Vaclav Halek - composer inspired by the plaintive cry...of the mushroom

For the last 20 years, the composer and passionate mushroom-picker Vaclav Halek has been strolling through Bohemia's woods and fields, carrying a traditional mushroom-picker's basket, a small knife, and a notebook with the musical scale. Vaclav Halek claims he can hear the "song" of the mushroom, and has more than 2,000 compositions to prove it - from film and theatre scores right up to a full symphony. He's even produced a "Musical Atlas of Mushrooms", complete with its own CD. Rob Cameron went for a walk in the woods with this rather unorthodox composer.

We've come here, to the outskirts of Prague, to a place called Klanovice, it's about 15 kilometres from Prague. It's a rather rainy day, but the rain is holding off for the moment, and I'm here with Vaclav Halek. And he is not only a composer, but also a passionate mushroom-picker, so let's go into the woods now and try and find some of these mushrooms which have so inspired you over the years.

Finally, after a few minutes, we've found one. I'll just describe this mushroom now, it has a beautiful shiny brown head and a whitish creamy body, and it's about two inches high. It's hidden under a leaf. Would a mushroom like this be one of those mushrooms which would sing to you?

"Yes, this mushroom is actually one of the ones that feature in the first volume of my atlas, so everyone can hear how this particular specimen inspired me."

Just for comparison, I would just like to put the microphone to the mushroom and see what I hear, if anything...I'm putting the microphone up to the mushroom now...


Hmmm, I don't seem to be able to hear anything at all I'm afraid Vaclav.

"Well, I think that every mushroom has its own idea which the Creator breathed into it, and that it's possible to hear this idea if we're modest enough and if we ask the mushroom nicely to sing it for us. I've always been able to hear it."

I'm going to leave Vaclav in peace now for a few minutes and let him compose something from this particular mushroom...

Vaclav is bending down over the mushroom, and he has in his hand a piece of paper which has the musical scale on it...

He's concentrating on the mushroom, it's obviously telling him something. Vaclav is actually swaying gently in the breeze, as if to music, as if to the music that the mushroom is singing...

Well, the composition is now finished. Vaclav has finished writing a piece of music, inspired by the song of this mushroom. Perhaps Vaclav could you sing to me what you have just composed?

Vaclav sings

And if you're interested in hearing more mushroom music, Vaclav Halek's "Musical Atlas of Mushrooms" is published in Czech by Fontana Each atlas comes with a CD containing over 40 mushroom-inspired songs.