četvrtak, 19. prosinca 2013.

Iva Bittová - Iva Bittová (2013)


Iznimna "osobna folk muzika" češke violinistice i pjevačice.


Czech singer/player/composer Iva Bittová has said: “The violin is a mirror reflecting my dreams and imagination. I believe there are fundamentals to my performance, such as the music’s vibration and resonance between violin and my voice.” That relationship is beautifully explored on her new album for ECM, which expresses the essence of Bittova’s unique and extraordinary solo work.  These modestly-titled ‘Fragments’ resist definition. An idiosyncratic ‘folk’ music, contemporary composition, improvisation, any and all of these may apply from moment to moment. Bittová’s music is a living, changing thing:“Deciding on a name for my style of music is far from over yet”. Iva Bittová was previously showcased in 2007 on the widely-acclaimed ECM album Mater by composer Vladimír Godár; this marks her solo debut for the label.  - hanswendl.com/

The catch-all term avant-garde is often used to describe singer/violinist Iva Bittová's music, but in truth her musical language—kaleidoscopic in color and unique in presentation—is essentially unclassifiable. A well-known actress, Bittová expanded her horizons to music in the early eighties, since when she's bounced from Bartok to experimental rock, and from folk-influenced jazz to her collaboration with innovative New York ensemble Bang on a Can. Bittová's eclecticism is evident on her debut as leader for ECM, an intimate solo performance where her voice blends with violin and kalimba in an intoxicating brew that is both ethereal and invigoratingly rootsy.
The dozen tunes—simply titled Fragments I-XII—cover broad impressionistic ground, and whether accompanied by kalimba or violin, or singing solo, Bittová's emotive language stems from the depths of the human soul. Violin colors the majority of the tracks, but more than an accompanying instrument, it's an extension of Bittová's voice and of her Moravian heritage, both classical and gypsy. This symbiosis is strongly felt on "Fragment III"—a strangely operatic poem—and on "Fragment V," a haunting lament where violin and voice sound as one. Plucked, reverberating strings provide minimalist but highly atmospheric support to Bittova's hypnotic, folksy vocals on "Fragment IX."
Bittová collaborated with Czech string quartet Škampa in interpretations of Moravian composer/folklorist Leoš Janáček's music—a source of inspiration too for Czech pianist Emil Viklicky and bassist George Mraz, with whom Bittova recorded Moravian Gems (Cube-Métier 2007), and the idiom is clearly close to her heart. Moravian folk may provide the common thread that unites these dozen pieces but Bittová's language is all her own, crafting a scarcely discernible line between incantation and lament, and between abstract and viscerally engaging moods. It's impossible to remain indifferent to Bittová's naked emotion.
The vocal-only numbers provide album highlights. "Fragment IV," "Fragment VI" and "Fragment X" seduce with their sacred quality. In Bittová's voice reside hints of Gregorian chant, early music and inescapable Eastern European flavors. There's universality in her gentle ululations, in her siren call as seductive as the call to prayer, and in her soothing balm for tired souls, as caressing as the morning sunlight. Equally striking is the violin solo number, "Fragment VIII," a short yet captivating hybrid between contemporary classical and timeless folk music.
Bittová trades violin for kalimba on "Fragment I" and "Fragment XII." Her voice skirts between lullaby and prayer over repeating kalimba motifs, on pieces that mirror each other closely. Greater dramatic narrative shapes the episodic "Fragment VII"—which passes between angular, half-spoken, half-sung poetry and urgent violin riff—and "Fragment XI," where swirling violin underpins Bittová's heady vocals. Violin and voice soar gracefully as one, like a bird darting and gliding on warm currents, an effect heightened by the bird effects courtesy of both voice and strings. Bittová's vocal improvisation here is strikingly original.
The allure of Bittová's music lies in her disregard for convention and in her all-encompassing musical vision. There's wicked beauty in the spells she casts. -  Ian Patterson

In its four-plus decade career, ECM Records has done more to blur, stretch and dissolve musical boundaries than any other label on the planet. With the world becoming a smaller place it's also become a fertile breeding ground for cross-cultural, cross-genre cross-pollination, with ECM on the vanguard of the inevitable consequences, having released countless examples of a fearless rejection of anything but the idea that music is simply music. Yes, there are delineations, but only for the purposes of trying to pigeonhole the music, something many musicians steadfastly reject.
Iva Bittovà is clearly one of those musicians. Her first label appearance, as featured vocalist, on Vladimír Godár's decidedly classical Mater (2008), represented but one of her many talents. Bittovà is also a fine violinist, but on her simply titled leader debut, Iva Bittovà, she demonstrates not just her capable skills as a singer and violinist; on some of the equally austerely titled tracks—numbered simply "Fragment I" to "Fragment XII"—she also adds kalimba to the mix. A recital of stark but warm yet haunting clarity, it's impossible to categorize. Is it folk music? There's little doubt that the music of her native northern Moravia (at the time of her birth, still part of Czechoslovakia) imbues the proceedings. Is it classical music? It's equally clear that her musical family and academic training in drama, music and ballet prepared her for a life in that environs. Is it jazz? Perhaps not, but improvisation is clearly a part of her bigger picture, with additional cred from Moravian Gems (CubeMeteier), her 2007 date with bassist George Mraz. Perhaps Bittovà's music is something more easily described by what it's not than what it is.
Instead, Iva Bittovà works from a number of reference points, blending them anew. There are hints of Meredith Monk in the way she sings over the kalimba-driven "Fragment I," her vocalizing even bearing trace elements of scat, except there are no gymnastics going on, only an arcane lyricism that hints at surprise without ever being so blatantly obvious. "Fragment II" is even more abstruse; driven by a simple violin chord pattern, Bittovà's unusual choices and unpredictable stops and starts give the piece its own element of the unexpected. On "Fragment III," she opens with an idiosyncratic melody sung in unison with her violin before the miniature—all but two of Iva Bittovà's twelve tracks are under the four minute mark—opens up into something more folkloric, but in the way that Béla Bartók's music is also based on the folk music of his native Hungary. And if it seems that the piece is more strictly composed, there are brief passages where she might suddenly hold onto a note, repeating it multiple times before moving forward, that suggest otherwise.
It's an overall eccentric yet thoroughly compelling performance that possesses its own dramaturgy, even as it dispels myths of convention. Iva Bittovà is a curious and quirky debut, but one which reaps the continued rewards of repeat plays. - JOHN KELMAN

Characterizing the music of Iva Bittová as resistant to definition both describes it perfectly and does it a disservice. The former, because her minimal tools of violin and voice elicit a museum’s worth of colors, moods, and brushstrokes. The latter, because every listener will emerge from that museum with a unique image in mind that is anything but indefinable. Despite her many creative personalities - which encompass acting, performing, and composing - she has achieved notoriety by no small feats of expression. Still, don’t be mistaken: this is no “avant-garde” artist. She’s not upsetting paradigms, but deepening their self-awareness.
“The violin accompanies me all the time,” says Bittová of an instrument that has centered her musical life since the early 1980s. “It is a mirror reflecting my dreams and imagination.” Yet she is, above all, a singer. Whether through vocal folds, bow, or physical gesture, her voice strikes flint to stone and blows a tangle of weed until it glows. So potent is said voice that it inspired fellow Czech composer Vladimír Godár’s Mater (documented most recently in a 2007 release for ECM New Series), a multilayered cantata on women-centered texts of which Bittová is both sun and satellite. This self-titled solo album finds Bittová in her element in a series of 12 numbered “Fragments,” and because fragments imply a whole, it makes sense to speak of the album as such. Like a work of masterful anamorphosis, its image emerges only by submitting oneself to its perspective. Twelve is, of course, a mystical number. It defines the modern clock, marks the end of childhood, numbers the Biblical apostles, and divides the heavens. Here it is a riddle that harbors many more within. The album begins and ends with her voice slaloming through the delicate signposts of a kalimba. Here and throughout there is harmony and tension, starlight and soil. At one moment, her voice and bow may unify. At another, her feet go their separate ways, divorced from body and destination. Pizzicato gestures seem to pluck hairs from the scalp of the night, while arco gestures get lost in mazes even as Bittová draws them. Sometimes: her voice alone, spoken and then sung, such that incantation becomes chant becomes lullaby in one fluid swing. Sometimes: the violin alone, crossing every bridge without ever touching feet to plank. Sometimes: a river’s flow through black forest, hints of love and travel. To be sure, ghosts of a Slovakian heritage breach the fabric of time that veils her, but the freshness of her storytelling makes it all feel uncharted. For while she does adapt the music of Joaquín Rodrigo in Fragment VI and sings texts by Gertrude Stein and, notably, Chris Cutler in others (III and VII, respectively), she renders these sources personal and organic through her crafting. Words like “gypsy,” “folk,” and “tradition,” then, might as well be gusts of air, so intangible are they in her sound-world. That being said, her art is certainly rooted in a worldly sense of time and plays with that notion as would a hummingbird flirt with a backyard feeder. Her sound is resilient to climatic damage, for it has already absorbed so much of the oxidation that gives it character, and her tone is never brittle, even at its thinnest. In fact, the album’s strongest moments are to be found in her unaccompanied singing. From gentle cuckoo to shaman’s possession, her voice cycles through many (after)lives and makes this world of social details begin to feel other-cultural. Here is an artist whose sense of architecture is wholly translucent, whose persona is her crucible, and whose music is an embodied practice, a mimesis personified to the point of healing. - Tyran Grillo

EVIYAN (Iva Bittova, Gyan Riley & Evan Ziporyn)

EVIYAN is Iva Bittova, Gyan Riley & Evan Ziporyn - 3 unique composer/performers merging into a singular sound, an intimate, acoustic blend of world roots, post-minimalism, jazz, rock, and cabaret.  These eclectic, genre-crossing musicians, join forces to create a soundtrack for the 21st century global village - simple, organic and direct, a music of intensity and lyricism, earthy impact and instrumental virtuosity.
EVIYAN's musical roots are the lifetime experiences of its three members, each having traveled the globe for decades, collaborating with master musicians on every continent, forging their own paths, finding kindred spirit and inspiration. Legendary vocalist/violinist Iva Bittova draws on the sounds of her native Moravia, and her lineage in the rich traditions of Slovakia and the Roma people.  Her captivating and unforgettable vocal palette, ever expanding, merges these age-old practices with an urban, avant-garde sensibility.  Clarinetist Evan Ziporyn has toured the globe for over 30 years in search of new musical possibilities, studying with Balinese gamelan masters and collaborating with astonishing musicians from around the world including India, China, and Senegal. His 25-year involvement with New York's Bang on a Can brought him into close collaboration with many of the world's most cutting edge musicians and composers. Guitarist Gyan Riley brings the virtuosity of two venerable traditions - western classical guitar and the rigors of Hindustani music - together with the harmonic deftness of jazz and the grit of rock-and-roll.
A voice and a violin, a clarinet and a guitar, yet EVIYAN is more than the sum of these simple parts.  Over the years, these three musicians’ paths have crossed and re-crossed, each recognizing an energy in the others and a synergy in their shared work.  Now they have come together, composing all new material for one another, creating a new but very natural sound. Three distinct paths, three composer/performers, yet with a shared ethos: the idea that music must reflect its roots but not be bound by them.  All committed to making a music that engages the mind, moves the body, and frees the spirit.

In trio’s debut, exploratory musicians turn inwardBy Jeremy Eichler, March 4, 2013

"Distilled insights of a hybrid music come of age"

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Photo © Matthew J. Lee Boston Globe
CAMBRIDGE — The new ensemble Eviyan has as its core three independent-minded composer-performers: Evan Ziporyn (clarinet), Iva Bittová (vocals, violin), and Gyan Riley (guitar). On Saturday night, the group threw itself an impressive coming-out party at Ziporyn’s home base, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he teaches and directs the Center for Arts, Science and Technology.
The music Eviyan plays is harder to describe, in a way, than its genealogy. Bittová is a singer with one foot in the world of Eastern European folk music and the other in the contemporary avant-garde. Riley, whose father is the minimalist pioneer Terry Riley, is a nimble guitarist with an exploratory ear and a technique steeped in both Western and Indian classical traditions. And Ziporyn has built his career from the outset around ideals of cultural cross-pollination, in his own work as a composer for both Western instruments and Balinese gamelan, and in his active performing life as a clarinetist. In the latter category, Ziporyn has played for two decades with the Bang on a Can All-Stars, a quintessentially genre-bending New York ensemble of which he was a core member.
The All-Stars once aimed to take contemporary concert music out of its secluded cultural niche, and over the years proved quite successful in that task, at least within the band’s own orbit. That art music could hit you with the edginess and menacing power of grittier genres seemed to have been part of the point. With Eviyan, the vibe is mellower, the tone of the musicianship reflecting perhaps some distilled insights of a hybrid music come of age.
The trio, in essence, is a flexible vehicle for its members’ own compositions, which collectively draw from classical, folk, jazz, post-minimalist, and non-Western traditions. For Saturday’s set in MIT’s Kresge Auditorium, the results were soulful yet sophisticated in sensibility, and deeply skilled in their delivery.
Bittová’s riveting singing is itself a kind of performance art, a sui generis language made up of floating pure tones, raspy cries, reedy notes, and guttural punctuations. Even when singing in English, frequently over her own violin playing, the words reach the ear more as stylized sound than as comprehensible phrases. Many times on Saturday, Ziporyn’s keening clarinet lines took on a correspondingly vocal quality. The trio overall played with a rapport and coherence that belied its short resume.
The performance also benefited from the presence of two guests, the alert bassist Blake Newman and the tablaist San-deep Das, whose virtuosic playing injected discreet surges of rhythmic adrenaline. There can be an awkwardness when certain classical musicians pack their bags for grand tours of distant musical genres, whether bluegrass, klezmer, tango, or jazz. By contrast these players are traveling nowhere in this newest project, except possibly inward. The music speaks with an unforced eloquence. Eviyan will appear again at the Rockport Chamber Music Festival this summer. One looks forward to watching this group evolve.
Before Eviyan’s set, the Angolan-born, Lisbon-based instrument maker Victor Gama made his first Boston-area appearance with three of his own remarkable instruments — the acrux, the toha, and the dino — demonstrated through several meditative selections from his own composition, “Pangeia Instrumentos.”
Boston Globe
Evan Ziporyn continues his musical experimentation
By David Weininger, March 1, 2013

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Two decades ago, clarinetist and composer Evan Ziporyn cofounded the Bang on a Can All-Stars. The sextet was the house band for a collective intent on pushing past the balkanized environment in which contemporary music seemed to be mired. Like Bang on a Can itself, the group — with its innovative instrumentation of cello, bass, clarinet, keyboards, guitar, and percussion — seemed to define eclecticism. It’s a measure of how influential they were that a similar lineup seems almost orthodox today.
“I’m not claiming that we were the first or the only ones to do anything,” said Ziporyn recently, “but when we started, you didn’t see contemporary classical groups that had an electric guitar next to a cello. You didn’t see groups that were doing really serious reexaminations of popular music, working with jazz musicians to the extent we did, reaching out of the little ghetto that contemporary music was. There’s tons of groups doing that kind of thing now, and that’s great. . . . The whole world has really changed.”
It was partly because things had changed so much that Ziporyn decided to leave the All-Stars this past fall. It was part of a creative shakeup for him that involved taking on the directorship of the interdisciplinary Center for Art, Science, and Technology at MIT, where he’s been on the music faculty since 1990.
Another part of his reorientation was the formation of a new trio called EVIYAN, with violinist and vocalist Iva Bittová and guitarist Gyan Riley. The trio’s second-ever show, and local debut, happens on Saturday at MIT’s Kresge Auditorium. For this performance they’ll be joined by tabla player Sandeep Das and bassist Blake Newman. (“Having done one show as a trio, we’re expanding to a quintet,” joked Ziporyn.)
He’d worked with both Bittová and Riley in other contexts, though those two hadn’t ever met. Bittová had done a number of projects with the All-Stars over the years. “Every time I played with her I thought, I have to do more of this,” Ziporyn said. “It just felt that way on an almost molecular level — I need to make music with this person.” He’d had a similar feeling with Riley — the son of composer Terry Riley — who had played in a piece Ziporyn wrote for his gamelan ensemble at MIT. “There was a level of rapport in the playing and in the sensibility that was just very evident.
“So I just asked them to meet,” he continued: “Let’s get in a room together and see what happens. And it was just immediately clear that there was a lot of creativity and a lot of the kind of playing I wanted to do. We walked out of the room and we had a group.”
All three are well-traveled musical adventurists. Ziporyn’s composing encompasses Western traditions and Balinese music, while Bittová’s style melds the folk music of her native Czechoslovakia into a kind of elemental avant-garde. Riley’s playing draws on both classical guitar and Hindustani music.
All of which raises an interesting, and somewhat vexing, question: What exactly is it that they play together?
“The genre crossing — that’s the strength of the group,” Ziporyn replied when asked. But he admitted that “in a way it’s also our weakness, because how do you define it? How do you tell people about it?
“What I love about both their playing is that it references this really wide range of things — from classical music to jazz to pop to non- Western music,” he went on. “And not in a way that I think of as being glib but more as expressing who they are as musicians — what they listen to, where they come from. And that’s the way I approach it too." The three write all of the group’s music, and the compositions balance notation and
improvisation. Perhaps most important to Ziporyn is the way in which each piece, regardless of who wrote it, becomes the trio’s own once the three musicians begin working on it. “Once we get into rehearsal, it’s all of ours. We’re not starting from, I’m the composer and therefore I make the final decisions. Once we’re grappling with the material, we’re all grappling with it. It’s not the way I can work with everybody. But there’s a level of respect, of trust, in the room that lets us do that.”
It remains to be seen how frequently the group will work. While Ziporyn hopes that the trio will play together a lot, the three members of EVIYAN live in different places — Ziporyn in the Boston area, Riley in New York, and Bittová in the Hudson Valley — and all have other projects. They’ve planned a short tour this summer — including a performance at the Rockport Chamber Music Festival — and are planning more gigs for the fall.
“Last fall, all I wanted to do . . . was see what would happen if I got them in a room, and I left with a band. What we’ve done is to carve out rehearsal periods and gigs, and every time we do it, there just seems to be more and more in there. So I’m hoping it goes somewhere.”
Time Out New YorkCritics Pick


violinist, vocalist and composer

IVA BITTOVA was born in 1958 to musical parents in the Moravian Province of what is now the Czech Republic.   Her father was strongly influenced by the land of his birth – southern Slovakia - and he in turn was a major influence on his three daughters - Iva, Ida and Regina - all professional performers.  While attending the Brno Music Conservatory, Iva took part-time engagements as an actress and musician in Brno’s Divadlo Husa na provázku (Goose On A String Theater) and was soon a featured actress in radio, TV and movie productions. While working full time in theater, she re-kindled her interest in playing violin. After her father’s early death, she decided to follow in his professional footsteps as an instrumentalist and by composing her own music.  The violin become Iva's life’s passion and she developed a singular approach, in which violin and voice are two aspects of a single human instrument.   She soon became a fixture in the Czech musical landscape, a national treasure, winning a plethora of awards from the Czech Musical Academy, including Record of the Year in 1988, being named 2006 Brno-Top 100 Chart Personality of the Year, and performing live State Ceremonies for Václav Havel, George W. Bush, Mikhail Gorbachev, Helmut Kohl and Margaret Thatcher.  In turn she developed an international reputation, working with artists such as Bobby McFerrin, Fred Frith, David Krakauer, Nederlands Blazers Ensemble, the Calder String Quartet, and many others.   In 2007, after 17 years in the countryside near Brno, she relocated to the US, amid the splendors of nature in the Hudson Valley of upstate New York.

Iva Bittová has long been one of contemporary music’s great originals – and her work has always resisted neat idiomatic definition: as she says herself, “deciding on a name for my style of music is far from over yet”. “Describing what she does is difficult” wrote Sharon Mesmer in the Brooklyn Rail, “like describing music to someone who’s never heard it. She shifts between speaking, incantation, and singing, and the sounds are given intuitive colorations that move perceived meanings up and down a trajectory of joy and sadness”.
Bittová has contributed to projects in many genres, from jazz to opera, worked with musicians in experimental rock and classical music, and was last heard on ECM flanked by the chamber orchestra Solamente Naturali and the Bratislava Conservatory Choir, singing Vladimir Godar’s cantata “Mater” (ECM New Series 1985), a work in fact inspired by Bittová’s vocal art, by its energy, discipline, and intuitive and emotional power.
All those qualities are in evidence on the present disc, her first for ECM under her own name. Recorded in Lugano last February, with Manfred Eicher producing, its modestly-titled “Fragments I-XII” explore the relationship and the resonance between the voice and violin which are central to Iva’s solo work.

“The violin accompanies me all the time. It is a mirror reflecting my dreams and imagination.” The exchanges and the counterpoint between voice and instrument are often uncanny. In the flow of things, in Bittová´s personal folklore, meticulously-realized pieces and spontaneous stream-of-consciousness improvisations may blur into each other, and the serious and the playful go hand in hand. The album is bookended by pieces for voice and kalimba. The gentle modulation of the thumb-piano, one of mankind’s oldest instruments and accompaniment of choice for the wandering griot, establishes an emotional and atmospheric climate that invites us to enter Bittová’s world of reveries, memories and revelations. Bittová draws on the sounds of her native Moravia and her lineage in the rich traditions of Slovakia and the Roma people.
Her vocal palette merges these age-old practices with a sensibility attuned also to the demands of art music and the extended techniques of the avant-garde. Yet the transitions in her work never appear forced: a text by Getrude Stein, sung by Bittová (see “Fragment III”) can seem as natural as folk song. Her violin-playing is as versatile as her voice can be, by turns, austere, earthy, romantic, a tool for sonic exploration and emotional expression. - player.ecmrecords.com/

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