A virtuoso composer-pianist and a classical music hit-maker, speaks of the specific Belgradian spirit and the music that sets its tone; of clichés and of the important role that art should play in the making of a better and more sustainable society.
Which pieces of music would you say best depict the specific spirit of Belgrade, and generally of the Balkans?
Any self respecting narcissist, which in a way is a definition of an average artist, would be compelled to say “My pieces, of course!”. And seriously, with pieces such as Belgrade Blues or Two Pieces in Balkan Style, I can actually take such claim without blushing. Still, if you asked anybody else, they would surely have their own answers. Some would say it’s the music of Bora Đorđević, whilst others would be convinced it’s one of Boban Zdravković’s masterpieces. Basically, you have as many Belgrades as the people who live in it, or those who came as tourists, or simply those who have just heard about it, but have an idea of what Belgrade is as a place. Let’s just say that if I were to place a soundtrack to the city where I was born it would most probably be Pod sjajem zvezda (Under the Stars) by the now late and wonderful Predrag Ivanović.
You like stepping out of boundaries, while creating your own music. What is it about classical music in Belgrade that bothers you? What are the clichés that you notice in classics?
In everything, including music, there are problems that arouse as a result of specific local circumstances and those that are more or less universal and apply to the rest of our troubled world. We know well that classical music, together with most creative arts, is facing a severe crisis, in a world that is dangerously entrenched in stupidity and materialistic profanity. Still, a large part of the blame for such a state of a affairs is on the classical musicians themselves, and this is something that we don’t even have to prove or elaborate, knowing how stiff and quasi-elitist their world is, and how readily they alienate their possible audiences. I can’t really tell if they will be able to recognize in time what an important role art plays in creating a better man and a better society, and the responsibility that comes with it. As for Belgrade, as a music scene, I trust that it would take a more detailed analysis, to say anything of value. All I can say is that the core problem for music in Serbia, just like for anything else when it comes to the Serbian society, is the problem of negative selection, and it is something that we must tackle very seriously if any progress is to be made in the future.
NASA; Vatican, The United Nations… It is hard to keep track of all your triumphs. One could get dizzy just trying. Why have you never left Serbia?
I find it a bit difficult to say that “I have never left Serbia”, considering I’ve spent a good half of my life elsewhere, but I understand your question. The way I see it is that those who have spent their lives in one particular place, imagining that things are much better somewhere else, are much proner to set sail and leave. My life has changed so many times, that the change itself has become a sort of a constant, and Belgrade does indeed represent a kind of a zero point that balances the pendulum of my oscillations in time and space.
What are you working on these days and how will the Autumn and Winter play in your calendar?
At the moment I’m writing a Concerto for cello and symphony orchestra. I’ve had this idea for a long time, for a piece called “The Legend of a Horse Whose Soul Turned Into a Fiddle”, and recently it became an official commission by the Makris Orchestra, thanks to its founder and conductor Predrag Gosta. For the past couple of years I have also been the composer in residence with this ensemble, as they have performed a large amount of my orchestral works.
As for my Autumns and Winters, I must say that I prefer both on postcards, and I tend to run away to warmer places. Still, this is the time when it does indeed make more sense to sit and work, rather than to be out and play. It is a kind of an inverted Aesopian story.
When did you last face an emerging project, and felt that you were scared by its power?
This very morning. There is no project that I do not dread. Bible says: “The beginning of wisdom is the fear of God”
By: Miljana Nešković