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«Mikhail Dubov is a first-rate Ravelist. His delicate, subtle performance of Ravel's "Sonatine", full of crystalline sonority and magnificient timbres, with an extraordinary sense of tempo, has totally enchanted us...» ("La Lettre du Musicien")

«At the Paris competition, the panel of critics, musicologists and journalists almost unanimously decided to award their Special Prize to Mikhail Dubov, whose striking personality was evident from his remarkably mastered performance...» ("Parlons Piano")

«Mikhail Dubov not only presented interesting stories about French composers and their works, but also fascinated the audience with his fabulous piano playing throughout the evening...» ("HSE News")

IT and art in one life (ReadSquare, 7 April 2016)

Mikhail Dubov is a software engineer and an amateur pianist. He received his Bachelor’s degree in Software Engineering from Higher School of Economics (HSE) in Moscow and is currently a Master’s student at Université Paris-Est Marne-la-Vallée in France. He has worked as a software engineer at such companies as Google, Mirantis and Empatika.

As a classical pianist, Mikhail Dubov is a top-prize winner of various international competitions, including the prestigious Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs in Paris. He frequently gives solo recitals and performs diverse chamber music programs with both amateur and professional musicians.

We asked Mikhail a few questions about how he combines IT and art in his life.

RS.: How is it possible to succeed in two opposite areas: science and art?

M.D.: It is quite natural that I became passionate about both IT and music in my early years: my father is a musician, while my mother is an IT journalist. I feel lucky to be able to do two things in my life, as I am a kind of a person for whom devoting all the time to a single job is a bit too boring. This was actually one of the reasons why I dropped my career as a musician: you really have to use all your time to practice and give concerts to become a professional pianist with a vast repertoire. But this is also exactly the reason why I still devote a significant amount of my spare time to music: switching to something different gives my mind the rest it needs.

RS.: Are there any parallels between science and music?

M.D.: I indeed have a strong feeling that music is not that far from informatics. In fact, I would even argue that it helps me in doing my job: it often seems to me that music and mathematics stimulate similar areas of my brain! For example, I have noticed that I perceive many algorithms from classical computer science as beautiful pieces of art – their elegancy plays upon my aesthetic sensitivity more than just their formal definition. I would probably never be so passionate about computer science if there were not so much beauty in it!

Another parallel I see is that with software engineering. At some point in time, I realized that the so-called "sense of form" is as important in software design as it is in playing piano sonatas. Again, it is my aesthetic feelings that helped me many times in doing my job well as a software engineer.

Being a concert pianist teaches you many other qualities you would need in your corporate life: public piano performances contribute to your ability to keep calm in stressful situations, while learning a technically challenging piece requires a lot of concentration and perseverance.

RS.: The other way around, can scientific activities somehow contribute to how people make music?

M.D.: Absolutely! Mathematical thinking can also bring very much to the art. A nice example from the history of music is that of Sergei Taneyev, a Russian XIX century composer. Taneyev was an outstanding personality who had a great scientific mind but devoted his whole life to the art. His approach to music was revolutionary for his time: he considered pieces of music as purely combinatorial objects. Throughout his life, he tried to make a scientific investigation of the laws of musical beauty, and he was quite successful in this striving! For me, Taneyev is one of the few composers whose music evokes truly deep emotions in me.

So I can say that the mathematical background I have both helps me understand Taneyev’s works better and also influences to some extent my interpretations of his music. This is basically true for many other composers I perform. The thing is that producing a good interpretation requires not only a deep emotional understanding but also a careful analysis of the piece you play. That is why having a scientifically shaped mind is of a great help.

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