Listen to the composer: Ian Mikyska – A Spacious Equanimity

Ian talks about his creating process and ways of working with sound in VR space. He composed A Spacious Equanimity for Trick The Ear project inspired by sculptures of Love, Hope, Sloth and Despair, part of collection of Vices and Virtues by Matyáš Bernard Braun.

Composer Ian Mikyska for - Trick The Ear - Music in VR

Author statement

When I got the brief for this piece, the hardest decision was the extent to which to address the connotations and meaning of each of the four statues (Love, Hope, Sloth and Despair) – whether to sketch out these virtues, emotions and psycho-physical states in the character of each instrumental part as it plays from each of the statues. Ultimately, I opted for a different approach, exemplified by the idea of equanimity, which I find most eloquently expressed in an anecdote about King Solomon: a sultan asked Solomon for a gift that would make him both infinitely happy and infinitely sad. Solomon produced a ring. On its inner edge stood the inscription “This too shall pass”. The equanimity in this piece therefore consists in recognising that all mental states – whether pleasant or otherwise – are only temporary, and furthermore, are just that: mental states, not the constitutive material of our person.

Each of the instruments therefore works with similar material and the weight of the process is on how these materials gradually begin to coalesce: how they pass from a total chaos in which none can hear the other over their own stream of notes to responding to the pre-recorded sounds that seemed, at first, merely to disturb, and, finally, how they begin playing together and in response to each other. The form of the piece follows the shape of many natural processes such as sedimentation, the entropy of a closed energy system, or the burning up of firewood. However, it also suggests the gradual coming to rest of the mind during a meditation sitting.

The inspiration for the selection of pre-recorded sounds came from an opinion poll on social media in which I asked people to name sounds that often disturb them; bother them; steal their attention. My aim was to set up a musical situation in which these sounds could interact with their sonic surroundings in a way that transcended interruptions or disturbances, taking us from the everyday beyond and into the everyday.

The working title of the piece was “Equanimity”. The present title comes from a talk by John Fraser. The piece is dedicated to John and the Glasgow Zen Group.

Biography Ian Mikyska

Ian Mikyska is a Czechoslovak composer who usually works on the edges of sound, creating installations, texts, videos, performances, or works for radio. Having studied at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London, the Universität der Künste in Berlin, and the Centre for Audiovisual Studies, FAMU, Prague, Ian is currently completing a master’s degree in directing alternative theatre at DAMU, Prague.

Ian Mikyska by Josef Čevora 2020©

He has collaborated extensively in the contexts of fine arts (installation, video art) and performance arts (theatre, dance, opera). He created two extensive immersive installations with book-form guides, “sensory strolls”, one at the Convent of St Agnes in Prague (National Gallery) and the other at the Automatic Mills in Pardubice (Offcity). His collection of sound poems, Partitury pro čtenřáře (Scores for Readers) was published in 2016.

He co-founded the multimedia improvisation ensemble Stratocluster and the performance poetry duo +x. Ian is also active as a translator from Czech to English and a writer on music and other subjects.

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