Magazine article Czech Music

Kunuk - an Eskimo Message

Magazine article Czech Music

Kunuk - an Eskimo Message

Article excerpt

"At the bottom of the ocean lives the Mother of Sea Creatures, a mythical variant of the Great Goddess of Beasts, the source and womb of all life, on whose goodwill the very existence of the tribe depends. This means that the shaman must regularly go down under the water surface to renew connection with the mother of beasts." Mircea Eliade

If you weren't at Tomas Ondrusek's farm in Trstenice near Litomysl on Thursday 5th of September 2002 shortly after midday then you missed a great deal. And what you missed was the prepremiere of the production KUNUK, that magical descent to the bottom of the ocean to purify the self from all the wrongs of the world.

Kunuk is the graduation project of a student of stage design at DAMU [Theatre Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts], Kristyna Taubelova, who invited the composer Ondrej Adamek and percussionist Tomas Ondrusek to work with her.

In the project Kristyna Taubelova (1977) capitalised not only on her experience of attending middle industrial art school in Zizkov and then specialising in woodcarving and furniture restoration at the same school, but also on her studies in Doc. Zeithammel's sculpture studio. The structure she has made of wood and stretched sheepskins is an interesting artwork in itself. Thanks to its variability and position on a turntable it becomes a changing stage and also a "musical instrument" into which a performer -- drummer breathes life. Because the whole production is based on an ancient Eskimo myth, the performer, who moves round the structure and its changing shapes and makes it ring using not only his sticks but also his own body, is also an actor, the character who takes us through the story. The atmosphere of the production is much enhanced by the surroundings (an old stone barn) and the lighting (candles in the structure giving off the aroma of the sheep fat from which they are made). The natural sound and t extures (wood and skin) are a treat for the ears and eye of the spectators and awaken in them instincts long suppressed by civilisation, and the capacity to perceive what is simple, beautiful and natural.

As mentioned, there were two musicians involved in the project.

Ondrej Adamek (1979) is a student of composition at the HAMU [Musical Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts] in Prague in Marek Kopelent's class and at the same time a visiting student at the Paris Conservatoire. He is well known for his work with dancers and choreographers in the CR and abroad, and he writes music for live interpreters, and electroacoustic, stage and film music. He frequently provides space for improvisation in his pieces.

Tomas Ondrusek (1964) hardly needs an introduction -- he is a multipercussionist in demand throughout the world, and his repertoire is exclusively contemporary music. He is a member of the AGON Orchestra and a founder and teacher of percussion at HAMU in Prague. He also holds international summer courses for composers and percussionists in Trstenice by Litomysl.

Kristyna Taubelova, Ondrej Adamka and Tomas Ondrusek have together produced an appealing multimedia production that voluntarily renounces modern technical effects and plays on the hidden strings of the human interior in modest, unsensational, natural mode. The very idea of an artist, composer and performer collaborating on the project is itself remarkable enough to justify us asking a few questions of its authors.

Kristyna, You're the main instigator and intellectual force behind the whole project, so let's go back to the beginning. What actually is KUNUK and how it came into existence?

KUNUK -- this name emerged when we were formulating the project for a grant. At that point we didn't yet know which myth we would choose from Knud Rasmussen's book of "Greenland Myths and Legends", and so I used the general term KUNUK, because that is the short name Knud Rasmussen uses for the Eskimos. In itself the name also contains the motif of the circle, which accompanies the whole production both at the level of ideas, and action (The performer's use of revolving, circular movements. …

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