Vladimír Hirsch (born July 3, 1954) is a Czech composer, instrumentalist (pianist, organist, keyboard player, vocalist), and sound experimenter, integrating industrial and dark ambient music with modern classical composition with a genre overlap conception. His compositional style is characterized by polymodal architectonics, polytonality and the usage of digital technique to enhance sonic means of expression, where modern classical elements fuse within experimental soundscapes. Besides creating solo works, he is the co-founder and main personality of band Skrol, the duo Aghiatrias and various other projects (e.g. Zygote, Subpop Squeeze, Luminar Ax, and Tiria). His music is marked by a dark, tense and tempestuous atmosphere. Between 1986 and 1995 he was member of experimental post-punk group Der Marabu.
Vladimír Hirsch has been composing since he was a teenager, when as a pianist and organ player, he started to write romantic and classicist pieces with elements of rock. However, he abandoned these compositions for some time and delved into experimental jazz and experimental rock music up until 1986, when he joined Prague's post-punk band (Der) Marabu. At the same time, the composer also beginning to focus on new principles in his solo production. He started to apply modern classical forms to electronic and analog music, resulting gradually in a more transgressive industrial style in his solo works. After 10 years of engagement in Der Marabu, he - during its demise - founded in 1995 industrial-neoclassical band Skrol and later also several other parallel projects (Subpop Squeeze, Aghiatrias, Zygote, Luminar Ax, Tiria - see "Bands, projects, and collaborations").
Hirsch's collaborative projects have never interrupted his solo output. He has continuously composed an extensive collection of music, foremost a number of conceptual or thematic albums, including symphonies, suites, concert works, soundtracks, and many experimental compositions, including works for his favourite instruments: organ and piano. He has been influenced by various 20th-century compositional techniques, including serial, atonal, microtonal, polymodal, spectral and others, being also partly inspired by Czech and other Slavic classical music, however his style has gradually emerged into what Hirsch calls integrated music, characterized by an effort to break the borders between primarily musical and unmusical elements in composition and instrumentation, attempting to both equalize and enhance their expressive properties using technological manipulation, above all in the wide area of digital technology and described as an alchemical transmutation of modern classical forms with dark ambient, industrial and noise components into a homogenous indivisible structure. It also represents metaphysically the central idea of Vladimír Hirsch's concept, which consists in the collision and reconciliation of two seemingly spiritually opposite worlds inside an individual.
Hirsch performs regularly in his native Czech Republic and abroad (above all in Germany, Great Britain, Poland and Italy, where he published) both his solo and collaborative projects. He has had a US tour in 2001, and appeared in many European festivals.
The music of Vladimír Hirsch crosses over from experimental manipulations to unambiguous strictness in composition which are marked by a dark and highly evocative atmosphere enriched by conceptual themes ranging from metaphysics, anxiety to spirituality.
His most important works include Symphony No.4: Descent From The Cross and its revisited version Graue Passion, combining naturally expressive means ranging from symphonic to post-industrial shape, conceptual electronic ambient industrial album Underlying Scapes (originally recorded as "De regionibus liminis" and presented also in second version as Aghiatrias album "Regions of Limen") or the cycle of musical prayers Invocationes, dark-ambient neoclassical albums Exorcisms or extensive Contemplatio Per Nexus, power electronics-neoclassical Mass Missa Armata, electroacoustic composition Endoanathymia, as fully conceptual albums adapted soundtracks Tobruk and contemporary classical Markéta, the daughter of Lazar, digital symphonic work Axonal Transit, microtonal dark ambient Epidemic Mind and compositions with main role of organ and piano (concentrated mainly on 2 discs compilation "Selected Organ & Piano Works"), e.g. Organ Concerto No.2 Horae.
Hirsch's works represent an immersive perception and expression of ubiquitous inner dialogue, but predominantly, the fight between spirituality and the anthropocentric and materialistic likeness of contemporary society. This theme intermingles the majority of the composer's works. In 2010, all the main works until that time were released as 8-CD box set collection The Assent To Paradoxon by Italian label Ars Benevola Mater. In his solo works, Hirsch also cooperates with several artists - above all vocalists - predominantly participants of his collaborative projects (Martina Sanollová, Dawn Carlyle a.k.a. Dove Hermosa, Nadya Feir and more).
Bands, projects and collaborations
In 1986, Hirsch joined the post-punk band without name, but during their early activities, they agreed to call it "Marabu". This formation splitted in the beginning of 1989, when some of founding members emigrated from communist Czechoslovakia, however only several months before regime collapse. Hirsch continued in an effort to rejoin the band and in 1990 he created new formation Der Marabu, consisting of the drummer of former line-up (returning home) and new guitarist. This trio changed the direction to a darker and more aggressive style with some Slavic classical music undertones. After many personal changes and 3 self-released albums, the band finished its activity in 1996.
In autumn 1995 - during decreasing the activity of Der Marabu - Hirsch established the band Skrol, together with singer Martina Sanollová and lyricist and sound experimenter Tom Saivon. Skrol's creative principles are based on modern classical concepts with a congregation of martial industrial. Severe militant rhythms along with obstinate instrumental loops as a counterpoint to the melodic calmness are typical features of that period of Hirsch's style. The intense atmosphere of the band's music is crowned by the ecstatic and extremely igneous expression of the female vocal. Throughout their existence, Skrol recorded 5 fully conceptual albums, that were released between 1998 and 2009, though their public appearance was interrupted from 2002 to 2011. However, the band has never officially ended its activities, Skrol practically finished them in 2012 by self-releasing of "Live" minialbum.
With a similar but more abstract sprouting of this integrated style, aiming more towards dark ambient, is Hirsch's project, Aghiatrias, founded in 1999. Music of the duo Aghiatrias is moving from a sombre dark ambient concepts with a congregation of industrial as a co-ambient character to power electronics, with an infiltration of modern classical composition and digitally manipulated instrumentation. Aghiatrias released five albums. The collaboration ended in 2007 as Hirsch concentrated on his solo efforts. In 2016, they reunited after 9 years, performing on various European festivals.
Another alter ego of Vladimír Hirsch is Subpop Squeeze project, designed to the music, outlier from his main conceptual direction. It started in 1996. This kind of creation move across wider scope of experimental electronic and industrial rock with elements of thrash metal, being their synthesis, with predominantly ironic and sarcastic character. This sphere of work is usually called "entertainments” by the author. In recent years, Subpop Squeeze has become preferred by Hirsch as live performance act.
In 1998, Hirsch composed a large collection of tracks, entitled Sense Geometry. This, originally Hirsch's solo work, changed - after the successful stage presentation - into the project Zygote, performing together with vocalist Martina Sanollová. In 2000, Zygote recorded an alternative version of the album under the name Geometrie nevědomí (Geometry of Unconsciousness). The original sound was distorted by apocalyptic vocals and multilayered instrumental and disturbing noise together with the existential and impassioned Czech lyrics of Tom Saivon. Zygote - sometimes using the alternative names Zygote CZ or Zygote (CZ) - performed that album successfully between 2000 and 2003, when the project ended.
In the summer 2007, American singer and poet Dove Hermosa (Dawn Carlyle by civil name) and Vladimír Hirsch founded a conjoint electronic studio project Luminar Ax, which was active until 2009 and the cooperation resulted in the album "Optem Spectris", re-released later (in 2011) together with several other tracks under the name of the project by U.S.Label LBA Records.
In 2009, Vladimír Hirsch, lyricist Tom Saivon and Swiss vocalist with the nickname "El" founded dark-electronic studio project Tiria, dedicated to just one conceptual work, the album Elysium, which was released in 2013. Musical expression of the project is based on the relationship between dark-ambient or post-industrial matrix with main, electronically balanced structure of songs. The contrast is enhanced by romanticizing female vocal and strict male recitation (British reciter Timothy Simmons as the guest) of existential texts.
Except Der Marabu, Vladimír Hirsch is an exclusive composer of all musical material of mentioned projects and their main instrumentalist. Skrol, Aghiatrias and Zygote represent various forms of the cooperation of Vladimír Hirsch, singer Martina Sanollová and lyricist and sound experimenter Tom Saivon. Together with these close cooperators - who, inter alia, founded and operated a platform called Ars Morta Universum as one of the first independent organizations formed to bring avantgarde electronic and industrial acts to the Czech Republic, organizing annually Prague Industrial Festival
between 1995 and 2010 and initialized many international cooperations of that kind - they released a number of their recordings and video-recordings under the head of his own labels CatchArrow Recordings, Integrated Music Records and Ars Morta Universum.
Besides composing, Vladimir Hirsch has been involved for years also in writing essays about music on music, musicians and art (e.g., "Principles and technology of destructivism in art", "The problem of intelligibility of work of art", "Achievements of philosophy of success," "Incantation of experiment", "Salut l'artist" or "The painter of metaphysical transformation of pain" (about painter Mikuláš Medek), etc., poetry and graphics (especially designs album covers). Not interrelated, but interesting from Vladimír Hirsch's biography is the fact, that he graduated in 1980 Faculty of medicine of Charles University in Prague and with shorter or longer breaks practices also as a physician.
List of selected works
- Synthetics – Themes, op. 17, experimental electronic work, 1987
- Symphony No. 1 in E, Op. 20; symphony for synthesizers. 1988–1989
- The Ambits Of Material World; experimental organ composition, 1990
- 7 Parts Of Desolation, op. 29; piano cycle, 1989–1991
- Aion, op. 33; composition for organ, water harp and ambient recordings, 1992
- Intermezza, op. 36; compositions for piano and vocal, 1994
- Simplicity Of Heresy (Heretical Antiphony), op. 39; suite for integrated ensemble, 1996
- Insomnia Dei, op. 42; conceptual work for group, 1997
- Symphony No. 2 Defensa, op. 47; symphony for synthesizers, 1997
- Concert industriel pour orgue, op. 49; concerto for organ, percussions and integrated ensemble, 1997-8
- Casual Crime, op. 51; new arrangements of jazz compositions 1977–1998
- Symphony No. 3 Brands Of Tyranny, op. 52; symphony for integrated orchestra, organ, percussions and vocal, 1998-9
- Sense Geometry, op. 54; experimental electronic work, 1998
- Dances & Marches, op. 57; suite for organ, piano and integrated ensemble, 1998–2005
- Exorcisms, op. 61; suite for integrated ensemble, 1999–2000
- Nenia, op. 62; experimental organ composition, 1999–2008
- New Laws / New Orders, op. 63; conceptual work for group, 2000
- Missa armata / Cryptosynaxis, op. 64; mass for integrated ensemble, 1999–2004
- Elegy, op. 65; experimental composition for piano and gas organ, 2000
- Symphony no. 4, Descent From The Cross, op. 67; symphony for integrated orchestra, soloists and choir; 2001–2009
- Invocationes, op. 66; cycle of dark-ambient prayers, 2002
- De regionibus liminis (Underlying Scapes), op. 68, ambient-industrial electronic work; 2003–2010
- Endoanathymia, op. 70; conceptual album of experimental electroacoustic compositions, 2003–2004
- Trigonal Sonata, op. 71; sonata for two pianos and digital technique, 2004
- Fragments,thèmes et images scéniques', op. 72, adaptation of soundtracks
- Nonterra, op. 73; suite for integrated techniques, 2005
- Ethos, op. 74, thematic work for integrated ensemble, 2004–5
- Les scènes ardentes, op. 75; album of composition for integrated techniques, 2006
- Contemplatio per nexus, op. 77; composition for integrated techniques, 2007–8
- Torment Of Naissance, op. 79, suite for integrated techniques, 2007
- Epidemic Mind, op.81, experimental electronic work, 2008
- Tobruk, op. 82, conceptual work, originally soundtrack, 2008
- Markéta, the daughter of Lazar, op. 85, conceptual work, originally stage play soundtrack, 2009
- Horae, op. 89, extensive composition for organ and integrated techniques, 2011
- Axonal Transit, Symphony No.5, op. 92, for integrated techniques, 2012
- Craving Urania, op. 95, composition for integrated techniques, 2014
- Do Not Let Us Perish (St.Wenceslaus), op. 96, composition for integrated techniques, 2015
- Synthetics – Themes, MC, D.M.R. 1987, (reedition CDr, CatchArrow Recordings 1999)
- Organ Pieces, MC, D.M.R. 1991, (reedition CDr, CatchArrow Recordings 2001)
- Out Of Your Objects, 1993, digitally released by LBA Records in 2011
- Cruci-Fiction (Der Marabu)”, MC, D,M,R,, 1994, (reedition CDr, CatchArrow Recordings 2000)
- There´s No Human Triumph”, CDr, CatchArrow Recordings, 1996
- All Of Us Will Fall Away” (Der Marabu), CDr, CatchArrow Recordings, 1996
- Casual Crime, CDr, CatchArrow Recordings, 1998
- Martyria (Skrol), 10´´, Loki Foundation (Power & Steel), 1999
- Heretical Antiphony (Skrol), CD, M.D.Propaganda, 1999
- Dreams Of Awakening, CD, CatchArrow Recordings, 1999
- Field Mass, (Aghiatrias) CDr, CatchArrow Recordings, 1999
- Geometrie nevědomí (Zygote), CDr, CatchArrow Recordings, 2000
- Insomnia Dei (Skrol), CD, RRRecords, 2001
- Epidaemia Vanitatis (Aghiatrias), CD, Integrated Music Records, 2002
- Symphony no.2 & 3, CDr, CatchArrow Recordings, 2003
- Regions Of Limen (Aghiatrias), Epidemie Records, 2004
- Fragments, thèmes et images scéniques, CDr, CatchArrow Recordings, 2005
- Dances & Marches For The Orphan Age (Skrol), CD, Dagaz Music, 2005
- Sense Geometry, CD, Ars Benevola Mater, 2006
- Ethos (Aghiatrias), Epidemie Records, 2006
- Torment Of Naissance, CDr, Integrated Music Records, 2007
- Reliquary (Aghiatrias), CDr, Integrated Music Records, 2007
- Concert industriel pour orgue, CD, Ars Benevola Mater, 2007
- Epidemic Mind, CDr, Integrated Music Records, 2008
- Symphony No.4 Descent From The Cross, CD, Ars Benevola Mater, 2008
- Tobruk, CDr, CatchArrow Recordings, 2008
- Exorcisms, CD, Ars Benevola Mater, 2008
- Nonterra, CD, Ars Benevola Mater, 2008
- Les scènes ardentes, CD, Ars Benevola Mater, 2009
- Contemplatio per nexus, CD, Ars Benevola Mater, 2009
- New Laws, New Orders (Skrol), CD, Twilight Records, 2009
- Graue Passion, CD, Ars Benevola Mater, 2009
- Underlying Scapes, CD, Ars Benevola Mater, 2009
- The Assent to Paradoxon, 8 CD, Ars Benevola Mater, 2010 (collection of works)
- Cryptosynaxis, DVD, Integrated Music Records/ARM, 2010
- Markéta, the daughter of Lazar, CDr, Integrated Music Records, 2010
- Luminar Ax (Luminar Ax), digital release, LBA Records, 2011
- Endoanathymia, CDr, Integrated Music Records, 2011
- Missa Armata . Invocationes, CD, Ars Benevola Mater, 2012
- Epidemic Mind, Surrism-Phonoethics, digital, 2013
- Selected Organ & Piano Works, Integrated Music Records, Surrism-Phonoethics, 2CD & digital, 2013
- Elysium (Tiria), LBA Composers, USA, CD & digital, 2013
- The Sheep Barn Entertainment (Subpop Squeeze), Alkemy Brothers (Black Work), USA, digital release, 2014
- Axonal Transit, (album content two works: "Axonal Transit", subtitled "Symphony no.5" and "Craving Urania"), Integrated Music Records, CDr, 2014
- Organ Concerto No.2 "Horae", SuRRism-Phoethics, digital, 2015
- Anacreontics (Subpop Squeeze), op.94, conceptual album, E-Klageto (division of PsychKG), CD, 2017
- Thorak (Skrol - Ewigkeit ), CD, VAWS, 1998
- Ten Years Of Madness – Behind The Iron Curtain (Skrol - Fall A Prey), 2CD, Achtung Baby!, 2000
- A Rainy November Day In Wroclaw (Aghiatrias - Syncrasia), CD, Ars Benevola Mater, 2004
- Glass Anvil II. (Hermeneutic Crc.4), CDr, Zvukovina, 2009
- Why I Remember (Nenia), Hypnotic Dirge Records, 2 CDr, 2009
- Icy Breath On Burning Flesh – Douche Froide Series Vol. I (Exegete #2), CD, Douche Froide, 2010
- Peak the Source Vol.1 (Aghiatrias - Soul Eater Codex), Surrism-Phonoethics sPE_0100, digital, 2011
- Wroclaw Industrial Festival - 10th Anniversary Compilation (Skrol - Dei Irae II),2CD, Bleak 2011
- Saur Maas (Iscariot), digital, Kalpamantra 2011
- Audio Assault Part One (Consolatrix II), digital, Kalpamantra 2011
- Jaan Patterson & Friends (Chamber of Delusion), digital, Surrism-Phonoethics 2015
- Necktar Volume 6 (Aghiatrias - Electroaxon), digital compialtion, Murmure Intemporel, 2017