Photo: Kuskovu

In this week’s edition of Panorama: a student orchestra packs concert halls with famous movie soundtracks, a computer as a work of art, chocolate as the ultimate gourmet experience and kangaroo Vendelín becomes a household name.

Prague Film Orchestra
Famous movie sound tracks from Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, The Lord of the Rings and many others –instantly recognizable hits that have become golden classics. The Prague Film Orchestra –an ensemble made up of music students from the Prague Music Conservatory and other universities has made a name for itself by filling a gap on the market. They perform concerts made up exclusively from famous movie tracks and are drawing crowds of enthusiastic young listeners. The sixty-strong orchestra which was established seven years ago now packs concert halls around the country and has repeatedly sold out Prague’s Rudolfinum. Its 26- year-old conductor Jiri Korynta says that it did not take the orchestra long to realize that famous movie sound tracks had enormous untapped potential.

“People are completely crazy about them. They send us emails and call us to tell us what they would love to hear. And we end every concert with Star Wars and the Lord of the Ring.”

Most concerts start with the well-known signature tune of Twentieth Century Fox –a grand opening for a nostalgic film evening - and take the audience through a medley of US and European movie hits. An audience in their teens and twenties laps it up:

“It was total genius. I could instantly place all the lyrics and in my mind’ eye I actually saw all the given scenes evolve.”

It was perfect! This is the first time we have been to a concert of this kind and we really loved every minute of it. It’s a super idea.”

One of the players timpanist Jan Košina says that playing with the orchestra is a big challenge.

“It’s not really a traditional repertoire. Like, it’s not something that we would find ourselves playing at school. And it is also not as easy as you might think so it’s a big learning experience.”

Photo: Kuskovu
Computer art has opened whole new dimensions, but few people would stop to think about computer hardware as a form of art. The Prague Gallery KusKovu (the name translates as “a piece of metal”) is showing a unique exposition of computers that are anything but light and compact, but they have one big advantage – they are perfectly soundless. The computer proper is hand-made from copper, aluminum and steel and has a set of pipes that makes it look like a miniature church organ or something out of a Jules Vernes movie. It is a blend of hi-tech with natural materials put together by craftsmen. The components are oil-cooled and the computer is so quiet that it is hard to say if it is turned on or off. Its author –Vít Klimeš says this is an important aspect.

“ I am sure that you all know the feeling –you’ve been working on your computer for hours, you finish up, switch it off and you hear a WHOOOOOSH – and then blessed silence.”

Blessed silence while working is what these computers offer – and is the reason why the project goes under the name Lost Silence. Helena Klimešova –who is the project’s co-author says silence is inspiring and we have long ceased to realize how much noise we work in and how disruptive it can be.

“When you are working in absolute silence you can submerge yourself more in your thoughts and inspiration because there is no constant buzzing sound to disrupt you.”

And should all else fail the computer contains volcanic rock crystals from Ethiopia’s Mont Zuquala to fire your imagination. They are said to have magical properties. There is just one minor hitch –or maybe two – the computer weighs all of fifty kilos. And it costs around 150, 000 crowns.

Chocolate addicts in Prague have a new guru – Dan Syrový who makes his own gourmet brands flavored with exotic spices and flowers. “I want to teach people to discover how amazing a taste of chocolate can be and give them a whole new experience” Dan says. Buyers can sample his Rose of Jericho – chocolate from the Dominican Republic flavored with exotic spices, cornflowers and a pinch of sea-salt. Heart Soul is made of Tanzanian chocolate and flowers from southern Europe –ideal with a glass of Chardonnay. Dan’s workshop is like an alchemist’s den or a perfume laboratory. The end result must be unforgettable and to that end each of his chocolate brands contains 20 to 30 ingredients. None of the flavors must overpower the original taste of the chocolate used – just complement it. Dan says that different chocolates have a different basic taste –Indonesian chocolate is ever so slightly bitter, Colombian chocolate has a creamy-caramel taste, chocolate from central Africa tastes of flowers and red fruits which chocolate from St Thomas is more earthy, the chocolatier says.

Dan has two special lines –chocolate inspired by fine wines – which if savored with the appropriate beverage promise “a revelation for your taste buds“ and chocolate inspired by music –a limited edition of chocolates which is like “ fascinating melodies” and comes in the form of a compact disk. Appropriately enough the chocolates are available at music concert venues.

Illustrative photo: Karen Johnson,  Creative Commons 3.0
And finally –the latest on the fate of an escaped kangaroo who has become a household name in the Czech Republic. Vendelín escaped from a private owner last week and is on the loose near the town of Humpolec. The animal repeatedly appeared near the D1 motorway from Prague to Brno bringing out dozens of police officers, firefighters and volunteers. However the kangaroo is clearly not ready to come home just yet and is giving all of them a run for their money – managing to evade a search party of close to 100 people at one time. While police officers, volunteers and animal rights activists are doing their best to capture the animal the locals have taken him to their hearts and are leaving food out in the open for him. Although its mid-December the weather is still fairly mild and animal experts say that either way Vendelín would have little trouble surviving out in the wild even without the thoughtful offerings of the locals. Meanwhile his escapades are filling the papers with regular reports of where he was last sighted.