I had the pleasure of seeing Iva Bittová, an experimental violinist from the Czech Republic, play recently at the Annenberg Beach House in Santa Monica. Improvising with her voice in several languages (including her native tongue, English and Yiddish) and playing in multiple genres, Iva Bittová was rather fearless.
She came out a capella, in what seemed an ancient language. Summoning voluminous reaches of sorrow and pain, there was no messing around. In response to Iva Bittová’s presence, so strong and multifaceted, two women walked out. It wasn’t for them.
Iva Bittová stepped evenly through the entire space, singing with such luscious layers of emotion, it was a little while before I could look at her. Molded into a bean bag, wishing my poor dog walker’s feet would stop hurting, I was grateful for the weight of her spirit. Her aura, stuffed into what was not a small room, massaged my bones. Clean and strong, she was easy to breathe. By the end of the evening, the audience was warm and rapt.
Stunning throughout, in a rich and complex dialog between her voice and the violin, she did fall back on the safety of cute perhaps one too many times. Since she is so completely original and I don’t feel music these days, it is hard for me to say what Iva Bittová is exactly, although I was utterly fascinated. If I could have felt music on that night, I am positive I would have felt her.
On duets, originally composed for two violins, Iva Bittová split the parts between the instrument and her voice, performing the pieces with excruciating concentration. Also included in her set, an original song inspired by quotes from Gertrude Stein and pieces by Mozart and the Beatles. She was playful on the kazoo, and several times with a little girl sitting next to me in the front. Addressing the audience, she was charming and gentle; also, honest in admitting she did not have a mind that could be expected to perform songs in the order they were listed in the program.
The violin, the melodic strokes and screeches, lent itself to jiggling the feet. So, I jiggled my poor feet. They were happy to have been jiggled. Since Iva Bittová slipped in through my toes on that sweet little night, my feet have been popping and cracking, bones and joints finding their way back to where they fit, after so long an out-of-place tour beneath my skin.
If the feet can come back, there must be hope for the rest of my tired and broken hearted body. If I am patient and don’t try too hard or push, I’ll feel notes and vibrations again. If Iva Bittová can sneak in through my heels and toes, rhythm will poke into cracks and tears in the veneer…
While waiting on a subway platform, perhaps a street performer’s saxophone or trumpet rattles the head, nesting in the crown. Weeks or months later, I might mosey past a piano, twiggling high up on my belly, just under the ribs. More time passes and, at a random coffee house or street fair, a guitar or banjo will jostle the flesh of a dormant heart, so the chest trembles like a giant barrel and doesn’t stop until I am dead in my bones.
Or, maybe it will happen all at once, like falling into a symphony, almost drowning before realizing it is as simple as breath…
For now, silence is good company…and Iva Bittová is in my feet…
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, scanning, or otherwise except as permitted under Sections 107 or 108 of the 1976 United States Copyright Act, without either the prior written permission of the Publisher, or authorization through payment of the appropriate per-copy fee.