Andrey Tarkovksy

Vol. 4: Zerkalo (The Mirror)/Stalker [Original Soundtrack]

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Two composers worked with the late Russian director Andrey Tarkovsky, the man who composed these scores, Eduard Artemiev, and Vyacheslav Ovchinnikov. They collaborated together on the score for Solaris. These two scores, one for Zerkalo (or The Mirror) and Stalker, are both minimal studies for Artemiev, a composer who relied more on sonic architecture than on composed music for film. While both films are rather long -- Stalker is three hours in length -- the original music was looped in both cases partly for economic reasons and partly for the repetition of images that occurs in both pictures. Dark brooding industrial sounds, washes of ambient electronic noise, pipe organs, field recordings, and strange Mexican mariachi bands waft their way through Zerkalo, an autobiographical cinematic collage of Tarkovsky's childhood before and during World War II in the Russian countryside. The score is little more than 20 minutes long, and evokes memory and images from a life that was, a life that has passed away, and is no longer a part of the present except as image. Its dissonant effects and jarring changes of location and source make for compelling and attentive listening. As for Stalker, one of Tarkovsky's most powerful and most misunderstood films (it was also called "The Wishing Machine") from 1979, it offers the contrast between human desires and the need to communicate with a power beyond ourselves; the score is a scant 17 minutes in length. Its drones and strange instrumentation are reminiscent of Popol Vuh's more sincere efforts at blending Eastern and Western musics, but is far less pretentious and not organized in any recognizable manner. These are themes meant to capture a moment on the screen and freeze it, however unconsciously, into the viewer's mind. Sounds for splashing water, of steps approaching on empty streets, dripping sounds combined with oblique textural elements that could come from human voices or machines -- it's difficult to tell. All of them, however, create the impression of Stalker's central tenet, the Zone, where all human desires can be realized if it can be entered. Only the Stalker, one who is immune to its lure, can take one there -- or is he? Believe it or not, the music creates both the shape of tension and the well for despair and its transcendence in only 17 minutes -- what else was needed? The Japanese licenses on these soundtracks may have lapsed, but all of the soundtracks to Tarkovsky's films are available from various sources -- especially the composer's homepage on the World Wide Web. The mastering job that was done for the CD is as good as it gets for recordings that have been gathering dust for over 30 years. All of Tarkovsky's soundtracks are remarkable for their depth, their quark strangeness and mysterious charm; they should not be overlooked by any serious student of film music or modern sound collage.