Thom Moore and his odd minor key

It seems that there are two kind of westerners coming to live in Russia – the ones who want to go back home as soon as possible and the ones who want to come back to Russia as often as possible. Yes, of course I’m exaggerating; there are also those in between as well as those who never wants even to think about visiting Russia.

And then there’s a saying that you can leave Russia but it never quite leaves you, as Justin Lifflander put it in the Moscow Times 26.4.2013. He wrote about Thom Moore and his music, not known to me then and never known to many.

Thom Moore is not just a musician and folk singer; he worked as an interpreter in Russia and was part of the inspector team for the U.S.–the Soviet Union Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Therefore, starting from 1989 he worked three years at the rocket factory in Votkinsk, 1.000 kilometres from Moscow close to the Ural Mountains.

Of course, he met a woman – her name is Lyubov – and they got married. It was his second marriage. Later Moore taught English at the Udmurt State University in Izhevsk (a so called closed city famous for Kalashnikov rifles). He returned to Ireland with his wife in the 1995. All this is told in Justin Lifflander’s article.

Thom Moore had also served in the U.S. Navy as journalist. After that he moved to Ireland, then again back to the U.S. before moving to Russia in 1989. He first met Russians in Ethiopia in the early 1950s when his father was working there. At the university (after the Navy) he studied Russian language, “the only class that was even vaguely interesting”.

Naturally, I wanted to get to know his music which has “poetic intellect and charm”, as described in Lifflander’s article in the Moscow Times. And, indeed, some songs are really touching. I like “The Answer” (1991, Vot Otvet) very, very much. (You can find it from Youtube.) Sure, it’s about a woman and love. But it’s certainly different to anything I’ve encountered before. A Russian experience. I struggled a bit to understand the Russian part of the text. Even in English the allegories didn’t open to me at the first listening.

Thom Moore tells that people in the U.S.A. follow the style of the songs, not the substance, the idea of the text or anything of the kind. He says that the odd minor key in his music, the Russian tone, is definitely improper in Western pop-music. Well, there’s a difference.

On the 6th of December, the Finnish Independence Day, Thom Moore will be 70 years old. My congratulations from Russia (slightly beforehand)!