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Cinema Music


“Composing for cinema was always a difficult task for me,
but also extremely interesting and deserving.”

Aram Khachaturian

Aram Khachaturian has created music for 25 films. During the 1930-40-s he worked with enthusiasm on cinema music, introducing an excellent perception of its specific rules and understanding the role of music in revealing the idea.
Two remarkable films – G. Sundukian’s classic play “Pepo” (1935) and a historical-revolutionary film "Zangezur" (1938) were created as a result of co-operation with a renowned director Amo Bek-Nazarov. “Pepo” and “Zangezur” are the first national music films.
The film “Pepo” is a debut of Khachaturian in film; at the same time it also became a turning point for the Armenian cinematography. The song of the hero in “Pepo” gained special love in Caucasus, and up till now, it has existed there as “own” national song.
In “Zangezur”, Khachaturian introduced himself as a master of symphonic cinema music. The “Zangezur march” from music to the film has enjoyed wide popularity. Some of the principles, included in the music to the film “Zangezur”, have found their reflection in the future in the String concert, the ballet “Spartacus” and the music to other films. In 1938, Khachaturian was awarded the title of a renowned art worker of Armenia for his music to the films “Pepo” and “Zangezur”.
However, the creative interests of the composer in the cinema were not only limited by the national scope. In 1938, he composed music to the first Tajik talking picture “The Garden” (director N. Dostal) and in 1940, to the historical-revolutionary film “Salavat Iulayev” (director V. Protazanov).
In 1943, he had an occasion to meet and start working with the scenarist
M. Romm, producing the film “Prisoner No.217” about a Soviet girl, who worked at the fascist penal servitude. Khachaturian, through musical means, brilliantly expressed his feelings of indignation and protest in this work. “Together with the dramatist and the director, I was obliged to express my attitude to the fact. The music was to bring the audience into a condition of strong spiritual excitement and anger”, said the composer.
After a while, M. Romm suggested that Khachaturian compose music to “The Russian Question”. According to the author, the most interesting trick was the replacing of the hero’s words by music. The composer would recall the scene, where the hero of the film (the journalist Smith) had to make a decision on whether or not to write the truth about the Soviet Union: “The face of the actor is excited, but we listen not to his words, but to the music expressing its emotions. And I think that all the audience understood what Smith was speaking about in his passionate speech”.
Romma’s last three films, in which Khachaturian participated, are “Secret Mission”, “Admiral Ushakov” and “Ships Storming the Bastions”.
Co-operation with the director Petrov in the film “The Battle of Stalingrad” was of great importance. Two parts of the film develop the complete picture of an unprecedented battle in front of its audience. The composer’s work, by his own acknowledgment, consisted of the music composition, which is not too diluted by other tons. There was no need of either the lyrics, or a song – but only great tension. The author recalled: “It was for the first time that the material of such amplitude came up before me. Two hours of battle music! All of the kind that I made before can’t be compared with current task. By its scope, the battle in itself exceeded all the previously known ones in the history…”
Khachaturian did not always apply his principles to the cinema music. It depended very much on the producing director of the film. Often, the composer was not satisfied and appeared in press with article-claims to cinematographers, in which he argued against shrunk musical materials, adding noise effects without receiving the consent from the music’s author, etc. He also complained about somebody’s negligence, which weakened the dramatic effect of the music. Such an attitude first of all proves the high responsibility that Khachaturian felt towards cinema music.
The composer confessed: “I like theatre and films very much. I like writing, when having a clear dramatic plan, which comes from the content of the play and the idea of the director. I attach great importance to this work, as the scene, subject and live actor’s image are all that help me to formulate musical thoughts, specify creative work and enrich the form”.