As with Europe's other amazing centers for the broadcast and creation of experimental music in the mid to latter 20th century, the secluded Polish Radio Experimental Studio (co-founded in 1957 by Józef Patkowski) was a home for local top seeds to push forward musical ideas and foster cultural growth. Wrapped up here in a generous package complete with 40 pages of history lessons, are seven works (of the 330 realized at PRES) of musique concrète plus a unique bonus: curious acoustic "covers" of these pieces by AMM members Eddie Prevost and John Tilbury, Phil Durrant on violin and Polish cellist and guitarist Mikolaj Palosz and Maciej Sledziecki (respectively); these "collaborations were framed by graphic scores based on the original recordings and prepared by Ukrainian sound artist Denis Kolokol".
The interesting trait in many of the original works is the composers' take on electroacoustic and otherwise Elektronik Musique: the overdubs and multi-tracking are used to augment — or reposition — the natural sound, like a magician's slight of hand on reality. As Michal Libera's liner notes outline, "...montage begins in the act of listening; listening to something which was already there..." From other included mission statements, the studio was embraced not to deconstruct and build a completely different language but to move beyond the techniques capable of human performers (with regard to Antiphona, essayist Boleslaw Blaszczyk explains that Bogusław Schaeffer, "is engaged in taking the maximum out of the vocal material while at the same time not being limited by the singers' real capabilities...") (How wonderful that the PRES now has a group of sensitive performers that can keep up!)
The double disc has an interesting impact when listened to in an A / B fashion. The ghostly choir and lingering, manipulated shadows of Antiphona are answered by Durrant, solo, spending long passages on single pitches with a meditative-yet-unruly use of dynamics and variations of attack. Anticipating the Clicks & Cuts generation by nearly thirty years, Eugeniusz Rudnik (the radical of the bunch) assembled Collage from "several clippings he found in the trash can" and noise coming off the Telefunken tube console. The piece proceeds gently, though anti-musical in a journey about the guts of electronic devices ("Microphone has no soul — it picks everything with equal pleasure", Rudnik writes); Pałosz and Śledziecki interpret their parts with barely-controlled amplified roars: Pałosz's metallic glissandi and bassy fingerings are set back in the mix while the guitarist shakes out feedback and wiggles the dirty spots in his instrument's tone pots. They also use transient FM radio waves, bringing them in and out of focus, placing them as one would flip from station to station; through the employ of a couple of sentences from an inane interview about the science of pop stardom, they make a statement about the composer's thoughts on "ignoble waste" as suitable musical materials. Tilbury replaces the stark, bionic voices in Penderecki's Psalmus with gamelan style preparations in the lower register for the first half, then moving to tender chordal waves on the other end of the keyboard, closing with a sudden blast of a police whistle.
The finale, the sixteen-minute Hommage To Bogusław Schaeffer's Symphony, might also be titled AMM and Musicians Who Can Keep Up With, Even Challenge, Current Members of AMM to Perform at the Most Excited Level They've Achieved For A While. Barring the extra-musical reason for the work, it's a fantastic display of sonic color and synergy where each man's specialties create a whole whose roots show and mark a to-be-continued ellipses for the interest in and future of the PRES.
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