If not obscure, then certainly under-appreciated, Zdenek Liska (1922-1983) was a brilliantly imaginative and sonically adventurous soundtrack composer. His work in Czech films from the 1950s through 70s is often stunning in its layering of sound, melody, and evocative texture; of assured traditional orchestral scoring and compelling, original electronics.
All of this is evident on the soundtrack for Karel Kachnyas 1976 film Malá Morská Víla (The Little Mermaid). Kachnya retells the Hans Christian Andersen fairy in a moody way that is both stark and epic, with an unforgettable attention to mythic archetypes and sensory detail. Liskas music is a crucial element in the films evocative power. The score conveys crashing waves and romantic passion via ever-shifting confluences of orchestral harmony, wordless choral washes, solo female song, percussive pulsing, and carefully scored oceanic white noise.
Unlike much film music, the Malá Morská Víla score remains compelling without the accompanying film. Liska weaves and blends melodic and textural motifs masterfully. The music by itself carries an engaging and satisfying sense of flow, event and narrative. This narrative and descriptive power in the music, along with its embodiment of forces in nature, might remind one of the great composers of classic movie-western scores the line that runs through Tiompkin, Elmer Bernstein, Morricone. And in common with those masters, Liska has a definite propensity for not only atmosphere, but memorable melody as well.
There are brief clips from Malá Morská Víla on YouTube. As short as they are, these glimpses offer a wonderful experience of what happens in the art of film when image and music come together with a collaborative perfection of seeing and listening.