Maciej Rychły is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, arranger, writer and cultural anthropologist. He was born on 27th August 1957, in Poznań.
He studied at the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, where he later lectured in the Social Sciences department. He decided to resign from his academic career to devote himself fully to his music and cultural searches. In his own words:
I hit the road to search for encounters and sounds.
He travelled through the Polish, Ukrainian and Balkan Carpathian Mountains, making friends with folk artists and discovering the richness of these regions' highly original culture. These first expeditions resulted in the formation of his first band – Jorgi Quartet, which is still going today. Yet it was not only the music of Poland and Ukraine that inspired Rychły and his fellow musicians. Their music has strong Celtic roots as well as inspiration from African, classical and jazz music. This is why Jorgi Quartet’s music is impossible to pigeonhole. Maciej Rychły described it as ‘green music’ or ‘music of the green wave’.
At that time there was only one music group which cultivated a similar aesthetic – Osjan. However, it wasn’t until the appearance of Jorgi Quartet that more interest in this field, today known as roots music, became more widespread. These were the very beginnings of contemporary folk music in Poland. Although Rychły founded his band in 1982, their debut at the Mrągowo Country Picnic Festival in 1984 is regarded as the real beginning of their official existence. Rychły said many years later:
Soon, the word spread - ‘Jorgi was the revelation of Country Picnic even though they played oberek (a Polish folk dance)!’ In those days, to record an album, you had to have the approval of the booksellers, what meant that albums had to surpass the magical barrier of sixteen thousands copies sold, so that the income could balance the costs. We made it! As the first Polish folk band in history. A band that doesn’t sing songs but plays instrumental themes from Slavic and Irish cultures.
Although at the beginning Jorgi Quartet’s music was dominated by Celtic melodies, Maciej Rychły started introducing elements of classical music into their sphere of inspiration. Soon, motives taken from the music of Fryderyk Chopin, Karol Szymanowski or Witold Lutosławski became integral parts of their albums. In the late 1980s and early 1990s Jorgi Quartet further broadened its musical inspiration. They reached for the sounds of Hutsulshchyna, Egypt and Greece, which was a result of the band’s subsequent journeys.
In 1988 Jorgi Quartet carried out an artistic experiment. They recorded an album in Biskupin [the oldest fortified settlement discovered on the lands of present day Poland].
Why Biskupin? It’s easy. It was all about breathing deeper. We wanted to look at the opposite shore of the lake and recall primeval times, in the Polish Pompeii…
Their cooperation with Włodzimierz Staniewski, the director of the European Centre for Theatre Practices Gardzienice was the capstone of their “travels in time”. Jorgi Quartet created music for the celebrated show Metamorphosis, based on Apuleius' work of the same name. For the purpose of this cooperation they changed their name to Antique Orchestra and released an album under this pseudonym.
Maciej Rychły has a prolific history of working with theatre creators. Since 1988, he has cooperated with theatres in Legnica, Zakopane and Theatrical Society Wierszalin in Supraśl as well as puppet theatres in Poznań and Warsaw. The music of Maciej Rychły and his group has been used in numerous films, and they composed music for 45 episodes of the radio series Jesus from Nazareth by Roman Brandsaetter. He has also been a music consultant for Gardzienice since 1991.
Maciej Rychły performs with his band all over the world. The Jorgi Quartet has performed at the most prestigious festivals in Germany (Tazn und Folkfest, 1991), Venezuela (Caracas, 1991), Great Britain (Festival of European Broadcasters Union, 1992), France (Musique Traditionelle en Neoulles, 1992), and Ireland (Big Flute Dynamite, Festival of Flutes respectively 1995, 1996).
Maciej Rychły is not only a composer and instrumentalist. For years, he has collected folk woodwinds and has been working on reconstructions of early-medieval aerophones since 1985. The results of his research have been regularly published in the Polish Academy of Sciences’ publications. His biggest achievement in this field is a successful reconstruction of an ancient woodwind instrument – the litophone. He made it together with Witold Migalski using a plan of the instrument acquired from the Museum of Man in Paris. They worked in a medieval flint mine and used only prehistoric technology: stone and bone tools.
I have the feeling that something very important is fading from our culture, something that shall not be forgotten. When I play those instruments I feel that I am close to the roots. (…) I visited many archaeologists because I was interested in what is dug out of the ground (…) Only by investigating into the structure of ancient instruments can I discover harmonies which existed before the tyranny of the tempered ‘piano’ scale which, with the mass production of instruments, seems to be something inevitable – said Maciej Rychły in 1999, in the interview in Czas Kultury magazine.
Beside his musical and scientific work, Maciej Rychły engages in various educational projects. The Jorgi Quartet takes part in Prosimfonia – a cycle of concerts/lessons organized nationwide at primary and high schools, while Maciej Rychły created a series of programmes about traditional music for National Radio II.
● 1985 - Life Kwartet Jorgi / Life Jorgi Quartet, Pronit
● 1985 - Kwartet Jorgi / Jorgi Quartet, Pronit
● 1988 - Kwartet Jorgi vol. 1 (tzw. biskupińska) / Jorgi Quartet vol. 1 (from Biskupin), Polskie Nagrania
● 1991 - Kwartet Jorgi / Jorgi Quartet, JAM
● 1991 - To i Tao, JAM
● 1992 - Kwartet Jorgi vol. 1 i 2 / Jorgi Quartet vol. 1 & 2 (from Biskupin), Polskie Nagrania
● 1994 - Gędźbowa knieja, Kamahuk
● 1994 - Quartet - płyty 1 i 2 / Quartet – CDs 1 & 2
● 1995 - Jorgi - Chopin / Jorgi Chopin Polskie Radio
● 2000 - Muzyka na trąbkę, gitarę i flet / Music for trumpet, guitar and flute, Folk Magazine
● 2000 - Orkiestra Antyczna: Altmaster, Gardzienice "Metamorfozy - Music of Ancient Greece", Antique Orchestra: Altmaster, Gardzienice ‘Metamorphosis – Music of Ancient Greece, Altmaster
● 2002 - Muzyka na trąbkę, gitarę i flet / Music for trumpet, guitar and flute, Orange World
● 2003 - Orkiestra Antyczna: Homini, John Landels - Muzyka starożytnej Grecji i Rzymu / Antique Orchestra – Music of Ancient Greece, Homini
Author: Tomasz Mościcki, czerwiec 2011, Translated with edits by W.O., April 2014.