PRES Sampling #1 – Wojciech Kucharczyk
full-width, PRES Sampling #1
– Wojciech Kucharczyk, Wojciech Kucharczyk, photo: Jadwiga Janowska / Ultramaryna, center, kucharczyk_fot_jadwiga_janowska_ultramaryna.jpg
The highly-respected electronic musician Wojciech Kucharczyk has been making new music based on samples from the Polish Radio Experimental Studio. Culture.pl’s Filip Lech talks to him about his relationship with the legendary institution.
In 2018, the Adam Mickiewicz Institute and Ableton created a library of samples based on the archive of recordings made in the Polish Radio Experimental Studio (PRES). So far, sounds created by Elżbieta Sikora, Krzysztof Knittel and Ryszard Szeremeta have been used by over 20,000 music producers from around the globe. In May 2019, the Adam Mickiewicz Institute together with the British music magazine The Quietus even announced a competition for compositions using the PRES samples.
As part of the 100th anniversary of Poland’s regaining of independence, the Adam Mickiewicz Institute commissioned compositions based on the PRES samples. Wojciech Kucharczyk was among the artists invited to participate in the project, as were Natalia Zamilska, A_gim and the legendary German duo Mouse on Mars. All their tracks will be soon available to listen to on Culture.pl and on The Quietus website.
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Bolero La Raye was composed by Wojciech Kucharczyk, the creator of a couple of dozen of albums recorded under his own name, numerous stage names (The Complainer, *retro*sex*galaxy) and with various bands (Mołr Drammaz, HWDJazz). In 1995, he founded the record label Mik Musik which attempts to enliven the Polish independent music stage by introducing new and exciting sounds. Kucharczyk is also the curator of the Carbon stage during the Nowa Muzyka Festival in Katowice. In 2019, the stage will feature artists from Europe, Asia, Africa and both Americas (including Fatima al Qadiri and the Oramics collective).
Filip Lech: What was your first encounter with the music of Polish Radio Experimental Studio?
Wojciech Kucharczyk: It must’ve been some cartoons I saw as a kid in the 1970s. Or maybe some animation by Jan Lenica? I learned only years later that those movies used sounds recorded in PRES. These works are difficult to forget. I remember that the ‘weird’ music in movies drew my attention even when I was a child. I started to consciously listen to this music only in 2010 when Bôłt Records started to publish, popularise, and you could even say uncover the studio’s archives. Many of the records from the Polish Radio Experimental Studio album series occupy an important place in my collection.
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FL: Is the ethos of experiment dear to you? How is electronic music experimental in 2019?
WK: The ethos of experiment is dear to me in the sense that I try fulfil my ideas using all the means available to me. I don’t care whether anybody likes it or not.
And what are experiments today? I honestly have no idea. I think that nowadays it’s just another label applied to some records. Many artists brag about their experimentality, the critics sometimes describe something as an experiment, but I think that everything’s been done already. There’s nothing you can experiment on. Careful work on one’s vision is a lot more successful – any artform will find its audience. The ‘experiment’ found in the name of the Warsaw studio is something from the past. Back then, experimenting was a part of reality, all the things we use today had to be discovered. I obviously don’t want to say that there’s no room for expansion today, for new discoveries. It’s just happening on different levels.
FL: Is PRES music outdated or does it sound modern?
WK: I don’t know all the recordings from PRES, but those I can place sound like something from their era. But it really doesn’t matter today, with the more non-linear way of listening to music and of studying its history. Many current artists stylise their recordings to sound like something from previous periods, they use retro-vintage instruments (sometimes by plugging them into new inventions). The music of the PRES sounds very nice and that’s enough.
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FL: What meaning does the history and tradition of electronic music have for you? Do you refer to the past in your music?
WK: It’s all part of the context. I make references to history by choosing instruments and sounds in relation to what I’m trying to say. In one track on the new album from the band Mołr Drammaz, I used two samples from the PRES library. But is anybody able to decipher their origin and the context in which they were created?
FL: Which PRES artist is your favourite?
WK: I probably won’t be original – Eugeniusz Rudnik. He was the funniest, most absurd and, at the same time, the most communicative of them.
FL: What is your favourite song from the Warsaw’s Studio?
WK: I really like coming back to Rudnik’s radio play about General Mirosław Hermaszewski – Polak Melduje z Kosmosu (1978). The album Pole Reports from Space, which is devoted to the outer space, from Bôłt’s PRES series is my favourite.
FL: Which sound from the PRES sample library was the most to your taste?
WK: The one I used to build the main riff that’s the basis of my Bolero La Rave. It’s a ‘SZ MED’ sound package. SZ meant Ryszard Szeremeta. I used many samples in my composition, probably around 30. They provide wide and undiscovered possibilities. Imagination is the limit. And they don’t necessarily have to work with retro-stylised recordings, the effect can be completely modern and up-to-date.
I’m interested in the alchemical aspect of using samples. You have to know when to use ‘no name royalty free generic’ fragments and when to turn to something with its own history, such as the samples from the PRES. It really matters for me what and from what I sample, it really builds the content of the composition, even if the sample ends up reworked and impossible to distinguish.
Interview originally conducted in Polish, April 2019; translated by MW, May 2019
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