Instead of making children
This album was recorded after a two year hiatus of the band due to the sickness of Mikhail Alperin. The CD contains no traditional songs. The lyrics are written by Sergey Starostin and the compositions by Mikhail Alperin. The German Concerto Magazine has reviewed the album by saying: “[…] An excellent one, a masterly extremely interesting musical experience.”
“When confronted with the Moscow Art Trio, even hard-boiled critics go off into unrestrained raptures. … Such breathtaking talent, comtinbed with perfect technique and an understanding between the musicians that might almost be called magical – that just doesn’t happen very often.” Das Kulturmagazin
“Rarely have the frontiers between epochs, Eastern and Western folkmusic, and jazz and classical music been so gracefully negotiated as by the Moscow Art Trio” International Herald Tribune
The birth of the Moscow Art Trio was a gradual process, going from solo, through duo to trio phases of labor. Probably, I had needed several years of ripening before meeting Arkady, and, later on, Sergey. It has been said that a tree’s flowers bloom only when the tree itself becomes filled with superfluous energy. I was, at the time, ripe with musical ideas, and I was seething with a wish to share them. Time and again they wouldn’t let me sleep.
Once upon a time I was sitting rehearsing in my first floor Moscow apartment. It was in the summer. The windows were open. While playing, I had a feeling there was somebody outside. I looked out. There I saw this openmouthed guy with a bicycle and a child by his side. “Who are you?” I asked. “A musician, horn player, working with the Bolshoi Theatre,” he replied. “Passing by, I heard this unusual music. So I thought I might go nearer to listen.”
We started going to each other’s concerts, and soon the duo got on its feet. The French horn proved contagious to me, and it soon conquered me completely. I had never before written for that instrument. Arkady opened up to me a whole world of unexpected possibilities for brass instruments. And now we’ve been working together for twenty years. Over the years, we became close friends, even if friendship doesn’t always resemble a honeymoon. The first thing we do when we meet after rather long breaks is to tell each other the latest anecdotes. Sometimes that is more important than the rehearsals themselves. After a few hours of good laughs, the band is in good form again.
The act of conception of the »Moscow Art Trio« happened through a wall in a lakeside bungalow in Germany towards the end of the 1980s, during the very last offi cial USSR-East Germany Festival of Friendship, where some colossal creative powers were assembled – talents representing the avant-garde of Soviet culture of that epoch. It was late at night, and I was peacefully relaxing in my room. Suddenly, behind the wall, someone started flamboyantly and rhythmically singing some folklore thing. Soon I heard the voices of a whole choir. No chance of sleeping. I knocked on my neighbors’ door, and, provokingly, suggested two options: either they dampen the noise, or we try to fi gure out some jamming together. Five minutes later, we denied the other guests in the bungalow any chance to sleep. That incredible night, those penetrating folkloristic voices, among them that of Sergey Starostin, astounded me with their jubilant energy combined with sadness and sorrow from centuries past. Today, I keep discovering these qualities of folk music as part of my way of looking at the world. Dance fi lled with sadness. Sadness filled with dance.
That night I couldn’t help waking up to something. That night the conception happened. At the time, of course, I never realized such a thing. That’s the way it usually is. The next day, Sergey Starostin added himself to my already existing duo with Arkady Shilkloper, and within a week, we entered a studio in Moscow to test ourselves as a trio. We were not born yet, but signs of pregnancy were easily observed.
I was lucky. Thank heaven for sending me a new friend and teacher of folklore. Today I can easily see that such a living source as traditional lore can’t be accessed solely within the walls of a conservatory, nor through recordings of even the most wonderful patterns of folk music. Only togetherness with that “river that is man” makes it possible to quench that thirst for eternity. Folk music was never born; therefore it can never die. And it will never fear contraceptives.
June 5th, (June 5,)1990. We – Misha, Arkasha, and Seryozha – were born as a trio on the stage of the Estradny Theatre in Moscow, close to midnight, during the 1st International Moscow Jazz Festival. It didn’t hurt. There were no pains(was no pain). On that very date, the 5th of June of that very year, my only daughter, Ksenia, was born, too.
The infant trio grew up, not in the course of days – it was a matter of hours. The trio turned into a true musical laboratory, where we would experiment at large, becoming some sort of unstoppable alchemist jesters. We kept trying, after the fashion of Mitchurinets, the scientist, to cross the apple of classical composition with the pear of authentic folklore in the element of jazz. Some regarded this quest as sheer madness, maintaining that the well-tempered piano can not be mixed with an un-tempered folk song voice – the twain, allegedly, represented two diff erent types of nature, alien to each other and, therefore, unable to meet. That is what the ECM Records producer Manfred Eicher told us when explaining why he would discard our recordings made in the studio in Oslo. Quite possibly, he might have been right, but our “childish” intuition told us that our mission was not impossible. So we never gave up. And time proved us right. Today, that which 15 years ago was perceived as an experiment, is experienced as a taste acquired. In the course of those years, we have changed, if maybe unnoticeably, and so has the world around us. And our music has changed, too. But even though we now live in diff erent countries (only Sergey Starostin is still a Muscovite), we nevertheless carry the same name, the Moscow Art Trio, because it is an unseparable part of our lives.
Oh yes, about the name: We weren’t the ones to invent it. During a tour of ours in the early 1990s, in one small German town, we saw the poster at the club entrance: “The Moscow Art Trio in Concert.” We were stunned, but also pleased. There was no need to think up something else. The name was the idea of the local concert organizers, and we went along with it, because it fully mirrored our musical esthetics.
Sadly, during the last few years, we haven’t seen too much of each other. Sometimes that gives us “waves of sorrow”. There are times when we jokingly refer to ourselves as the “Moscow Arthritic Trio”. While still experiencing ourselves as little kids trying to put together funny sounds, we try to do it with the wisdom of elders. That is not always simple, but, nevertheless, it constitutes the core of our dainty musical theatre – the theatre of the Moscow Art Trio.
The contents of this disc was born gradually, too, in the course of 2002-2003, but found its ripeness during 2005. I feel that it was literally born, that is, gave birth to itself. My part of it was that of the midwife, consisting of patiently waiting out the pains of labor – and the waiting proved rather lengthy. In our present program, there is practically not one single traditional song – the lyrics are written by Sergey Starostin, and the compositions by myself. The reason why our trio performed so seldom throughout the years 2003-2005 had to do with my period of serious illness. God sent me suff ering that proved to be a good education for me. In the course of those two years, I began seeing life as not only a series of breaks between concerts and stints of creative composition, but also as a colorful festival with many unexpected events, where pain and discomfort are included as necessary elements for the sake of contrast. During those two years without the trio, we kept longing for each other. Perhaps that is why this particular repertory is so dear to us. Thank God we’re together again! In 2006, the sum of our years taken together will amount to a 150th birthday. At such an age I think it is only appropriate to call our work “Instead of Making Children.
Oslo, October 20th, 2005, Misha Alperin. Translated from Russian by Isak Rogde.