Experimental visions in music and architecture

Futura pragensis, photo: www.e-architekt.cz

In the Arts we'll be looking at experimental vision in both music and architecture. First, we look at the Czech band known as SOIL, and second, we'll be looking at a new exhibition titled Futura Pragensis, where students of architecture foresee and propose how Prague might look in two hundred years.

Zuzana Kropacova is SOIL's lead singer, who helped found the group in the spring of 2003. The idea behind it was to make music supported or built around electronic sounds and samplers.

"It is very difficult to say what kind of music it is but some journalists call it 'new jazz' it is a mixture of various styles. You can find there psychedelic music, ambient. Some pieces are close to hip hop. You can't compare our music to anyone else in this republic."

Why are you called 'SOIL'?

"Because in this electronic age it is important to stand firmly on the ground which is SOIL and everything alive grows from SOIL."

The group's five members now play Zuzana's original music, based on improvisation, at many festivals. She talks about SOIL's audience.

"I think it is for older generation because it is more complicated music. I have been told by a person from a production company that our music is for intellectuals, so maybe they are intellectuals. They are curious about it and I suppose it is interesting for them. They can connect with your heart and you personally. It is beautiful, I like it."

If I asked you to improvise right now?

"Yes, I can improvise but there is music playing and there is a very good singer. It is much easier to improvise when you don't have a melodic line if there is only harmony you can create your own melody but if there is another melody it is very difficult to make your own melody because you are influenced by the existing melody and a new one is not from your mind."

How difficult is it to release a CD of not typical commercial music?

"It is very difficult because we don't play the mainstream music and if you don't play mainstream stuff no one wants to publish it because everybody wants to make profit from your CD. And if you don't play it nobody will make a profit."

SOIL were lucky to find a producer who not only likes but also is willing to produce their first album. They all hope that it is a sign of emerging changes in Czech music, which Zuzana desribes as quite horrible.

"It is the old generation of music from communism. I don't understand why people like it, why normal people listen to it. Maybe it is just a bad habit. Music is terrible and harmony is crazy as well as singers and lyrics are also terrible. Everything is terrible."

Well, let's hope that with help of influential music styles pouring in from abroad everything is going to change for better.

"Architecture of the information age" or "Digital Renaissance" - that is how students of architecture describe their projects which are on display at the National Gallery's functionalist Veletrzni palace, until the middle of January. The exhibition titled "Futura Pragensis" puts together images of the Czech capital, forecasting how Prague will change over the next 200 years. For example, 50 percent of population will most probably live in cities. Tomas Rousek was involved with the exhibition from the start and was proud to describe some of his as well as his colleagues' visions.

"This is a new vision of a tunnel under Vinohrady, a historical part of the city. I think this is the most realistic vision which could be built in next decades."

Have you approached anyone with this project?

"For example our main partner, a building company Subtera is interested in this project and they use the image for their calendars together with PF greetings. They say they are ready for the future."

The exhibition hopes to provoke and encourage new ideas using new shapes and materials. Imagination taken to its limits may catch you by surprise, but the longer you look at various interesting shapes rising from boring, rectangular buildings so common for Czech cities, the more likely you are to wonder if there ever will be a brave soul to turn those ideas into reality.

Tomas Rousek's "Red Eye Bridge", for example, connects the banks of Vltava River in an attractive way.

"This light weight bridge is a part of a revitalization of the Troja district. I focused on a revitalization of brownfields along the river. I was inspired by the part of the bank which is nowadays an old harbor and I would like to rebuild it into a new centre of Prague. After this there are plans for Prague Venezia in neighborhood of Liben."

How is it going to work? We had floods here in Prague in 2002, Is it not going to be dangerous?

"Problems were caused by the low level of buildings. I am planning to make terrain adjustments that would connect streets with bridges at the height of the third floor."

I quite like the idea of Vitezne Namesti, the Victory Square idea.

"I think that Vitezne Namesti is still unfinished compared to the visions from the 30s. There were quite interesting concepts based of radial urban plans. This part of the city is nowadays not for people. There is a vision to build a biosphere which has a separate climate inside. This would take a big part of the square pushing cars to the level of the second floor so people could walk under them. The square would be kept for people."

So you would build plenty of bridges coming from all directions for cars. What is this glass ball in the middle?

"This glass structure is something like a big greenhouse which would enable people to live cultural life inside of it. This is the most megalomaniac ideas at our exhibition. Don't panic. I think they are going to stay just in my computer."

Enthusiasm of the students organizing the exhibition is infinite. Their plans stretch across borders: they would like to present their ideas abroad to prove they are doing their best to leave behind communist architecture. Especially communism's most well-known, now "decaying" legacy: blocks of ugly, prefabricated flats.