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The New Mexican's Weekly Magazine of Arts, Entertainment & Culture Thursday, July 24, 2014

Atmospheric alchemy: Violinist-vocalist Iva Bittová’s acoustical interactions

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Posted: Friday, November 8, 2013 5:00 am | Updated: 7:55 am, Fri Nov 15, 2013.

The work of Czech violinist-vocalist Iva Bittová springs from so many musical categories — classical, Eastern European folk, jazz, minimalism, art music — that it’s impossible to categorize. Mostly, it comes of improvisation, especially when she performs solo, as she does Friday, Nov. 8, at Gig Performance Space. Against the tones of the violin, her voice can be ethereal and warm or strong and sharply pitched. She inserts clicks, pops, and sounds reminiscent of animal cries and bird calls. She sings lyrics from various languages — and from a language of her own. She’s been invited to work with some of music’s more free-thinking performers, including guitarist Fred Frith; Swiss drummer Pierre Favre; jazz musicians Bill Frisell, Don Byron, and Bobby McFerrin; the U.S.-based Calder Quartet; and the Dutch Nederlands Blazers Ensemble. Her latest recording, a solo effort on the German ECM label, required a collaboration of a different kind with ECM founder and producer Manfred Eicher.

Eicher, known for putting his signature touch, popularly called “the ECM sound,” on nearly everything he records, was looking for something he would recognize once he heard it. “It was a very long process, some two years to prepare and find a date to come to the studio,” Bittová said in a Skype conversation from São Paulo, where she was doing a series of performances. “Manfred chose a place in Lugano, a performance hall there, because he very much liked the acoustics and the atmosphere. He brought an Italian engineer, so it was just the three of us.”

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