LIFE AND MUSIC CAREER
Boris Midney is a Russian born American composer, producer, orchestrator, multi instrumentalist, engineer, studio and sound designer, writer, photographer and graphic artist. Classically trained, and proficient in multiple genres, he is perhaps most recognized or labeled as a pioneer of Euro-Disco and an autheur of Art-Disco, so called for its lush classical string sections.
THE USSR YEARS
Boris Midney was born in the heart of Moscow, Russia, to Vasily Midney, a prominent conductor and pianist, and Ivgenia Grechko, a successful soprano. The couple met during the Symphonic radio hour which Vasily Midney also conducted. Boris grew up in a cultural circle of noted composers, musicians and artists that frequently gathered at his parents’ apartment, which was located only a few blocks from the Kremlin. Right across the street from his home was the all-boys school he attended. The school, Number 64, well know as the once private mansion Napoleon was forced to stay during his Moscow siege in 1812 when the Russians, upon news of his arrival, had set flame to the Kremlin and the city.
During a bout with scarlet fever Boris first showed his hand in drawing and soon create a series of large oil paintings that got noticed. His father, an established conductor and a pianist, wanted him to become a great painter but despite all encouragement, and an invitation from a school for the exceptionally talented, Boris had his heart already set on music.
Boris studied clarinet, classical theory and orchestration at the renowned Gnessin Institute, where Khachaturian himself had been a professor, and performance technique at the Peter Illyvitch Moscow Conservatory. He self-taught on tenor and alto sax.
While studying at Gnessin Institute, he played weekend gigs with a band he put together and was a regular attraction at the Hotel National playing Jazz for foreign dignitaries. Here he managed to get his early material in the hands of visitors. US Downbeat Magazine consequently wrote an article on his work calling it an avant-garde top Jazz group performance out of Russia (USSR). This led to extensive touring and performances at Jazz festivals throughout the Soviet block.
Roy Hemming & George Nikoaieff quoted the Down Beat article about Midney in Scholastic Magazine 's 'Newsmakers' section “….regarded as one of the finest Soviet Jazz Saxophonists as early as 1960”.
Boris scored films for Mosfilm Studios, including a feature film that won best film score at the Monte Carlo Film Festival, and did the occasional acting work.
In 1962 the State’s Jazz Orchestra, under the direction of Leonid Utyosov, recruited Boris as tenor sax player to perform at major venues including concerts at the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg with Marlene Dietrich and Burt Bacharach.
In his off-time, Boris was a contributing photo-journalist to the world publication Soviet Life for which he also shot the well-know portraits of Aram Khachaturian, Leonid Kogan, Mstislav Rostropovich, and the tenor Ivan Kozlovsky. He experimented in large-format photography with Linhof and Mamiya cameras and entered the ‘by invite only’ diploma program at the Moscow Institute of Photo Journalism for working professionals where he got 1st prize in photo exhibition and graduated top of his class.
In 1964 Boris was given KGB clearance to travel to Japan with the State’s Jazz Orchestra on an International cultural exchange tour to perform in cities including Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Osaka, Fujiyama, and finally Tokyo where Boris Midney and Igor Berukshtis made their way to the American Embassy to defect.
THE USA YEARS
On October 15, 1964, Boris was issued a passport by the Bundesrepublik Deutschland to travel to the United States of America.
Arriving at JFK Airport in New York with fellow Russian Igor Berukshtis, the two were ushered into a large room where a flurry of flashbulbs preceded a frenzy of questions by the press corp. After the event, they were introduced to Helen Keane, who represented Bill Evans and would become their manager.
Boris signed to the ABC/Impulse Jazz label and formed the Russian Jazz Quartet bringing in Igor Berukshtis, Grady Tate and Roger Kellaway.
Soon after their arrival, in November of 1964, the two Russians were guests on The Tonight Show hosted by Johnny Carson and The Today Show in New York.
Happiness by The Russian Jazz Quartet was released in the Spring of 1965. In Down Beat Magazine of March 25, 1965, John S Wilson reviews Midney’s compositions on Happiness as leaning toward the Third Stream Idiom, echoing Midney’s ambition as he stated in the Encyclopedia of Jazz.
Boris Midney and Igor Berukshtis soon toured various East Coast city jazz clubs including The Village Gate and The Village Vanguard as well as universities where he often shared concerts with other jazz musicians such as Herbie Mann, Ornette Coleman, Max Roach, Tony Scott, Jimmy Owens, and the Tad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra. In Buffalo, Dizzie Gillespie invited the two to jam with the band.
Parallel to music, Boris’s art continues to be published. He becomes the photography and Graphic Arts Protégé of Alexey Brodovich, Art-Director of Harpers Bazaar, who encourages him to continue his unique style and strong visual language. Working in multiple mediums, Boris frequently designed album covers.
In 1966 Midney designed and built his first recording studio in Princeton where he recorded university choirs including The Princeton Tigertones, The Princeton Tigerlilies, Nassoons, and American Boychoir.
Progressive in Big Band and Jazz composition, he arranged scores for The Johnny Carson Show and The Merv Griffin Show for years. He composed various commissions for the NBC Network including the original symphonic orchestra work Bi-Centennial. Later Boris composed the music for the American Enterprise series hosted by William Shatner. But with the philosophy that music demands continuous evolving, he was driven to explore new territory.
In 1978 in Philadelphia he designed and co-owned Alpha Recording Studio where he recorded USA-European Connection at the same time as engineering studio overdubs for The Rolling Stones, Instant Funk, Foreigner, and Evelyn Champagne King. David Itkowitz heard Midney’s USA-European Connection at Alpha Recording Studio and brought the recording to Ray Caviano, promoter for Henry Stone’s TK Records, who took it to David Mancuso’s “Loft” where soon after it became a dance club favorite launching it to Number 1 on The Billboard Dance Charts.
Combining symphonic scoring with R&B, in concept with Alec Constandinos, Cerrone, and Giorgio Moroder, Boris launches a new style that helps him top the Billboard charts – Disco. He becomes obsessed with producing quality sound and moving beyond the limitations of the available audio technologies – an obsession that causes him to study, experiment, and raise the bar in acoustic design and recording techniques. Soon he is equally recognized as an authority in recording studio design and audio-engineering, earning him several best Producer-Engineer awards.
In 1979 Boris moved to midtown New York where he designed and built his third studio - the first 48-track recording studio in the United States known as Eras Recording. It featured state of the art equipment including German multi-track Telefunken machines and the first digital mastering recorders. The studio was so revolutionary that Philips held its secret unveiling of their new prototype CD or Compact Disc.
At Eras he recorded a string of dance records under various monikers, such as Festival (Evita) for RS0 , TK Records, Warner Records, Prelude, and Barclay. He recorded USA-European Connection 2, which remains one of his personal favorites, and Beautiful Bend. Boogie Motion, from the Beautiful Bend album, is later featured in The Muppets Go Hollywood. Beautiful Bend also served for the soundtrack of the cult sci-fi Liquid Sky.
At the same time the studio became the frequent recording base for NBC and the top Madison Ave agencies and artist such as Sonny Rollins, David Sanborn, Linda Ronstadt, and DJ re-mixers including close friend Jim Burgess with whom he collaborates on a remix of the Double Discovery single “Can he find another one”.
At Eras Recording, there was a constant entourage curious to learn his recording and engineering techniques. He trained many engineers that went on to become well known in their own right.
Robert Stigwood approached Boris to produce a dance version of the Evita Musical by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber which just opened in London. Stigwood wanted to bring the British show to New York on the strength of a contemporary dance music record. He flew Boris to London to see the show after which Boris took off to Puerto Rico to absorb the Latina flavor the work was calling for and to orchestrate the music. Evita was recorded at Boris Midney’s Eras Recording Studios with vocalists he selected to record under the moniker Festival featuring Lucia Suarez.
Later Stigwood engaged Midney once more to orchestrate a dance music style version of the Star Wars film score by John Williams for RSO.
1984 Boris returns to London where he built a temporal studio in Mayfair to write and record a new musical called Black Russian based on the life of Alexander Pushkin who’s ancestor hailed from Africa. DDD-Dance, a track from Black Russian, was released as a single. His interest in creating contemporary classical works by combining different genres, is a theme that continues. Black Russian was never completed and was released in its draft stage by Hot Entertainment in 1999 as part of the Midney catalog releases.
As new sampling devices and synthesizers such as the Synclavier became available, Boris experimented with new recording technology application and created an extensive digital sound library of his original samples that continue to be popular with producers today.
In 1992 he runs a mastering facility and sound design studio in Burbank, California, catering to film studios with a second location in Los Angeles’ La Brea district where he develops local talent. He produces the R&B Hip-Hop group 3D which was released on Capital records in 1991.
Midney returned to the East Coast and produced techno, trance, D&B and Gabber under various monikers. His strength in multi-genre music combined with his technical know-how put him on the forefront to develop emerging styles that continues to fuel new movements and inspire new artists.
In 1999, Trancetter and What’s Your Name were both released on the Max label.
In 2012 the Disco-Discharge collection is released followed by the 2013 Disco-Recharge collection.
From 2000 on, between film scores and sound design production in Europe and the US, he refocuses his attention to the resurrection of tonal orchestral scoring of the 19-20 century Classical/Romantic traditions throughout the use of all contemporary styles with the knowledge of psychoacoustics.
In 2016, the first two works in a series is completed and slated for a multi-disciplinary symphonic contemporary musical for theatre and animated feature films.