Robert Piotrowicz is a sound artist, composer, improviser, and co-founder of the Musica Genera festival and label.
Sound artist, composer, improviser, and co-founder of the Musica Genera festival and label.
Born in 1973, Piotrowicz has authored radio dramas, sound installations, and music for theatre productions. He has collaborated with many artists on various audio-visual performances. Apart from his solo albums, Piotrowicz’s discography includes music produced with C Spencer Yeh, Kevin Drumm, Jérôme Noetinger, Burkhard Stangle and Anna Zaradny. He has also collaborated with Oren Ambarchi, Lasse Marhaug and Zbigniew Karkowski. He regularly performs at numerous festivals around the world, and has given live performances in Europe, North and South America, Asia, and Australia.
The Beginnings: Hardcore punk and prepared guitar
He began his music adventure in the 80s, playing guitar in bands associated with Szczecin’s hardcore punk scene. In the 90s, he co-founded bands that today are almost forgotten, but at one time were quite prominent on the punk scene: crust-punk band Bomba w Torcie (Bomb in a Cake) and STUCKONCEILING, which evolved its initial hardcore style into music constantly exploring new sources of sound (at some point, the band was joined by Anna Zaradny). In following years, Piotrowicz focused more intensely on experimentation and improvisation. He gave many concerts, often accompanied by acclaimed artists from the electro-acoustic scene. Rafał Księżyk called his concerts “oppressively loud”, while Artur Nowak in Gazeta described his impressions from a concert as follows:
Robert. Latino macho look, but with dreadlocks to his waist, tracksuit, as if he has just returned from Jamaica. They play improvised music. Whatever that means. Ania has a laptop and an alto pipe, Robert plays guitar and analogue converters (including a mini oscillator and a ball of fabric). For most of the time, the guitar is lying on the table. Oh, and there is also a bow. Used in the conventional manner.
One of memorable concerts of Musica Genera, John Hegre from Jazzkamer breaks his guitar.
In 2002, together with Anna Zaradny, he established the Musica Genera festival, which resulted in Szczecin becoming a destination of annual pilgrimage for fans of the various styles of experimental music. Within a few years, Piotrowicz and Zaradny had invited artists from around the world, such as L Giuseppe Ielasi, Xavier Charles, Rhodriego Davies, John Butcher, Lionel Marchetti, Taku Sugimoto, Oren Ambarchi, Alessandro Bosetti, and Otomo Yoshihide, as well as representatives of the Polish scene: Zbigniew Karkowski Wolfram, Jacek Staniszewski, DJ Lenar, Michał Kupiszyn, Matylda Sałajewska, Macio Moretti, Elka Krajewska, and Zenial. From 2002 to 2008, the festival took place in Szczecin, however, its last edition was held in 2009 in the Dramatic Theatre in Warsaw.
Journeys of Rurokura
Piotrowicz released his first recordings under his own name only in 2003. It was a 3-inch CD under the intriguing title Rurokura meets Jelito (Rurokura Meets Intestine), on which one could hear quite static noises produced by an analogue synthesizer, not overwhelming with heaviness or momentum, which would change on his subsequent albums. Noise, which Piotrowicz creates, has never been noise alone; it is rather an unstructured set of information, flowing at a very fast pace. In his recordings, one can hear acute attentiveness with regard to timbre, or even to the whole wall of sounds and their modulation. This creates an impression of building suspense that may even resemble a fictional narrative composed of sounds or an imitation of physical phenomena. On The Path to the Death (2004), one can find more saturated and dramatic compositions which are expressively conducted. To the contrary, Lasting Clinamen (2008) is an album/monolith consisting of three tracks, the structure of which is very compact and static. The same cannot be said, however, about its vibrating sound, which is very organic and sensual.
Composing sound in a complex physical form allows one to achieve sensuality – said the artist in an interview with Piotr Tkacz. –Spatiality is also determined by movement; it creates an evolving body of sound. Experiencing such a phenomenon, which is structurally complex, affects not only on the level of hearing, but also the sense of touch; sometimes I feel that there are some kind of phantasmatic visions at play – not insane visions of the cosmos, or other favourite rhetorical figures of reviewers (insects, rain, night travel by car, awakening at dawn in a grey corner of Eastern Europe, as well as various forms of madness induced by music), but a certain structure, so suggestive that it almost takes shape.
The mysterious Rurokura appears throughout the subsequent works of the musician. In 2006, it was accompanied by a final warning (Rurokura and Final Warn, released by EMD Records). And three years later, on the seven-inch single produced by Stork Records, it examined (the invented) folk music of Eastern European. The single includes three miniatures, each of which Piotrowicz gave a title that creates a strange story – saturated with dates, places and people (Greek Catholic Stork Boy Choir Of Ozerki Village (Soldiers' Meeting, Autumn 1967); Mołomotki Ocarina Orchestra (Open Air Show, Spring 1928); and School Girl Band Of Gromovaya Balka (Performed On 10th Anniversary Of Death Of Emil Cioran). Ozerki is the name of many villages in Russia from Kursk to the Kamchatka; Mołomotki lies somewhere in the Mazovia region; Hromowa Bałka is located in Ukraine, near Krasnodar (at the time of writing, the city is located in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic). In other words, they are nowhere. To enthusiasts of Piotrowicz’s music, who are certainly educated frequenters of festivals of improvised music, these places seem unreal, as if belonging to the sphere of the imagination. If we knew that the non-existent school girls’ band from Hromowa Bałka, (where, in the winter of 1941, the collaborative branch of the SS-Wallonien fought a very bloody battle with soldiers of Red Army,) performed a song on the 10th anniversary of the death of Emil Cioran, which was later taken up by a Polish composer, would we be able to hear something more in the music itself? Certainly not, but in his works, Piotrowicz creates an atmosphere that stimulates listeners (and critics) to create such stories.
When Snakeboy is Dying and Lincoln Sea
When Snakeboy is Dying is a breakthrough album with regard to the sound of Piotrowicz’s compositions. For the first time, the musical material is not entirely based on electronics – acoustic instruments appear on the horizon. In addition to the modular synthesizer and various electronic effects, we can hear guitar (which is very close to Piotrowicz’s heart), piano and vibraphone. All instruments were recorded by the artist alone. "It has, of course, its limitations – I am not able to record the part of trombone" – says Piotrowicz. "I would gladly start working with other musicians, especially with those who play classical and old instruments. Such collaboration seems to be inevitable in the long term."
The album is divided into two parts – said the musician in an interview with Piotr Tkacz. – The first side is rather an emanation of the processes taking place in nature. It's a bit of an over-interpretation, but this side is more carnal, warmer, and due to its limitations, it is more welcoming. This quasi-tale is an account of a shapeless mass, of a state before creation, before it took on a shape; it is about the time of naiveté, the domain of the laws of nature. Perhaps the titular character is going through a series of revelations, he perceives processes and phenomena, and something is going on inside him. When a thought enters the amorphous state, it is followed by destruction, the state 'after' is the limit. I do not equate that with death, rather with time that has passed. This composition makes the hero of this album covered with the glory of consciousness.
- Robert Piotrowicz – Rurokura meets Jelito (Mini CD-R, Polycephal, 2003)
- Robert Piotrowicz / Burkhard Stangl / Anna Zaradny – Can't Illumination (CD, Musica Genera, 2003)
- Robert Piotrowicz – The Path To The Death (CD-R, Phase!, 2004)
- Robert Piotrowicz – Rurokura and Final Warn (CD, EMD Records, 2006)
- Robert Piotrowicz / Xavier Charles – /// (CD, EMD Records, 2006)
- Robert Piotrowicz – Lasting Clinamen (CD, Musica Genera, 2008)
- Robert Piotrowicz – Rurokura and Eastern European Folk Music Research vol.2 (7“, Bocian Records, 2009)
- Robert Piotrowicz / Carl Michael von Hausswolff – Split (LP, Bocian Records, 2010)
- Kevin Drumm / Jerome Noetinger / Robert Piotrowicz – Wrestling (7”, Bocian Records, 2011)
- Robert Piotrowicz / C. Spencer Yeh – AMBIENT (One Sided LP, Bocian Records , 2012)
- Robert Piotrowicz – When Snakeboy is Dying (LP, Musica Genera, 2013)
- Robert Piotrowicz – Lincoln Sea (LP, Musica Genera, 2013)
- The Audio Is (Sound Camp, Russia 2009)
- Prometeul (Transformator 2009, Lviv, Audio Art 2010, Kraków)
- Prometeul 2 (Skolska Gallery, Prague 2010)
- Unternal (Futurological Congres, Lviv 2010)
- Zmartwychwstanie (Resurrection) , Homage (2005 Szczecin)
- TOJTOJ (2006-2007)
- Summe von Nullen (2005 Vienna, 2010 Warsaw)
- Definition (2008, Club Transmediale, Berlin)
Music for theatre productions:
- Śmierć człowieka wiewiórki (The Death of Squirrel-man) ( dir. M. Liber usta usta/2xu Theatre, Warsaw 2006)
- Lastade ( Kana Theatre, Szczecin 2006)
- Cztery obrazy w przestrzeni (Four Images in the Space) (dir. J. Turkowski, I. Thormann, KanaTheatre, Szczecin 2008)
- Bóg/Honor/Ojczyzna: Katarzyna Medycejska (God, Honour, Homeland: Catherine de' Medici ( dir. M. Liber. usta usta/2xu Theatre , Legnica 2007)
- Herbert: Rekonstrukcja Poety (Herbert: Reconstruction of the Poet) ( dir. M. Liber. Nowy Theatre, Warsaw 2008)
Website of the artist: http://www.robertpiotrowicz.net
05.09.2014, opr. fl, transl. GS, 09.09.2014