Mushroom Love

Like many an eagle-eyed Czech, composer Václav Hálek was out in the woods on a recent afternoon, foraging for wild mushrooms. But their flavor was far from his mind — Hálek, 66, was after their sound. He found his quarry 10 minutes into his walk: a beautiful Fragile Russula with a purplish top. After a moment of prayer, he reached for a sheet of notepaper and wrote out a short piece for solo violin. "They are all compositions that in some way portray a particular mushroom," he says. As Hálek tells it, he transcribes music that emanates from the...

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