Alexander Goldstein – about the claims to the programs of Sinitsina – Katsalapov and Tarasova – Morozov, the musicality of athletes and why it is wrong to “cut” music.
Music is an integral part of the skater’s program. It sets the tone and the overall impression, affects the evaluation of the components. Many viewers love the screenings of their idols precisely for the choice of music, and the sounding melody sometimes produces a hypnotic effect on the judges. Preparing music for a performance includes not only searching for a composition, editing it according to the rules, but also unique arrangements, creating rhythms, accents, and sometimes even writing original music.

Match TV discusses creative and technical processes with composer Alexander Goldstein. He has been skating for about 50 years and has created music for hundreds of championship programs.

Alexander Goldstein is a composer, author of symphonic, chamber and pop works, music producer, honored coach of the RSFSR, member of the Russian Authors’ Society and the American Society of Composers.

Author of music for 26 feature films, more than 300 documentaries and animation films, as well as music for performances, circus programs, TV programs, advertising in the USSR, the USA and other countries. Participated in the creation of several episodes of the famous Soviet cartoon “Well, you wait!”.

The first professional who took up music for figure skating and synchronized swimming. Created compositions for Lyudmila Pakhomova and Alexander Gorshkov, Irina Rodnina and Alexander Zaitsev, Natalia Linichuk and Gennady Karponosov, Natalia Bestemyanova and Andrey Bukin, Ilya Kulik, Alexei Yagudin, Albena Denkova and Maxim Stavisky, Tatyana Navka and Roman Kostomarov, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir , Meryl Davis and Charlie White, Michelle Kwan, Sarah Hughes, Sasha Coen, Suzuki Arakawa, Miki Ando, Daisuke Takahashi and many other champions.

In synchronized swimming, he collaborated with Maria Maximova, Zoya Barbier, Vera Evseeva, Tatyana Tsym. Today – with athletes from Israel, the USA, Egypt and other countries.

Translated gymnastics from piano accompaniment to phonograms. Among gymnast clients are Elena Davydova, Natalia Shaposhnikova, Nelly Kim, Elena Mukhina.

He has music for 40 Olympic medalists in his piggy bank.

Now he works with athletes from fifteen countries. In Russia, he is associated with the groups of Tamara Moskvina, Sergey Davydov and many coaches whom he made music for when they were athletes. She also collaborates with rhythmic gymnasts from the USA, Canada and Israel.

– How to properly identify your functions in the creation of sports programs?

— I am a music editor, and an arranger, and a composer, and a specialist who selects the right music, improves or corrects its sound, checks it for all components. When the music is found, I edit it, think over the musical accents and transitions, and in the end I work on the sound of the soundtrack that the athlete performs to, which is correct for large audiences. That is, I spend all the complex work on music.

– Describe, please, the process of creating music for figure skating.

– First, it is important to understand the program plan: what is the order of the elements? Then I step back a little: I analyze what kind of music these skaters have already used, what kind of music they skated better, and where they fell short. So I gradually understand what kind of music will develop them and at the same time can be comfortable for the performance of elements. It’s harder to do now than it used to be. The requirements for the programs of figure skaters are very one-sided – with a bias towards jumps. Because of this, coaches often choose to have average, background music that does not interfere with jumping. This reduces the interest of the audience. After all, entering the jumps requires a lot of time, and these places do not carry an emotional message.

I would like the technical scenario of the program to be intertwined with the rhythmic construction of the music, and it is quite realistic to do this. Of the performances I recently watched, I would like to cite the new programs of Mark Kondratyuk as an example: there music, choreography and elements are in good harmony.

– I often come across the expression “cut and compose music.” It seems to me that it belittles the meaning of your work. After all, musical material is not fabric.

– I often receive such requests from people who are far from my profession. Although all Russian coaches have a higher education (not like in America) and a huge amount of knowledge, they often treat music without due attention.

Let me give you a fresh example of a program dressed in the wrong musical form: Spartak by Pyotr Gumennik. Many different fragments from Khachaturian’s ballet are chosen so that they coincide with the movements. The campaign is correct, but a good composition did not work out here, the neglect or ignorance of the laws of musical form affected. It is not enough to select the rhythm locally for each element – the whole composition should be logical from the point of view of music, and not “cut”. There are rules in music that are important to learn and use. How does the public react? Heart: “I like it” or “I don’t like it.” A simple spectator does not think that here the musical transition is bad, here the music did not correspond to the movement, etc. No one analyzes this. Just do not like”. And “like” if everything came together.

— What does “add accents” from the list of works on your site mean?

– Emphasis is placed when the program is completely ready and rolled up. Let’s say I see that at such and such a moment there is a jump, cascade or rotation. And nothing happens in the musical material. To enhance the effect, I add a certain musical accent or a series of them. Moreover, I try to make the accents obey organically, and not be a “foreign body”. This approach allows you to draw the attention of the judges and the viewer to the important points of the program.

As for the arrangement, this year I have seriously strengthened the rhythmic dance percussion group of Japanese dancers Kana Muramoto and Daisuke Takahashi. Initially, in the composition “Koto” by CloZee, the rhythmic pattern required in this dance according to the rules was not sufficiently expressed. I added the sound of several real Japanese instruments to the soundtrack, and they created the feeling of the necessary beat.

– What is created first of all – music or a technical scenario of the program?

— Most often I take notes on a list of elements: jumps, runs in front of them, rotations, tracks… They are all at different speeds, and I try to break them down into separate episodes of music. In the process of preparation, sometimes it turns out that there is not enough, for example, 2-3 seconds for a rotation, and in another place there is extra time. And I have to figure out where to find extra seconds without losing musicality and where they can be cut. Composer technique helps a lot with this.

It happens that the program is ready, but something did not work out with the music. They show me the old program and say: “Technically, we don’t want to change anything. Put on some new music.” Then I myself choose the music and mount it so that everything matches as much as possible. Sometimes it turns out even better than before. True, this option is more difficult for me to execute and the responsibility is higher. But with success and more pleasure.

How long have you been making music for a program or dance?

“Maximum two days, usually a day. I have advanced music and sound editing programs, several powerful computers and a little skill.

“Today, on the Internet, you can easily find any composition in different variations, download it as a file to your computer and cut out the necessary fragments through online programs. How did you cope with this task half a century ago – without a computer?

— The original records were stored on magnetic tape. All the necessary fragments were copied to another tape recorder and the film was cut. If they didn’t like it, they rewrote it again. The original cannot be touched, of course. The hardest part was finding a certain place on the film and cutting the tape at a certain angle. And the film speed on professional tape recorders was, for a moment, 38 cm per second. Then you connect the two films with special glue and listen to how it turned out. Later, adhesive tape appeared, but it used to spread and glue the coils. Then it turned out that abroad there is a special tape for such work. They brought her to me. It helped that I did everything in a film studio and had access to professional equipment. On special occasions, he went to the orchestra recording pavilion, where he could record additional sounds. In the dubbing studio, which was serviced by a whole team of technicians, it was possible to make a mix in a few hours (now it is done in a couple of dozen clicks). I didn’t limit myself to film editing. By the way, the Soviet film was not of the best quality. Over time, I agreed in the sports committee that West German BASF films would be bought for the national team.

In the early 80s, cassettes appeared. But working on cassette tape with its low speed meant a deterioration in quality. I only rewrote the results of my work on cassettes. Then mini-discs appeared, where you could do some editing. Then came computers and turned the world upside down. Now, at all competitions, the organizers only accept audio files. Only the Japanese still ask for individual discs of their music – they like the design and packaging.

– You started working with figure skaters half a century ago. How did everything develop?

– A sports film scriptwriter who liked my musical score for films recommended me to Elena Chaikovskaya. We met, found a common language and worked together for many years. I often went to training camps with Elena Anatolyevna’s group – it was an excellent school. After a while, I was asked to take care of the entire USSR national team. Even appointed as a state coach in charge of music. The title was purely formal: I went to training when I considered it necessary, and was engaged only in the musical process.

But it immediately became uncomfortable for me to work: I found myself in the center of relationships between several eminent coaches at once, who competed and were jealous of each other, believing that I had offered better music to others. I was also vice chairman of the arts council. I’ll criticize a few people – immediately a “blood enemy”. I just wanted and always want to work with quality, regardless of who the music is for. But not everyone understood this. As a result, after two years I got tired of maneuvering and resigned. By this time, I had a lot of composer orders, and I just returned to Elena Tchaikovsky – there were no problems with her.

– You created music for many programs of Lyudmila Pakhomova and Alexander Gorshkov. As far as I know, their free dance to Paul Mauriat’s “The Lark” even has a direct connection with the intro of the famous program “In the Animal World”.

– At that time, the music performed by French orchestras (especially Mauriat) was a fresh stream. Bright orchestration, dynamic rhythms and incomparable sound-mood very organically fit Pakhomova and Gorshkov. By the way, in Soviet times, musical designers were forbidden to mention the names of foreign artists, even if we used their work. But when you really want to, you can (smiles). We took risks for the sake of quality and results. Winners are not judged, and I do not regret anything.

By the way, many years later it was very revealing with the music for the French single skater Florent Amodio. In 2009, vocals with words were banned, and Nikolai Morozov and I left the music with vocals at the end of Florent’s free program. That is, we openly violated the rules, but the judges did not reduce the points. And already in the next season, ISU officially allowed vocal music. So we were innovators, our courage was appreciated. I always love what seems impossible. As for the famous “Lark” by Paul Mauriat, I soon used this recording for the musical design of the intro of the program “In the Animal World”. She has been on the air for over 30 years.

— How was the legendary “Winter” by Alexei Yagudin created?

– It was the idea of his coaches Tatyana Tarasova and Nikolai Morozov. The music was brand new at the time. I calculated that before the step sequence invented by Nikolai, the music would stop. Elements of this amazing track are used by single skaters and dancers to this day. And they start it in the same way after the music stops. Calculating music by elements is one of the main conditions for the program to be remembered.

– You wrote music for the victory dances of Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, Meryl Davis and Charlie White.

– Marina Zueva had a very interesting and productive period. We are still working with her today. These duets are diverse, and there were no problems with the selection of music. Each gravitated towards different genres: Tessa and Scott strove for more sophisticated musical material and its presentation. And Meryl and Charlie preferred a more open, upbeat sporty style. All this expanded my field of activity.

Photo: © Personal archive of Alexander Goldstein
— Many of my interlocutors admire Daisuke Takahashi’s unique hip-hop arrangement of Swan Lake. Tell us about this work.

– By the time we started working with music, the program was ready: all the elements already had their place and exact time. Kolya Morozov and I decided to kill two birds with one stone – to use a well-known theme and present it in a completely new sound. The theme was “Swan Lake”, and the rhythm was hip-hop. I had to compose music, because, of course, there was no ready-made one. Everyone was surprised, and you see how they still remember! Since childhood, I love classical music in modern processing.

– Let’s talk about your creations of recent years. For example, a chic “Bolero” for Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov.

“Here I did more technical work than creative work. “Bolero” is a complex 14-minute piece. It starts off very quietly, but ends up booming. Such a huge dynamic range for figure skating is unacceptable. I had to find the performance with the relatively loudest opening and transform it so that everything was loud from start to finish.

– How would you rate the musical style of Evgenia and Vladimir’s new programs?

– I have not watched the short one yet, and the free music, in my opinion, is not very successful. For two years of work with Marina Zueva, the skaters have acquired a championship gloss, and this music is a step back. Although Eteri Tutberidze’s group usually has a great selection of music. But something didn’t work out here. You don’t usually win with this kind of music, but I would love to be wrong.

– I would like your expert opinion on the new programs of the figure skaters of our team.

– Let me emphasize right away: I evaluate only the music of programs, no other components. I talk about what I hear while watching. I ask you not to attribute anything else to me (laughs). So, the programs of Mark Kondratyuk, Alena Kostornaya and Maya Khromykh were impressive. The reason why I did not like “Spartak” with Peter Gumennik, I explained above. The composition “Schindler’s List” by Mikhail Kolyada is well composed in terms of musical form. But the image of Schindler himself is almost impossible to convey with this music. When Yulia Lipnitskaya skated, everything was clear: she is the girl in the red coat. And for Schindler, it seems to me that there is no suitable music in the soundtrack.

The overall impression of this season’s programs is that there is little novelty. Especially in men, everything is rolled many times over. Although many coaches often think that familiar music helps to better understand the program. I disagree. I especially want to see innovation among the leaders.

Take, for example, the free dance of Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov. The problem is not even in the fact that they took the classics and not very dance music, but in the great disproportion of the musical form of dance. The violin interpretation of the Rachmaninov Concerto is interesting, but too long, and then the transition to a rhapsody on a theme by Paganini. These are completely different works. Why connect them? To justify the choice with the banal “well, this is Rachmaninoff!” Sorry, illiteracy. Speaking about the leaders, I argue: is the music champion? Victoria and Nikita clearly have a chance at the podium of the Olympic Games, but they have never been won with such compositions before. For the judges who will be against the duo, this is a great reason to take points off.

Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov / Photo: © Dmitry Chelyapin / Match TV
– And how do you like the dance of Elizaveta Khudaiberdiyeva and Yegor Bazin to the famous music from the movie “After the Rain”? It is in demand among skaters of different types.

This genre is called New Age. Music develops through texture, not through melodies and counterpoints. Moreover, the rhythm and tempo do not change. This is not dance music. But the dancers need to show all their best various qualities in four minutes. Which is difficult, because the music keeps them in a tight frame. Much does not match, one obligatory change of rhythm does not help. And the dancers just win with the pace and rhythms. See how many terms that are important to consider?

– Elizaveta Tuktamysheva introduces original music every season.

– I agree, she’s a great fellow! All the time goes forward, her musical choice is always among the best. That’s how you have to move.

So I wonder why they took Scheherazade for Anabel Morozov and Andrey Bagin? With this music, other dancers have already become champions, this is not forgotten. They will certainly be compared. If you take such music, then only with the initial firm confidence that you will do better. And I doubt that Scheherazade-Anabel will now surpass Meryl Davis in this role. I think it’s a prejudged comparison.

– Which of the modern figure skaters feels the music best?

— Mark Kondratyuk, Evgeny Semenenko, Anna Shcherbakova, Nastya Mishina and Sasha Gallyamov. But in general, do you know what is the cornerstone of music in figure skating? The viewer must feel and understand what is happening in the program. Music must be in harmony with the movements of the skaters and be an integral part of their performance. Then both sports and art will turn out.