I’ve recently had cause to research the term “modern modernity” as it applies to music. The nice thing about this kind of research is that it leads me to revisit videos of mine that I have not looked at for a long time, and to enjoy them again. The term certainly includes advances in music technology, and so here is a video I shot three or four years ago, spotlighting an artist who combines that with her own rich folk heritage.
I caught Jitka Suranska at the Colours of Ostrava Festival in Czech Republic; a truly massive event held on the grounds of a former iron mine and refinery, the Dolni Vitkovice. That year there was also an intimate evening set aside for strictly Czech music, called “Crossroads.” The program was wide ranging, and Suranska who is well known as a folk artist stood out as a fine vocalist and classically trained violinist. She split her set performing with the Pakora Trio, a Czech folk ensemble complete with cimbalom, and her solo act, where she worked with a loop station.
Afterwards, I interviewed Suranska and had a brief correspondence as well. She can certainly explain where she is coming from better than I can, and I hope this video will lead you to listen to Moravian folk music, which to my ear, has a surprisingly western classical sound. Note that even though Suranska is classically trained, this kind of violin playing has the right sound for the folk repertoire.
When I asked her specifically about this beautiful song Jitka wrote:
“The name of the song is “Brodil Janko koně” ..it says – Janko went over the ford with horses. He got drowned. His girlfriend is desperate at first. And than she decides to die with him. because her life doesn’t make sense without him anymore.. She is singing – Make 2 coffins..Make 2 graves..We are going to lie there 2 of us…
Strong, isn’t it? And this strong morbid text is so soft in Moravian poetic dialect..That’s why I love Moravian traditional songs..There is raw truth of life in it..And there is so much beauty in it in the same time..”
I personally take great pleasure in the way Suranska constructs the violin parts, playing delicate pizzicato figures and weaving in lines and double stops until she really lays into the bow on her passionate break. The musical layers continue through her vocal, until the denouement, a gorgeous retracing of patterns back into silence.