Interview With Award Winning Violinist & Composer, Maria Grigoryeva

Maria Grigoryeva is an award winning Russian composer and violinist. She has a wide range of studio and live experience, from establishing the “The Mini Orchestra of St. Petersburg” (an original contemporary string ensemble) to writing an opera based on the life of legendary mystic and prophet Edgar Cayce, to composing for fashion shows, short films and television. Last year she completed her masters degree from Berklee Collge of Music for film, tv and video game scoring. As a player, she moves effortlessly through different musical styles, from gypsy jazz to orchestral, funk, pop, folk, electronic, ambient, and more. Maria’s been getting some great reviews here on AirGigs, and we’re really happy to introduce her to you here on the blog.

You can find her gigs here:

Who are the composers, songwriters or musicians that are you most influenced by?

The answer to that question is hidden in an endless list of names…I get influenced/inspired by someone’s talent every single day. Let’s try to pick the most crucial names in 2 different fields.

Violin: While studying at musical college as a violinist, I first fell in love with the playing of Joshua Bell, and then later Hilary Hahn. Hilarie’s playing for me was the ideal, and impossible to reach. It was my guiding star in the night sky. A few years later I started to listen to jazz violin by Grappelli, indian violin by L.Subramaniam, irish Eileen Ivers. I was constantly inspired and trying to play like those exceptional musicians.

Composition: From my classical training, my favourite composers were: D. Shostakovich, S.Rachmaninov, Later I was influenced by B.Bartok, S.Reich. Right now I’m more into the film industry and my faves are Henry Jackman, John Williams, Thomas Newman, Brian Tyler, Christophe Beck.

Do you play other instruments aside from the violin?

I used to play piano quite well…when I was studying composition at the Russian Conservatory, it was mandatory to be a playing pianist. We had to pass some serious examinations on a really high level, performing classical repertoire (sonatas, concertos, fugas).

After that I did a bit of drum-playing, singing, and right now I would love to learn the guitar. Recently I’ve begun learning Mongolian violin (called Morin Khuur), which was brought to me by a friend from Mongolia. I have my sights set on playing some other ethnic violins and building up my collection of exotic instruments.

Tell us a little about the Mini Orchestra of St Petersburg? 

The Mini Orchestra doesn’t exist anymore, but it was a great ensemble, performing contemporary classical music and experimenting with electronics. There were more than 40 musicians in the group and a small women’s choir. The aim was to bring some new fresh music to Philharmonic Russian halls, because what was being played there was only old classical music, nothing new. I was also playing there. I had to wrap-up the Mini Orchestra when I moved to Manchester.

In 2010 you composed an opera based on the life of mystic and prophet Edgar Cayce entitled “Sleeping Prophet”. This sounds like a fascinating project, can you tell us a little about what inspired it?

I was fascinated by this mysterious hero Edgar Cayce, and at that point I was searching for an opera concept. I also felt like the story line would allow me to compose music in my favorite styles (experimental / sci fi / minimalistic). To complete the project, I was composing for about 10hrs per day over a period of six months. When it was finished there was a problem with the people who commissioned it, and I didn’t want them to stage it because they were requiring exclusive rights to the whole thing. The Opera is still waiting for it’s day to get staged. No news about that for now. I can say one thing: If I get enough money I will stage it by myself in some distant future. It’s a 1h 30 min long performance for a chamber orchestra (like the mini orchestra) with 6 singers and some 3D projections.

Do you have a home studio, and if so can you tell us about your recording / mixing setup, gear, etc?

For now, nothing really special. I work on Mac in Pro tools and have some basic sound proofing/isolation in my house. I have 2 mics (which I think work really well for my violin) AT4040 and AT4080. The sound card is called Ultralite mk3 Hybrid (Motu), which has some good preamps. Apart from that for production needs (or maybe more for fun) I have a Nord lead 2X, korg electribe, roland spd20 (drum programming) and some processors for getting crazy sounds out of my violin (have both acoustic and electric by the way, and plan to buy the viola in the very near future, to get into those lower registers).

When listening to you improvise over gyspy jazz, if I had my eyes closed I’d have bet my life that I was listening to Stéphane Grappelli. Did you spend a lot of time studying this style of music?

It’s Grappelli. I don’t really improvise well in this style, but I learnt all the transcriptions to get better. I can almost imitate Grappelli’s playing. My improvisation style ranges from cinematic/rock/folk to some fusion/latin/contemporary jazz. As for traditional jazz in general, I never studied it properly…maybe in the future I’ll come back to it.

In addition to being an excellent instrumentalist, you also have a Masters degree in Scoring for Film, Television and Video games. I think it would be interesting for people to understand a little bit about how you approach sound design.

I don’t actually deal often with sound design. As long as it’s a part of composing process I’m just trying to find the right sound for the picture. There will be some more or less obvious choices: full orchestral or chamber, electronic or hybrid. Not many of the scoring projects I work on permit me to also focus on sound design. But if it’s sci fi or something modern – then awesome! I will pick the synths, make some patches and paint a lot of automation! Recently I’m using plugins like sugar bytes more and more. You can really make a lot of interesting sounds with it.

In your gig for instrumental and orchestral arrangements, do you provide produced music or just the scored arrangements?

I can provide anything really. I try to be really flexible and work with the client’s needs. So far, no one has asked me for the scores. I just provide produced/programmed/mixed music with the overdubbed violins (as my personal bonus). Sometimes I deliver the project Pro tools file where you can get the score. But to make a proper score out of it, you need to get a copyist. If the client want’s the score only – no problem. I will make a score. However typically it’s a produced arrangement. For me to make an arrangement in the score is much easier than to produce it. For 15 years of my life I’ve been making scores, and for about 5 I’ve been producing.

What are your feelings about doing session work remotely (i.e. like on AirGigs). What are the advantages and disadvantages in your opinion?

It’s simply amazing! It’s so easy to use the site to find some extra session work, or you can hire musicians for your own projects without leaving your house. You just open it up and search based on quality/price/style for the right person to collaborate with. Thanks for creating it!

I don’t see disadvantages. But can imagine that for some people it’s very important to meet personally. For me it’s not that important. Recording in my place really saves clients’ money and my time. I don’t charge for the studio use, that’s why it’s so affordable and still very good quality. If I need 1 hour or 4 hours to record there is still no difference in price. That’s a reasonable advantage for the client!

What are the most exciting projects you’ve have worked on in the past, or are currently working on?

Right now I’m working on a really exciting project! I’m arranging and composing music for the famous Russian folk ensemble called Esse quintet. Great musicians! Such an honor to be working with them. Apart from that I’m working on a lot of music for the fashion shows which is also exciting. I gonna make the upcoming shows in March.

Do you have one aspect of music (i.e. playing, composing, recording, etc) that you love above everything else?

I love the overall combination. Probably more often I’m composing, and perhaps I love it a bit more…but it all works together. Every single piece I compose – I record on violin. And when I need to record violin – I compose my part for getting the best results and overdub possibilities in order to recreate the orchestral sound.

Be sure to check out Maria’s gigs:

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