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Avant-garde musician Iva Bittova collaborates with New York's Bang on a Can
14-09-2005  Ian Willoughby

The Romany violinist and signer Iva Bittova is one of the Czech Republic's leading avant-garde musicians. She is also well respected abroad, particularly in the United States, and this week launched a new album recorded with New York ensemble Bang on a Can All Stars.

The title track on Iva Bittova's new album "Elida" features lyrics based on a poem by the Czech poet Vera Chase. But "Elida" was also the name of Iva's grandmother's favourite brand of soap, and the cover recreates the old-style packaging.

Iva Bittova: "I'm always looking for something which has several meanings, which is playful with words, and where there is also some humour in the lyrics."

Iva Bittova who grew up in rural Moravia and released her first album in 1991. Her latest CD was recorded in New York with new music pioneers Bang on a Can. How has she been enjoying the collaboration?

"The experience has been getting to know another language of musicians, another space, and to get very close to one another. To spend time and to play and to improvise and develop something new together. I say you can always learn something new. And they are very professional and very good musicians"

Iva Bittova and Mark Stewart (Bang on a Can), photo: CTK Evan Ziporyn: "We knew of her and we invited her to play on one of our marathon concerts, and she was even more of an amazing in person than on record. She really brought everything to the table, kind of jumped in in a very intense way."

Evan Ziporyn is the leader of Bang on a Can, who have performed with Iva Bittova in such prestigious venues as Carnegie Hall. This week they played with her at Prague's Archa theatre, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

"A very full house, very enthusiastic people, and there was something about feeling that we were on her home turf that made it very inspirational. She has a way of opening up that makes you feel very free as well. I feel like she's the brightest light on the stage, but I feel like that light kind of extends to everybody that she's working with."

Iva Bittova, photo: CTK Iva Bittova's music - especially some of her singing - appeals to a particular, non-mainstream audience.

Evan Ziphoryn: "She has a very good cult reputation. In other words, I don't know that she's that well know to the general public. The thing that's impressive is that her fans are not just new music people or musical intellectuals, but a lot of ordinary people who don't normally listen to particularly avant-garde music."

And would it be fair to say that she is better known in the States than in the Czech Republic, or Europe? Iva Bittova again.

"It's not like I'm more known there, but maybe there's more interest from that side. But I have a very beautiful audience everywhere, so I can say I'm quite happy. And also I have many opportunities to play, so a full schedule and a lot of travelling and a lot of nice faces."

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