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Joy is the only thing that everyone needs!

A Chat With Alexei Ustinov

Alexei Ustinov

Alexei Ustinov, the CTO of Jasmine Music Technology was born in 1957 in the town of Usolye-Sibirskoe near Lake Baikal (Russia, Siberia). During his school days he was engaged in sports, technical craft and music in piano-class. He graduated from Novosibirsk State Technical University in 1981 as a radio-engineer. Later he worked on different positions in scientific research institutes and plants and was lecturer 1983 in Novosibirsk Conservatory on "Musical Informatics", "Acoustics" and "Sound Engineering". In 1984 he organized Novosibirsk Computer Laboratory, which deals with hardware and software for electronic music. He is the author of a number of articles, books on electronic music-related questions, participant of Russian and international exhibitions, symposium, seminars. Alexei’s main interests are focused on expressiveness of electronic music and on mathematical methods of analysis, transformation and generation of music. As a musician he took part in amateur music bands, recording studio sessions and arrangements of his own as well as other authors' tunes. Has released a CD album co-authored with Ravi Dattatreya, a number of musical works are available in the Internet in mp3 and MIDI formats. He is married and a father of 3 sons.

The Interview

Alexei, how did you happen to be on this project?
It's a long story! About five years ago I met Dr. Ravi Dattatreya, and since then I have been involved in a wonderful collaboration with him. We have arranged a number of Indian tunes, Ravi's tunes, to be more specific. We have also recorded a CD together.

The movie is being shot in India, and you live in Russia, so how do you work on it?
First of all I use internet connection and computer technologies to exchange ideas, tunes, arrangements, song structure, harmony, and so on. In December I traveled to New York to meet Dr. Ravi and to work on Miss California songs. This visit to Dr. Ravi was very useful for my deeper understanding of the peculiarities of Indian music in common and Indian movie songs in particular. To be honest, some important things became clear to me only during my stay there. Indian and Russian songwriting tradition have a lot of differences, yet they have a lot of common elements.

Can you say a couple of words about this project?
I'm very far from the actual filming process, and I know about the movie only from Ravi, so I imagine the main storyline, characters, and time and places where events take place. It is a "happy" story about love, like almost all Indian films, as I can see. A girl was born in USA, a guy in India. Both of them are Indian, she likes USA and doesn't like India, and he feels the opposite. But fate collides them together. She is a model, and he is a photographer, and love between them changes their views.

You mentioned the difference in Russian and Indian song writing tradition, could you explain that?
Sure. The most important difference in the perception of an Indian song by a Russian mind is in the structure of a song. Usually Russian songs (or most of Western songs, for that matter) have such parts as Instrumental Intro, Verse (Part A), Refrain (Part B or Chorus), Instrumental Solo, and Ending. And the main principle is that Refrain follows Verse without interruption by a Bridge 1-2 measures long, or by an Instrumental Solo. And Refrain is such part which can be repeated many times and where the main idea of the song is presented. In Indian songs, as I can see now, Refrain almost never immediately follows Verse, moreover they are separated by a very long Instrumental Part, which can have a very different character compared with Refrain and Verse. So, in a musical sense, Refrain may not be a continuation of Verse here. Next interesting difference is that Indian Refrain ends in a very special part, which has independent meaning. I call it "moral resolution" which is very brightly expressed in melody features. I am sure any musicologist will prove it. It is funny, but Indians don't notice that because it is a something they take for granted.

Well, your explanation is very interesting, anything else?
The next thing which surprised me was the use of instrumental inserts. Before my last work on these movie songs I didn't have clear understanding of their purpose. In Russian song, Instrumental Intro, Solos, Bridges and Ending can be absolutely out of the main tune of the song. Intro and Ending can be very short, and all these parts serve for decorating, coloring the song. And they very rarely confront the main tune. In Indian movie songs these parts are usually meant to sing them like the main tune. So they are some kind of additional tunes, which can become as popular as main tune, and can be whistled or hummed. Also Indian Instrumental insert can contain very different short parts: happy and sad, quiet and vigorous, rhythmic and lyrical. At first sight it seems like a disruption of the song context, but these different parts serve to musically illustrate what is happening on the screen at the moment: hero laughing, enemy falling down, people dancing, a girl being sad, and so on. Of course, besides these differences in instrumental form of the song, there are many more peculiarities in Rhythm, Timbres, Harmony, used music Scales and so on.

What approach do you take in creating music, what part in this is played by computer technologies?
It seems that I use the traditional way for writing music. Usually I start from a tune then search for necessary harmony and rhythm, and then verify the final song structure, and after that adjust little elements. Regarding the computer: frankly speaking, all music that I make I create with computer. Live musician recording is seldom used not because I don't like it, but because it requires completely different conditions. But I like real sound very much. Maybe it is one of the reasons for my involvement in the development of computer technologies for modeling live performance. And I use such technologies all the time.

With a huge number of musical software available to choose from, do you have any favorites?
As a CTO of Jasmine Music Technology, I would very much like to say that I only use our own main products: Onyx Arranger 2.1 (Auto-arranging, Harmonizing, Modeling) and Style Enhancer 4.0. (Modeling, Generating). Both of them are very powerful as MIDI data recognizing and transforming tools, including Performance Modeling algorithms. Maybe they are even more powerful than any other MIDI software. For audio work, I use some additional software, first of all SONAR from Cakewalk. All this combined, allows me to execute the sequence of creating music. But I have to say that I cannot create a song arrangement without our products.

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