Title: Ideas and Techniques
Artist: Lucie Vítková
Release Date: 2014 Jan 15
Genre: Experimental / Improvisation
License: CC BY-NC-ND
Label: Pan Y Rosas Discos
I think some of my regular readers might have noticed by now that I don’t always review the contents of a release. At least not thoroughly. There are reasons for this, in fact quite a few reasons. For example, I changed my writing style to make my reviews a quicker read, and to allow adding tracks to the reviews to allow the artists to speak for themselves. [Ed Note: In 2018 the sample tracks / player embeds were removed.]
Sometimes I find that the netlabel, site, or artist is actually more interesting and focus on that aspect of the release. Sometimes I think it’s worth telling a story about how I came to find a release, or what connections I made in order to reach a certain style of music that would normally seem outside my usual listening.
And then there are times I feel my inability to craft words to do justice to the contents of a work are a barrier. This release from Lucie Vitkova is one such occasion. So, let me back up and tell a bit of back story…
This release was submitted to me for review by Pan Y Rosas Discos for review. Included with the submission was a mini-biography of Lucie:
lucie vítková is czech composer and performer. she graduated in accordion performance at brno conservatory in 2010 and composition at janá?ek academy of music and performing arts in brno (cz) in 2013. during her master’s degree, she studied at royal conservatory in the hague (nl) and at california institute of the arts in valencia (usa). she has studied with martin smolka, jaroslav š?astný, martijn padding, gillius van bergijk and michael pisaro. she is member of the ensemble marijan, dunami, dust in the groove, and prague improvisation orchestra.
This bio had me extremely excited. Why? I am somewhat familiar with some other classical performing artists from the Czech Republic from my days listening to a lot of Naxos classical music releases. And, I believe the accordion is a highly under-appreciated instrument that is due for attention in a space outside of the cliched roles we have become accustomed to hearing it. (And besides, if I were to deride any instrument it would be the bagpipes. No offense to my Scottish friends. 🙂 )
I also read the description of the release:
lucie’s first album for pan y rosas, is a collection of ideas and techniques that she accumulated throughout her practice as an improviser. in each piece she tries to portray certain phenomena in their pure, concentrated form to make their individual characters clear. to create the pieces on this album, she used three different accordions, her voice, and a harmonica.
And it sounded, as you could imagine, quite intriguing. So I immediately agreed to listen to the release and write a review. When I actually listened to the release I realized I was in for quite a bit more of a struggle than I had anticipated.
The fact is, this is an interesting release. The concept to taking individual techniques that are lesser known (or understood) and using them as the basis for musical composition is intriguing. And, Lucie’s ability to demonstrate these techniques and carry them through the pieces is nothing short of astounding. It’s obvious on listening to this work that her skill as a performer and passion for the accordion are boundless.
And that’s where I start to run out of words when talking about this release. I feel horrendously under-knowledgeable about the accordion to talk about any of the specific techniques. And the compositions themselves are akin to a writer’s character study, or a piece of experimental narrative. Yes, they are artistic expressions in a form that has some potential value, however the value of such works is often difficult to gauge without proper knowledge of the subject matter.
Which, is in a way, to say that these are somewhat more fitting to academic study. Lucie’s work is probably best understood by music majors or practicing musicians, just as a piece of experimental narrative is best understood by an English major, or a practicing writer. This is neither good nor bad, instead it is just a way of saying that the intended audience for such works needs to be carefully considered. Unfortunately, I am so far removed from my days of listening to Stockhausen, Cage, Xenakis and other 20th and 21st Century composers that I feel something of a disconnect between myself and these works.
I do, however, still have an appreciation of the work on a visceral level. I can feel the passion and skill in these compositions. And that alone is a significant mark for a real artist.