Smolka, Martin (*1959)
With each new work, Smolka sets out "with the feeling that I have to learn, or even discover, everything from scratch all over again". What is structurally conspicuous in his music are moments of insistence, of exciting relentlessness, of near obsession. In the course of his development, one notices an increase in stringency and clarity as well as a stronger contrasting of opposites. (Positionen)
Photo © by Astrid Karger, Saarbrücken
Homepage of Martin Smolka
Smolka, Martin: Der Puppenkavalier
PHACE, cond. Simeon Pironkoff
Vienna, Konzerthaus (Austria)
| ||Martin Smolka (born in Prague 1959) studied composition at the Academy of Performing Arts and also privately with Marek Kopelent. In 1983 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 1996 Smolka published together with Petr Kofron a book and compact disc titled „Grafické partitury a koncepty / Graphic Scores and Sketches“ (Czech-English). |
Besides his artistic activities in composition Smolka also performs as a musical improviser – for the Vizita-Theatre from 1983 to 1986 and again since 2002, for Ivan Vyskocil’s „Kuchyn“ (Kitchen) in 1988/89 and for the theatrical studio „Cisté radosti“ (Pure Joy) 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 also composed for theatre and for film. Since autumn 2003 Smolka has been teaching composition at the Janácek Academy of Performing Arts in Brno.
Smolka has written for prestigious international festivals such as the Warsaw Autumn Festival, the Donaueschinger Musiktage, Eclat Stuttgart, Wittener Tage für neue Kammermusik, Musik-Biennale Berlin, musica viva Munich, Prague Spring Festival and Bang on a can-Marathon (New York).
Many chamber woks have been recorded by Agon for Arta Records and Audio ego. „rain ...“ and „Walden“ have been selected by col legno for the yearly published portrait CDs of the Donaueschinger Musiktage.
In 2009, Smolka was awarded the „ad libitum“-prize for composition by the Winfried Böhler Kultur Stiftung (Stuttgart) for his „Five etudes for choir“.
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On Martin Smolka
Martin Smolka seized the international spotlight with his music for the first time in Donaueschingen in 1992, when his ensemble piece with the deliberately unwieldy title "rain, a window, roofs, chimneys, pigeons and so... and railway-bridges, too" was given its world premiere. It captured the audience with its original color palette, at times scintillating and even grotesque, and its suggestively effective dramaturgy - both of which are qualities that also characterize many other works by this composer. This piece - a success at Donaueschingen - can be seen as a commentary on the changing times which were particularly harsh on his native Prague. But independently of such programmatic references, it is also a finely detailed composition of sounds consisting of the release of energies followed by their breakdown. This was something remarkably uncommon for ears trained in the structure and organization of Western sounds.
There are undoubtedly allusions to the avant-garde music of the 20th century that can be pointed out in his music. The music of Anton Webern as well as a large amount of post-war Western music - at least everything that was then performed at the Warsaw Autumn Festival - was opened up to Smolka particularly through Marek Kopelent, with whom he studied. Smolka, however, later treated these influences more willfully, and often ironically.
In Smolka's native Prague there is a long tradition of humor and the grotesque; one need only think of Hasek's Schweyk or the novels of Bohumil Hrabal. Several of Smolka's instrumental pieces can be designated as original metamorphoses of this tradition. Among them is Euforium, which was premiered in Cologne in 1996. Anchored in the distorted sounds of a piano, the piece pits a saxophone against a euphonium (alternating with trombone and bass clarinet) with all the acoustical power at their disposal. The superior proficiency of the interpreters of the world premiere encouraged the composer to provide a performance indication that thwarts any display of effortless command and virtuosity: "Please be so kind as to sound like unpracticed amateurs", writes Smolka. Euforium gives rise to a bizarre feeling of urgency. With its insistence on imperfection, it satirizes self-importance and pompousness - something these instruments would certainly know how to produce.
Characteristic of Martin Smolka's musical idiom is his original, subtle treatment of a multiplicity of impulses, both musical and extra-musical. It is partly because of such qualities that it has succeeded so well in attracting long-lasting attention in the intricate world of contemporary music over the past years, and far beyond the borders of the composer's native country as well. Some of Smolka's works were premiered at various festivals and concert series in Germany, at Donaueschingen and Cologne, for example, but also in Berlin, Stuttgart, Munich and Witten. His works have also been played in many other countries too, and he has represented his country several times already at the World Music Days. But while he has since made many contacts with musicians outside of the Czech Republic, his close, long-time relationship with the Agon Orchestra, founded in Prague in 1983, remains particularly important to him. Smolka was the ensemble's pianist as well as one of its artistic directors, right from the start. Agon is where many of Smolka's musical ideas were discussed, rehearsed and realized for the first time, and always with the awareness that conventions only existed to be questioned and, if need be, to be shaken off. Smolka mentions the following example: "At rehearsals of the Agon Orchestra, one could often hear the instruction: ANow please corrupt the sound."
Jörn Peter Hiekel
(Translation: Roger Clément)
Ungewöhnliches Ausdruckspotential. Meine Erfahrungen mit Mikrotönen, in: MusikTexte 97 (Mai 2003), S. 87-92 (dort auch Werkverzeichnis und Diskographie, S. 92f)
„Wie der Baum hinter meinem Fenster“. Der Komponist im Gespräch mit Reinhard Schulz, in: Programmbuch Klangspuren Schwaz 2006, S. 10-15
Prozesse der Öffnung. Im Gespräch: Martin Smolka, Steffen Schleiermacher und Jörn Peter Hiekel, in: Jahrbuch der Sächsischen Akademie der Künste 2007/2008, Dresden 2009, S. 321-326
Music is covered. Martin Smolka in conversation with Susanne Laurentius, in: KunstMusik 14 (Herbst 2011), Köln: Maria de Alvear World Edition, S. 25-28
Writings on Smolka
Hiekel, Jörn Peter: "... und jetzt bitte den Klang verderben". Der tschechische Komponist Martin Smolka, in: Positionen 38, S. 29-32
ders.: Der Reiz der Reibungen. Die Musik des Prager Komponisten Martin Smolka, in: Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, 170 (2009); Heft 6, S. 50-53
Kratochvíl, Matej: Not to write new music, but simply music: Interview mit Martin Smolka (engl.), in: Czech Music 2001, Heft 6, S. 2-4
Meyer, Thomas: Schwejk im Reich der Avantgarde. Der Prager Komponist Martin Smolka, in: Neue Zeitschrift für Musik 164 (2003), Heft 3, S. 70f
Schulz, Reinhard: Der umgestimmte Komponist. Der Prager Komponist Martin Smolka, in: MusikTexte 97 (Mai 2003), S. 83-87
Music Sweet Music (1985/88) 12'
für Sopran und Ensemble (9 Spieler)
Music for Retuned Instruments (1988) 22'
für 4 Spieler (Flöte/Piccolo, Violine, Violoncello/Violine 2, Klavier/Schlagzeug)
Nocturne (1989) 24'
für Violine solo und Ensemble (6 Spieler)
Ringing (1989) 11'
The Flying Dog
Version 1 (The Bat) (1990) 7'
für Ensemble (7 Spieler)
Version 2 (1990/92) 11'
für Ensemble (6 Spieler)
L'Orch pour l'orch (1990) 20'
Rent a ricercar
Version 1 (1993) 11'
für Ensemble (8 Spieler, alle mit Zusatzinstrumenten)
Version 2 (New York Version) (1993/95) 11'
für Ensemble (9 Spieler, alle mit Zusatzinstrumenten)
Trzy motywy pastoralne (1993) 12'33
für Tonband (und Klavier als visuelles Objekt)
Rubato (1995) 10'
für Violine und Klavier
Three Pieces for Retuned Orchestra (1996) 20'
Lullaby (1996/97) 10'
für Posaune, Gitarre, Ensemble (7 Spieler) und Grammophon
Eight Pieces (1998) 12'
Autumn Thoughts (1998) 10'
für Ensemble (6 Spieler)
Lieder ohne Worte und Passacaglia (1999) 17'
für Oboe, Fagott, Horn, Violine und Kontrabass