Alexander Billione: The most important priority in my life is a complete devotion to the profession i love
ALEXANDER HOW DID YOUR CREATIVE ACTIVITY START? WHAT WAS THE KEY PROJECT IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF YOUR TALENT IN YOUR OPINION?
My first big commercial project was the play “Mowgli. The Jungle Book” (2014) in Moscow Region State Chamber Theatre under artistic leadership of Sergey Bezrukov. I have by now composed scores for four plays at this theatre.
Before this, all my audiovisual projects were made with my friends — producers and classmates at GITR Film&Television School. One of these friends is Anton Lanshakov, the director of “Heroes of Envell”. As for music, I write it since I was a little child, according to my parents. There was no other way in the family of musicians.
WHAT COMPOSER YOU COULD CALL YOUR TEACHER? WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE COMPOSER, THE IDOL? WHAT DO YOU PRIORITISE IN YOUR LIFE AND CREATIVE WORK?
A lot of music passed through my ears when I was a child — I could hear “Queen”, “ABBA”, Madonna or Michael Jackson in one day.
Parents could put on the record “In the Hall of the Mountain King” by Edward Grieg in the evening or I could hear my dad playing Bach’s Fugues or something from Stravinsky’s ballet on baby grand piano in our spacious room. I suppose that’s why I love classical and electronic music equally. Besides, there were already such movie hits like “Back to the Future”, “Indiana Jones”, “Terminator”, “Star Wars” with catchy music.
Of course, at that age, I didn’t think about people who made it possible for me to reconstruct the movie atmosphere by just murmuring the melody from it.
Thus, my favourite ‘old school’ film composers-melodists are: Alan Silvestri (“Back to the Future”), John Williams (“Indiana Jones”, “Jurassic Park”, “Star Wars”, and many others), Danny Elfman (“Edward Scissorhands”, “Alice in Wonderland”, “Batman” (1989). Hans Zimmer (“Inception”, “The Dark Knight”, “Interstellar”), John Powell (“How to Train Your Dragon”), Don Davis (“The Matrix”) are from the modern ones.
As for classic music, I like composers-impressionists such as Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel, Eric Satie. Listening to the electronic music, I was very impressed by “Prodigy”, “Chemical Brothers”, “FatBoy Slim”, “Moby”, and by many others performing drum’n’bass, breaks, house, and techno styles.
Concerning the priorities in creative activity, most of all I want the music I write or hear to be harmonious and catchy. Though, all I sometimes need is just a pleasant nice ‘background’. Well, the priority in my life is a complete devotion to the profession I love.
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT YOUR WORK ON ANIMATED SERIES “HEROES OF ENVELL” AND “F.A.S.T.”? WHAT DIFFICULTIES YOU FACE WORKING ON THIS PROJECTS?
It’s difficult to rate your own work, let other people judge, it will obviously be easier for them to do. I do like the both projects, each has its own cool features, I tried to emphasise each feature by a unique musical style and colour.
WHAT NEW OPPORTUNITIES DO YOU SEE FOR THE MUSIC IN CHILDREN’S CARTOONS AND ANIMATED SERIES? IS THERE A FUNDAMENTAL DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THEM?
I suppose, music for cartoons in Russia is getting more serious now. I mean, the process of composing is taken more seriously. I don’t see any difference between writing the score for a cartoon for pre-schoolers, a bloodcurdling thriller, a car commercial or a play by Gogol. Anyway you analyse what you have seen and select a unique techniques, instruments or the way you play them in soundtrack for the project.
For instance, I write the score for “Heroes of Envell” like for a true blockbuster sometimes forgetting it is a cartoon. I guess, this is a unique musical colour in this project.
SO MUCH DEPENDS ON MUSIC IN A CARTOON, AND THE LAST EPISODES OF “HEROES OF ENVELL” ARE MARKED BY MORE GROWN-UP AND SERIOUS ACTIONS OF THE CHILDREN. HOW DID IT AFFECT THE MUSIC?
Yes, the music plays an important role. I like the tension grows every episode and the music should respectively be even more serious and sometimes ‘darker’ to emphasise all the difficulties the characters face.
ARE THERE ANY PARTICULAR THINGS ABOUT COMPOSING SOUNDTRACKS FOR ‘HEROES’ AND ‘VILLAINS’?
Music themes of ‘heroes’ and ‘villains’ should of course be different. The heroes, ‘good guys’, usually stand on a bright side of history, that’s why positive, inspiring, uncomplicated melodies are used here. The theme of villains, on the contrary, has mysterious, unpredictable, dark sounding of instruments and melodies.
HOW DO YOU USE INFINITE POSSIBILITIES OF COMPUTER WHEN CREATING YOUR COMPOSITIONS?
It is actually difficult to imagine the composing of a modern music without a computer. For instance, you can record the whole your musical idea at once or divide it into parts by seconds for combining them later in any order, you will even hear the final result of it. It is much more difficult to do when writing music on a sheet of paper.
If you need some parties to be played by real musicians, you can transfer your computer material into the real score. After the material has been performed by musicians and recorded at an audio studio, you can edit it once again or continue experiments and turn the record you got into the whole new material. Only your own fantasy can restrain you.
WHICH CRITERIA SHOULD A COMPOSER MEET? IS IT OBLIGATORY FOR A MUSIC WRITER TO HAVE A PHILOSOPHICAL MIND?
Like any creative person, a composer must have an endless desire to create something new and a powerful imagination. One needs philosophy only to restrain himself if necessary, or, on the contrary, to break the limits.
DO YOU THINK THAT CLASSIC MUSIC STILL HELPS TO CREATE NEW MUSIC STYLES? HOW CREATIVE INTUITION HELPS IN CREATING MUSIC?
All the music we hear now, there is no difference a rock or an electronic one, derives from classic music. Creative intuition is an experience, and the more experience you get, the easier for you.
CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE PROCESS OF COMPOSING?
Everything starts with the idea, then you sing this idea, then you decide it is good enough to record on a computer and give it a form. Then you delete everything. Or you do not. Or you wake up the next day and make one more version.
THE RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN THE CHARACTERS IN “HEROES OF ENVELL” AND “F.A.S.T.” DEMONSTRATE THE VERY ESSENCE OF PLOT DEVELOPMENT: THE CHARACTERS GROW UP, THE NARRATIVE EVOLVES. HOW DO YOU WEAVE AN EMOTIONAL COMPONENT INTO THE MUSIC?
I have to run through everything together with the characters in order to understand the level of emotions I should reflect in the music.
WAS IT DIFFICULT TO COMPOSE FOR “F.A.S.T.”? IT SEEMS TO BE COMPLETELY DIFFERENT TO THE MUSIC FOR “HEROES OF ENVELL”
The difficulty is the same every time. I like to make projects with different concepts and ideas as if I I’m travelling to various worlds each of which has its own rules and beauty. I have to invent a new musical trick for the every new project to make it more unique and colourful. It is so amazing!
ONE OF OUR VIEWERS WROTE THE MUSIC FOR “СUTIE CUBIES” “SUDDENLY CONTAINS JUNGLE, HAPPY HARDCORE, 8-BIT, SYNTH POP AND IT IS EVEN POSSIBLE TO FIND AN OLD SCHOOL BREAKBEAT!”
COULD YOU COMMENT WHETHER HE WAS RIGHT OR NOT?
Yes, he got everything right. It is great, the concept of super crazy mixture was proposed by the creator of the animated series — Evgeny Golovin, the creative producer of “Parovoz” animation studio.
HOW DO YOU MANAGE TO COMBINE VARIOUS STYLES AND PRESERVE THE HARMONY IN THE MUSICAL PIECE?
I love all of this music, I was actively fond of it in a certain period of my life and know all specific features of the named music styles. Combining of music styles is one of my favourite things to do. What if it leads to something totally new?
YOU WRITE MUSIC THAT WINS LOVE OF CHILDREN ALL OVER THE WORLD. HOW DO YOU FIND WAYS TO THOSE ONES WHO WERE BROUGHT UP IN A CULTURE DIFFERENT TO OURS? HOW DID YOU OVERCOME THIS CULTURAL BACKGROUND OR DID YOU FIND A UNIVERSAL APPROACH?
I believe the internet smoothly united us in the twenty-first century. It really helps.
ARE YOU INTERESTED IN POP, ROCK MUSIC, JAZZ? WHAT MUSIC DO YOU LISTEN IN YOUR SPARE TIME? NAME SOME SINGERS, BANDS THAT ARE CLOSE TO YOUR ATTITUDE.
I try to listen everything from baroque classic and ‘70s funk to the most insane electronic experiments and trap of the present time.
WHICH PARTICULAR PROPERTIES, WOULD YOU SAY, FILM MUSIC MUST HAVE? WHAT IS THE MAGIC OF FILM MUSIC?
The film music «colours» or «tells» what is happening on a screen providing the necessary emotions. The magic is that in a certain scene a properly composed music can explain a viewer that picture alone can’t show. Well-combined music and picture generate something new, that can’t impress you as picture or music would do separately from each other.
In a way, film music is the soul of a film. The significance of music in film is illustrated by the way you start to perceive the picture. For instance, when looking on a picture of a smiling man turn on a very lively music, then change it to a sad one. Your perception of the picture will change depending on the character of the music.
IS THERE ANY COMPOSITION THAT IS ALWAYS ON YOUR MIND?
Of course, there are quite a lot of such compositions. For example, I can listen to “Moonlight” and “Dream” by Claude Debussy or “Romantic Flight” by John Powell from “How to Train Your Dragon”, and, at the same time, I can listen to “Get Lucky” by Duft Punk or “This Is America” by Childish Gambino from the latest ones.
WHAT IS YOUR IDEA OF “MODERN MUSIC”? DO YOU SEE ANY COMMON RULES OF MODERN MUSIC DEVELOPMENT OR EACH OF THE PRESENT DAY ARTISTS HAS ITS OWN WAY INDEPENDENT FROM TRENDS?
The modern music is aimed for minimalism, I’m curious to watch it. All the modern composers use minimalism in one or another form, because trends were always determined by our environment and evolution of technologies on the planet.
THE MODERN ARTIST, THE MODERN COMPOSER – WHO IS HE?
He must be ‘in trend’.
DO YOU THINK IMPRESSIONS FROM LITERARY AND ART WORKS CAN STIMULATE FOR COMPOSING OF THE NEW PIECES?
This is the very principle of audiovisual art, whether animation or cinema. Besides, paintings always inspired musicians, and music inspired painters.
WHAT WOULD YOU ADVISE TO YOUNG COMPOSERS?WHAT IS YOUR ADVISE?
Try to figure out what you precisely like or don’t like in the music you listen to. And keep constantly listening to everything every time!