Atlantis/Hana a Petr Ulrychovi: Ticho (Trezor 1969/1990)

7 Jul

Something of an oddity from Hana & Petr Ulrychovi in this operatic and defiantly epic arrangement of a song with lyrics that are, to say the least, oblique. As always with material from this era, it’s likely that the obscurity is a deliberate strategy to evade censorship, though the song as a whole – musically, lyrically and in the film created around it on Czech TV in 1971 – is not dissimilar to equivalent efforts being made in the West at the same time, as psychedelia began to mutate into progressive rock and allusions to Homer’s Odyssey came to seem like suitable material for pop songs: it may be worth noting that Odessey & Oracle by The Zombies was released in Poland during 1968/9 and this may have reached Czechosovakia and have some loose bearing on the general sound and subject matter of Ticho. That title, Ticho (Silence), probably alludes to post-1968 censorship, though it’s not clear if this reading of the song had any relevance to Supraphon’s decision to shelve the record in 1969: given the existence of a TV version, perhaps not. That 1971 TV film can be seen here (though be warned that sound is only working in one channel) and the Czech lyric can be read here.

Ticho (Silence)

(after Petr Ulrych, 1969)

And I lock the door, huddle against a mound of tyres.
I pass into the cold light of a white place:
it is always quiet there when the snow lies soft.

Thoughts rush into pens like sheep; wastelands burn.
Snow steams as though the air is fried with words.
It is always quiet here when you talk too much.

And you express the sentiments, clench your teeth,
say desire is life and life desire. You’re whispering:
it is always quiet. Don’t speak until the snow is gone.

Do you hear the waves on the sea? The water is mercury,
splits against the axe-head on the prow of your boat:
it has a sound like love and death – a major chord.

And you’re going mad. You think he broke his head,
don’t understand why some men wanted blood?
Did you find in the silence something strong in you?

So you breathe: It is quiet here, it is always quiet.
(It always seems quiet here when the snow lies soft).
And you breathe: It is quiet here, it is always quiet.

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