The Avant-Garde Compositions of Mike Svoboda
Mike Svoboda’s inventive compositions combine elements of classical and popular music and incorporate adventurous instrumentation to create a wholly unique musical experience.
Mike Svoboda - Jens Klatt, 2009.
Born in Guam and raised in Chicago, Mike Svoboda’s compositional talents were evident early on and, in 1982, he won the prestigious BMI Award for Young Composers. The win led him to move to Germany, where he spent 11 years as trombonist and assistant to Karlheinz Stockhausen, perfecting his craft and collaborating with other composers as diverse as Peter Eötvös, Helmut Lachenmann, Wolfgang Rihm, Martin Smolka, David Lang, and Frank Zappa.
Svoboda has since concentrated specifically on composing, having written works for various festivals and opera houses such as the ECLAT festival Stuttgart, The State Opera Hannover, The National Theatre Mannheim and the State Opera in Stuttgart. He also actively performs as a soloist and with his own Mike Svoboda Ensemble.
Svoboda’s compositional style combines elements of popular and classical music and can be described as playful and creative. For example, his 1995 composition entitled 'Airbag' was a solo piece written for a garden hose. The video of his performance shows him playing the instrument with virtuosity whilst spinning it around like a lasso, adding a physical dimension to his performance and enhancing the drama of the music, to the evident delight of his audience. Svoboda also frequently incorporates technology in his pieces; 'Adorno (Sex, Drugs, and New Music)' (2007) is an ensemble piece that incorporates live electronics and video projections.
Though Svoboda is not one to shy away from modern sounds, the masters are often referenced in his pieces, resulting in classical works being presented in a whole new light. This can be heard in works such as '14 Attempts to love Richard Wagner' (2002), 'My God Mozart' (2002), 'Love Hurts - Carmen Remix' (2003) and 'Reflective Structures' (2003) and 'Clara, Robert and Johannes - Fantasy on a Romantic Triangle' (2004).
Svoboda’s compositions, at times traditional and at other times avant-garde, are a delight to the senses, frequently entertaining and always surprising.
Watch Mike Svoboda perform 'Airbag':
By Harriet Hu
Image courtesy: Mike Svoboda.