ANDREA SEABROOK, host:

The viola can seem like the Rodney Dangerfield of the classical musical world. It gets no respect. Not in the hands of Ljova. That's spelled L-J-O-V-A, Ljova. He goes by one name. He was born in Russia. He went to Juilliard. He used to play 20th-century music for the love it and weddings for the money.

Today, he does all sorts of things. In fact, Ljova is wired like an indie musician despite his old school instrument. He Skypes, he blogs, he posts music on MySpace and Facebook and YouTube, and he composes by using his computer. For the series Musicians In Their Own Words, independent producer David Shculman visited Ljova's studio apartment in Manhattan, and the musician admitted that sometimes, he just phones it in.

Mr. LEV ZHURBIN (Also Known As Ljova, Musician): I was at some wedding in New Jersey, and between sets, I put my phone on the hood of some car that was parked in the parking lot, and...

Guess who?

Actually, I sent this one to my wife.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. ZHURBIN: I call my voicemail, and I sing into it, or I say this should be like this, and this should be like that, any way I can explain to myself by the time I get home what it is that I have to do.

OK. So it starts with the tune, ya-di-da-da-da...

This is from an excerpt of arranging for this opera project.

With the two others, hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo. And then have a percussion thing going (unintelligible). And I say (unintelligible). OK? So good luck. Bye.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. ZHURBIN: I do a lot of my best writing in transit.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. ZHURBIN: At home, there is work to be done, and there is mail and all sorts of other entertainment. But the best writing I get done in transit because it's a choice between reading the New Yorker or writing music.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. ZHURBIN: There's a tune called "Cross Town." That was just in a cross town bus.

(Soundbite of song "Crosstown")

Mr. ZHURBIN: It's the bus, of course, but I think it was also inspired by one wedding in particular in my wedding career. There was a Haitian wedding. They would take one step forward, and then they would take one step back, and then they would rock back and forth. And it was the whole party processed in this fashion. It was really, really beautiful, that image of hesitation is really what set in my mind. And I think I came back to it when I was writing "Crosstown."

(Soundbite of song "Crosstown")

Mr. ZHURBIN: Playing weddings in New York, Catholic weddings, Jewish weddings, Hindu weddings, playing music from Pachelbel to the theme from James Bond to Barry Manilow and all sorts of things that you don't want to remember. The weddings actually made me improvise because the arrangements were handwritten, and they had wrong notes, missing notes, so I was correcting them. And then I was trying to see what else I could do.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. ZHURBIN: My mom, she is a writer and a poet. My Father is Russia's - he's a very famous composer. He's written over 30 musicals, has his own TV show. He had this great Kosovo training. But in 1975, he wrote Russia's first rock musical based, actually, on the Orpheus myth. Except in this version, Orpheus is a rock star.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. ZHURBIN: My mom asked me when I was three and a half, would I like to play the violin. And I thought, play, sure. I'll play anything. I play with toys. I play with bears. When we came here, I quit the violin. I was 11, and I wanted to write science fiction. And then my Dad said, OK, well, you know, I understand music may not be your thing, but you know, why don't you try - give viola a chance?

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. ZHURBIN: "Bagel on the Malecon" - Malecon is a street in Havana, Cuba. It's the boardwalk. The title is kind of the utopian dream that one day, I'll be able to go as a New Yorker and as an American to Cuba and walk down the boardwalk in Havana and eat a bagel.

(Soundbite of song "Bagel on the Malecon")

Mr. ZHURBIN: I recorded a kind of a manual click track because I didn't want to use an actual click track, but...

(Soundbite of click track)

Mr. ZHURBIN: So I remember I recorded something that sounded like...

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. ZHURBIN: So something like that just to kind of keeps it together. And then, I recorded the bass line that is something like this...

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. ZHURBIN: And then, I think I will record a melody...

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. ZHURBIN: So, you know, and in about three hours, "Bagel on the Malecon" was born.

(Soundbite of song "Bagel on the Malecon")

Mr. ZHURBIN: I don't know if I really consider myself a classical musician anymore. I strive to be more of a folk musician. The guys who live in the villages, they have their own village music that they perfect, and I'd like to think that I live in the greatest village, for me, which is New York. We have all of these things boiling in the same pot, all of these musical styles in the most organic way blending together. That's tradition, my tradition.

(Soundbite of music)

SEABROOK: Violist, composer, arranger, Ljova. His stage name is a dominative form of his Russian given name, Lev Zhurbin. We heard from him as a part of our series, Musicians in Their Own Words, from independent producer David Schulman.

(Soundbite of music)

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