Museum of Antique Clocks, Czech composer Jaroslav Krcek

In this week's Arts, we hear all about composer and performing artist Jaroslav Krcek, and travel to the picturesque little village of Karlstejn, west of Prague, where a brand new House of Clocks recently opened to the public:

The House of Clocks

"Every single clock that is here in the museum tells a tale. Not just about the various collectors but about the different homes that they were in. Some seven hundred pieces can be admired here and each one represents at least one household. How many fates and stories they must have witnessed!"

...says Jana Langerova from the Historical Clock Club that, together with clock collector Miroslav Svoboda, founded and operates the "House of Clocks" - a permanent exhibition of antique clocks, watches, and time machines.

"Up until the 1940's Czechs boasted a thriving clock-making tradition, always keeping up with the latest developments. But then came the totalitarian regime and clock-making became one of the crafts that were given little attention and virtually became forgotten. With the House of Clocks and the Historical Clock Club, we're trying to bring the clock-making tradition back to life."

Andrea Svobodova is the daughter of clock collector Miroslav Svoboda, and is thankful that a new home for the hundreds of clocks has finally been found. Now, that she no longer has to live under the same roof with the ticking machines, she realises how valuable they actually are:

"The exhibition includes time machines of all types and sizes from pocket and wrist chronometers, alarm clocks, table and wall clocks to so-called floor-standing clocks and tower machines. Mr Svoboda had been interested in collecting antique clocks for about twenty years. When he returned back from the Army he bought his first piece. Visitors can see about seven hundred pieces from the sixteenth century, up to modern times and he has been collecting them every where around the Czech Republic but the actual pieces are from all over Europe - France, Germany, Italy, etc. You will see pieces by famous and anonymous clock makers. A famous example is a clock from Graham from London and you will get to know all wooden mechanisms, as well as glockenspiels, automatons, and the most precise regulators. This collection of clocks, the museum, is the largest one in the Czech Republic."

But despite housing the largest collection of clocks in the country, some may hesitate to visit the museum when confronted with the admission fee. A fee of 220 crowns (about eight US dollars) is a little too expensive for most Czechs. But according to Mr. Svoboda, every visitor is guaranteed to get his money's worth:

"If I were to put an admission fee of around sixty or seventy crowns in place, it would certainly attract many more visitors. But I cannot afford to pay an agency that will provide the security guards needed to keep an eye on this place. And let's face it, the quality of this collection would suffer too and the building isn't big enough for large crowds to wander through the exhibition at the same time. That is why we opted for this admission fee. I also must point out that we give our visitors our full attention, as we do not accept groups over five. The fourteen-day trial period confirmed that those who chose to pay the 220 crowns to see the collection did not regret it and even had words of praise."

Anyone who'd like to visit the exhibition should note that it is only open two days a week, on Tuesdays and Saturdays, from 10 am to 4 pm and visitors must call (+420 777 265 012) the museum first to make an appointment. For further information, visit their website at

Introducing Czech composer Jaroslav Krcek

Jaroslav Krcek, photo: CTK
"I have had a fascination with folk music ever since I was a little boy. I work with it, alter it, but also take it a step further. However, since I'm a composer who studied modern and contemporary classical music, including avant-garde, I use it too. A friend of mine gave a good description of my work. He said it was as if one and the same person had climbed up a pyramid, with folklore on one side and contemporary classical music on the other. He has reached the top and finds both genres mix into one another. That's what my work is all about. But now I find that the older I get, I tend to prefer 'clean' melodies. I try to compose music, so that it comes closer to the pure, spiritual kind."

Jaroslav Krcek, one of the country's popular contemporary composers, who, as he admitted to Radio Prague, is not surprised when people can not find the right words to describe his music, as he himself finds it difficult to place it in a definite stylistic category. But unlike for some of his colleagues, this characteristic has come to his advantage, as he has the magical talent to pinpoint exactly how the modern audience wants to see older and traditional music altered. In January this year, Jaroslav Krcek was awarded with an honorary prize by the Czech Music Council for his artistic stylization and interpretation of folk music and dance, especially for the popular ensembles Musica Bohemica (Bohemian Music) and Chorea Bohemica (Bohemian Dance), the latter of which he co-founded with a friend. But Mr Krcek, who turns sixty-five this year, has not had it easy and has come this far only thanks to strong will and the life-long dedication to innovation, including the invention of entirely new instruments:

"My fascination with new instruments came as a result of a certain need or urge to have a different sound. Since the instruments could not be bought anywhere, they were only in museums, I eyed them closely and then made them myself. I soon came to realise that I could invent my own instruments. I must admit, though, that I often had to consult professional craftsmen who knew how to work with wood. I soon found a very skilled carpenter who worked with me for many years. Today, I just provide the idea and leave all the manual work to my close friend. We recently created a very unique harp. I think it must be the only kind in the world. We also made what we call a 'ninera', which basically is a violin with a wheel under the strings that is turned for the instrument to play. I invented my own type. I also carve dolls, or faces, in the wood that are then decorated by my friend."

So what kind of an upbringing does a person have to have in order to come as far as Mr Krcek?

"My mother used to sing, which I think was very important. I advise all mothers to sing to their children. It used to be a usual thing for mothers to sing their children lullabies. My father's father, my grandfather, was a musician. He could play all sorts of instruments, and he'd play them beautifully. So that's probably where I got the genes from. But despite all of this, I had an uneventful childhood. I sang a lot and yet no one from my family bothered to let me take music lessons. It was not until I was fourteen, which is quite late, that I managed to convince my father to buy me a musical instrument. So, he bought me an accordion. After a year, I was accepted to music school. It's funny because I graduated on the violoncello but was never really attracted to it. I preferred to compose and even conducted my own little orchestra at the age of fifteen. Then, I finally went to Prague to study conducting and composition."