Songs for Vaclav Havel


"Songs for Vaclav Havel" is a rock song cycle inspired by the life and writings of the Czech playwright and president Vaclav Havel and composed by William Niederkorn for the Havel Festival, which took place in New York City from October to December 2006 and featured all of the existing plays of Vaclav Havel that he had written up to that time: 18 plays in all.


The festival was organized by Untitled Theater Company #61, Edward Einhorn artistic director.


The songs were recorded by the Mendoza Line, a rock band from Brooklyn. Here are the personnel for these sessions, recorded at the bunker in Brooklyn under the supervision of Adam D. Gold: Shannon McArdle, vocals on all songs except "Hey There, Buddy!"; Timothy Bracy, vocal on "Hey There, Buddy!"; Adam D. Gold, drums, co-vocal on "Letter to Olga" and various other instruments throughout; Clint Newman, lead guitar; and Federico Bortoletto, bass guitar.


Some of these recordings were used as theme music for productions of four plays in the festival: "The Increased Difficulty of Concentration," produced by True Comedy Theatre Company and directed by Yolanda Hawkins; "Audience" and "The Memo," produced by Untitled Theatre Company #61 and directed by Edward Einhorn; and "Motormorphosis," produced by the Evolve Company and directed by Tanya Khordoc and Barry Weil. All four of these Havel Festival productions also used the entire album as "house music," played as the audience arrived, during intermissions, and after the performances.


Many of the songs were also used as incidental music in True Comedy's production of "The Increased Difficulty of Concentration," and will be featured again when a new True Comedy production of the play opens the fall season for the Theatre Project in Baltimore, with performances Oct. 25-28 and Nov. 1-4, 2007.


About a third of the songs were themes for specific plays, another third were ballads about Havel's life, and the rest had lyrics derived from texts by Havel, using his own exact words when possible.


The music is written in the style of 1960s underground rock. The underground rock scene of the mid- to late '60s played an important role in the Czechoslovak revolution. The Czech band Plastic People of the Universe and the bands whose music they played -- notably Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground, the Fugs, and Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention -- all have an important place in recent Czech history.


In the underground spirit of Havel and the rock music of that era, the "Songs for Vaclav Havel" are presented here with mp3s of the Mendoza Line recordings as well as full scores and lyrics. The mp3s are free for the listening, and the lyrics or the scores are provided so that listeners can follow along if they wish.


Rock bands everywhere are invited to download the scores, record the songs and send mp3s of their recordings to True Comedy Theater Company at to be added to this page. For questions about any other use of the music, contact William Niederkorn at


For a suggested donation of $1 a song, made to payable to True Comedy Theatre Company, the mp3s can also be downloaded, by right clicking on the mp3 links. Donations can be sent via PayPal to or by check payable to True Comedy Theatre Company and addressed to the company at 212 East 13th Street #4A, New York, NY 10003, U.S.A.


These donations will be used as follows: one-third of the total donations will be used to pay the artists, one-third will go to the Dagmar and Vaclav Havel Foundation VIZE 97, and one-third will be used for the general purposes of True Comedy Theatre Company, a 501(c)3 nonprofit tax-exempt corporation incorporated in the state of New York for the purpose of producing original plays and performance artworks. Contributions are fully tax deductible to the extent allowed by law.


1. Belohradsky's Idea

2. The Ballad of Havel's Literary Debut

3. Some of Havel's Ideas About Systems

4. When You're an Automobile (Theme for "Motormorphosis")

5. Ballad of the Plastic People of the Universe

6. What Can You Do?

7. Increased Difficulty (Theme for "The Increased Difficulty of Concentration")

8. The Memorandum (Theme for "The Memo")

9. Hey There, Buddy! (Theme for "Audience")

10. Someone Somewhat Like You (Theme for "Mountain Hotel")

11. Letter to Olga

12. The Meaning of Life

13. Some Kind of Social Awareness