EDUARD ARTEMIEV – “Zerkalo”/”Stalker” soundtracks (1975/1979)
This one’s a request from a regular ECR reader that I’m delighted to grant.
Russian composer Eduard Artemiev is best known for the film scores he wrote for a variety of filmmakers from his native country, more about the most notable collaborations being the ones with director Andrei Tarkovsky, discount one of the greatest artists of the medium has known. The three films that the two men collaborated on are “Solaris” (1972), “Zerkalo” (aka “The Mirror”, 1975), and my personal favorite, “Stalker” (1979), which also happens to be one of my favorite films, period. The scores for “Stalker” and “Zerkalo” are included in the download below.
The haunting scores for “Zerkalo” and “Stalker” involved the inclusion of the ANS Synthesizer, an ancient and extremely complicated piece of electroacoustic equipment based upon the concept of light passing through glass plates! A full explanation of the instrument can be found both here and here.
Here’s some of Artemiev’s recollections of working with Tarkovsky on the score for “Stalker”, taken from the Tarkovsky archive collection Nostalghia.com:
My first meeting with Tarkovsky â€” that was back on “Solaris” â€” left me perplexed. He stated that what he needed was not music but a series of musically arranged noises. In addition he announced he could not imagine a better composer than Vyacheslav Ovchinnikov who had composed the score for “Andrei Rublev” and for “Ivan’s Childhood”. A feeling of the lack of confidence never left me while I worked with Tarkovsky. On every picture I felt like I was taking an exam and was trying to do everything the best I could…
It was never easy for me to work with Andrei…because he’d say: “See the film for yourself, in such-and-such episodes there definitely ought to be music and as for the rest, I don’t know, choose something yourself”. I made selections and then during the dubbing sessions he’d sometimes retain just one episode out of ten. That was truly a process of creative filmmaking.
[There was this time] during “Stalker” when we felt we couldn’t communicate our ideas in words. At that time he was fascinated by Zen Buddhism and I was also getting interested in it, in a different way â€” by way of music. We swapped Pomerants’s lectures. And Andrei suggested: “You know, I need music that would sort of unify the cultures: East and West”. I had no idea how to do this. I tried to introduce an Eastern instrument. Then something purely electronic, some unreal image (Zen Buddhism â€” that’s like opening of the “I” into the universe) â€” that didn’t work either. Then one day I showed Andrei a 14th century Catholic melody called “Pulcherrima Rosa” which, in my opinion, contained some very important traits from Western musical culture â€” the graphic clarity of the melody, the deeply restrained spiritual setting, and a well-balanced logic where nothing is left to chance. I remember how intently Andrei listened to it several times, extremely attentively. Then after a somewhat long pause he said: “Yes, this is clearly what we need but it’s necessary to find a way to express it in a new form, perhaps only hinting at it, retaining only the instrument…”
I created an aural-acoustic space on the synthesiser which was spectrally close to the timbre of the Indian instrument tampur. And this aural space immediately unified what seemed impossible: acoustic instruments of East and West (the tar and the flute) and the stylistically countering thematic material. Now it all appears elementary but the elementary is the most difficult thing in the world to find. I was wandering all over in search of solution, the film was complex, many layers, and its idea was not verbal but pictorial.
Perhaps this all seems too wordy, but in the context of Tarkovsky’s dense, atmospheric approach, it all makes perfect sense.