A couple of weeks ago we were lucky enough to see The Dead in Kutna Hora, Czech Republic. I’ve never seen The Dead in Europe before, and I had no idea how popular they are here. I found it really inspiring to see at least 40,000 deadheads all gathered together in the same place. It was a unique vibe, unlike any Grateful Dead concert I’ve ever attended. Deadheads at Kutna Hora are a lot quieter, and more peaceful than American deadheads, but American deadheads definately have better drugs. I didn’t even catch a whiff of kind bud, and nobody offered to sell me doses in Kutna Hora, even so, seeing The Dead in Kutna Hora was an experience I will never forget.
The Postojna Cave, near Postojna Slovenia, is an amazingly beautiful natural formation. The tour takes you underground, by train, through 27 kilometers of jaw-dropping tunnels and galleries full of huge stalgtites and stalagmites.
This performance took place in a cavern they call “the Vivarium” where visitors can see live specimins of a few of the more than 150 species of animal which have been discovered in this cave, including the cave olm or “human fish,” a pale, blind salamander that can live to the age of 100 years, and go without eating for up to 10 years. Amy and I found ouselves alone in the vivarium, which had very nice acoustics.
Martin Janicek (pronounced “Yanicheck”) had just returned from the International Looping Festival in Mexico City when I caught up with him at Malostraske Dvorky, an art and music exhibition in the Malostranske District of Prague. He was showing a pair of sound sculptures called “Sirens,” named after the mythical maidens who lured sailors to their death with their irresistibly beautiful songs.
One of the sculptures is primarily a percussion instrument, played by hitting it. The other is powered by electricity, and contains a number of literal sirens that can be played from a kind of keyboard mounted on it. In this short video Martin Janicek shows us his “Sirens” and explains how they came to be.
Martin explained to me that Malostranske Dvorky is an annual event in Prague that began in 1981, when the Czech Republic was still part of Czechoslovakia, and still behind the Iron Curtain. Private art exhibitions were forbidden under Soviet Communist rule, but artists and patrons organized Malostranske Dvorky as a decentralized event that took place outdoors in the yards of residential homes. Under Communist rule, all homes were considered public property, so residents could not be held responsible for what happened in their own back yard, nor could the public be denied access to them.
Artists used graffiti to alert interested patrons as to the locations of the exhibits by painting the symbol of a top hat on the gate or door leading to the exhibits. Today, Malostranske Dvorky remains a mostly outdoor, decentralized event. A program guide tells patrons a little about the participating artists, and provides a list of addresses, along with photos of the doors or gates behind which the exhibits can be found.
I recorded an interview with Martin Janicek for my radio show, Monday Morning Magazine on KMUD. Martin has an amazing new album on Meteorismo Records called “TOC” available as a limited edition box containing a 12″ vinyl disc, a 12″x12″ book with pictures of all of the sound sculptures heard on the record, plus a CD including all of the music on the vinyl record plus bonus tracks. You can also download a digital version of TOC from bandcamp.com. I love his music, and encourage you to give it a listen.
In case you missed my interview with co-directors Morgan Capps and Jilann Spitzmiller about their new film, Meow Wolf: Origin Story, on KMUD’s Monday Morning Magazine last week, here it is.
…and don’t miss the Mendocino Film Festival coming up June 1-3 in the Village of Mendocino where you can see Meow Wolf: Origin Story along with a lot of other great movies. You can see the whole schedule of screenings at http://www.mendocinofilmfestival.org