Music Conveying the Plot
In early November, the soundtrack to the film titled S.O.S.: Survive or Sacrifice starring William Baldwin was officially released. A Russian team of talented composers created the music for the film. The Global Women Media presents a unique interview with the musicians whose music was highly evaluated by experts of the Cannes Film Festival and American film critics.
Otto K. Schwarz
music producer, songwriter
electronic musician and sound designer
The Global Women Media is an information space created by women sharing the same values. Cultural diplomacy is one of those important values.
Otto K. Schwartz, Dmitry Rushkovsky, and Nikita Klimenko are not only creators of beautiful music but also people filling their creative products with deeper meaning. They are artists in the broadest sense of the word. They strive to fill space with art and build cultural bridges among countries. Otto K. Schwartz and Dmitry Rushkovsky willingly gave an interview for the Global Women Media news agency. They emphasized the closeness of their values and the agency’s editorial principles.
– Unfortunately, not all team members are present at the interview due to circumstances. Please, tell us about the musicians who were involved in the creation of the soundtrack.
Dmitry: Otto K. Schwarz who has been engaged in not only creativity but also research related to the field of music for many years invited me to join the project. He studies the healing effects of sounds on people and even delivers workshops on the subject. In addition, Otto composes music. ‘A Living Flow’, his piano-based album released on Syngeneia, reached the iTunes music market’s top 10 last year. It was Otto K. Schwarz who wrote the film’s main instrumental themes.
Nikita Klimenko was responsible for the electronic compositions in the film. He is known as the founder of LFO.Store, which is the largest sound design project in Eastern Europe. Nikita created the electronic project Chronos, which has gained popularity both in Russia and abroad. He has his own electronic music school and recording studio in Moscow. The majority of the compositions, and later the film soundtracks, were created there.
I was responsible for writing the songs of the soundtrack. I already had much experience in writing lyrics and music as well as in establishing communication in the music environment. I was the author of compositions for many famous Russian artists and also was the director of Sati Kazanova.
I managed to involve the singer Aurika Mgoi known thanks to ‘The Voice’ Russian project, and Sofia Fedorova, a super-finalist of ‘The Voice. Children’ project in creating the soundtrack for ‘S.O.S.: Survive or Sacrifice’.
– How did you come to the idea of creating music for the film?
Otto: That was an amazing coincidence making it possible to create something really amazing.
I’ve been doing music professionally for a long time. My team and I have written music for German short animation series, a South Korean computer game, and other interesting projects. At the same time, I have always watched the careers of many Hollywood composers. I dreamed of trying my hand at writing the soundtrack for a major film. At a certain point, the goal seemed too far away and difficult to achieve. However, as it often happens, the dream came true when I stopped chasing it madly and just carried on working hard. Quite unexpectedly, a director who liked our music called us and proposed to collaborate. Of course, we agreed.
Everything happens when the right time comes. That is how it happened to our project.
At first, I worked with Nikita Klimenko alone. However, the opportunity to create a soundtrack for the film helped us attract many talented people. That made it possible to combine different facets of our creativity into a single picture. For example, opera singer Natalia Pavlova, whom we met at a wedding, introduced us to Dmitry. I was literally hooked and deeply touched by his singing a song to the lyrics of Nikolai Gumilev. I felt that he was a very talented, interesting, and educated person. We became friends but didn’t find any common ground for common projects. He was engaged in pop music and I focused on electronic and symphonic music. When it came to the soundtrack, Dmitry was the first person whom I recalled.
We understood clearly that working on music for a whole film would require the synergy of many talented individuals.
Together with Nikita, I continued to assemble the team. Real miracles happened then. One of the ideas of the project presupposed active usage of live instruments. Then I started looking for a good violinist, which was a quite challenging task. One day, when I was on an international flight, a young woman took a seat next to me. She not only spoke Russian but also was flying from Vienna where she had completed her conservatory studies. Her name was Anna Romanova. Thanks to a happy coincidence, she turned out to be a violinist.
That was not the only coincidence. When we started working, like-minded people gradually joined us. Finally, we formed a powerful team that created music highly appreciated even by the strictest critics. I am fond of teamwork. I believe that the unity of cohesive individuals is the source of strength. We are all self-sufficient and we all support one another in our development.
– How many songs are included in the soundtrack series? How did the work on them go?
Dmitry: When Otto invited me to take part in creating the soundtrack, I already had a song titled ‘Faster Than Light’ performed by a young singer Sofia Fedorova. The production team of the film liked the composition and approved it immediately. At the same time, I was asked to write another song that would contribute to the film’s brand and have the film’s name. I wrote the song and our whole team subsequently worked on it.
We decided to present the song in two versions. The first one was a slowed orchestral version designed to be played in the end credits. Its idea is to let the audience have an aftertaste of the film and enjoy the music. The second composition was a dynamic Latin-inspired dance version that creates the atmosphere in the film.
In addition to the songs, we created a large number of instrumental compositions designed to accompany the various scenes. Otto worked on them together with Nikita and the instrumental soloists.
Altogether, the soundtracks include 20 unique compositions ranging from pop songs to charming orchestral melodies and powerful electronic sounds.
It was challenging but very interesting to work on the soundtrack. Filming was done in parallel with music production. We did not have an opportunity to see the whole film. The studio working on the film sent us separate episodes. When watching them, we tried to feel the atmosphere, the mood, and the energy of what was happening and to draw inspiration from it.
– Your team brings together very different people with different visions of art. What does music mean to you?
Otto: I am very close to a theory that we have known since Ancient Egypt. Back then people adhered to the opinion that everything in the world consists of vibrations. According to their opinion, vibrations are then combined into sounds. Today, that theory has been partially confirmed by science.
Music is an important tool that literally fills our space. It is very important to make sure that it is ‘friendly’.
I have been studying music deeply in terms of its creation and its sound technology for a long time. Thanks to that, I mastered various specific techniques involving the use of specific frequencies, rhythms, and patterns that have an almost hypnotic effect on the listener. However, I use such instruments rarely and very carefully in my music. I am much more interested in influencing people through art, not through technical means.
We live in a space filled with information. Sometimes people try to switch off their consciousness not to be overwhelmed by the abundance of information existing around them on the material and non-material levels. That partially dulls our feelings. I believe that music is the instrument able to reach the subconscious, the heart of a person. It has the power to bring life and clarity of mind. Music teaches us to feel and fully live moments rather than remain detached. That is what inspires me to create.
Dmitry: I agree with Otto, although my vision of music is a bit different. According to him, music fills the space we live in. I would say that it creates that space.
Music is an important part of the cultural discourse, in which one lives. It brings people together irrespective of the language they speak.
Music can be used for different purposes. For example, I do commercial music, mostly in the pop genre. I find it wrong to compare it to other genres in terms of ‘worse’ or ‘better’. Writing a high-quality song that can become a world-popular hit requires talent, a lot of research, a high level of musical skills, and hard work.
It’s great that we have managed to combine very different music in our new project.
– You know that a film with your soundtrack has reached the big box office? What do you feel about that?
Dmitry: As a musician, I consider the title song of S.O.S. to be a significant personal achievement. I am very proud to talk about it. Working on it was a unique experience. We created a great music composition that meets world standards and can be played by world music stars. Of course, I am filled with excitement that millions of people will hear our music.
Otto: That project has turned my life upside down. Firstly, we started working on the soundtrack during the lockdown. A lot of people were very passive and depressed because confined spaces affected their mood negatively. It was music that saved me. I was doing my creative work with a big smile and warmth inside.
Secondly, the scale of the project motivates all those involved a lot. I was lucky enough to represent our music team working on the soundtrack at the Cannes Film Festival. For me, it was one of the most emotional moments of the year. I was overwhelmed with amazing feelings when I heard the music created by my friends and me. In addition, the festival guests included world-famous producers. Some of them were from Hollywood. They talked with me and highly assessed the quality and atmosphere of the soundtrack.
The actor William Baldwin said on the set of the film that he loved our music. That was very valuable for us.
The words of the film critics who praised our work were very inspiring for us as well. The American, Russian, and international media wrote a lot about the film and the soundtrack afterwards. For example, the article about Russian musicians who had created tracks for the movie with William Baldwin was even published in Euronews.
Dmitry: We were impressed by the success but decided not to rest on our laurels. Recently we shot a music video for the song ‘Faster Than Light’. We were allowed to use footage from the film in the video. Marianna Rosset, an actress playing one of the main roles in the film, even took part in our shooting. The clip has not been released yet but I think it will be presented to the public soon.
– Do you already have creative plans for the future?
Dmitry: Yes, we enjoyed working as a team. Otto and I already have new creative plans. We have prepared several music compositions and we are currently negotiating with managers of famous artists from all over the world.
Otto: When talking about plans for the future, Dmitry always gives an example I like very much. Few people know that, but most of the American hits were written not in the USA but in Sweden. World-known hits for Britney Spears, Taylor Swift, and other famous artists ‘were born’ in Stockholm. The production and creation of the tracks took place there. Sweden is considered one of the leading countries in terms of the music industry.
As patriotic musicians, we would like Moscow to be perceived internationally as a ‘forge for hits’. I am proud to say that we have been included in the few (if not the only) Russian composers, whose works have become part of a world-class international film. I want to believe that we have already taken the first step towards the big goal and now, as Andrei Tarkovsky said in his latest film, the ‘tree’ only needs systematic watering to grow.
Marina Volynkina, Viktoria Gusakova, Global Women Media news agency
Translated by Nikolay Gavrilov