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Alexander Khubeev

Melodies, themes, chords, and/or concepts can spark a composition but for Alexander Khubeev (1986) the trigger point may well be a surprising sound. He owns most orchestral instruments. “I always try them out myself so I can experiment freely.”

“Sometimes I find extraordinary sounds by chance. Musicians often operate based on tradition and experience. So I take matters into my own hands. During rehearsal, this allows me to demonstrate how I want things played.”

Using unorthodox methods, Khubeev teases out unheard sounds. In The Whisper of Phoenix, the violinist deploys thimbles; the woodwinds in Ghost of Dystopia move bows across plastic boxes. The composer sets great store by the physical interaction between performer and instrument. “My material evolves from friction. Rubbing, scraping, scratching, touching. The music should have a physical effect on the audience.”

There are no institutes or festivals for contemporary music in Russia and few contemporary ensembles. Khubeev’ generation grew up in Russia, not the Soviet Union. Many older composers have left the country but younger generations feel freer. There is room for experimenting. Khubeev: “I love composers who are ahead of their times. Bach, Stravinsky, Mussorgsky, Schönberg. You could say that they wrote the music of the future.”

Photo © Anna van Kooij