Truly ‘Underground’ Music

A bar? On the metro platform? Good idea -- along with The Berg Orchestra's idea to stage their 'City Breath' concert here in Prague's unfinished Petřiný metro station May 5.

A bar? On the metro platform? Good idea — along with The Berg Orchestra’s idea to stage their ‘City Breath’ concert here in Prague’s unfinished Petřiný metro station May 5.

“How come so little is said about the importance of hearing in novels?” asks Robbe-Grillet in his autobiography. This question inspired the recent public performance by The Berg Orchestra in — of all places — the unfinished Petřiny metro station.

La Jalousie – The Sounds from a Novel is the title of a 1991 composition by Heiner Goebbels, the German composer and stage director whose work focuses on improvisations bordering on rock, sound collage, and theatre music. The work was inspired by the nouveau roman novel La Jalousie (1957) by Alain Robbe-Grillet.

The Berg Orchestra shared Goebbels’ self-described “completely indescribable world built from sounds” in — typical for the ensemble — an atypical concert location. “City sounds” were heard May 5th by an enthusiastic audience bundled in jackets and hiking boots, and seated deep below the city streets in the partially-lit, future metro station on line A not yet open to the rest of the public. The setting affected only the temperature, not the sound quality.

The chairs, the bar, and -- sadly -- the music will disappear once the new metro station is opened.

The chairs, the bar, and — sadly — the music will disappear once the new metro station is opened.

Compositions in addition to Goebbels’ were offered by Petr Cígler (Daily Patterns, world premiere), Pierre Jodlowski (Respire), and Steve Reich (City Life), all more or less connected with the idea of city, as summed up in the concert’s title, ‘City’s Breath.’

Especially Cígler’s Daily Patterns can awake an intimate feeling in a city inhabitant. It was inspired by human circadian rhythms, different in the city and in the country. Cígler is in civil life a scientist engaged in synthetic nanochemistry used in therapeutics and diagnostics of diseases.

So he is competent to assume the topic, not only as an artist. Further, consider: Dozens of Schubert’s Lieder are based on Goethe’s poems. Mussorgsky composed Pictures at an Exhibition and Martinů, The Frescoes of Piero della Francesca, both inspired by art. Probably the longest sequence in Tolstoy’s novel Kreutzer Sonata was inspired by Beethoven’s composition; Janáček’s String Quartet No 1 was inspired by Tolstoy’s novel, and Margriet de Moor’s novel Kreuzensonate (2001) was in turn inspired by Janáček.

So it’s no surprise that at any moment, any part of reality can be so thrilling that it awakes in an artist something so new, something so original that it just has to get out into the world. The Berg Orchestra continues to specialize in presenting just such exciting music in unusual places.

And they continue to take the audience with them — even if it’s in the chilly shadows several metres underground. — oo

– Lucie Rohanová, regular contributing writer to Opus Osm

Photo Credits: Hana Blažková

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