Martin Smolka


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All is Ceiled (2021)


1. Ice

The polished air sparkles as if there were crystals of ice floating in it

The jingling of the ice on the trees is sweet and liquid

2. Crunching

Crunching the dry and crisped snow under our feet

All is ceiled with snow

The brook with its creased ice and crystals of all hues

The powdery snow

The wind is shaking down snow from the trees

The silvery dust lies on every seared leaf

Crunching crisped snow

3. Snow

All is ceiled with snow

Wind is shaking down snow from the trees

The powdery snow

(Henry David Thoreau – Winter Walk)

4. Tiptoe

Standing on tiptoe

Distant mountains

Still bluer

True-blue coins from heaven´s own mint

(Henry David Thoreau – Walden)

5. Tears

God shall wipe all tears from their eyes

and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying

neither shall there be any more pain

for the former things are passed away

(Revelation 21,4)

Program Note:


Snow came and it stayed white for a whole week.

This happened in Prague, my home town in lockdown, in January 2021, despite all the traffic and dirtiness of the city.

Why, how?

The pure shining white, like high up in the Alps, was miraculously beautiful.

The piece recalls my good old snows with the help of Henry David Thoreau's essay "Winter Walk".

I extracted just a few words, enjoying their sound: the gentle dance of their phonemes - all the hissing sounds in "crisped snow, creased ice" (try to whisper it round and round and listen to the tip of your tongue).

Soprano and doublebass? Strange friends. Could the doublebass sing lightly like the soprano? And could the rich, bear-like belly of the doublebass remind one of the acoustics of a snow-covered valley in the woods?

Martin Smolka


In the beginning I was listening to Thoreau’s words. Reading them in a low voice, half whispered, grouping and looping and observing the tiny dance of light consonants on the tip of a tongue. Look, try it:

The polished air sparkles as if there were crystals of ice floating in it

The jingling of the ice on the trees is sweet and liquid

The ‘in it’, for example, when whispered round and round rhythmically (i-n, i-t), takes me back to the magic silence of my grandma’s living room with only the sound of her wall clock.

Then there was the mapping of the double bass harmonics. The double bass — the bear among string instruments — is surprisingly rich in this field. The sound of its harmonics is velvet, fleecy, foggy like voice of Ella Fitzgerald. As if there were long gorges in the huge belly of the double bass, the flageolet notes seem to fly afar. Arvo Pärt once said that a composer has to love each of his tones. I did, in this piece, and the silences, too.

Martin Smolka


Napadl sníh a zůstal po celý týden čistě bílý. V lednu 2021, v Praze, ve městě plném aut a špíny. Jak to? Čistá svítící běl, jako někde vysoko v Alpách. Bylo to zázračně krásné.

Skladba připomíná mé staré dobré sněhy, s pomocí Thoreauovy eseje Zimní procházka. Vybral jsem z ní jen pár slov a radoval se z toho, jak mi jejich hlásky tančí na jazyku. Třeba sykavky v sousloví „crisped snow, creased ice“. Zkuste si to. Šeptat je dokola a sledovat, co se děje na špičce jazyka.

Soprán a kontrabas? Svérázný párek. Dovede kontrabas zazpívat lehce jako soprán? Mohl by jeho bohatýrský břich připomínat akustiku zasněžené lesní rokle?

Martin Smolka       Copyright (C) 2015