double bassist // vocalist // composer // nature enthusiast
// Helen Svoboda is a double bassist, vocalist, composer, and nature-enthusiast.
‘With a deep awareness of extra-musical concepts that shape inventive improvisation, and great art.. ‘ (Steve Newcomb, AUS), she draws influence mainly from vegetables, flowers and the genres of minimalist neo-classical music to experimental jazz. With a steadfast ‘desire and ability to create and perform original music’ (Rafael Karlen, AUS), Svoboda has developed a distinctive sound across many different musical avenues. With a passion for unusual combinations of instrumentation, she is defined not by genre, but by her addiction to music and her love of exciting creative environments (both plant and non-plant related).
// Born into a family of classical musicians in Finland (1994), Svoboda grew up in Brisbane, Australia from the age of five, studying both classical piano and flute. Driven by the spontaneity of improvised music and the novelty of large wooden instruments, she later settled upon the double bass, graduating from the QLD Conservatorium of Music in 2015 (Bachelor of Advanced Jazz Performance) with a University Medal and First Class Honours.
// Fueled by strange sonic frequencies, Svoboda has released albums across a number of her own original projects to date: ambient, environmentally-themed alternative rock band The Biology of Plants (‘Vol. 1’ - Supersonic Records 2018 & 'Vol. 2' - Art as Catharsis 2019), the debut album of Meatshell - her experimental-folk duo with saxophonist Andrew Saragossi ('Afar' - Made Now Music JUNE 2019), minimalist chamber trio Helen Svoboda's Sprout (‘Hectic Moon’ 2018 & 'Sleep Architecture' 2019) and improvised piano trio Min/Svoboda/Hawkins ('Min/Svoboda/Hawkins' - 2018). // Most recent releases include AHA Trio's debut EP ('Against All Odds - Released November 2019), recorded in collaboration with saxophonist Andrew Saragossi and German drummer Andre van der Heide and an EP of her newly established duo Moon on Fire with Finnish vocalist Selma Savolainen.
Svoboda has also featured on albums across a range of other projects including experimental-post-rock-band Jive Canyon, Martin Kay’s animal-inspired-jazz-septet Forage, Caleb Colledge’s folk/spoken word album Yarns and a number of improvised trios including an upcoming collaborative release with Melbourne pianist Joseph O’Connor (Aus National Jazz Award Winner) and Timothy Green (drums). On a much smaller instrument, she also featured as flautist on the debut album of the Brisbane Conduction Orchestra, led by Benjamin Shannon.
// As a composer and musician, Svoboda channels the influence of some of her favourite artists including Charlie Haden, Tigran Hamasyan, Debussy and Phillip Glass… ‘largely inspired by minimalism, her pieces feature energy and momentum from the bubbling rhythmic and melodic patterns; always familiar, yet never exactly the same’ (CutCommon, AUS). She has written works for a number of ensembles other than her own, including 'Space Junk’ which was performed at the Adelaide International Guitar Festival (2018) by 28-piece classical guitar orchestra Aurora Guitar Ensemble, and ‘Eavesdropping’ - a commissioned work as part of the Trading Fours project (QLD Conservatorium of Music) in which she translated elements of coffee addiction into a three-part suite for jazz sextet (premiered October 2019). Most recently she was also commissioned to write and perform a piece specifically for the Dutch coffee roastery Blanche Dahl, as part of a private showcase for thirty local baristas.
// As an ‘indispensible part of the Brisbane jazz, improvised and experimental music scenes’ (Erik Griswold, AUS), Svoboda has performed with artists including Joe Chindamo (MO Award Winner), Emma Pask, Steve Newcomb, John Hoffman, Kristin Berardi (Montreux Jazz Festival Vocal Competition Winner), Katie Noonan (ARIA Award Winner), Cory Smythe (NYC), Sebastian Gramss (Cologne), Isabelle Duthoit (France)/Frans Hautzinger (Austria), Clare Bowditch and Christian Meeas Svendsen (Norway). // She has performed at venues including the Brisbane Powerhouse, The Tivoli, Jazzlab (Melbourne), La Bonbonniere (Maastricht) and MONA (Museum of Old and New Art - Tasmania; as part of the Australian Art Orchestra’s Creative Intensive in 2017). // Festival experience includes the Brisbane International Jazz Festival, Queensland Music Festival, Woodford Folk Festival, WE Festival (Maastricht), Hasselt Jazz Festival (Belgium) and Clocked Out’s Easter @ The Piano Mill (Stanthorpe), where she performed site-specific improvisation responding to the natural environment.
// With a strong connection to her European roots, Svoboda is currently based in the Netherlands studying a Masters of Music at Conservatorium Maastricht under Matthias Nowak, John Goldsby (WDR Big Band), Sebastian Gramss (Cologne), Robert Landfermann (Cologne) and Dieter Manderscheid (Cologne). With a focus on soloistic double bass techniques and performance, her solo-project Helen Svoboda's Vegetable-Bass is focused specifically on the intricate combination of the voice and the contemporary sound world of the double bass.
Svoboda recently returned from an Australian tour in June-July 2019 to launch her newest releases across the east coast - specifically Vol. 2 from 'The Biology of Plants' (recent winners of the QLD MUSIC AWARDS 2019), Sleep Architecture from Helen Svoboda's SPROUT & Afar from 'Meatshell'. Before returning Europe she also attended the renowned BANFF International Workshop for Creative and Improvised Music in August 2019, under the mentorship of Tyshawn Sorey and Vijay Iyer.
// MEATSHELL is the experimental-folk duo of Helen Svoboda (contrabass/voice) and Andrew Saragossi (tenor saxophone). The name encompasses the physicality, intensity and vulnerability of playing with two. With a shared curiosity for the subtle beauty of things, the pair combines traditional song forms and unconventional instrumental techniques, emphasising the power of story-telling through sound.
// Debut album AFAR available HERE
Helen Svoboda's Vegetable-Bass
Vegetable-Bass is Svoboda's newest solo musical exploration, in which she intends to normalise a variety of different extended techniques on the double bass through the mediums of composition, with inclusion of the voice. Currently based in the Netherlands, she is constantly taking in new concepts and ideas surrounding her travels, channeling these newfound sounds into her instrument. ... And you guessed it - each piece is specifically written about a vegetable, because vegetables are the foundation of wellbeing and happiness. //
--- Vegetable Bass Blog ---
Do you like vegetables as much as I do?
If so, follow my vegetable-bass blog here:
Album due for release in 2020. ~
The Biology of Plants
Inspired by the likes of Sigur Ros, Tigran Hamasyan, Phillip Glass, Bela Bartok, Bon Iver and even Tool, The Biology of Plants take the skills of two classically trained musicians next to two jazz educated performers to create a platform where both can shine. The resulting music lies on the precise side of experimentation – each song a masterpiece of instrumental expression.
Recently named the QLD Music Award Winners 2019 !!!
"The Biology of Plants is literally that. The manifestation of biologically sound vibrations. An experimental trip into the sphere of natural textures and the cyclical nature of planet earth. You can run, but you can't hide."
--- Santa Rosa Records, TEXAS
// AHA Trio is the chordless-experimental-jazz-trio of Andrew Saragossi (tenor saxophone - Greece/Australia), Helen Svoboda (contrabass & vocals - Finland/Australia) and André van der Heide (drums - Germany/Netherlands). With a common passion for spontaneous explorations of strange melodies, their music is focused distinctly on freedom and uninhibited interaction.
Debut Album 'Against All Odds' Available HERE
Moon on Fire
// Moon on Fire ~~Two earthlings united by their shared Finnish Oddity, Selma Savolainen (voice) and Helen Svoboda (voice/double bass) create sound inspired by human emotion and the all-encompassing peculiarity of everyday life. Based between Finland and the Netherlands, the duo met at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. This is just the beginning. ///
Debut EP 'Banff Sessions' releasing HERE Nov 1st 2019
Helen Svoboda's SPROUT
"This lovely chamber jazz session from double-bassist Helen Svoboda, pianist Sophie Min, and cellist Simon Svoboda is meant to capture the emotional expanse of a dream. The expressions slip into turbulence and volatility as naturally as they do those of tranquility and ease, but never stray very far from serenity.
- Dave Sumner.
// Sophie Min
// Helen Svoboda
// Lachlan Hawkins