PRES Sampling #5 – Skalpel
default, Skalpel in their studio in 2002, photo: Maciek Rudnicki, center, skalpel_w_roku_2000_02_foto_maciek_rudnicki.jpg
Igor Pudło of Skalpel talks about the ectoplasmic hauntology and conceptual worth of the music created by the Polish Radio Experimental Studio, while we listen to a Skalpel track based on PRES samples.
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 more than 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.
Skalpel is the duo Marcin Cichy (Meeting by Chance) and Igor Pudło (Igor Boxx) – music producer-searchers associated with jazz and electronic music, as well as hip-hop. In 2003, their released their debut EP on the legendary label Ninja Tune. In 2012, the duo created a series of recordings inspired by the music of Krzysztof Penderecki, Henryk Górecki and Witold Lutosławski, premiering them at the festival Sacrum Profanum with live support from the Kronos Quartet and artists from the Ninja Tune stable.
PRES Sampling #1 – Wojciech Kucharczyk
SEPR Sample #1 – Wojciech Kucharczyk
Wojciech Kucharczyk, who created this composition based on samplings of excerpts from songs created at the Polish Radio Experimental Studio, discusses his attitude towards this legendary institution.
Filip Lech: What was your first encounter with the music of the Polish Radio Experimental Studio?
Our first encounters must have been unconscious. In the 1970s and '80s, I listened to Polish Radio's popular science shows and audio dramas, which all had sound design done by PRES. Somewhere at the back of my mind, I recall a voice saying the program was recorded in the Experimental Studio.
The path to PRES was longer. In high school I had a friend who was interested in weird music and expanding his knowledge. We listened to recordings of performances at Warsaw Autumn together. Later, studying cultural studies, I read a copy of Bogusław Schaeffer's Dzieje Muzyki (History of Music). From there, I learned about musique concrète, Pierre Schaeffer's music and musings, live electronics and computer music. But all of this took place in the realm of the mind. Those were interesting times: first you learned about things in theory, looked at reproductions of CD covers, and imagined their sound. My conception of musique concrète came from The Beatles' Revolution 9.
I heard a real version of the music created by PRES when the production company OBUH, led by Wojciech Czerna, put out a copy of the music from Krzysztof Pendercki's film The Saragossa Manuscript. Then in 2008 Polish Radio released a box set of Eugeniusz Rudnik's compositions. After that I listened to music put out by Bôłt.
FL: Is the ethos of experiment dear to you? How is electronic music experimental in 2019?
Certainly, for many years it was dear to me. In front of me I have the newest copy of Gazeta Magnetofonowa (Tape Recorder Magazine), in which Jacek Sienkiewicz says: 'Every proficient DJ must be open to experiments'. I also used to be a DJ and during my first performance I experimented in mixing everything from Kraftwerk's Planet Rock to Afrika Bambaataa to Jean-Michel Jarre's Zoolook. It was a successful experiment, and I repeated it multiple times. Playing DJ sets with Marcin Cichy, we both tried to mix together unexpected things.
PRES Sampling #2 – A_GIM
SEPR Sample #2 – A_GIM
A_GIM, who created a techno piece using samples from the Polish Experimental Radio Studio, talks about the egalitarian nature of experimentation and thoughtful inspirations from the past.
One of our first songs, which we recorded at Skalpel, is titled Danger and refers to the excitement of experimenting. We were fascinated by DJ Vadim and his minimalist version of hip-hop inspired by experimental music. Vadim sampled songs such as Pierre Henry's Variations Pour une Porte et un Soupir (Variations for a Door and a Sigh). The guiding principle of the experiment was important for us and other similar artists who we were inspired by. Besides the whole technical aspect sampling was at that time an experimental field. We were fascinated by turntablism and scratching as types of musical experiments. Another one of our earlier songs was titled Laboratorium (Laboratory). It could be considered a manifestation of our program.
Nowadays, we focus on our style. By the beginning of the 21st century, experimental music had been drained of its energy. I would compare it to geographical discoveries – the largest landmasses had been discovered long ago. Maybe we need to go to space – we made the first step towards that more than 50 years ago... the musical equivalent of the man on the moon for me would be the golden years of the studio WARP.
My perspective toward experimenting would be in developing technology, rather music, which avoids passing through the ear canal. Maybe through the help of an implant, which sends signals to the brain? Or maybe a fully realised artificial intelligence will create something that philosophers of music could never have dreamed of?
FL: Is the music of PRES outdated or does it sound modern?
It sounds like a historical phenomenon. One doesn't get a sense of timelessness. It's decidedly embedded in a particular epoch and is a priceless point of reference.
PRES Sampling #3 – Bartosz Weber
SEPR Sample #3 – Bartosz Weber
This composition, based on samples cut from songs created at the Polish Radio Experimental Studio, was created by Bartosz Weber. Here, he discusses the fate of the sampler and how he understands musical experimentation.
FL: What meaning does the history and tradition of electronic music have for you? Do you refer to the past in your music?
If it didn't exist, the music that I make wouldn't exist. The development of electronic music could be called revolutionary in terms of cultural events. It was a rather niche event, but it influenced popular music as well. Many creators – ourselves included – looked throughout history to find ectoplasmic hauntology. For me and Marcina it was worthwhile as a raw source, especially at the beginning. Yet, it's not the sampled material that decides the form and style of music, but the creators. We control it, and can manipulate it at will.
Our song, which we created from samples from PRES, is titled 20 Years Later, 20 years after we started our search. You can hear minimal hip-hop, ambient and some additions of musique concrète. On top of that there's the scratching created on the Serato system. It's a song in the style of Skalpel.
FL: What is your favourite song from the Warsaw studio?
I don't have a favourite, I don't listen to this kind of music everyday. This kind of music has a more important meaning conceptually to me, and it provokes me to thinking. It's difficult, it's not easy to just listen to it. An emblematic track is Etiuda na Jedno Uderzenie w Talerz (Étude for One Strike on a Plate) by Włodzimierz Kotoński – it shows the conceptual nature of music perfectly . It's possible to talk about it, and sometimes, it doesn't need to be listened to.
FL: Which sound from the PRES sample library was the most to your taste?
All of the ones we used in our song. In general, it's a really good sample bank, which I plan to use further.
Interview conducted in Polish by Filip Lech, July 2019; translated by AZ & AZ, August 2019
PRES Sampling #4 – We Will Fail
SEPR Sample #4 – We Will Fail
Aleksandra Grünholz created 'We Will Fail', which presents her rhythmic impressions on the subject of the Polish Experimental Radio Studio.
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