Google the words “music is”, and meaningful context pops up right away. “Music is my first love, music is my religion, music is the key, music is the answer…” but isn’t it all true, somehow? For me, music involves a little bit of all this. It’s like a path in the woods – it feels right and secure to follow. Music isn’t an actual profession – it’s a calling, and people who follow the path seldomly choose for it. More likely, they are chosen by the path, and are left without alternatives. How else could you bear living with this little woodpecker in your head, drumming away with astounding persistence whenever you try do something different?
That woodpecker telegraphs the very same message every day: “You are running out of time, you live for nothing, another day gone, it’s useless, pointless…” How can you relax hearing those lines? Eventually, you give in and turn into a priest, a hierophant of the arts. Those who do not give in deserve great admiration; not the other way round. It wasn’t me who dumped all 18 binders of my dissertation at the recycling station, having spent three years at the Max Planck Institute for International Law in St Pauli. It was that mysterious woodpecker.
I regard this bird the most important part of my artistic personality. It guides me through breathtaking landscapes of musical creation, crafted by myself or others, and rewards me after a good concert. Other than that, my musical biography is not spectacular – while it includes two factors that have made me very happy.
The first is called: music around me. I was surrounded by music since my early childhood. I sat in my mother’s womb as she prepared for her exams at the conservatory in Rostov; later I found myself placed in her right hand while she played Brahms’ adaptation of Bach’s Chaconne with her left. (Did Brahms think of young mothers when he worked on this piece?) I woke up and heard Mom play Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet”, and at age eleven I declared Shostakovich my favourite composer.
The other given is called: music inside me. I remember our neighbours in the province putting me on a chair, asking me to sing popular Soviet hits of the time – I was four years old. Secretly, they had a good laugh; I knew the lyrics inside out, but as I didn’t quite understand them yet, I happily exchanged words for ones that sounded more familiar. My next memory shows me onstage an assembly hall, on the first day at school: I sing and I play guitar. Did I ever suffer from stage fright? At thirteen, I performed on the big stage of Kiev’s children’s theatre, moving elderly ladies in Zurich to tears with ghetto songs, on tour in Switzerland. Music making feels very natural to me, and people listen to what I do. I simply need to find myself for a moment, and that energy pours out, right into the ears and souls of others, as if liquid was poured from one cup into another.
One of the things I cherish most is the incredible support of my colleagues. Almost all of my idols became my patrons and supporters, as soon as I met them in person. Great artists such as Osmar Milito, Giora Feidman and Quique Sinesi grabbed me and put me on stage at their sides. One of the first people to ‘like’ my facebook page was Jaques Morelenbaum. I don’t know what it’s like, receiving admiration from thousands, but it probably is half as beautiful. What a great gift I was given by all the wonderful musicians who contributed to my debut album, and some wouldn’t even accept money! It gives me a lot of confidence, and it makes me feel that my music is more than just another pose in this world, more than just another projection in this clutter of illusion and empty dreams.