Topolski bases his musical approach on improvisation and links between music and art in contexts related to the urban soundscape, from live electronic music to noise installations.
Innovative technologies form a major base of his craft, and he utilizes them in creating interactive programmes and sound installations that push musical boundaries. Performing as a solo artist under the name Arszyn, the 39-year-old artist focuses on percussion, electronics and electroacoustic music, drifting between ambient and noise.
Over the years, he has collaborated with a number of experimental bands, including Kobiety, Night Come, Red Rooster, Dzieci Kapitana Klossa and RogulusXSzwelas Project. He has joined up with Marcin Dymiter (guitar, electronics) for his latest projects, and the pair make music that mashes rock, blues, metal, punk and electronica with an improvisational twist. As Topolski explains, the idea was to create a musical form without stylistic barriers. Their latest album, Sonda, was deemed "overly experimental" by some critics after several singles were released digitally, then Topolski released the disc with the Audiotong label in Kraków in September 2011, determined to persevere with his vision.
He was artist-in-residence at Museumsquartier in Vienna in 2004, and has participated in international events and festivals including the Jazz and Experimental Music from Poland festival in 2011 and 2012. He went on tour with saxophonist Tomasz Duda across Europe, and with the Czech video artist Mrtin Blazick as part of the project Live Cinema Performance between 2008-2009. He has performed at St. John's Church in Gdańsk, presenting the strangely stirring multimedia concert per Gynt Troll Remix, together with the Hevelius Brass enesemble and Robert Sochacki. He also received a commission from Marseille's Radio Grenouille for an original composition and delivered Meat & Potatoes - a bare-bones take on the sort of music that makes Topolski tick. Topolski uses field recordings to find musical rhythms in everyday objects or activities, such as the preparation of a meal. He hosts lectures and workshops on the integration of media and art, placing music in various contexts and educating young people in recognising the sounds of the world around them.
Frequent collaborations with visual artists, including street artist Mariusz Waras, shed light on the artistic sphere of his activities. Together with Waras, he created an installation titled Factory at the CSW Znaki Czasu museum in Toruń in 2009. The work is an ironic commentary of the futile mechanisms of cultural policy, which makes a monumental impression by the sheer size of its institutions, but effect very little significant change. The three-dimensional architecture of an imagined factory built by Waras is filled with the clanking, unruly clangs and whirs of machines that work without cease and without any human assistance.He and his collaborators record the sounds of the streets in metropolises around the world, as in the project Audio Tourism. Kalingrad-Gdańsk and Natural, presented at Jazz and Experimental Music from Poland in autumn 2012. Natural is a collaboration between Topolski and Patrick Farmer and Kacper Ziemianin. Their efforts came together in a concert at the Hackney Cut in London, aiming to "re-create" the absent sounds of a modern city, of bustling streets and traffic, even of wild animals and insects.
As an independent recording artist published under the Arszyn moniker, he released the 2008 album Arszyn_Emigrant, which was received a great deal of enthusiasm from critics. Jakub Knera of the Gazeta Wyborcza daily called it "an incredible sound guide through the contemporary, big-city chaos. It also rubs against the anthropological doors of Polish emigrant society in London". Arszyn makes his way through the city as an inconspicuous observer, recording the sounds of squares, parks, shops, bus stops, metro stations. One can hear him stop by the railways station, the airport - everywhere where there are humans making noise. He comes close to these humans, even recording their voices in passing. The individual parts are composed as fully-formed structures and rather than take his recordings as samples and try to transfer them into melody, he presents them as they are, exactly as they sound to him as an emigrant in a big, bustling city like London.
As Arszyn himself explains about the project,
I started with the idea of a sound test of the levels of emigrant language. Language is alive, but how can it be recorded? It is hidden and intimate or it is the language of labour. I wasn't in London long. Once I spent about half a year there. Somewhere deep within I felt the need to visit the city again. (...) I recorded the soundscape of London, I was searching for hidden sounds and recorded the constant tumult of the big city pulsing with life. I met Poles who were living their and I recorded their stories. I asked them about how they perceived the city and themselves within it, what their lives looked like. I became an observer of the audiosphere and a pursuer of sounds.
His most recent album Polymer, a self-produced collaboration with keyboard player Tomasz Szwelnik, was released in 2012. The album was called an unbelievable journey by Stephan Moore of jazz music blog Jazzwrap. Moore reviews the first track on the record, Poly I, as it
builds slowly with pops and subtle percussion's and kit brushes until midway where Topolski and Szwelnik deliver an abstract exchange of ideas with broken chord changes and interesting sound effects, leaving you wondering if you are experiencing a performance by The Necks. It's fascinating material that later moves a series of nature sounds aided by some light strumming from Szwelnik on guitar. A quiet yet haunting conclusion to an opening movement.
See more on Krzysztof Topolski (Arszyn) at krzysztoftopolski.wordpress.com
Author: Agnieszka Le Nart
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