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Iva Bittová


Country of origin:

Czech Republic

Type of music generally:

Experimental violin/vocal music with some traditional and classical edges

Status:

Most recent album B. Bartok: Slovenske spevy (with Mucha Quartet, 2016)

See also:

Iva Bittová's site

Wikipedia's entry for Iva Bittová

Comparisons:

Vocally she is as experimental as Anna Homler and Meredith Monk, but her work is entirely unique. (Neile)

Covers/own material:

Most are her own, though she often collaborates, and frequently songs are based on traditional material. One of her albums is of classical pieces and another of Bartók duets

General comments:

Experimental and definitely odd, but nonetheless somehow melodic and compelling. She is unique and her music is a delight. Some of the instrumental pieces sound like some contemporary classical music, some of the more experimental vocal pieces sound a little like Meredith Monk; the traditional work has echoes of Gypsy music. But the music—the combination of instrumentation and voice can't be mistaken for anyone else: strange and wonderful evocations. It's definitely the kind of thing that some people love and others hate. One listen to River of Milk made me willing to pay the import price for it. (Neile)

Recommended for lovers of experimental violin & vocal music. I'm **DEEPLY** envious of you folks who are seeing her live. I've known about her for about 7 years and used to play her on my radio show! (vickie@enteract.com)

spare, spare music, not for parties! (zzkwhite@ktwu.wuacc.edu)

Amazing avant singer and viola/violin player!!! I highly recommend her music. (cyo@landoftheblind.com)

Iva stunned me in concert last year, but this was the year I bought my first discs of hers, and probably my last for a while since my Iva Bittová collection quickly jumped to 8 discs. Practically indescribable avante-garde singing and violin playing in Czech. Some albums are jazzier, others have (inexplicable to me) literary themes. One album is with a classical string quartet (Classic), and another is a children's album (Kolednice). (neal)

Comments about live performance:

Seeing her live was unbe#$%^&lievable! Imagine Meredith Monk, Milla, Diamanda Galas, Andy Kaufman, Kiri te Kanawa, and the members of Miranda Sex Garden merged into a single body and jamming on Martian covers of Bulgarian folk songs while playing the violin equally wildly and well. The CD hits at maybe ten percent of her live performance. If she's playing anywhere near you, go see her—and if she isn't, move! The venue was jammed, and the audience was riveted. Yow! (jzitt@humansystems.com)

Anyway, this is a not to be missed concert. Iva is totally brilliant, and when I saw her the crowd in the small club sat in total amazed silence while she pulled an unexpected variety of sounds from her violin while simultaneously rhythmically singing along. Not to forget the performance art aspects of the show where she built whole songs around noises from toys.
     The stage was sparse, with two mics and not much else. Iva came out in the dark, put on a pair of black gloves with small lights on the tips of the fingers, and started to dance while she sang a cappella.
     I can think of dozens of comparisons to sections of the show, but they were all blended up into something unrecognizable and unique. The first song (with the gloves) had a real Marta Sebestyen feel, like a spare Slovakian folk song. At other times I was reminded of most of the world music performers I know: rhythmic songs like Mari Boine does, stuff with phrasing like Noa's Hebrew music and vocal sound effects like her "Pieriette" (sp?) song, Sheila Chandra's speaking in tongues (crossed with some of the frightening noises Diamanda Galas can make), wild sound effects like you can find in African music and some Zap Mama songs, the playfulness of Björk, the possession of Mimi from Hugo Largo, the electronic gadgetry of Laurie Anderson (with the gloves and later, glasses with lights on the side, like Peter Gabriel had on US) and also some of her solo violin playing sounded like some of LA's instrumentals, Philip Glass-like repeated patterns, Kronos Quartet-like violin abuse.
     She performed a piece that was from the viewpoint of a baby (from Mars, perhaps), accompanied by a baby's rattle with some extra sound effects.
     Another piece was from the point of view of a fly, eventually squashed.
     Plus, she took advantage of the percussive Metro stage, stomping out counter rhythms, while singing and playing violin.
     I don't have a clue how old she is, but that was another interesting aspect of the show. She sometimes looked as young as late 20s, and sometimes as old as late 40s.
     Oh, and those two mics? She used them on occasion, but a good portion of the show was sung either in front of or far from any mic, and her voice carried easily. She's a very powerful singer, and performer. Not to be missed if it sounds at all intriguing. (5/98)
     Anyone who can should make every effort to see one of the shows with Iva Bittova. She is a brilliant and captivating performer. The one time I saw her she was breathtaking. Oddly enough, it was in a small sold-out rock club in DC (The Metro Cafe). From the moment she took the stage, singing unamplified, in the dark, from the back of the stage, the bar went silent. I don't think anyone spoke again for the full set, which is really remarcable for that sort of environment. (9/01, neal)

Last night's Iva Bittova performance at Lisner Auditorium in Washington DC was certainly one of the oddest and most intriguing concerts i've seen recently.
     For the second piece, pianist/keyboardist Marian Varga was joined by Iva Bittova for a brief improvisation. Bittova showed off her substantial range. She sang graceful melodies that put me briefly in mind of Billie Holiday and Thelonious Monk, punctuated with fast runs of tiny stacatto syllables. She sang briefly into the microphone, but soon abandoned it. When she left the stage, she did so continuing to sing, twirling off into the darkness of the wings—a remarkable image.
     Bittova's solo performance was astounding. i was going to say she accompanied herself on violin, but that's misleading. Her pieces were demanding both vocally and instrumentally, and often simultaneously. She prowled the length and depth of the stage restlessly, frequently spinning around.
     The first piece, "Huljet huljet, kinderlech" had an almost conversational aspect, with one theme repeatedly interrupting another; it was very playful. The second, "Ne Nehledej (Stop Searching)" was more sombre; it reminded me somewhat of Dead Can Dance, and ended with a startling run doubled by Bittova's voice and violin. The third, "Ej lasko, lasko" was the only time i've ever seen a kazoo played at a classical concert. It was sort of Gerschwin-y, though with a Slavic sort of aspect, and punctuated by most un-Gerschwin-like shrieks. i didn't take notes on the fourth, probably because i was too swept up in it.
     After the solo interlude, Bittova brought Škampa Quartet back to perform "Quatour pour Cora," a four-movement work for string quartet and voice. i thought it was the most remarkable performance of a remarkable evening. i expected the arrangment to highlight the vocalist at the expense of complexity and richness in the string parts; not at all so. This was a genuine quintet arrangement in which one of the instruments happened to be a voice. One of the movements started with an intricate clapping pattern and used the voices of the quartet as a sort of percussion. Another featured otherwordly, buzzing glissandos on the violin.
     Bittova and Škampa returned for a brief encore, walking on stage while playing their instruments, a showy move i'd not seen a string quartet pull off before (the cellist did take his seat when he reached it). This final piece of the evening had a very classical feel to it; a spritely melody and conventional tonality making an uplifting end to the evening. (11/99, dmw@mwmw.com)

Recommended first album:

Iva Bittova is the one most easily found outside of the Czech Republic and Japan, but Ciroki is probably my favourite. All her discs are wonderful in their own way. (Neile)

Recordings include:

Please see discography for a more complete discography.

  • Iva Bittová (1986)
  • Balada pro banditu [A Ballad for a Bandit] (1986)
  • Bittová & Fajt (with Fajt, 1987)
  • Svatba [The Wedding] (with Fajt, 1988)
  • The Danube (with Dunaj, 1989)
  • Iva Bittová (1991)
  • River of Milk (1991)
  • Ne Nehledej [No, Do Not Seek] (1994)
  • Kolednice [Carol Singer] (1995)
  • Pustit Musis [You Must Let Go] (with Dunaj, 1996)
  • Divná slecinka [A Strange Young Lady] (1996)
  • Béla Bartók: 44 Duets for Two Violins (with Dorothea Kellerová, 1997)
  • bílé inferno (with Vladimír Václavek, 1997)
  • Classic (with Škampa Quartet, 1998)
  • Iva Bittova (1998)
  • Dance of the Vampires (with the Netherlands Wind Ensemble, 2000)
  • Echoes (with Andreas Kröper, 2001)
  • Ciroki (with Ciroki, 2001)
  • Ples Upíru (2002)
  • J.H. (compilation, (2002)
  • Leos Janácek: Moravian Folk Poetry in Songs (with Škampa Quartet, 2004)
  • The Party (with Javas, 2004)
  • Vladimír Godár: Mater (with Miloš Valent, Marek Štryncl, Solamente Naturali, Bratislava Conservatory Choir, 2006)
  • Elida (with Bang on a Can All Stars, 2005)
  • Wonder Waltz (with Susumu Yokota, 2006)
  • Solo (2007)
  • Moravian Gems (with George Mraz, Emil Viklický and Lolo Tropp, 2007)
  • Dunaj & Iva Bittová (with Dunaj, 2012)
  • Zvon (with Prague Philharmonia, 2012)
  • NBE / My Funny Lady (with Nederlands Blazers Ensemble, 2012)
  • Evivyan Live (live, with Evivyan, 2013)
  • Iva Bittová/Fragments (2013)
  • Entwine/Proplétám (2014)
  • Hevhetia (with Nocz, 2015)
  • Eviyan: Nayive (with Gyan Riley and Evan Ziporyn 2015)
  • B. Bartok: Slovenske spevy (with Mucha Quartet, 2015)

Bittová & Fajt

with Pavel Fajt

Release info:

1987; rereleased 1997—Bonton Music 71 0535-2

Availability:

Europe; can sometimes be found in the U.S. in stores that specialize in experimental music

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for any fans of experimental music

Group members:

Iva Bittová—housle, akusticky rám, zpev
Pavel Fajt—bicí, zpev

Guest artists:

Stanislav Filip—akustická kytara on 3 tracks
Pavel Barsa—kontrabas on 2 tracks
Karel David baskytara on 1 track, zpev on 1 track

Comments:

Full of unusual violin and Iva Bittová's strange and wonderful singing and vocalizations. A wonderful disc. (Neile)

Svatba

with Pavel Fajt

Release info:

1988—Review Records—rere 117cdm

Availability:

Europe

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for any fans of experimental music

Group members:

Iva Bittová—voice, violin
Pavel Pajt—drums, special metals

Produced by:

Hubi Greiner

Comments:

Very like Bittová & Fajt. Quite listenable despite its unusual nature. (Neile)

River of Milk

Release info:

1991—Eva Records, c/o wave, 6-2-27 roppongi, minato-ku, tokyo 106, Japan—wwcx 2034

Availability:

Europe; can sometimes be found in the U.S. in stores that specialize in experimental music

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for any fans of experimental music

Group members:

Iva Bittová—voice, violin, waterphone, percussion

Produced by:

Iva Bittová and Pavel Fajt

Comments:

What a strange and wonderful album! It demands attention and it's demanding in other ways, too—you have to like unusual sonic constructions to like this. My favourite song is "The Vampire's Ball" but really it's all weird and lovely and dramatic. A truly original, evocative recording, crystal clear and "new" but also carries eastern European echoes. Highly, highly recommended. (Neile)

Ne Nehledej

with Pavel Fajt

Release info:

1994—BMG (Germany)—74321 24858 2

Availability:

Europe

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for any fans of experimental music

Group members:

Pavel Fajt and Iva Bittová

Produced by:

Pavel Fajt and Iva Bittová

Comments:

Yet another brilliant, strange, and wonderful album. Highly recommended. (Neile)

Kolednice

Release info:

1995—BMG (EU)—74321 33521 2

Availability:

Europe

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for anyone who might like a very unusual children's disc

Comments:

A disc made by Iva Bittová with and for children. Very odd and quite charming. (Neile)

Pustit Musís

with Pustit Musís

Release info:

1996—Rachot/Behémot (Czech Republic)—R-0007

Availability:

Europe

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Pustit Musís:
     Iva Bittová—vocal
     Jirí Kolsovsky—vocal, guitar
     Vladimír Václavek—bass, acoustic guitar
     Pavel Koudelka—drums
     Pavel Fajt—drums

Guest artists:

Volkmar Miedtke—mellotron, synth

Produced by:

Volkmar Miedtke & Pustit Musís

Comments:

Noisy, rocky, full of short driving catchy, energetic tracks. If you ever were interested in hearing what it would be like if Iva Bittová rocked out, then this album is for you. Lots of fun. (Neile)

Divná slecinka

Release info:

1996—BMG (EU)

Availability:

Europe

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for any fans of experimental music

Comments:

Some overlap with River of Milk, but not entirely. Definitely worth tracking down for the other wonderful tracks. Iva Bittová is brilliant. I wish I could read Czech to get the credits. (Neile)

bílé inferno

with Vladimír Václavek

Release info:

1997—Indies Records, Nam, 28, Runa 9, 602 00 Brno, Czech Republic—MAM055-2

Availability:

Europe

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for any fans of experimental music

Group members:

Iva Bittová—housie, kalimba, perkusa, viola, zpev, vodofon, africká lyra
Vladimír Václavek—kytara, buben, sas, zpev, perkuse, mandolina

Guest artists:

Ida Kelarová—klaví, zpev
dívcí sbor Lelky—zpev
     Pavlína Alexová
     Alzbeta Koudelková
     Tereza Kerndlová
     Bára Vetesníková
     Vendula Halouzková
Tom Cora—violoncello, kalhoty
Frantisek Honzák—kontrabas

Produced by:

Iva Bittová

Comments:

A two-disc set that is so gorgeous and strange and wonderful and weird it nearly drives me crazy to listen to it. (Neile)

Béla Bartók: 44 Duets for Two Violins

with Dorothea Kellerová

Release info:

1997—Rachot/behémót—R-0011

Availability:

Europe

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for any fans of experimental music

Group members:

Iva Bittová—violin, voice
Dorothea Kellerová—violin—voice

Produced by:

Borek Holecek & Dalibor Záhora

Comments:

Bartók is a modern composer whose works were highly influenced by Czech folk songs—a perfect match for Iva Bittová's talents and Dorothea Kellerová is an excellent partner in this work. These sound very much like Bittová's solo work, though mostly flowing in a minor key, and not so manic as some of her work can be. Really odd and lovely. And the packaging is just as fun as the music—a red velvet digipak with a red feather in it. No booklet, but a series of cards with information in English and Czech, and delightful photographs of Bittova and Kellerová. (Neile)

Classic

Release info:

1998—Supraphon (Czech Republic)—SU 3371 2 931

Availability:

Europe

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended if you like Iva Bittová

Group members:

Iva Bittová—vocal, violin

Guest artists:

Škampa Quartet:
     Pavel Fischer—1st violin
     Jana Lukásová—2nd violin
     Radim Sedmidubsky—viola
     Jonás Krejcí—cello
Lelky Girls' Choir
Martin Oprasal—percussion
Michal Zpevák—clarinet, tárogató, pan-pipes
Jan Beránek—violin, baritone violin
Bedrich Havlík—cello
Vladislav Bláha—guitar
Dan Dlouhy & Adam Kubícek—percussion
Renata Cervinková—birch leaf
The Brno Radio Folk Instruments Ensemble

Produced by:

Music production by Martin Kosa. Producers: Milos Stedron and Jana Smékalová

Comments:

This is a collection of classical, folksongs, and Iva Bittová's own compositions. Like all her work it is edgy and experimental but also profoundly beautiful. Some pieces seems truly from classical sources, others like early music, others like folk music, and yet others like extreme experimental music—yet it's always listenable and seems of a piece. A remarkable album. (Neile)

Iva Bittova

Release info:

1998—Nonesuch Records (WEA)—79455-2

Availability:

U.S.

Ecto priority:

Highly, highly recommended for fans of intense experimental music

Group members:

Iva Bittová—vocals, violin, viola

Guest artists:

Pavel Fajt—drums, percussion

Produced by:

Iva Bittová and Pavel Fajt

Comments:

Strange and wonderful—a doorway into an unusual mind and world. I've been listening to some of these songs for several years now on River of Milk, only available on import, and am delighted to see them get a wider release. Iva Bittova is a genius. It's out there, but truly delightful and haunting, experimental combination of traditional and new music.
     While a good number of tracks on this collection overlap with River of Milk, I didn't hesitate to buy this album—such strange and wonderful music is rare indeed, and the opportunity to buy it should not be passed by! Anyway, this collection is a delight and I highly recommend it. Buy it. (Neile)

Cikori

Release info:

2001—Indies Records—MAM150-2

Availability:

Europe

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Iva Bittová—housle, zpev, kazu

Guest artists:

Vladimír Václavek—akustická kytara
Frantisek Kucera—trumpeta, krídlovka
Jaromiír Honzák—kontrabas
Milos Dvorácek—bicí, perkuse

Comments:

Completely enchanting and very strange, this is my current favourite of Iva Bittová's recordings—it has such a sense of playful but also seriousness energy about the music. It's full of odd and wonderful beats and sounds like her meowing like a cat on the first track. Truly wonderful. (Neile)

Ples Upíru/Dance of the Vampires

with the Netherlands Blazers Ensemble

Release info:

2002—Indies Records—MAM169-2

Availability:

Europe

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for fans of experimental and classical music

Group members:

Iva Bittová—zpev, housle, viola
Nederlands Blazers Ensemble:
     Martine van de Loo—flétna
     Bart Schneedmann—hoboj
     Harmen de Boer—klarient
     Ronald Karten—fagot
     Johan van der Linden—saxofon
     Fokke van Heel, Dick Verhoef—lesní roh
     Ad Welleman, Jacco Groenendikj—trubka
     Peter Saunders, Arthur Moore—trombon
     Harry Godtschalk—basovy trombon
     Hugo van der Wedden—tenorová tuba
     Peter Prommel—bicí náastroje
     Wilmar de Visser—kontrabas

Comments:

A live recording of Iva Bittová's appearance with the Nederlands Blazers Ensemble playing the music of Iva Bittová and Leos Janácek. This is lovely and odd, juxtaposing calm classical music and some of the most edgy of Iva Bittová's vocals. You have to wonder if it was exactly what the audience expected, but they certainly seem appreciative. This may simply demonstrate that even if Iva Bittová's style is edgy and experimental it is also entirely winning. Hearing her in combination with this ensemble is delightful. (Neile)

J.H.

Release info:

2002—Indies Records

Availability:

Europe

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for fans of acoustic folk and experimental music

Comments:

This is a compilation of tracks by the marvellous Iva Bittová. I assume if I could read Czech I would better understand the rationale for what appears here, but it seems these are collaborations, including a soundtrack, a couple duets, what looks like appearances on other artists' recordings, and most wonderfully, a gorgeous cover of "Gloomy Sunday." I rarely listen to this, but whenever I do I wonder why I don't play it more often. It begins with more stripped-down folk-ish things and later moves into more experimental work. Great listening. (Neile)

Leos Janacek: Moravian Folk Poetry in Songs

and Škampa Quartet

Release info:

2004—Supraphon (Czech Republic)

Availability:

Europe

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for fans of interpretations of Eastern European folk songs

Group members:

Iva Bittová—vocals
Škampa Quartet:
     Pavel Fischer—1st violin, vocals
     Jana Lukásová—2nd violin
     Radim Sedmidubsky—viola, vocals
     Lukás Polák—cello, vocals

Guest artists:

Martin Kosa, Martin Kaplan, Josef Fiala—choir

Produced by:

Central European Music Agency

Comments:

A string quartet and fine, sharp folk songs. If that sounds at all appealing to you, you will enjoy this! I confess, this isn't for me. (Neile)

Elida

Release info:

2005—Indies Records—MAM169-2

Availability:

Europe

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for fans of experimental music

Group members:

Iva Bittová—violin, vocals

Guest artists:

Bang on a Can All Stars:
     Robert Black—bass
     David Cossin—drum set, percussion
     Lisa Moore—piano
     Mark Stewart—electric guitars, 23-string banjo, Horner 28-chord harmonica
     Wendy Sutter—cello
     Evan Ziporyn—clarinet, bass clarinet

Produced by:

Iva Bittová and Tom Lazaus

Comments:

Another compelling collection of sounds and vocals. This is really lovely, with Bittová's usual range of sound, from the lyrical to occasional almost cacophanous moments. It seems so lame to say "wow, yet another brilliant, unique, and beautiful album", but there you go. That's what this is. (Neile)

The Party

with Javas

Release info:

2005—Indies Records

Availability:

Europe

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for anyone who likes dance/electronica

Group members:

Iva Bittová—vocals
Javas—electronics

Produced by:

L. P. Fish

Comments:

Iva Bittová singing along with electronic backing? Yes, yes it is. It takes a little mind adjustment, but it's clear that they're having a lot of fun. The vocals move from her loveliest to her most experimental. It does require a strong tolerance for repetitive electronic beats, though. They often get a bit much for me here. (Neile)

Further info:

Iva Bittová also appears on The Man Who Cried soundtrack—singing songs in English (Christina Ricci lip-synchs to her voice in the movie).

She starred in the Czech film Tajnosti by Alice Nellis in 2007.

She has a DVD, Superchameleon (Indies, 2006).


Thanks to Vickie Mapes for work on this entry.

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