“This is my city”: musician Svetlana Surganova spoke about the “Saint Petersburg’s brotherhood”, patience and tact, Moscow sounding like Rakhmaninov and the new album “Vse Budet. Zavtra” (“All Will Be. Zavtra”).
Interviewed by Anastasia Medvetskaya.
I grew up…
In the wing of a house in Kavalergardskaya Street in Leningrad. Apparently, this small, at that time three-story, building, built in 1817, was an outbuilding. After the revolution there were communal apartments.
When the family of Surganovs and Cheburakhins (these are the surnames of my beloved grandparents) were offered to choose an apartment in this house, they chose a private apartment number 23, but by chance they were settled in the communal one, number 22. Therefore, for 25 years, I had been studying all the subtleties, nuances and disadvantages of communal living. The beauty of our communal apartment was in its being laconic – only 72 square meters, which is not much for four families with children of different sexes.
The bath was in the kitchen – if you wanted to take a shower, then all the doors were closed and for two hours others were deprived of the ability to drink tea or warm up lunch. But all this taught to accept the reality and taught the main thing: patience and tact, live in harmony and negotiate. And now, in spite of improvement of living conditions, something has changed to the worse, but okay, I will not grumble.
They used to take me for a walk in Tavrichesky Garden, Smolny Cathedral – the miracle by Rastrelli, the Smolny complex itself – the former headquarters of the revolution. There is a wonderful walking area there. I was extremely lucky with the place of residence in the early years, and I have kept this apartment for myself and for my mother. Scenic views: Shpalernaya, Suvorovsky prospect, Kirochnaya, Tavricheskaya – an amazing, marvelous place! It is a pity that Mom, as she once confessed to me, did not like to walk in Tavrichesky Park. Just think of this miracle, when instead of the stone jungle and concrete walls, just in five minutes you find yourself on the shore of a wonderful pond, opposite the facade of Tavrichesky Palace. Fabulous!
And recently I’ve learned about another similar place – Derzhavinsky Garden. What a beauty, what inspiration! One should come there to restore the functioning of all chakras.
If not Petersburg, then …
I am a patriot, I’d like to outline, of Leningrad. Supporting Alexander Yakovlevich Rosenbaum – this is a kind of “Saint Petersburg’s brotherhood”.
But if we talk about countries that I also like for ideology, how citizens live and feel themselves there, for the internal world order, I am fond of Sweden, I love it and respect it. I am keen on going to rest in Switzerland: mountains, lakes, Rhine Falls, Bern. I love Georgia very much, but I haven’t been there for a long time. My dream is to visit Japan. God grant, we will play a debut concert there sometime. Alas, so far, these are only my dreams, unsubstantiated yet: I cannot boast and say that in four months we are going to Japan with a new disc “Vse Budet. Zavtra” (“All Will Be. Tomorrow).
If we compare Leningraders with Muscovites …
They are precisely Leningraders. And all of them are united by a skill that I continuously broadcast in three words in any possible situation – “patience and tact”. They contain the essence of the success of society, coexistence, living at any level. These words were spoken by the character of Alisa Brunovna Freindlich in the film “Office Romance”: “Patience and tact! You didn’t have it! “, that is what we all lack.
Petersburg is closer to me in its disposition of mind, in the speed of the nervous and endocrine systems. It is undoubtedly smoother, slower, which annoys many people – in Moscow there are different tempo rhythms, so I never even intended to move to the capital.
The most and the least favorite areas in both cities…
There are places in Saint Petersburg that are emotionally connected with some unpleasant events or simply with oppressive energy: Obukhovskoy Oborony Prospect – it’s hard for me to be there, and some events emphasize it – I don’t understand, I don’t feel this area, although it’s not far from the city center, nearby there is an embankment, the Neva, water (as Brodskiy said, “we need to go for a paddle”). At the same time there is Prosveshcheniya Prospect – a district remote from the center, just like Ozerki, but it is warm and surprisingly light there. Next is my beloved Kolomna, where our Art Space “PushkinRyadom” is located. I am in love with the area. An amazing inflorescence of famous people lived there, creating wonderful works of art, music and theatre. Also Fontanka, and the memory plate on the house number 174, Griboyedov Canal, that Pushkin lived there – he is near, because our Art Space is in house number 172.
It’s a bit more complicated with Moscow. I confess: I don’t know much of it. Although now, over the years, I have finally begun to recognize some areas, to understand the routes. Prospect Mira, by the way, where we stayed again, is a remarkable place. I fell in love with this district within walking distance of Botanichesky Sad and Aptekarsky Ogorod. It was there that I once strolled learning a phrase in Georgian. I wanted to congratulate Grigoriy Leps at a concert on his birthday, where by some miracle I was brought. For this it was necessary to say: “Gilotsav dabadebis dges dzvirpaso!”
The architectural component of Moscow worries me…
I would like the center to be treated more delicately and carefully.
It is obvious that there is no escape from civilization, and high-rise buildings are a kind of necessity. I am glad that modern architects, constructing new buildings, are trying to preserve the same Stalinist Empire style or something closer to the style of the 1950s – 1960s. If I see facades of certain designs that have proven themselves for decades, and there is a construction of glass and concrete next, this is an imbalance. For me, as a musician, architecture is also music, the music of space. And such decisions are like a falsely played note, some kind of disharmony, dissonance. You could ask: what about Schnittke, Mayer? Of course, they were also kind of revolutionaries, they brilliantly mixed harmonies and notes. But in a city, such a mixture is possible only as in a separate work by Mayer: you’ve built your city, ok, build your glass-reinforced concrete there, but in the area of established traditions it should be introduced extremely delicately.
How does Moscow sound to me? Probably like Rakhmaninov. This is the general impression: broad enough, with a good punch, without aggression, but with a definite message.
My relationship with Moscow…
Relatively recently I’ve reconciled with Moscow. For me it has always been a tough city, exhausting with its rhythm. Moscow has always been associated with work, with a heavy speech load – with conversations about events and concerts. And I am, by nature, the silent type. Moscow has reformatted me: an introverted, silent, immature in many senses, antisocial me. Moscow forced me to talk, to develop my second signal system – the speech apparatus, Wernicke’s and Brock’s zones.
The first Moscow concert …
It was a long time ago, with the band of “Nochnye Snaipery”. Some kind of club concert, but where exactly, I don’t remember. There was always heavy smoke in the clubs, it was allowed to smoke there, for me as a non-smoker it was hard to bear. What a blessing that now we have the non-smoking law! Clubs are now compatible with life. I could not even attend the club events, because there was absolutely nothing to breathe, and I was deprived of this – I did not know what was happening in the club life of the capital and Saint Petersburg. But today I know.
Of course, I like Crocus City for its sound quality and surroundings. Probably nothing can surpass it. But when we want more backstage, home and cozy concerts, then “16 Tons” sounds great, there the closed presentation of our new album “Vse Budet. Zavtra” (“All Will Be. Tomorrow”) took place. We had a rich sound there thanks to our excellent sound engineer Vladimir Mekhnin, we are collaborating with him for some time already, he did post-production, mastering and mix of the album “Vse Budet. Zavtra” (“All Will Be. Tomorrow”). We switched to the new remote control – Emotion: who knows, that understands me and is happy for the band. To my mind, the sum of these factors made it possible for us to sound good and perform strongly at the closed presentation at “16 Tons” .
History of creation and recording of the album “Vse Budet. Zavtra” (“All Will Be. Tomorrow”) …
The guys of the band and me made a really successful alliance, we literally got married – everything coincided. The mystery and charm of life, the unification of Yin and Yang – masculine and feminine principles, in their interflow a miracle was born. It seems to me that our double album is an example of that very miracle created by the interaction of energies.
I was really happy to give the guys the chance to express themselves not only as arranger musicians, but also as composers. They are very talented! First of all, I cannot but mention incredibly gifted Denis Susin, our bass and amazing solo guitarist, the owner of a huge number of musical ideas. He has been in the band for ten years and from time to time he used to show me his sketches, they were great, yet they did not fully fit into the programs we were playing, but for some inclusions. And then came this wonderful day, which brought the guys the chance to express themselves.
We worked on the album in the country. Seryozha Sokolov, our drummer, suggested: “Let’s try outside, not within the walls of our (then old) studio in the 8th Sovetskaya, let’s go to the country: combine the useful with the pleasant – breathe fresh air, walk and compose.” He was absolutely right that the place also defined vibrations, ideas, emotions. I think if we were working within the walls of the studio, it would have been another music, different from the one born in Igora.
The lyrics were mostly written in Vsevolozhsk, where I live. To be honest, I needed solitude and support, which, by the way, was provided to me by Natalya Samsonova, my old friend and assistant – she is very well-read, she is fluent in the epistolary genre. She sketched out unbelievingly successful ideas and phrases. She gave a certain charge and a pool as some kind of inclusion.
… Although not all of the lines were included, I am grateful to her for this push, as well as to Irina Fahrenbruch, some of her lyrics were also partly included into the album. She had two stanzas that fitted well with the melody and I asked her to continue. This was not always possible, and I took and completed the texts myself. We used so many interesting, hitherto unknown to me technologies, “if only you knew from what rubbish!”
It was an exciting experience for me to write lyrics to a ready-made melody, and not vice versa, as usually the songs are created to the verse or simultaneously. And here is a ready melodic and rhythmic structure, into which you need to weave meaning, text, emotion, content, phonetic euphony.
It took us two years to write the album – it sounds scary. Still 21 tracks in two years make a pretty good pace: a year for a disc. Taking into account the pandemic, the construction of “PushkinRyadom” in cooperation with our partner and friends, the Agency of Great Opportunities (abv-event), the fact that at that moment we were creating a studio, where everything was recorded, mixed, and mastered – these are actually super tempo. The main pool of musical ideas was created in two weeks, then we simply had to clean everything up, disperse and produce.
This album is self-discovery and self-knowledge. Suddenly it came to my mind: wow, I’m already a grown up girl and I can call a spade a spade without being shy. Someone managed to implant in me the confidence that was lacking. And a butterfly flew out of the chrysalis.
I wish Moscow and Muscovites …
Patience, tact, inner harmony for everyone, internal development, longing for beauty and the ability to see the beauty, the ability to turn to the wisdom of great teachers. Listen to lectures by Mikhail Semenovich Kazinik. If someone experiences mental discomfort and needs some kind of psychological counseling – here is Ekaterina Aleksandrovna Sokalskaya. Absorb the knowledge, study!
We live in an extraordinary time when there are numerous great podcasts and YouTube channels (Galina Yuzefovich, Nikolai Solodnikov’s “Yeschenepozner” offer amazing meetings with incredible people). The world is open, just learn how to filter and do not get bogged down in the slag of unlimited information access.