This concert is aimed at all perceptive listeners who want to hear how the contemporary world resonates with music. For everyone who wants a breath of fresh air, there is Respire by the contemporary French composer Pierre Jodlowski, a piece inspired by human breathing. Breath as the foundation, or more of a prerequisite for the human voice is then the link to a work by the young British composer Anne Meredith, whose Concerto for Beatboxer lets the human voice stand out as an instrument with an unbelievable range of sounds and colors.
A composition by Petr Wajsar will be receiving its world premiere. Prague Spring commissioned the piece, and the assignment was to tie in with Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra from the perspective of the present-day young listener and from the perspective of the music of the early 21st century. The composer gave his work the provocative title The Rest Is Song, a reference to Alex Ross’s bestseller The Rest Is Noise.
This concert was conceived for an audience of teens and university students, but it is not just for them.
“I took inspiration for the title of my composition from the book The Rest Is Noise by the American music critic and publicist Alex Ross. But the inspiration was not just for the title; just at the book deals with the development of modern music from the beginning of the twentieth century, this piece follows the creation of a musical work from its beginning to the final bar line. With the help of internal autobiographical commentary of the composer and excerpts from the book, we observe the creation of a musical work and the thoughts that accompany the composer during this process. This virtual experience offers not only pleasure from the finished music, as is usual at normal concerts, but also the adventure of its creation. It shall be my pleasure to share his experience with you.”
Pierre Jodlowski (*1971) is a French composer, improviser, and performer, and he also creates sound installations. His musical works often overlap into other areas of the arts – he works with images, interactive electroacoustical elements, stage design... He is a proponent of “active” music, both in a physical (gesture, energy, space) and a psychological (memory, visual dimensions, evocation) sense. Jodlowski has won a number of awards for his work, including a residency at the Academy of Arts in Berlin. He collaborates with the best ensembles and soloists involved with contemporary music. Among the organizations to commission works from him are the Ensemble intercontemporain, IRCAM, Radio France, the French Ministry of Culture, and the Donaueschingen Festival.
Respire (2008) is the first work of the trilogy Respire / Mange / Dort (Breathes, Eats, Sleeps), which was conceived as a set of audiovisual compositions dealing with the question of the body in our world. The body is bound by a number of societal limitations and rituals, to which norms or ideal proportions are applied. This project, realized jointly with the visual artist David Coste, is divided into two larger wholes; the first concentrates on breathing itself, on waving of the abdomen, which becomes the center of constant movement, and thanks to this, the music constantly pulsates. The second part is a trance dance. Finally, the bodies pile up and multiply in the space of the video, white, pure, emptied, where they let themselves by carried away by a long, repetitive crescendo.
The Scottish composer Anna Meredith (*1978) works with acoustic and electronic music, including as a performer. She has been a composer-in-residence for the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Sinfonia ViVA, which specializes in the promotion of music to the broadest audience possible and in community projects. She composes mainly shorter works combining acoustic instruments with electronic ones and music with video, and she received great acclaim for her performance composition HandsFree, which she wrote for the BBC Proms and the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain ‒ in it, she did not use a single musical instrument, just clapping, finger snapping, playing on the body, the human voice etc.
The Concerto for Beatboxer and Orchestra was created through a year of close cooperation with a British beatboxer known as Shlomo, who is, among other things, the winner of the 2011 Loopstation World Championship. He has also been an artist-in-residence at London’s Southbank Centre, which commissioned the work. Both protagonists tried to create a modern work that would contradict the clichés connected with beatbox. As Shlomo remarked: “One real challenge this piece throws up is the idea of seeing beatboxing not as a genre, but as a versatile instrument.” The premiere took place on 19 February 2010 at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, and performing together with Shlomo and other British beatboxers were members of the prominent resident ensembles at the Southbank Centre ‒ the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Philharmonia Orchestra, the London Sinfonietta, and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.
Already in the nineteenth century, techniques similar to present-day beatbox can be traced in the folk music of the black and white inhabitants of the continent and in religious songs. Beatbox was also influenced by traditional African musical techniques, with musicians clapping or slapping various parts of their bodies and creating a wide range of sounds with the use of noisy inhaling or exhaling of air through the mouth – this technique is used in beatbox to this day. Beatbox, as we now understand it, has its direct origins in the hip hop music of the 1980s. Beatbox techniques began to spread to a greater degree thanks to the arrival of the internet after 2000, when the first and, to this day, only functional online beatbox community was created (www.humanbeatbox.com). An experienced beatboxer is able to imitate a whole range of sounds, from a drum set to a DJ’s turntable, and electronic sounds from trumpet to electric guitar. Some of these sounds can be made when inhaling and exhaling, which allows a beatboxer to continue without interruption. For the creation of more sound effects, beatbox is sometimes combined with singing or such techniques as hand clapping or slapping on other parts of the body (e.g. the throat tap) while simultaneously singing or humming.
The Berg Orchestra is a first-class, youthful ensemble that brings a breath of fresh air to the Czech music scene – it presents innovative projects that are attractive to audiences, primarily emphasizing contemporary and twentieth-century music. It combines music with theatre, film, ballet, pantomime, video art, the visual arts etc., and it appears frequently outside of traditional venues. By regularly commissioning new works by Czech composers especially of the younger generation, it helps create new values and invests in the future of music and the arts. It already has dozens of world premieres to its credit as well as many Czech premieres of music by outstanding composers from around the world. The orchestra’s concert activities include appearances at international festivals and on important Czech stages. The ensemble collaborates with the ballet of the National Theatre (for the performances Goldilocks and Ibbur). To its many recordings for Czech Radio and for CDs, in 2007 the orchestra added a taping of the first programme of its own for Czech Television.
The Berg Orchestra was founded in 1995 by the conductor Peter Vrábel, who remains its artistic director.
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