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In these digitized times, sound and light shows are a dime a dozen, but at the event titled “Clarinet Factory – Alan Vitouš – Petr Nikl: Music from Silence” at the Museum of Music on February 12 and 13, you will see something unique: a living fusion of light and music.
Using only water, sand, glass, color and light, artist Petr Nikl will set the walls of the museum’s vast enclosed atrium a-dance with light to the unique music of the Clarinet Factory quartet.
“Have you ever walked by a bridge on a sunny day and seen the light reflected from the surface of the water dancing on the arches? “ Nikl asks, explaining his technique.
By shining a single light onto a small pool of clear water and through a strong lens, he transforms the museum’s vast walls and ceiling into a cascade of light and shadow. By rhythmically tapping the vessel, he makes the light undulate, dance and roll in time to the music. When he pours color onto the waves, the walls are bathed with shades of red, blue or green.
Another technique involves sand and glass.
“I lay a pane of glass horizontally over the light and make sand images on it in time to the music, thus creating a simple light score on the ceiling. You don’t even need a lens, but with it, you can see every grain of sand,’ he says.
The Clarinet Factory quartet’s original music, accompanied by the country’s top percussionist, Alan Vitouš, promises to be as distinctive as Nikl’s visual creations.
“It will be loosely based on works by classical artists such as Stravinsky, Bach, Smetana and Dvorak. We don’t actually play their compositions but we are inspired by them,” says band member Jindřich Pavliš. “We also explore other genres: jazz, ethnic music, meditative music, for the dreamy atmosphere it creates.”
This isn’t the first time Nikl and the quartet Factory have worked together. Last September, they illuminated the gothic nave of the Prague’s Church of St. Mary of the Snows with a cascade of music, light, shadow and color. To get a better idea of what to expect, check out the video below:
The quartet likes working with Nikl for his ability to improvise.
“Sometimes he will surprise us during a concert by starting to play on one of his objects, which takes us to a completely new plane of improvisation,” Pavliš says.
“By tapping on a Plexiglas bowl I can turn it into a percussion instrument and, very softly, join in the music,” Nikl explains. “I never rehearse anything. I try to live in the moment, and every time I do it a little differently.”
The orchestra’s style has come a long way since they formed the band 20 years ago. Back then the students of the Musical Arts Academy called themselves the Czech Clarinet Quartet and played primarily classical music. But working with jazz singer Jana Koubková changed that.
“She told us, ‘Boys, throw away those notes and try to improvise with me right here onstage.’ It seemed pretty wild to us at first, but we tried it and found out that we’re pretty good at it and that we like it,” Pavliš says. After experimenting with many different genres: jazz, chansons, swing compositions, they finally decided to write their own music.
“Often somebody has an idea and we improvise on it, like rock bands do. Other times someone comes up with his own composition and there’s just nothing to improve. Sometimes it takes years to ripen. We don’t like it so we put it away in a drawer and then someone has a genial idea to liven it up and suddenly it works,” he says.
Over time, their listeners have changed along with their music.
“We used to have a clearly defined audience. Nowadays it’s mixed: a lot of young people looking for different genres, people who like classical music looking for something more, or people who don’t like classical music looking for something more. Basically, we appeal to people who aren’t satisfied with the playlists of commercial radio.”
The concert, organized by the PKF – Prague Philharmonia comes a few weeks after the lunch of the Clarinet Factory’s new album “Worx and Reworx,” a medley of the quartet’s original songs plus reinterpretations by musicians from the USA, France, Germany, Great Britain, Japan and Greece.
The Clarinet Factory is no stranger to international cooperation.
“We have worked with artists from the US, Germany, Japan and France. Our most prestigious cooperation was with Bobby McFerrin at his Prague concert and our most exotic tours were in Algeria and Senegal.” Pavliš recalls.
“We went there with Jana Koubková and held workshops for the local kids. They ended up really liking the music although they had never heard it before. We played them a few Renaissance polyphonies and, once we explained what was going on, they took to it quite well.”