Congratulations on your debut score EP, Samovar, which premiered on Spotify and all digital platforms on June 10, 2021. It is truly beautiful! What was the inspiration behind it?
Thank you! I’ve released music in the past, but this is my first time presenting my score-centric work. My goal was to create something that both represents my writing style and where I come from. I’ve always been proud of my family and the way they brought me up, so I leaned into the idea that this record was going to be a story for them. Samovar is about Russian culture and the generational trauma that comes from growing up as a Russian Jew in the USSR. Ne Zabudu Ya is a lyric I repeat several times throughout the EP, which literally translates to “I Won’t Forget”. Having those words repeated and sort of looped throughout the suite, was my own way of musically articulating the oppressive nature of growing up in Communism while verbalizing how painful memories often remain for longer than we want them to.
You have written music for a lot of very well-known brands such as BMW, Vanity Fair, AT&T, Lenovo and Adobe. What are the keys for a successful career in commercial music?
Patience. One of the biggest lessons I learned was not to get too emotionally attached to commercial projects because they’re hard to land, and easy to lose. It feels a lot like a game because it’s fun, and competitive. You’re constantly pitching and winning or pitching and losing. It’s all about sales. You have to be exceptionally flexible, fast, and good at moving from one style of writing to the next. In a single day you could be composing a jingle for a toilet paper bear, while tracking a virtual gospel choir for a pharmaceutical commercial. I don’t believe in rules when it comes to creativity- but commercial music has a lot of them. I think that it’s important to understand the narrative arch of commercial storytelling and how music plays a role in defining and enhancing that arch. The shorter the commercial spot, the more precise you have to be with hitting every mark along the way. The commercial music world is not for the faint hearted.
Going from the fast-paced commercial music house world to long form narrative projects must have been quite a transition. What were the similarities and differences you have experienced as you adapted from commercials to film / TV?
Oh, it was! I feel eternally grateful for the incredible lessons I learned, and knowledge I gained working in commercials. I think it set me up for success in that it taught me to be effective with my time. The hardest part for me was the transition from short form to long form writing. I had to learn how to allow my work to breathe. In film music, you’re telling longer stories. I was so used to rushing and working quickly, it was actually weird to have more time! It felt like a gift because it allowed me to explore who I am as a composer out of the confines of immediate deadlines. I feel like I’ve grown so much just by expanding the breadth of work I’m lucky enough to contribute to. I’m excited to continue growing.
You scored Procter and Gamble’s “The Talk”, a very meaningful short film addressing the conversations black parents often have to have with their children about racial prejudice. Not only did it get you an AICP nomination for Best Original Music, but also the London International Award for Original Music. What was the collaboration like for this delicate film encouraging everyone to talk about bias? Can you talk a little bit about your compositional choices when delivering such an important message through music?
Allow the story to tell itself. I used a lot of soft piano and cello movements because the topic is so delicate in nature. I let the music really breathe in this piece because the story is incredibly strong, and unbelievably important. I wanted the piano movements to ring out between cuts to support the cohesion of different families talking about the same problem. In film, music plays a supporting role to story. I think there’s a learning curve there because as artists we create these beautiful, brilliant sounds that we want the world to hear and love as much as we do. As composers we have to learn how to allow those sounds to help carry a story. That was my role here. The story of bias exists before me and unfortunately after me- I just wanted to be there to support the message.
What are the most important elements that spark your creativity?
Doing things that feed your soul with the good stuff. Trusting that doing things your way is the right way even if it’s different. Seeking affirmations from within instead of externally. All of these things spark my creativity because they allow me to have faith in my own ability to create. I think it’s easy to get caught up in what everyone else is doing, especially now with our lives being so public on social media, that sometimes I lose sight of how grateful I am to be creative for a living. Creativity is a muscle that needs care and positive energy. If I’m not taking care of my brain and my body, I don’t find myself working as well as when I do. It all goes hand in hand for me.
Interview by Esin Aydingoz
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