Talking with composers: Ivan Barbotin Photo: Ray Allen.

Talking with composers: Ivan Barbotin

Jenna Simeonov

Born in St. Petersburg, Toronto-based Ivan Barbotin has taken a long and winding road to his life as a full-time composer. As a teen, he was a guitarist in rock bands (Sphinx, Forum) in Russia, and upon his move to Canada, he focused on linguistics and spent time as a video editor. Now, Barbotin writes film and TV scores (Cosmic Vistas, The Mountie) ballet scores (The Velveteen Rabbit), chamber and orchestral music, and of course, operatic works (Oubliette, The Fetishist, What Rhymes with Azimuth).

Barbotin chats about his “melodist” aesthetic, and why he doesn’t quite believe in inspiration.

How would you describe your musical aesthetic? How have you heard it described by others?

I’ve heard myself described as a melodist. I do think that a naturally flowing tune should be at the heart of any compelling composition, especially when it comes to vocal music.

How do you write music when you’re not feeling particularly inspired (yet)?

I don’t really believe in inspiration. If what you are referring to by that word is a state of mind allowing for a free and easy flow of ideas, then I think it can be activated by simply sitting down and doing the work at hand. If at first nothing interesting comes to mind, I think the process itself eventually activates the neural circuitry required for being “in the zone”.

How do you think the perception of being a working composer compares to the reality of the job?

I’ve had all kinds of reactions when introducing myself as a composer, from respect to curiosity to derision to boredom. In reality, it’s just a very fun full-time job.

Do you have a song/album/artist that you’d consider a guilty pleasure?

I like over-the-top, anthemic EDM. ATB and Kaskade would be good examples.

Out of your body of work, what are you most proud of, to date?

The most fun project so far was probably scoring for Cosmic Vistas, an astronomy TV series. I’m passionate about the subject and working on the series was a pure joy.

I’m currently working on a series of pop songs for a computer game. I started out in pop music and I’m really enjoying the chance to revisit the genre.

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