in Columns

On my music and beyond: The greatest achievement of humanity is art

by Sauli Zinovjev

“Composing is for me largely a matter of random meandering, and writing down the notes is only the tip of the iceberg in my process. My composing does not adapt to office hours, does not progress in a linear fashion and is not easily predictable; instead, it is variable and fragmented, and largely a complete mystery to me,” writes composer Sauli Zinovjev. This column is part of the series where composers and musicians write about their music.

The greatest achievement of humanity is art. This I believe to be true.

Writing a through-composed orchestral score is a slow and laborious way to make music. Creating a single work can take months or even years. In order simply to be able to complete the huge effort required by my creative process, I have to believe, at a very deep level, that this approach and this art form lends me a superlative form of control and power along with an irreplaceable expressive force. Whether anyone else believes in this is irrelevant as far as my inner motivation is concerned; indeed, an objective analysis of the work and its reception seem to me quite detached from the creative process itself.

There is no art without an artist. Art will always be more than the sum of its contents, because art contains the story of its creator within itself. True communication through art is humanism in its purest form.

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As an artist, my one and only goal is to immerse myself in my own absolute fantasy world. I have never been one to do things half-heartedly: it’s all or nothing with me. When I am composing, I exercise a godlike control in placing every particle of the composition exactly where it needs to be. There are no rules. The only beacon is my integrity towards myself.

Composing is for me largely a matter of random meandering, and writing down the notes is only the tip of the iceberg in my process. My composing does not adapt to office hours, does not progress in a linear fashion and is not easily predictable; instead, it is variable and fragmented, and largely a complete mystery to me.

Zinovjev3 Otto Virtanen
Sauli Zinovjev
Photo: Otto Virtanen

Although the ideal I have of a composition being a self-contained entity is a strong one, it is undeniable that one does not write music in a vacuum. My creative process is closely linked to impulses from the world around me which, having passed through my aesthetic filters, end up in my music. This is not to say that I am a philanthropist or a vehicle for any political movement in my art. There is no agenda in my art or in its motives. There is no right or wrong in my art.

One of the great paradoxes of being an artist is to be excited about something that does not exist yet. Every work that I write needs to justify its existence, to have an identity of its own. It takes time and patience to explore the countless alternatives and routes along which to take the journey signposted by the work at hand and finally to select those that best seem to support its narrative.

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Idealistically, I feel that every work contains everything, the entire world. My art begins where pitches, rhythms and harmonies end. Emotion is everything. Dramaturgy and textures shape an inexorable journey that progresses like an unyielding force of nature, like life itself. This is the space that I want to set up in my art for other people to visit and to extend the experience to others, person to person. This is also the only way in which I am able to receive art created by others: everything or nothing.

Art, in all its myriad forms, whether created by myself or by others, is a place where one can be open and vulnerable in a safe way. The turbulent vortex created by art that makes the hairs on your skin stand on end is in itself a justification for feeling and for experiencing life, the universe and everything.

Translation: Jaakko Mäntyjärvi
Featured photo: Otto Virtanen

In September 2021, HarrisonParrott and Polyarts launched Birdsong Music Publishing, a publishing service for composers. Sauli Zinovjev is one of their first six composers. Read more in Music Finland's news.

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