czwartek, 27 grudnia 2012

PRES Scores

PRES Scores

Bôłt. Polish Radio Experimental Studio, 2012 (2xCD)

Album dedicated to PRES pieces which were first of all conceived as scores.
Premiere: early January on Bôłt and Monotype

- Andrzej Dobrowolski, Music for Magnetic Tape and Piano Solo
CD 1: PRES version by Eugeniusz Rudnik (piano by Zygmunt Krauze)
CD 2: Bôłt commission by Wolfram (piano by Philip Zoubek)

- Włodzimierz Kotoński, Aela
CD 1: PRES version by Eugeniusz Rudnik
CD 2: Bôłt commission by Marion Wörle

- Bogusław Schaeffer, Symphony: Electronic Music
CD 1: PRES version by Bohdan Mazurek
CD 2: Bôłt commission by Thomas Lehn

- Włodzimierz Kotoński, Study for One Cymbal Stroke
CD 1: PRES version by Eugeniusz Rudnik
CD 2: Bôłt commission by Małe Instrumenty

- Andrzej Dobrowolski, Music for Magnetic Tape No.1
CD 1: PRES version by Eugeniusz Rudnik
CD 2: Bôłt commission by Arszyn & Piotr Kurek

- Krzysztof Penderecki, Psalmus
CD 1: PRES version by Eugeniusz Rudnik
CD 2: Bôłt commission by Lionel Marchetti


Why scores – now that electronic music enables the composer to directly shape the sound? Why scores – now that for the first time since the birth of the term “composer”, they finally don’t have to rely on performers? Why scores – now that the composers’ creation can be made available to the listeners precisely how they wish to?

These questions may seem valid now but less than half a century ago – when electronic music was being institutionalized – they seemed unnecessary at most and absurd at worst. The history of the Polish Radio Experimental Studio is a paradigmatic one. Its short “period of scores”, the first years of the above mentioned institutionalization as well as the first years of the Studio’s activity were influenced by the fact that there was a division into autonomic and utilitarian music; art music which deserved appropriate attention and illustrative music which was nothing more than a collection of sound effects; music written by composers and music that could be performed by sound engineers. It is impossible to count all pieces in the history of PRES that were based on more or less precise scores, at times being simply composition drafts. However, what we know is that in the first years of the Studio’s activity Józef Patkowski required scores to be provided together with theoretical explications as a condition of adding a particular piece to the archive. We also know that 7 of them were published by the PWM Edition. This album contains 5 of them. Having analyzed the official history of electronic music in Poland – music to be found in the official archives – in the first active years it was primarily composer’s pool. The “composer’s pool” meant the need of creating tools which would allow composers to communicate their visions to sound engineers who were supposed to produce them. This required creating or rather adjusting the notation system to new instruments and new sounds as well as to the new knowledge about the way they have been created. There appeared useful methods to visually represent electronic sounds. A perfect example would be classic geometric figures inscribed in time and frequency coordinates present in Stockhausen’s “Studie 2” – in Warsaw they were used by Włodzimierz Kotoński in his “Study for a Cymbal Stroke”. Nonetheless, notation of electronic sounds has never been standardized like classic notation. Scores written in the 1950’s or 1960’s rather resemble experiments with notation and are proofs of various electronic music composers’ interests and objectives.

Regardless of the motivation behind creating scores, from today’s point of view they are a fascinating chapter in the Studio’s history. Not only because of the insight into first attempts to write down electronic sounds, being a great material to analyze or displaying links between music and graphics. It is mainly due to the fact that even in those few published scores it is explicitly visible that their utilitarian functions were rapidly replaced with the experimental ones. Precision of communication between a composer and a sound engineer – noticeable in early Dobrowolski’s scores or Kotoński’s “Study…”– is quickly substituted by a tendency to experiment with this communication. As early as in 1964 Bogusław Schaeffer started working on a graphic score, full of new symbols which are well-defined by the author but which above all serve as tools of identifying the potential actions of the sound engineer. 6 years later Włodzimierz Kotoński composed a piece which de facto is deprived of graphic symbols. It is a text-score describing the most important principles of composing works which would create a family of electronic pieces called “Aela”. Even though the text is accompanied by a 19-page graphic score, it solely presents an exemplary production. It is probably not a coincidence that in this period the most significant sound engineers in the Studio – Eugeniusz Rudnik and Bohdan Mazurek – became rightful composers whose works were added to the archives. These few scores made it clear that the fact that composers naturally “passed” some responsibility for the final shape of the piece onto musicians was a perfect vehicle for experiments. Where would we find a better reflection of John Cage’s belief that it is impossible for a composer to foresee the outcome of experimental action? Having in mind the above definition, seemingly the most conservative Studio’s activity – writing scores – is the one that most clearly embodies its experimental nature.

The PRES Scores album is dedicated to the ambivalence of conservatism and experiment. Scores on paper are what the composer leaves behind and this way requires or at least allows subsequent realizations. Experimental scores, in my opinion, should at least allow experimental realizations. Here come some of them.

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