czwartek, 30 grudnia 2010


Bôłt. Polish Radio Experimental Studio, 2010 (CD)

ZEITKRATZER transitions of

1. Dixi, Eugeniusz Rudnik
2. View from the window, Elżbieta Sikora
3. Low Sounds, Krzysztof Knittel
4. Icon (for tape), Denis Eberhard
5. Norcet, Krzysztof Knittel
6. Episodes, Bohdan Mazurek

Distribution: online by Monotype Records (roughly since mid-January 2010), music stores all over the world by Dux (roughly since mid-February 2010)


What is musique concrete but a dip into sound data? In an ongoing series of instrumental interpretations of electronic music – an hommage to Polish Experimental Studio – I don’t think we are doing anything else then this. Composers, improvisers, performers and organizers – each one of us starts with careful listening and then flies off with whatever his or her tools are – piece of paper, music instruments or laptop. But I do believe the kickoff point is the same place: „How did music originate? - Pierre Schaeffer asked himself. „Through bricolage, with calabashes, with fibres, as in Africa. […] and this bricolage, which is the development of music, is a process that is shaped by the human, the human ear, and not the machine, the mathematical system”. There is a tendency to think of musique concrete as an art of studio montage. But montage begins in an act of listening; listening to something which was already THERE. As Chris Cutler neatly put it – from a perspective of a tape, there is no difference between recorded train entering a station or a tape composition based on a recording of the train – it is a sensual, structured and fixed form. Concrete. The question is only – what else is THERE? And maybe one more - where to find now musique concrete outside of the studio?

Inviting zeitkratzer to perform pieces created in Polish Radio Experimental Studio was hoping for a completely different process than the one between London and Warsaw in 2009 [see: Bôłt BR ES01]. And a contradiction to my initial feeling that it was almost impossible to play the pieces live; that asking musicians to do that was like inviting them to a „wrong territory” where nothing could go right. With ten virtuoso musicians of zeitkratzer it was almost possible to perform the compositions. And in no way it was a wrong territory for them; they looked easy and confident. In situations like this, one is tempted to start the story of „why” and „how” was that possible. The circulating answers are not difficult to bring up. Electronic music with its entirely new sound world pushed musicians to work on their instruments in search for new sonorities. And not only sonorities – electronic textures turned the function of the instruments upside down: following them could mean that strings deliver groove and percussions make subtle solos on top of it. Finally, electronic music undermined compositional techniques and not only as far as sounds impossible to notate are concerned. It was also about shaping new structures – out of noise textures, for example. To put it short, electronic music made the instrumental one naked again. Which is only half way. Or even less than that. And possible to write down before going to Wigry in August 2010 to meet zeitkratzer.

Seeing them at work was a surprise. First, of course, because of how quick, precise and collectively collaborative they were. Second, because of the fact of a minor relevance maybe – at the very first listening they were already playing along with the pieces. But I do believe it is something more than just tuning in to the originals. Many days after everything was done, Agnieszka Tarasiuk told me about her conversation with Maurice de Martin. He was supposed to say that reworking of the electronic pieces presupposes forgetting them at certain point. That is partly what working by ears could mean, I guess – in contrast to reading the score. But maybe there is also another part to it – the fact that zeitkratzer’s versions are becoming covers in the most literal meaning of the word. This meaning is not playing the same pieces but in a different way. It is placing the originals underneath to forget them – making them mute but letting them shape the surface precisely. This is why an attempt to be as close as possible I find crucial here. For me, it is about trying to confine everything to the cover. Electronic music always takes a risk of having some strings attached; depth accessible only to its author, something to be revealed which is simply a black box of its making. You remember all the “new concepts of music making” and “new sonorities” from the interviews with composers, history books or passage above? With zeitkratzer – a question of the making is gone, despite the fact that you probably have no clue what kind of instrumental techniques were in use. The question disappears, I think, because the music has a live stamp on it; even if does not resemble anything else, it is practice – all handmade, on or rather in the cover, just as it is being done, almost visible or touchable as you hear it. You need no further excuse or insight. It is a truly surface music. And this is how, I guess, instrumental music can make the electronic one naked, again.

Instrumental but not acoustic. This is not an old argument of live VS manipulated. There is a pair of hands at work here which is slightly more difficult to hear. But it is through Ralf Meinz’s hands that you hear brass whispering breaths becoming howling bursts. Or strings bowing on bridge becoming moving rocks. You might get a slight taste of disorientation but given as (almost) natural. A truly acousmatic music? If so, it is because the electronic element – new sonorities, re-functioning of the instruments, bizarre textures – is transparent, with no content of its own. The only content is the surface of the instruments. “What is most deep is the skin”.

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