Composer Pelevina brought up on Rachmaninoff & Tchaikovsky, now Aspires to Powell, Howard & Balfe
“You can hear her Russian soul through Anya Pelevina’s music.”
Even though her inspirational and inherently musical mother provided a piano and instilled a love of music in her young daughter, Anya Pelevina has grown from listening to traditional Russian composers like Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, Khachaturian, Prokofiev and Borodin. In fact, Pelevina, who was born in Russia, has now set her sights on emulating Grammy and Emmy winners like Hollywood composers John Powell, James Newton Howard and Lorne Balfe. Pelevina proudly enthuses, “My inspiration comes from Hollywood composers.”
Indeed, Pelevina relishes the pressure that these big-time music composers regularly find themselves in. Oscar and Grammy winner Hans Zimmer once suggested, “Trust me, if you’re working on a $70 million movie and you’re the last guy, you feel all that weight on your shoulders.”
And, ambitious Pelevina offers that one of her strengths as a musical composer is her enjoyment of creating in a pressure cooker situation, offering, “My main strength is to generate ideas on the spot. When I work on a project I get excited because I truly love what I do. It is very easy for me to come up with solutions, especially in stressful situations — pressing deadlines, last minute changes and so on.”
Moreover, composer Pelevina has adjusted from studying on the East coast at a prestigious school like Berklee College of Music, to attending Hollywood premieres such as Loki on the West Coast and working with Remote Control Productions, founded and owned by master composer Zimmer, himself. By the way, she says her experience with RCP revealed that “people there work magic and create beautiful music in the most unique way. This is something that you cannot learn at school or on the Internet, so I’m very grateful to have had this experience with them.”
Additionally, Pelevina also wrote original music for Homesick which was an Official Selection at New York Shorts, El Paso, and the Texas Short film festivals and also at Femme Frontera Filmmaker Showcase.
We asked talented and beautiful Anya Pelevina about her music, about the importance of music in storytelling, and about her goals in this fast-paced entertainment industry:
— How do you describe what you do as a music composer?
— It’s about telling the story through my music. When writing music for film, I prefer to watch a picture at least two times and then I go to the piano. Different movies evoke different emotions and I express them in the musical improvisation. At Berklee, assistant professor Pratt Bennet once said: “Don’t be scared of rejection. Instead, get excited when you hear “No” because it will get you closer to your “Yes.” He always motivated me to be the best version of myself. Additionally, we learnt many cool tricks on how to express certain moods in a musical way. Many of those I use in my compositions to this day.
— Tell us how has music become important to the overall storytelling?
— Music has become integral to storytelling in various projects because it has the power to evoke emotions and create a particular atmosphere. Music has the ability to connect with the audience on an emotional level and can help to reinforce or amplify the emotions portrayed by the characters and the storyline. In movies, for example, music is often used to create tension, heighten suspense, or evoke a sense of nostalgia. It can also be used to highlight character development and evoke empathy in the viewer. In video games, music can help to establish the mood of a particular level or scene, and can provide cues to the player to signal important events or changes in gameplay. In television shows, music can help to establish the tone of the show, and can be used to signify the beginning or end of a scene, or to transition between scenes. In short, music is an essential tool in storytelling because it has the ability to enhance and deepen the emotional impact of a story, and can help to immerse the audience in the narrative.
— How did the invasion of Ukraine helped inspire you to write Rise, a rousing piece of music?
— I wrote the single RISE as a tribute to my victory over hard times. The first year when I moved to Los Angeles, I faced numerous obstacles. I did not give up and continued to write music, look for collaborations and connections. At the same time, the war between Russia and Ukraine started and it was emotionally devastating for me. Nevertheless, I decided that I am not going to give up and I will follow my dream. Every day I told myself that I am strong and I can achieve anything I want. Then one day I received an email from Remote Control Productions — that’s right, Hans Zimmer’s famous company with an offer to be an intern there. It was like a dream come true. As a memory of these times, I wrote a song “Rise” to remember that hard times always pass. Which takes me back to that advice — get excited when you hear “No” because it will get you closer to your “Yes.”
— When did your appreciation for Zimmer’s music and achievements begin?
— My affection for his soundtracks started back when I was six and watched the Lion King for the first time. Back then I didn’t even know that such profession as a film composer existed. All I remember is that I liked the music and the songs from the movie. When I was twelve my father took me to the movie theatre for the first time. We watched Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron and the movie made a big impression on me. I played the main theme on the piano non-stop when we got back home. After a while we got a videocassette with Gladiator and its inspirational score. I watched it at least ten times because the music resonated with me. Then my parents got me my first computer and I went on the Internet to look up all these movies that I liked and discovered that all of them were scored by Hans Zimmer. I looked up more music that he made and created a whole playlist of his soundtracks that I played on my piano in my leisure time. I think then I realized that I wanted to be a film composer and create music like this.
— What are your mid and long-term goals?
— My mid-term goal is to make a living making music and long term is to make music for a superhero movie like James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer did together on the movie, The Dark Knight. I was always drawn to this movie genre. My main/overall goal is to find my voice. It is a term we use among composers, which means to find your own style because many young composers try to copy their favorite musicians instead of exploring their own style. But overall, my goal is to inspire people with my music. And maybe one day, it would be great to be recognized for my work by my colleagues by earning some prestigious award like an Oscar or Grammy.
— How much do you keep up on technology, and how has tech aided/challenged composers?
— Technology has had both positive and negative effects on the work of composers in the entertainment industry. Composers can use virtual instruments and sample libraries to simulate the sounds of real instruments and create complex compositions without the need for a large ensemble, which can be costly. But, technology has also made it easier for composers to collaborate with other musicians, producers, and sound engineers. With video conferencing, cloud-based file sharing, and online project management tools, composers can work with people from all over the world without ever leaving their home studio. But the main challenge is to be cautious about an over-reliance on technology: Composers may become overly reliant on technology, leading to a lack of creativity and originality in their work.
— Have you been working on your own music?
— Lately I have been co-producing some pop songs for an upcoming project that isn’t officially announced yet. All I can say is that I have never worked on a team of producers of this level before. These songs will hopefully come out in 2023 as two promo songs for the audio book that we are scoring. I also enjoy producing electronic music on the side. It allows me to explore my creativity and experiment with different styles and techniques that may not be appropriate for a film score. But, it helps me to diversify my skillset — producing electronic music requires different skills and techniques than film scoring, such as sound design, synthesis, and mixing. In my opinion, by diversifying the skillset, film composers can become more versatile and valuable in the industry.
— Why are you excited to be part of the entertainment industry now?
— The entertainment industry is a platform for creative expression. If you are passionate about music, film, TV, theater, or any other form of entertainment, being part of this industry can provide you with an outlet to express your creativity and fulfill your artistic aspirations. At the same time, entertainment has the power to influence and shape society. I want to make a difference in the world through my work, being part of this industry can give me a platform to share my message and impact people’s lives.
It seems there’s no stopping Anya Apelevina, this musical force of nature.