Chapter 5

By: Jorge Munnshe

It is impossible to attempt to compress the musical universe enclosed behind the iron curtain by decades in a single mini-series. A basic approach to the reality of the musical avantgardein each one of the multiple, rich cultures of this great unknown which is Eastern Europe, nowadays in full development, would need the making of a book. Therefore, this mini-series will only be a brief vision, perforce incomplete, of these innovative styles sustained on cultures maybe as ancient or even more so than those in the rest of Europe.


The first name that easily comes to mind is that of the well known musician Jan Hammer, who nevertheless had to develop his career in the United States, and who is above all known thanks to his Pop side.

Martin Kratochvil

With the political changes that ended up with the division of Czechoslovakia into the Czeh and the
Slovakian Republics, a very important culture of new musics emerged. Although before that
happened, something was known about it, basically through the Festival of New Music in Prague,
and the scene of progressive Rock that transcended abroad, the great variety and wealth of their
new musics has surprised the Western countries quite a lot. Some of these artists enjoy international

Coming from the scholarly spheres, Rudolf Ruzicka, is a composer who has combined the teaching
of music with composition. He is one of the many electronic pioneers unknown in the Western
countries. Already in 1965, he made music using a computer. He has written numerous pieces for
orchestra and synthesizers, and was awarded several international prizes in 1970 and 1984. He has
published a book on the use of computers in artistic tasks. He told me that at the time of its publication it was the only existing book written in the Czeh language describing computer composition in full detail.

Synthesist Otakar Olsanik could be considered as a completely different case from Rudolf Ruzicka,
as he comes from Rock, is self-taught, and nevertheless he enjoys the same prestige as an artist and pioneer. Furthermore, his life has been quite exciting indeed. Meaningfully enough, he told me that he had no idea where to start narrating me his life experiences. His education in electronics served him to become one of the members of the first Czeh band that used electric guitars (Electrofonic), which he recorded several albums with, besides engaging in a variety of tours in Czechoslovakia. Later, he left for the Scandinavian countries as a guitarist for a Rock band, and he began his solo career after building a studio with Norwegian technology. He achieved a great success, as his music could be heard on an almost daily basis. Nowadays he spends five months a year in Norway, works with computers and samplers, and makes movie soundtracks, even though from time to time he also composes a Pop song for his wife Kamila, who is a singer. He has participated in the Austrian festival of computer music and the interactive arts, Ars Electronica. It was there where I knew about him for the first time.

Jan JirasekBorn in 1955, Jan Jirasek studied piano and composition. Later he also studied electroacoustic music, under Rudolf Ruzicka. He explained me that after graduating, he suffered from a sort of boycott on the part of the government, due to his political opinions. As a consequence of this fact, the artistic recognition of his music had to come to him exclusively from abroad, until he could succeed in being taken out of this black list. His activities range from the composition of movie soundtracks to the research of new forms of music. The Institute of Technoculture in Paris has released some of his studios. The Radio of Munich has played concerts of music written by him. Since 1990 he has been the director of the Experimental Studio of the Czeh-Slovakian Radio, in Prague.

Elia Cmiral studied music at the Conservatory of Prague, and settled in Sweden in 1979, where he studied electroacoustic music, while at the same time he composed music for the Drama Theatre in Stockholm. Later he made ballet music in Germany, the United States and Sweden, as well as his first movie soundtracks, advertising spots and documentaries. One of them was nominated at the Festival of Cannes in 1988, and another one received Second Prize at the Festival of Rotterdam in 1991.

Jan Jirasek

Daniel Forro is a wonderful musician and composer, who studied piano, flute, organ, and
composition. Already in the 1980s, still in the Communist Era, worked with a similar equipment to
that of any Western professional composer, and made music for ballet, cinema, television, and
advertising. His volume of work was considerable. However, the area he was most interested in was
that of electronic music and the new musics in general. He had beeen producing his works
independently from the official institutions in his country, which prevented him from distributing
them in an adequate manner. He was one of the very scarce independent Czeh artists who worked
as a professional before the Perestroyka. In his compositions he already intended to embrace the
most disparate elements of European World Music, from Gregorian chants to the most complex
techniques of composition in the 20th. century, the world folklore and some touches of Jazz and
Rock. In my last contact with him, this talented artist was finishing a book on musical technology.

Jiri Strohner

Jiri Stivin is a flutist and saxophonist who has worked with artists from many countries and who used to lead his own band.

Guitarist Lubos Andrst has been involved with several progressive rock bands. Martin Kratochvil was a pioneer of electronic Jazz. Likewise, mention must be made of keyboardist Emil Viklicky, guitarist Michal Pavlicek, the bands Progress-2, Olympic and Bohemia, that used to make avantgarde music disliked by the authorities, and the musicians Jiri Strohner, Jiri Hradec, Pavel Kopecky and Michal Kocab.

If you wish to purchase any recordings by these artists you only have to use the links:

Jan Hammer

Elia Cmiral


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