User Profile: Vladimir Zakharov

Vladimir has been a regular presence on Noteflight for as long as we can remember. We invited him to share a bit more about his background and to talk about his passion for heavy metal music and how Notelfight helps him unlock his creativity.

Noteflight Robin: Tell us about your background.

Vladimir: I am from Russia, and my adolescence occurred during the early post-Soviet period. This had a great influence on my musical identity. The range of available records still wasn’t as broad as it is today, so I would consume music by diving as deeply as I could into whatever the musical pirates bestowed upon me. I would listen to a single album for months, so I’d remember each song down to every detail. This helped me understand how even small things affect the big picture – something I strive for consistently in my own composing.

What’s your earliest musical memory?

My father would always play the guitar to me and my sister before we went to bed. The songs he sang us (apart from the ones he wrote himself) were written by late-Soviet-period bards and bands, most of whom were either prohibited or vilified by the Soviet “Artists’ Guild”. Every time, it was a magical experience. When I recollect those memories, I still feel a sensation opening up in my chest, in awe and anticipation of something bigger to connect to.

Tell us more about your musical background.

I graduated from a seven-year music school where my tutor had been unsuccessfully but stubbornly trying to transform me into a decent piano player. Right after my graduation exam, I closed the lid of our household piano and assumed that was the end of my musical pursuits.

A couple of years later, despite feeling somewhat tired of classical music – and thanks to a newly developing interest in heavy metal and punk rock – those seeds of songwriting, sown in early childhood, began to grow. Still, I am grateful to my primary teacher, Viktor Ivanovich Yegorov, and to my mother, who kept me from calling it a day on numerous occasions. Without their perseverance, I wouldn’t have come to know one of the best things this world has come up with: sheet music.

What are you inspired by when you write music?

All kinds of things. One lesson I’ve learned from my composing is that inspiration can find you anywhere and in whatever strange form it chooses to. I have songs inspired by train honks, mathematical formulas, and, on one occasion, the trademark of a chocolate spread.

But if I were to single out one source of inspiration, it would be my wife and my son. Loosely quoting Stephen Hawking, I may be learning the universe through my work, but this would be an empty universe without the people I love.

How did you first encounter Noteflight?

I was intentionally searching for a cloud notation app. By that time I had something around sixty songs completed or almost completed; some of them existing in my mind only, others poorly recorded in various DAWs and spread around dozens of hard drives, full of music, that I had changed (and lost) over the years. As a result, I was looking for a place where I could just log in and access everything right away. Ultimately, Noteflight proved to be such a place, and much more than that.

How do you use Noteflight, and how does Noteflight influence your musical life?

Noteflight changed my life completely. After I shared my first couple of scores on the forums — songs that weren’t even properly arranged — I got an instant and fantastic response. Even though most of the users who commented were much younger, more proficient and/or interested in totally different genres, they really seemed to “get” what I was doing. That made me re-evaluate my assumptions. Really, the creative community that Noteflight has fostered is something very special.

Currently, my primary goal is to share all of my finished songs. I strongly believe that all music is public domain by nature. You cannot light up a star in the sky and forbid people to look at it. To me, songs are like children: you bring them into the world and nurture them but at some point you have to let them go.

I’m also making demo tracks based on the mixdowns I export directly from Noteflight. Noteflight has some excellent samples and I was especially surprised by those available for the drums and the bass guitar. Given the absence of any amplification simulation in Noteflight engine, even the distorted guitars, which form the core of any metal composition, are quite good.

We know that you have a special interest in Heavy Metal. Tell us more about that!

I love metal, along with some other heavier rock genres. Personally, I find it much closer to classical music than other modern genres tend to be. Contemporary popular music seems to increasingly rely on sounds rather than the notes and rhythms. If you look at current hit songs and strip them down to pure pitches and durations, eighty percent of the song evaporates – you can’t express that “fat bass” or “great production” in these terms. Metal, and rock music in general are different: even with a MIDI playback quality, you can still determine when a song is good.

People sometimes find it strange that I’m composing heavy metal pieces as sheet music. The public opinion seems to be that metal is all about mosh pits and gory images. That’s why I’ve recently started a blog called “The Metal Composer”, where I try to show that metal is actually very deep, complex, and multifaceted music that can open new vistas for those daring to take a look. I will also try to talk with fellow metalheads discussing how we can make our songwriting more diverse.

Care to share a few of your scores with our readers?

Classically-oriented listeners may find the piece 13 Steps interesting [scroll down to listen], which is written in twelve non-repeating minor keys. For metal itself, I have pieces in almost all of its sub genres, but my favorite is The Other Heart, which is something of a nu-metal ballad influenced by modern dubstep music. And the song that resonates most with my own feelings is Her Name Was Freedom.

I’m always happy to meet new listeners and fellow composers – my Noteflight profile is here, and you can find me on my other social networking accounts, Soundcloud, Facebook, and Twitter.

Thanks so much for sharing your work and thoughts with us!

A true pleasure — thank you.

13 Steps by Vladimir Zakharov: