, uh, he managed to do things that he would, was wanting to do during the last 10 years, but didn't manage to like, to shut down internet, you know, Facebook, Instagram, and all those laws. It's just crazy.
Music Interlude: “Say Goodbye to Mermaid” by SBOKU, a duo with the Kölln-based Ukrainian singer and composer Tamara Lukasheva.
JT: You know, when I was a kid, I think we talked about this, but when I was a teenager, I was obsessed with Dimitri Shostakovich and read a lot about the period of the Terror and the wartime period, and after the war… For some reason I was like endlessly fascinated by the story of this guy that, you know, we don't really know what he was thinking, but we're pretty sure that embedded in his music was a lot of like, “fuck Stalin”.
MS: Sure. Yes.
JT: Is that stuff that you think about as you're like putting on your, you know, like the concert that you mentioned?
MS: Yeah, actually, uh, we didn't have Shestakovich, but we had Ustvolskaya, which was his favorite student, and also from Sophia Gubaidullina, who also had, was in contact with him.
And for example, um, my composition teacher, he was taking classes from Edison Denisov, who was also in the class with Sophia Gubaidullina, and she told him, that sometimes she would have a lesson with Shestakovich and then, you know, it was ears dropped from everywhere. They were like recording, they were microphones and they were just sometimes plain KGB agents come into the lesson and listening to everything that he said.
MS: He would ground her like, “Hey Sophia, that's no way to write music in our socialist reality. You have to be more on the urge of the day. You have to address more the problems of the proletariat”. And then they would go for a walk and then he would just like look around and see that there's no one there and he would say, “In no way listen to the bullshit that I told you back there. You just write your own music and I wish you to go further your own “unright” in quote mark's way”. And of course he had several suicide attempts after they tried to force him into the Communist party. You know?
JT: Wow. I mean, cuz what we have now in a way, if, if the situation continues, which, I mean, who knows if it will, is the situation more or less like we had for how many years, you know, from the thirties to the nineties, Russia is now behind an iron curtain again.
MS: I really hope that won't be the case ‘cuase like this, I won't see my family, but that's my main fear as well. It's not like possible to just end this and then say, “Uh, okay, sorry, my bad. Let's just go back to normal again”.
It will never get back. Normal because so many people have died and there are so many refugees.
MS: Like that's the, the biggest refugee crisis since the second World War. It's already over like 5 million fled and nobody's counting people who are fleeing from Russia.
MS: It's also like, uh, some kind of a devil loop, because it's exactly a hundred years ago that there were those philosophers boats that the Soviet authorities just threw out of the country.
People like intellectuals, I dunno. Cultural people, some artists, film directors.
The lawyers and doctors, some aristocratic people. Any country would be lucky to have. And so there were like, uh, boats sailing to Turkey, then to Germany, to Lithuania. The trains as well.
And now it's like a hundred years later and people are fleeing in the same directions.
You know, Georgia, Turkey, Armenia.
JT: There's gotta be a brain drain happening from Russia right now.
MS: Yeah. Like a lot. You know, before Sergey went out, he wrote me like a message, “Hey, starting from now, do not write me under any circumstances on any messenger. Like, not Telegram, not WhatsApp, not Facebook, cause they can check my phone”.
MS: And, and then he didn't write me back for several days and was like, “Oh, Jesus Christ. What happened to him? Did he get arrested or something?” And then I wrote to his wife like, “Is it okay”? And she was, “What do you mean”? I was like, shit, something's really not good. And then he wrote me back. Everything was okay. She just didn't get what I was talking about. Really. And I was like, phew.
MS: Especially if you're in IT, they're really checking you at the border like crazy, like they take you to a special room and really interrogate you in a very freaky way you like “So what do you think about Putin”? And then you say, “I'm apolitical”, for example.
And then they are, “So you don't feel sorry for the children of Donbas?” He's like, “Of course I feel sorry for all the children that die under unfair circumstances and, and there are no fair circumstances for a child to die in.” “And if you support Putin, why are you leaving the country?” and you say, well, “I just wanna go on a vacation.”
“Well, that's not really a reason to leave the country these days.” And then they would be like going through your phone, through all your messengers, and then they see that you've deleted all the messengers. And they will say, “Huh, you never use Facebook, but let's install Facebook and try to log in.”
Really freaky, freaky stuff. Whoa.
Music Interlude: Excerpt from JAZZATOR’s “Peter the Clown” (from the band’s third album “Nonagon”).
MS: Well, there are still people protesting. The other day. They've arrested many people near the Red Square because they were standing with imaginary posters and in the police report they said “Those people were standing with imaginary posters with anti-Putin phrases on imaginary posters”.
JT: Ha-ha. Whoa.
MS: It's like it's 1984. Actually, it's not worse.
JT: That is an amazing moment in history. You know, it's something that Roman was saying, for instance.. Roman was, you know, Ukrainian 2014 alumnus, he's in Kiev now. He was basically saying, you know, “This would be like the US invading Mexico and basically pretending that it was like the Mexican's fault”.
JT: But then when I said to Roman, I was like, well the US did invade Mexico. This is an actual story. And they did blame it on the Mexicans and this happened in the 1850s. And he said,”Yeah, but this is the 21st century. You can't get away with this shit. We have social media”. And I remember thinking, “But maybe you can get away”.
MS: Hey I think the whole thing that is happening, apart from just making a huge global check of who is a coward and who is courageous person, it's also just to show us that any absurdist, third reality thing is possible and you can twist it and manipulate it in the media as much as you want, because that's basically what's Putin doing.
MS: The only way to not see a mass of people as them is to discover each individual person, how he or she is like as long as this, “them against us” is possible. Wars are possible.
JT: I mean, this is the, in a way, the billion dollar question now, is like, how do you try to change this? How do you try to get ordinary Russians to say this war is unjust?
You know, Sergey again, I was talking to him the other day and he said, “You know, sometimes I have this, you know, utopian sort of notion that if people hear beautiful music, they won't want to support the war”. And then he says, “But then I thought about Clockwork Orange”.
MS: Yeah, the Nazis in the Germany, he used Wagner's music.
MS: Yeah. That's really utopian, but it sounds nice, ha.
MS: It's just on paper.
MS: Maybe just find a way to talk to people in a way that you don't try to convince them, but you try to trigger some questions in their own heads so that themselves start to pose questions like, “is it okay”? War is death. Can you ever choose this?
Can it be rectified or justified? How can you choose it? There's really nothing to say there. But then there are other people who are really brainwashed and they manage to find some justification to it.
I know it sounds very populistic and, uh, esoteric, but it needs more women in politics and that they're not, uh, forced to act as men.
Because for now, women in the politics, they have to show balls.
MS: But sometimes maybe it needs this soft, motherly, loving forgiveness and kindness. It doesn't mean that women, women are only like this. They also have sometimes balls bigger than some men, but it needs both.
Music Interlude: 8. “The very same Munchausen''
JT: So what are you working on now?
MS: I am working on my project, which is called Marinization. So I have some songs, compositions, like long forms that I recorded last May in Cologne with this friend of mine who is not a friend anymore, for solo. And then I realized I need a drummer there, so I'm rehearsing now with a drummer.
And then I'm working on a series of versions based on Stravinsky “Les Noces”. You know the little marriage? And other Stravinsky's pieces. So I take parts of them and then I make my own compositions, but based on little chunks of his music. And so I did it for this charity concert and I loved it so much and everybody loved it so much that people were telling me like, “You have to record a CD like this”. So at the moment I'm working on it, and then I was working on this ballet for the theater, which was based on Hoffman's fairytales. Then now it fell through.
And the director, she's living in Berlin. And for now we're discussing maybe we will make a theater play based on Fowles’ Collector.
So I'm writing music for this as well.
JT: Do you feel like there's a way for your music to respond to this situation? Or do you feel like that is asking music something that it doesn't do?
MS: I think it automatically responds to a situation, ‘cause the music is coming out of you and it automatically gets a color or some emotional tint of how you're feeling.
And then somehow it's flowing through your music as well. That's some kind of like, uh, gentle way that it could influence the music. And then there is some kind of like, uh, I don't know, you can express yourself really deliberately on the political theme. I dunno, through lyrics or through music, but it's not something that I like to do, frankly speaking, cause it, it's somehow, it's forced, it's not like the music is flowing freely like this out, or you have to have a certain kind of personality for this.
MS:But at a certain point it automatically becomes connected to the situation cuz you are in this situation.
Oh, that's my son. I say we have to interrupt.
JT: Oh sure man. Yeah.
MS: Um, sorry I'm having an interview until we just speak .
JT: Um, can we get your son on the interview? Can?
JT: What do you think of your mom's music?
MS: [translates the question to her son]
KRS: Marina’s son responded to this question by making farting noises, and we figured we’d spare you this audio! Thanks again for listening to the OneBeat Podcast! This episode was produced, edited, and mixed by Mitya Burmistov and Jeremy Thal, with help from Mia Sanchas, Elena Moon Park and Kyla-Rose Smith.
Much of the music you heard during this episode is excerpted from Marina’s compositions for theater. You can find more of Marina’s music online as Jazzator.
Please follow our work, and the work of this incredible community of OneBeat artists - visit www.1beat.org for more information (that’s the number 1…beat.org). And if you are enjoying what you hear, please subscribe to this podcast, leave us comments and share with your friends.
OneBeat is an initiative of the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (also known as the ECA) in collaboration with Bang On A Can’s Found Sound Nation.
The views and opinions expressed by our guests on this podcast are their own and not those of the ECA, Bang On A Can, Found Sound Nation, or any of its employees.
MUSIC EXCERPTS USED:
1. Excerpt from a theater play, based on Lorka’s “Blood wedding”. Premiered at Chelyabinsk State Drama Theatre (RU).
2. “Laughter Number 2”, excerpt from a piece, commissioned by Ensemble Proton, Switzerland. For oboe, clarinet, violin and Casio SK-1. The laughter heard in the live recording is the sampled audience’s laughter.
3. Valse with the air-raid sirens from a theater play “Tableaux Vivants”, written for the State Theatre of Nations in Moscow. This theater piece by Polina Barskova is based on the diaries, written by two art historians, who were trying to survive in the Hermitage during the siege of Saint Petersburg, then Leningrad, by the Germans in the second world war.
4. JAZZATOR “Ai Bozha” (“Oh, God!”), excerpt from a tune, based on a russian folk song. Marina on comp, keys and vocals. By the way, Sergey Balashov, another OneBeat Alumni on drums here.
5. Cradle song from F.G. Lorka's "Blood wedding" (music for theatre)
6. “Say Goodbye to Mermaid” by SBOKU, a duo with the Kölln-based ukrainian singer and composer Tamara Lukasheva.
7. Excerpt from JAZZATOR’s “Peter the Clown” (from the band's third album “Nonagon”).
8. "The Very Same Munchhausen" excerpt from a theatre play (music for theatre)
"Das Testo" (dough in germ.) - for Ensemble Paul Klee, CH (contemporary classical)