Miro Tóth is a Prague-based Slovak composer, improvisor, and saxophonist who effortlessly moves between genres. He recently premiered his composition Black Angels Songs, Book 1, commissioned by the Kronos Quartet, inspired by the famous George Crumb piece. He created (among other music theater works) a series of operas called Trilogy of the Rod in which a rod – an actual stick – becomes a kind of monolith vested with the absurd power of public officials. He’s also known as a film composer. On the other hand, he stood at the founding of an improvisation scene in Slovakia some fifteen years ago and has performed as a saxophone and vocal improvisor, in genres from jazz to free improvisation, across Central Europe. He is a tireless ensemble-founder – from our conversation I counted about five different ensembles he founded, focused on a range of different genres.
Miro was nice enough to speak English for most of the interview but we switch to Czech and Slovak in the last third of the interview, which is also when the most interesting conversation happens. I try dub over this to convey our conversation – for anglophone people it’s a kind of peek into a foreign culture and language.
Miro and I talk about how you must think of yourself as “nobody” in order to do your best work, the absurd power of public officials, the Czech new music scene, the Ostrava New Music Days festival without which the Czech New Music Scene wouldn’t be what it is, the cultural differences between Czechs and Slovaks, and the permeability of music genres, among other things.
Miro’s website: https://miro2toth.wixsite.com/home/bio
Music in this episode:
Black Angels Songs, Book 1 (Dystopic Requiem Quartet): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_01mC57j0sA
“Uprostred tmy,” Drť band: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJf265-LzUk
Improv w/ Toth/Mazur/Dymny, a Polish-Slovakian trio which forms part of the NewEast project establishing an improv scene in the former Soviet Block : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mf26CnMbLfw