American musician with a Russian soul: cellist Jan Maksin - about emigration, art and idols
American singer and musician of Russian origin, cellist Yan Maksin left Russia at the age of 17, in the early 90s, barely graduating from high school, built his life and creative biography in the USA. He plays classical, jazz, blues, ethnic music, sings in many languages, writes music and songs. In short, a man-orchestra. And yet, when he takes the bow in his hands and runs it over the strings, you understand that this is his main strength. January 5, 2020 at the legendary New York club Le Poisson Rouge a concert will take place this unique cellist and composer. Recently Yan Maksin gave an interview to Leonid Velekhov, host of the program "Cult of Personality" on "Radio Liberty"
Leonid Velekhov: I understand that music has no boundaries, unlike literature, especially for a person who sings, if I am not mistaken, in 15 languages ...
Ian Maxine: 22's.
Leonid Velekhov: Wow! That is, I have outdated information. (Laughter in the studio)
Jan Maxine: It is constantly becoming obsolete with me too.
Leonid Velekhov: In 22 languages, but for the cello, of course, no translation is needed. And yet, you can still determine where your main listener is in America or in Russia?
Ian Maksin: I don't like the word “chief”. The listeners are all alike, in fact: people who come to my concerts, people who listen to my music on the networks, people who write to me on Facebook, VKontakte. They all write about the same thing, and I never get tired of reading it. On the contrary, it energizes me, allows me to realize that what I am doing is not in vain.
Leonid Velekhov: And of these 22 languages, is there still some favorite one in which you like to sing most of all?
Jan Maxine: Russian. (Laughter in the studio)
Leonid Velekhov: Still, Russian. Wonderful! And how many do you speak?
Jan Maxine: I speak four - as we speak - Russian, French, English and Spanish.
Leonid Velekhov: And how, in general, did you get the idea that you can sing and accompany yourself on the cello? Because I personally do not know any precedents. Clear business - on a guitar, but I did not see singers who accompany themselves on a violin or a cello ...
Ian Maxine: I'll tell you honestly, I do not take myself seriously as a vocalist. I’m still a musician, first of all, a cellist, composer, singing, let’s say, a singing cellist.
Leonid Velekhov: Are there still singing cellists in the world?
Jan Maxine: I came across a few people, let's say, not on the big stage, but they are. I do not know if I was the very first or not, but this is not so important.
Leonid Velekhov: Yes, it doesn’t matter, but I have the feeling that this is your know-how. How was it born?
Ian Maxine: I grew up in a very musical family. My both parents, despite the fact that they had other professions, music has always been the center of everything in our family, that is, it sounded on the radio, on records, and on a reel tape recorder and, of course, live. Father and mother played the piano. My father played the guitar, sang (and still sings) in different languages, despite the fact that he does not speak any other than Russian. He had such special notebooks where he copied all these songs in manuscript, transliterated ...
Leonid Velekhov: in Russian letters.
Jan Maksin: Yes, in Russian letters, and the Beatles, and French, Italian ... All these songs were. And it was from him that this topic came. I was in love with the Italian stage, the San Remo festival, I sang all these songs. I had a dictionary ... I couldn't find an Italian-Russian dictionary at that time, I had an Italian-German dictionary, and I translated first from Italian into German, and then from German into Russian, (laughter in the studio) to understand what they sang. By hearing these songs I learned in Italian. At the same time I was studying the cello, at the same time I was playing the guitar: I was playing the classics on the cello ...
Leonid Velekhov: One clarification: this happened in our ...
Jan Maxine: In Leningrad it was.
Leonid Velekhov: ... spiritually rich, materially poor Leningrad back in the Soviet years.
Jan Maxine: Yes, yes, yes, exactly so - it was the beginning of 80's. I studied at a music school for ten years, I had to go there by two buses - it took an hour to get there. I studied cello there, but as soon as I got home, I took up the guitar, played rock and roll ...
Leonid Velekhov: Were you a child prodigy at a music school, a pet of fate, a favorite?
Ian Maxine: No! Not at all! I was on the verge of unsuitability.
Leonid Velekhov: Seriously ?!
Ian Maxine: Yes. (Laughter in the studio). But all this boiled down to psychosomatics. I was talented, but since childhood I had such a panicky fear of these teachers at school that every time I went on the stage of a training concert and saw this woman who bore me with eagle eyes from the other end of the small hall of the ten-year school at the Conservatory, everything was pinched to me so much that it came to physical ailments. By 15, I already had a hernia of the spine.
Leonid Velekhov: Wow! Nevertheless, they did not give up this business.
Ian Maxine: Nevertheless, he didn’t give up. Everything that could happen to me ... By all laws of nature, I had to give up a cello for a very long time, but every time I thought about giving up, this is the projected feeling of emptiness that arose in my head when I thought about how my life would pass without music, without a cello, I was scared more than the prospect of being with a cello, with physical pain, mental pain, and everything else. (Laughter in the studio).
Leonid Velekhov: Is the cello your choice or, as happens in a music school, her school?
Jan Maksin: I don’t remember what my parents offered me, but I heard a cello on a record ... It was a record of Svyatoslav Knushevitsky, the great Russian cellist, unfortunately not as famous as, say, Rostropovich, but I believe that his sound really completely unique. He came from the depths of the soul. It’s just my fate, the Universe at that moment gave me this opportunity to hear the sound of the cello performed by Knushevitsky. And I, as they say now, blew the roof. I plunged into some completely different world and I wanted to play it on the cello. No one objected, my parents did not mind, bought me a cello, took me to a music school ... But now I did not grow together with the first teacher.
Leonid Velekhov: And what did you first start doing - singing or playing an instrument?
Ian Maksin: Sing. I entered this ten-year school with the song of Vakhtang Kikabidze "Airliner ran along the airfield, along the airfield, as if by fate."
Leonid Velekhov: Oh! (Laughter in the studio).
Jan Maxin: My parents prepared me with some other song, I don’t remember which one, but when I came to the exam, they asked me to sing something, and I sang what I wanted to sing. Sang, and they took me.
Leonid Velekhov: Actually, why and how did you leave? Because, I see, this falls on a difficult, difficult period in the life of the country.
Ian Maksin: It's 1992. It was a combination of a whole series of circumstances. I can't even say which one was the deciding factor. First, there was a rather difficult situation in the country. The second factor is that I didn't really get along with this school at the Conservatory. I didn't even have a very strong chance that I would have entered the Conservatory. It was practically unrealistic to enter any other university after a ten-year school at the Conservatory, because we did not have physics and chemistry since the 8th grade. Then I had such a romantic relationship with America: I listened to Western music, watched American films. I just wanted to see how people live there, how this music that sounds ... Bob Dylan, all this intellectual American rock - I wanted to know how it all looked from the other side. And then suddenly there was an opportunity to go to America on a school exchange. This was the first year after the end of the Union, there were different programs, and there was the Rotary International program. Nobody really knew about her, in my opinion, there was no special competition. I came for an interview, they hired me, and I went for a year - to see people, to show myself. I didn't have any plans to stay there for a long time. I spent a year in America. I was already invited to the Conservatory to stay for another four years. I thought - why not ?! Stayed, since there is such an opportunity. But I still thought that I would fly! I earned there by playing some kind of hack in the evening, saving money for a flight school, then studying to be a pilot. There it was necessary to fly hours, I opened a campaign like "blah blah kara". This was the early days of the Internet, and you could just post an ad: “I'll take you wherever you want within 500 nautical miles.” And so I recruited two or three people and flew. I didn't get anything out of it, but the earnings covered my aircraft rental, and I flew hours.
Leonid Velekhov: Well, really, don’t say who will argue after that that America is a country of opportunities.
Ian Maxine: That's for sure! And for me this was the most important experience in America. Subconsciously, I felt that America could give me this — the ability to think positively, which I lacked in Russia at that time, was very lacking. I started flying back in Russia in an aero club. I think people seem to be doing the same thing - airplanes fly the same way, on the same principles. But in Russia there were so many rules, constantly some restrictions, it’s impossible, it’s impossible, it’s impossible ... But in America everything suddenly appears! The rules are ten times less, but the security is higher. I think - well, why ?!
Leonid Velekhov: At the same time, the Russian flight school is also very good.
Ian Maxine: Yes, good!
Leonid Velekhov: We have great pilots.
Jan Maxine: Yes, and our musicians are wonderful.
Leonid Velekhov: Yes.
Jan Maxine: But all this is achieved in America in a completely different way. Not in this way, where you need to go through the maximum number of obstacles. Here you set a goal for yourself and think about the goal in the first place. And those obstacles that come across your path, they are secondary. You, as they arrive, already decide how to deal with them. And somehow everything itself is decided in the end. This for me was the biggest difference from Russia when I got to America.
Leonid Velekhov: Well, and again, the cellist pilot is, I think, not the most common combination. But at some point there was a choice - either fly or play?
Jan Maxine: Yes, there wasn’t even a choice: it was actually made on the go. I was 24 of the year. And in parallel, I flew and continued to play the cello. And it so happened that I needed to pass a couple more years on a student visa in America, and I needed to continue to study. And I went to graduate school, where I finally met my teacher. The name of this man, God grant him health, Suren Bagratuni. Incredibly talented musician, cellist.
Leonid Velekhov: Same as Vysotsky sings, “from ours, from the Slavs”.
Yan Maksin: Yes, from our Russian cello player of Armenian descent, laureate of the Tchaikovsky Competition, a great teacher. I was his assistant: I taught his students too. And I felt like a colleague, that I, too, turns out to be a musician.
Leonid Velekhov: Finally, a good teacher was sent to you.
Ian Maxine: Yes! Indeed, what comes from my cello is worth something, the first time I felt it. And now I had some kind of new hope, a new goal, a new everything, already in adulthood. And after graduate school such an opportunity suddenly appeared - I played a competition in the New World Symphony youth orchestra conducted by Michael Tilson and got into this orchestra. That was in Miami.
Leonid Velekhov: Since Miami, do you play Cuban music?
Jan Maxine: I play, I sing.
Leonid Velekhov: Yes ?! Wonderful! Especially since you performed with Gloria Estefan, I read.
Jan Maxine: Yes, and not only with her. I performed and constantly played with Cuban musicians on the street, where only it was not necessary. It has become part of my culture.
Leonid Velekhov: And Miami is part of Cuba.
Ian Maxine: Yes, actually. I say this to everyone that Miami is Cuba.
Leonid Velekhov: You started in the orchestra: indeed, cellists most often and most often play in orchestras. And when and how the thought came, and so fate turned, that you became a soloist?
Jan Maksin: That's when I started playing the cello myself, not in the orchestra, but just someone asked me to play something, people began to come up to me and say that, it’s your playing the cello that affects our souls strings, then the first time I realized that a cello is not only for my sake, in order for me to get some pleasure from it, to make money for my life, but it also brings people something. Already in adulthood, the first time this awareness came. And this was the starting point for me, my musical path - that I do this not only for my own sake, but for the sake of people who listen to this music, that it is my responsibility. If people need my music, then the Universe is somehow destined that I should give it to them and somehow cultivate it already. And how to cultivate further - that was the question. What exactly can I give them as a musician? These are some other listeners, not those listeners, not the audience that is not already coming to philharmonic concerts. I suddenly realized at some point that this music is interesting not only to people who come to concerts, but also to those people who have never heard a cello. 98 percent of people who do not go to the philharmonic may also like the cello in some other way. I finished work in a youth orchestra and after that I had to decide what to do next - either try to look for work in some other symphony orchestra, or do something else. And I clearly already knew for myself that I had to do something else, and practically from scratch, from some apartment houses and concerts in small clubs, I began to do what I am doing now. It was an experiment, that is, I played everything that I could. I played Bach’s suites, played Grebenshchikov, all the music that I knew, I played ...
Leonid Velekhov: And he sang already, right?
Jan Maxine: Yes, he played and sang.
Leonid Velekhov: And under what circumstances did you play with Sting, with Andrea Bocelli?
Jan Maxine: When I lived in Miami, there was a concentration of these celebrities, that is, there Gloria Estefan lived and Barry Gibb. Through them, all these things spun, through their production groups. And somehow it happened that at first Gloria Estefan invited me, then my phone got through somewhere else, then I was invited when Andrea Bocelli came on tour in the USA ...
Leonid Velekhov: That is, Gloria Estefan is partly your godmother.
Ian Maxine: You could say that.
Leonid Velekhov: But the cello, like all strings, is still an instrument about sadness? Or is it impossible to limit it like that?
Jan Maksin: They say to me: “You play music, it is so sad. You are probably a melancholic in life? " No, I'm not melancholic. I am an extremely positive person to the core, and I love sad music, I write sad music. Why? It seems to me that it is through sadness and melancholy that we can achieve the so-called catharsis or some kind of inner purification through art in any form - through cinema, literature, music. One of the pieces on my new album is called “Nuove lacrime” (“New Tears”). This is a paraphrase of the title of a cycle by John Dowland, an English composer of the XNUMXth century. His cycle was called “Senex lacrimis, novum lacrimis”, which translated from Latin means “Tears are old, tears are new”, with the subtitle “Tears of joy, tears of sadness, tears of purification”. And this is what kind of sums up the concept that it is through this sadness, sadness that we find purification, which in turn helps us find something new in ourselves. So we leave the cinema, the concert hall and feel that we have become better, we have become kinder. Some kind of hope appeared within us, that we became new, that our life can begin anew, that everything that was, all our sins, everything that we were dissatisfied with, including ourselves - everything is possible. start over.
Leonid Velekhov: Out of Russia, more than twenty years have passed for you as a musician, because you began to come on tour only two or three years ago to Russia. That is, all youth passed, the beginning of a mature period has passed.
Ian Maxine: Children have grown.
Leonid Velekhov: Moreover ...
Ian Maxine: This is the key.
Leonid Velekhov: Why are you so late with your arrival in Russia as a musician? And did you come at all?
Ian Maxine: I came, of course. My parents live in St. Petersburg. I came, visited them regularly, then I came with my son. But since I left, and as if I had no musical connections since then, nothing musical happened to me here. And somehow I did not force anything. I always believe that everything has its time. And when the stars line up in a certain way, it turns out. So, indeed, it turned out: suddenly I received an invitation from David Semenovich Goloshchekin.
Leonid Velekhov: Our famous jazzman.
Ian Maksin: A great Russian musician, whose concerts I attended as a child with my father. And so I receive an invitation to perform at his international festival “Swing of the White Night”. This is how it all began. And now I have played concerts from Vladivostok and Yakutsk to Moscow and St. Petersburg, 27 or 28 concerts, practically across all time zones, and there were already venues for a thousand people.
Leonid Velekhov: You have not reached Goloshchekinsky multi-instrumentalism, no? He plays some crazy amount of instruments.
Jan Maxine: No, I never tried, I did not have such ambitions to become a multi-instrumentalist. I come up purely utilitarian: if there is a guitar - I will play it, there is a cello - I will play it, and I will play the cello better than the guitar. I can extract more from the sound of the latter. But if there is no cello, I will play the guitar, if there is no guitar, I will play the piano.
Leonid Velekhov: And so, if I ask a question. Are you an American musician of Russian origin or a Russian musician living in America?
Jan Maksin: I had an interview with Father Alexei on the Soyuz channel, just yesterday in St. Petersburg. And he said such a thing at the end, he also asked me this question: “I consider you an American musician with a Russian soul”. He gave the following formulation.
Leonid Velekhov: Well said. (Laughter in the studio).
Ian Maxine: I will say, maybe at the moment it is.
Leonid Velekhov: And where do you live in America?
Jan Maxine: At the moment I live in the city of Chicago. This city inspires me and ground me at the same time - an interesting combination. If I lived in Paris, it would be completely different. If I lived in New York, that would be different too. At a certain stage in my life, it was useful for me to live in this city. How everything will develop in the near future, I do not know for sure. In the next couple of years there will be certain changes - I do not know at all which continent I will be based on, how everything will happen. But Chicago has an interesting energy industry.
Leonid Velekhov: Energy is crazy!
Ian Maxine: Strong energy, and inspires, and allows you to come back and recharge after some tours, intense trips.
Leonid Velekhov: Why do you love America the most, and what arouses rejection, rejection, irritation in you?
Ian Maxine: Nothing annoys me anywhere. This feeling has ceased to bother me, probably already the last two or three years.
Leonid Velekhov: Are you so positive in everything?
Jan Maxin: I somehow felt a little bit, I don’t want to say - on the drum, but all the negative things that happen have ceased to have a destructive effect on me, let’s say so.
Leonid Velekhov: Due to the fact that you live in the world of music?
Ian Maksin: Probably. I got into some ... One very interesting person told me that “at some point you start living in a stream!” And I realized that I, at least partially, got into this stream. And when you get into it, then, indeed, everything that happens outside of this stream becomes somehow secondary. If you go along some rails, then you are pushed in different directions, but it does not knock you out of this balance. That is, I am in a state of positive stability all the time.
Leonid Velekhov: And I will turn this question to Russia. Still, you look at her with that look, more detached ...
Ian Maxine: The same thing! I only come across good people everywhere I go.
Leonid Velekhov: Where were these people the most cool in your experience?
Ian Maxine: (Laughter in the studio). Hard to say. Wherever I go, the city becomes my favorite. This is the first time I have been to the city of Kuibyshev.
Leonid Velekhov: In Samara today.
Ian Maxine: No, no! So, I’m not so ashamed that I didn’t even know about the existence of this city. This city is located exactly between Omsk and Novosibirsk, exactly four hours from there and four hours from there. It used to be called Kainsk. Before the revolution, it was a fairly iconic city. At that time, there was still no mention of Novosibirsk, but there was Kainsk, Kain district.
Leonid Velekhov: In my opinion, Kuibyshev himself comes from there. Therefore, this is the name.
Yan Maksin: Kuibyshev was in exile in this city. But it was really a center - both a shopping center and a cultural center. And so I got to this city. A woman, a music teacher, wrote to me. I had two days off. I had seven concerts in Siberia - Tomsk, Novosibirsk, Kemerovo. And before Omsk I had two days - a day of moving and a day to catch my breath. And a woman wrote to me: "Could you come to Kuibyshev, we will give you a concert." I could not refuse, I said: "Yes, well, I will come." And it so happened that at first they gathered a small hall, and their head of the city responded and said: “We have a recreation center, I will give it to you for free. Use for this concert. " And through city news portals, he advertised on all channels. And they received me with bread and salt. On the example of this city, I realized that things are not so bad with our culture.
Leonid Velekhov: Interesting. And the name is so biblical - Kainsk.
Jan Maxine: Yes, Kainsk. (Laughter in the studio). This is the newest city on my touring map, and I have the warmest memories from there. And the most interesting, I lived in a hotel, in my opinion, this is the only hotel in the city, and now I wake up, open a window, I have a plane right outside my window, IL-14.
Leonid Velekhov: you are my God! Everything came together, as in a dream.
Ian Maxine: Yes.
Leonid Velekhov: did you come with your son? I know that you have a son who often joins you.
Ian Maxine: Yes. But this time, no. Now is the middle of the school year, and he has high school.
Leonid Velekhov: What does he do? Where are you going to sharpen your skis?
Jan Maxine: Recently, he has woken up Russian identity, despite the fact that he was born in America, his mother is American. For a long time he had little interest in everything Russian, including the Russian language, despite the fact that in childhood I sang, read to him, all this was. But then he went to kindergarten and completely lost interest in anything Russian. And I found myself that it was even easier for me to speak English with him. And we spoke English for several years, and then suddenly he woke up with some kind of cultural identity. It began to be cultivated in him stronger and stronger. At the moment, he has such thoughts - to go to study in Moscow, in the Shchukin school.
Leonid Velekhov: So he wants to become an actor?
Ian Maxine: As an actor or director, he wants to make a movie about the war and act in it himself. Now he is engaged in the United States in the historical reconstruction of the events of World War II. And they are also connected with Russia, with this community of reenactors. And he almost occupies some post there, despite the fact that he is the youngest of all these reenactors. He goes to rallies. They have some kind of permanent forums taking place.
Leonid Velekhov: Nevertheless, his case confirms that in Russia some kind of magnetic anomaly persists.
Ian Maxine: Of course, of course! This is a phenomenon. I myself am trying to solve it - what is the phenomenon of this culture? For me, this is a very interesting topic that I discovered for myself a couple of years ago. Namely, how is culture defined by the language we speak? How does this language define us? Where is the chicken and where is the egg? Has language developed on the basis of culture, or has culture developed on the basis of language historically? How does this language define us today as the bearers of this culture?
Leonid Velekhov: Einstein believed that we think in language. Not that language expresses and formulates our thoughts, but that thinking itself occurs in a linguistic form.
Ian Maxine: Of course!
Leonid Velekhov: Of the Russians, I know that you love and sing Grebenshchikov and Vertinsky.
Ian Maxine: I love it! Grebenshchikov is my musical hero, an idol, as you want, call it. This is the person who most influenced my life in all its aspects. Since I was ten years old and I heard it for the first time, my life has become different.
Leonid Velekhov: And Vertinsky?
Jan Maksin: Vertinsky - through Grebenshchikov. The first time I heard Vertinsky was from Grebenshchikov.
Leonid Velekhov: Well, of course, he sings it wonderful. Vertinsky - an emigrant who returned to Russia, yearned for Russia. You do not consider yourself an immigrant?
Jan Maxine: For a second I did not consider myself as such.
Leonid Velekhov: Never?
Ian Maxine: Not for a second, never!
Leonid Velekhov: Interesting!
Jan Maksin: Moreover, having left for America, I never had any kind of Russian-speaking environment in which I would go around. When I came to America, the first years I had a very international company: there were people from Turkey, from South America, from Africa ... Such was an interesting company, I got high on it. Indeed, it was such a boiler where there was everything. For me it was a knowledge of a new culture through music. We met, everyone who knew how to play, played. We had evenings where they cooked, who, what they could from their country. For me, this was probably the most determining factor in my new formation in America more than life itself in America, but it was this international that influenced me very much. But life in America, too, had an imprint on the mentality, on some kind of development. Again, France has always been a very strong cultural magnet for me too. Despite the fact that I never lived in France for any long periods of time, but the time that I spent in France, it had a very strong influence on me. And even the time when I did not live, but how I absorbed French culture through music, literature and everything else, it may have had the same strong influence as American culture, in which I lived for more than a quarter century. Therefore, my whole soul, like a patchwork, probably.
Leonid Velekhov: Great! Moreover, America is such a country that allows this soul to be preserved as a patchwork quilt.
Ian Maxine: There you go! Yes!
Leonid Velekhov: Of course. We mentioned Vertinsky, you can recall another of my favorite, Pyotr Leshchenko. They, being great musicians, played in restaurants, sang in restaurants. Is it somehow shameful for a modern musician? Has this culture gone?
Yang Maksin: Why? I perform, for example, at some venues like the same Makarevich club, the Stray Dog jazz club in Novosibirsk, where there are tables, people are drinking.
Leonid Velekhov: Well, these are still artistic cafes.
Ian Maksin: But it doesn't matter. People often write to me: “Oh, you are performing in“ Stray Dog ”! How can you, a musician, sing to the sound of cymbals, knives and forks! ” It seems to me that there are people who are comfortable coming to such places ...
Leonid Velekhov: Of course.
Jan Maxine: And how can I deprive them of my music if they don’t come to the Philharmonic for some other reason? My task is to bring music to as many people as possible. If I need to play the subway, I will play the subway. If I need to go to Africa and play anywhere, I will. In a place where people would not otherwise have come to my concert, only there - in the Nursing Home, in the Orphanage, anywhere!
Leonid Velekhov: Great!
Jan Maxine: This is my mission. This is what makes me happy.
Leonid Velekhov: Great! We will finish our conversation on Vertinsky.
Ian Maksin: Alexander Vertinsky “Dog Douglas”.
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