I love recurring motifs in music – ones that develop over the course of a record or live performance. They insist that you follow them to find out where they end up and what paths they take to get there. If you listen well, those paths are wonderfully different every time. As a musician working largely with improvisation and experimentation, it’s these ever-changing paths and evolving versions of ideas that excite me.
Luboš Fišer’s score for Valerie & Her Week Of Wonders (Valerie A Týden Divu) is a mind-shattering collage of motifs in that kind of constant state of flux. They shape-shift, free to wander around whatever scenes they find themselves in. (I even imagine them hopping the reels and haunting other films – perhaps perfectly fitting Buñuel’s El Ángel Exterminador, or maybe playing mischief with some daft blockbuster.) There’s a kind of intimacy to the score’s assortment of motifs and themes, almost a stream of consciousness, that mirrors how we’ve lived with our own recurring thoughts, our own scattered monologues, more than ever during these weird, lonely and often soulless lockdowns.
The score to this piece of Czech New Wave cinema has cast its influence on a number musicians and DJs. Broadcast’s Trish Keenan once said: “Not since The Wicker Man has a soundtrack occupied my mind like Valerie & Her Week Of Wonders. It was like a door had been opened in my subconscious and fragments of memories and dreams rejoiced right there in my living room.”
It is wildly odd – a surreal pastiche of folkloric picnic music, shards of magical chiming, chanting that blends between fragile innocence and a Gregorian-like crescendo, and sudden mood-altering baroque pomp – all while seeming to resurrect Béla Bartók, who has been asked to bring down your great grandmother’s ballerina music box from the vast attic. Yes, deep listening in isolation might stereotypically warrant something more fluid and typically meditative (perhaps that is an unintentionally regular approach of assuming only certain sounds and musical styles match the theories and techniques of Pauline Oliveros around deep listening), but between 2020 and 2021 I’ve been needing to find ways to get away from the singularity of the current everyday. Before this, each day was vastly different to the next, and that’s been lost, so I’ve found this kaleidoscopic soundtrack of radically antithetical musical ideas a stimulant very worthy of deep listening.
I recommend the 2018 release of the full soundtrack by Andy Votel and Doug Shipton’s Finders Keepers label, which is available on Bandcamp.