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Martin Smolka


Martin Smolka (born in Prague in 1959) studied composition at the Academy of Performing Arts and also privately with Marek Kopelent. His works have won him recognition both at home and abroad. He has written on commission for prestigious festivals such as the Warsaw Autumn Festival (1987, 1999), the Donaueschingen Musiktage (1992, 2000), the Berliner Musik-Biennale (1993, 1997), the Bang-On-a-Can-Marathon in New York (1996), the Wittener Tage (1999), and Musica viva in Munich (2000) as well as for other institutions and performers. His works have also been chosen for reprises by other major festivals including for example the ISCM World Music Days in Oslo (1990) and in Copenhagen (1996) as well as Klangaktionen in Munich (1994, 1998). His music has sounded in many places in renditions by the 'Agon' ensemble, for instance in Berlin (1992), London (1994), New York (1995), Zürich (1997), Reykjavík (2000), Frankfurt (2002), and Paris (2003), and has been recorded by many radio stations as well as by Czech Television. Most of his chamber works have been recorded on compact discs by Agon for Arta Records and Audio ego, and two works figure in selected recordings on the Col legno label from the Donaueschingen Musiktage. Since 2000 his scores have been published by Breitkopf und Härtel of Leipzig and Wiesbaden. In 1983 Mr. Smolka co-founded 'Agon', an ensemble specialising in the present and past of the musical avant-garde. He served as its artistic director and player of prepared piano until 1998. In the framework of Agon's projects he searched for forgotten values (quarter-tone music by pupils of Alois Hába, Czech music from the early 1960s) and performed graphic scores and sketches by Milan Grygar, John Cage, and others. He is the co-author of a book and compact disc titled Grafické partitury a koncepty (Graphic Scores and Sketches). The main focus of Mr. Smolka's artistic activities is composition of concert works. But he also performs as a musical improviser in theatrical productions - for the Vizita Theatre from 1983 to 1986 and again since 2002, for Ivan Vyskočil's Kuchyň (Kitchen) in 1988-89, and for the Pure Joy Theatrical Studio from 1994 to 2001. He arranged for and played in the group led by the Chinese singer Feng-jün Song for the compact disc Horská karavana (Mountain Caravan, 2001). He has also composed for theatre, for example for the production Nachové plachty (Purple Sails) at the Forman Brothers' Theatre, and for film - Zdeněk Tyc's Vojtěch řečený sirotek (Vojtěch, Alias 'The Orphan') from 1989 and Tomáš Hejtmánek's Sentiment from 2002-03. Since the autumn of 2003 he has been teaching composition at the Janáček Academy of Performing Arts in Brno. Mr. Smolka's compositional style has developed from two different starting points - Webernism and minimal music - to a sort of concrete sonorism. He has worked with instrumental sounds that suggest phenomena of our world (ship and train sirens, the clattering of machines, sounds of rain, and many others), and these aural reminiscences have co-determined the often nostalgic, sometimes grotesque expression of his music, for instance in Déšť, nějaké okno, střechy, komíny, holubi a tak…, a taky železniční mosty (Rain, Some Sort of Window, Chimneys, Pigeons, and So On..., and Also Railway Bridges) from 1992 and Rent a ricercar from 1993/95. In 1998 he shifted his attention from sound colours more toward work with tones, even with typical devices of traditional music such as minor triads and string cantilenas, but deformed using quarter tones and the technique of collage, for example in the quintet Lieder ohne Worte from 1999 or the orchestral Remix, Redream, Reflight from 2000. Selected additional works: Hudba hudbička (Music, Dear Music - for chamber ensemble, 1985/88), Zvonění (Ringing - for percussion solo, 1989), L´Orch pour l´orch (1990), Tři kusy pro přeladěný orchestr (Three Pieces for Retuned Orchestra - 1996), Osm kusů pro kytarové kvarteto (Eight Pieces for Guitar Quartet - 1998), Walden, the Distiller of Celestial Dews (for chorus, to a text by H.D. Thoreau, 2000), Houby a nebe (Mushrooms and Sky - for singing violinist and two string quartets, 2000), and Ach, mé milé c moll (Oh, My Dear C Minor - for chamber ensemble, 2002).