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In 2018, New York based composer and improviser Lucie Vítková made recordings in caves in the Czech Republic and an abandoned Gothic church in Slovakia. Their album Cave Acoustics combines a beguiling exploration of the physicality and acoustics of these unique locations with profoundly personal themes of family legacy and roots.
Lucie performed with their sisters in Výpustek Cave – an underground system of tunnels and former Soviet-era bunker. The choreography-based piece creates crescendos of metallic noise as the trio moves around the spaces. It begins with echoing clanks of tins and coins and accelerates towards a rattling cacophony with distant singing floating up from deep in the shadows. Bearing in mind the siblings had never performed together before, their frenzied kinetic outpourings seem even more special, a wordless cohesion forming between them. Lucie clearly doesn’t shy away from a physically full on experience; they embarked on a Fitzcarraldo-style journey to carry heavy props up a steep hill and across a river to reach the less accessible Jáchymyka Cave.
‘Hair Score’ is an attempt to process the death of the siblings’ mother through a serene then slightly unsettling swaying ritual, with rising and falling waves of wailing and emergency siren sounds growing in intensity as they emerge from their mourning mouths.
After the cavernous acoustics, ‘Stones’ by American experimental classical composer Christian Wolff feels more immediate with its textural sounds and fast, insistent rhythms, as we hear different sized stones knocked together rapidly, following the composer’s instructions not to break anything.
‘Inside the Ritual’ was a “transformative” experience for Lucie, where they felt their body merge with the forest and hills in Slovakia. The 23-minute long track is hypnotic, listening to cowbells and chirping insects at the end of a hot summer’s evening. Things get stranger as metallic clatter is punctuated with Lucie’s voice and reedy tones from their Japanese hichiriki flute.
The album is a calm, contemplative but also energetic and moving reflection of these rare and unheard environments and Lucie’s reunion with the people and places that have shaped them.