Central Eastern Europe can boast a buzzing, ever-expanding music scene, with artists from the region traveling to the world's major festivals and touring the globe. With the fall of the Iron Curtain now seeming a very distant past, however, origins and roots of experimental music particular to nations once sealed off to international exchange are threatened with oblivion.
The Sound Exchange project, created at the initiave of the DOCK e.V. Berlin enterprise and the Goethe Institute, is tracing the history of experimental music in countries of the former communist block. Through 2011 and 2012, the cities of Kraków, Bratislava, Vilnius, Riga, Tallinn, Prague and Budapest have hosted a roster of events including concerts, workshops and lectures. The project traveled across Europe in cooperation with local partners. The Polish Sound Exchange Day took place in Kraków on the 28th of November, 2011, presenting experimental music from Poland and Slovakia.
Four days of the festival in Germany now crown a year's work, bringing together the fruit of the international exchanges conducted under local curatorship. The concerts and workshops are scattered across former East Germany.
Poland is represented by two distinct figures: Bogusław Schaeffer and Łukasz Szałankiewicz, aka Zenial.
Bogusław Schaeffer was born in 1929 in Lviv, and is a composer, musicologist, playwright and pedagogue. He is one of the most productive Polish musicians, and a renowned artist both in Poland and across Europe. In 1965 he began his cooperation with the Experimental Studio of the Polish Radio, and his Synthistory composition goes back to the period of Schaeffer's cooperation with the Radio. Synthistory was written in 1973 in Belgrade, as Schaeffer was invited to travel there by Vladanb Radonic, who was then running the Electronic Studio of Radio Beograd. It is a piece written for the legendary synthesizer Synthi 100, a huge and costly machine which was produced in numbers. At the time, the sound engineers of BBC Radiophonic Workshops and the composers of Koln's WDR Studio of Electronic Music were also using Synthi 100.
Łukasz Szałankiewicz is a historian, musician and a member of Poland's Association of Electro-acoustic Music. With Signalstory, he is taking up the challenge of performing Schaeffer's piece. The source of sound is an magnetic field, which the artist attempt to control with an array of walkmen. The base of the composition is a slowed down and mixed recording of Schaeffer's piece, and it serves as a base for Zenial's improvisation. The Schaeffer-Szalankiewicz performance takes place at the Weltecho cafe on the 16th of November, at 9 pm.
The Chemnitz festival also features a presentation of Latvia's post-industrial music scene, a special reactivation of the legendary Ornament&Verbrechen duo and Frank Bretschneider's piece which explores the Subharchord, an iconic German electronic instrument.
The Sound Exchange project has also released a book entitled The Anthology of Central-Eastern Europe's Experimental Music Scene 1950-2010'. Contemporary Polish music critics have made their contributions to the Anthology, which features texts by Antoni Beksiak, the curator of the internationl Tourning Sounds meetings, and Monika Pasiecznik, who is the author of Rytuał Superformuły (The Superformula Ritual), a book about the work of Karlheinz Stockhausen. The publication is available online in English at www.soundexchange.eu
Editor: SRS, based on the article by Filip Lech