Article and Video by Nathalie Holman.
It was 7pm on Sunday afternoon and we were lazing in the beautiful sunshine by the riverside apprehensively waiting for a any sound that would indicate the beginning of this marvel advertised as “Audible Prague”. As our ears played tricks on us causing myself to record various trains passing and music pieces playing in the nearby park, we noticed a collection of people gathering nearby. I went over to inspect and found an array of sound equipment fronted by a Czech gentleman, Stanislav Abraham. He was speaking in Czech and thus I could not understand what he was saying but the laughter indicated not only was this going to be interesting, it was automatically a crowd pleaser. He followed his speech with a brief English translation.
“Hello, this is my project, we are waiting for the train 7815, this is my favourite train”.
Essentially what he was attempting to do was electronically manipulate the piece of music “Vltava” (My Country) by Bedrich Smetana with the sounds of trains passing over the railway bridge. He had a live microphone placed directly next to the rail track that was feeding live back to his recording equipment positioned in front of him. As he received the sounds of the train’s wheels over the tracks, he converted the file into a MIDI file (used to create electronic music). He then placed these sounds alongside “Vltava” causing the fluid classical music to be broken up with a continuos electronic beat in time with the train passing over top.
This sound improvisation was extremely interesting although slightly to brief to fully appreciate in one take. Luckily Stanislav continued for a couple of hours capturing every train passing allowing his audience to see how different trains manipulate his chosen piece of music. His work was innovative and successful and it would be interesting to see how he uses this technique to compose complete musical works.