Eugeniusz Rudnik turns 82 this year, and he also celebrates the 52nd anniversary of his creative and production work at the Experimental Studio of Polish Radio. It is thus a perfect moment for the release of his debut album.
Of course, Rudnik’s recordings were available to listeners earlier, since the Polish Radio released a four-volume monograph of his work in 2009. But in 2014, we are finally presented with the artist’s own album, which is largely comprised of completely new compositions. "Finally!" we are tempted to shout. In recents years, interest in artists connected to studios of experimental music – which was created throughout Poland from the 1960s – has been on the rise. Editions Mego has been releasing vinyl re-editions of pieces produced by the French Groupe de Recherches Musicales, and artists of the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop also have a new following of young fans. The time has now come for Rudnik, who is not only a living legend of electronic, tape and contemporary music, but has also continued to create new works. And, in spite of his faithful use of the same technologies, his style continues to evolve.
Erdada 80/50/39'40" for tape is accompanied by Rudnik’s following commentary:
The material consists of obvious rejects from over 40 years, which seem to be more beautiful today than the beauty I presented myself at that time…But I am not selling my inventory here, nor am I getting rid of material that just didn’t sell back in the day, it’s more like I am climbing through my cupboards because I want to show off creations of mine that I particularly like. Sometimes they are variations on my obsessive structures, which have been dragging behind me for my whole life There is no cure for this.
During half a century of work as a radio producer and composer, Rudnik conjured up his own musical language. It could be given the name of Rudnikian realism, and the author himself could be considered a historian who uses music in order to delve into and depict various tensions - the tensions between the human voice and the various sounds that surround us, as well as social, mythological, and aesthetic/technical tensions. And many others, including the erotic tension, which is very often emphasised by the author of Skalary. A brief course of history, compiled by Rudnik over the past decades, is presented to us in this album, which has recently been released by Requiem Records.
ERdada is almost an epic, and a homage to Rudnik’s own methods of working. It is a piece which is 39 minutes and 40 seconds long, and it was created by Rudnik in one day, from the bits of debris he collects (quoting the artist "I never throw out any papers. I have a certain respect for them - this is my peasant nature”). The piece is largely based on unused material for the 1971 piece called Divertimento.
Rudnik takes up phonemes, moans and strange grunts, as well as syllables torn out of speeches aired on the radio. We could very well see this as an erotophonic* impression, a mad game which has neither ending nor beginning. We always deal with the human voice in these pieces, yet we never encounter a clearly demarcated narrative – the wild turns in action are supplemented by a constant tension – just like the tape, which simply keeps on turning. We can hear the voices of Bernard Ładysz and Krzysztof Penderecki… Perhaps, if we can hear such serious people, then it means we should also take the whole piece seriously? Treating it, for example, as if it was a philosophic treatise, about the separation of voice from its bearer. Derrida says "My words are 'alive', because, as it seems, they don’t leave me". And what does Rudnik say?
''Erotophonia – is a term used by Eugeniusz Rudnik to describe the effect of certain transformations of the human voice, which are, to a certain extent, due to editing technologies. Rudnik notes that while working with the voice and ridding the words of their meaning – through editing, reversal, transposition, and looping which rhythmicises vowels – surprising effects which are evocative of an erotic encounter are achieved." (Daniel Muzyczuk in the book entitled "Studio Eksperyment. Leksykon'' released by the Bęc Zmiana foundation in 2012)
''I know about:
1. farming – I am a peasant
2. the war – I remember
3. latin liturgy – I was an acolyte
4. the army – I was a professional soldier
5. aviation – I am a glider pilot
6. prison – I was put away in 1952-53'' (E.R., the 1980s)."
Could Eugeniusz Rudnik compose in any other country than the communist Polish People’s Republic, and then, later, in the Third Republic?
Originally from the village of Nadkole by Liwiec, after the war the composer studied at the Military Academy of Technology, where he was trained by the "the best military officers and technicians of the army and the NKWD [Soviet secret police]". He abruptly broke off his studies after attacking one of the officers whilst under the influence of alcohol. He spent two years in prison for this, and this was, may we remind the reader, during the Stalinist period. During this time, he worked at the Dymitro mine. He found himself on the radio by chance, after he chatted up a guard with whom he felt he shared a "class bond” – he spotted the guard wear peasant shoes with boot-tops. Rudnik got a job at the administrative offices, and managed the work of physical labourers. Later, he went on a course on operating electroacoustic devices, and he took up a post a maintaining the radio equipment. In 1953, he was released from prison, and in 1959, he produced the piece by Włodzimierz Kotoński titled An Etude on One Hit of a Plate – an absolute icon of world electronic music.
Could a man with the such a biography detach himself from socially pertinent themes? Rudnik’s early works were a game with the convention. This man, who approached music in a intuitive way, worked with, and at times even aided and corrected, professionally educated composers. It is clear that he treats new music with a light sense of a distance, but at the same time, he also finds himself in this bubbling and crackling universe. Step by step, more distinct and readable elements surface in his music, with clear references to social and political issues.
His debut album presents us with the composition entitled Dzięcielina pałała [a quote from Mickiewicz’s verse, referring to "glowing clovers], an expression of his feelings for the countryside and for Mickiewicz. But there is also an additional meaning. Whether it is one added by history or by Rudnik, it’s hard to decide. The Polish Radio veteran constantly confabulates and creates myths, and let us be thankful for that.
I hereby once again make the reservation that although this is untrue, it’s an untruth which serves a truth of the higher order – the artistic truth, and the artist is entitled to this, it is even his duty, in addition to his full respect for any truth in general.
The composer decided to create his piece on tape on the 9th of April, 2010, which was one day before the catastrophic plane crash in Smolensk which turned all of Polish reality upside down. [A plane carrying an official government delegation crashed, killing all 96 people on board]. Let us not expect any funeral songs, Rudnik is not a fan of this genre. In Dzięcielina… we can hear many village songs juxtaposed with electronic crackling and noise, as well as quotes from Mickiewicz and Rudnik’s recordings.
Rudnik’s language is distinct in comparison with the language employed by many contemporary composers. It stands out with its sensitivity and its concreteness. Eugeniusz Rudnik touches the tape and he lets us hear every moment of contact with the magnetic sound medium – we can discern the pulls, jerks and the sounds of slowing down. When we sit in a philharmonic, it won’t be that often that we get to hear a moment when the composer stood over his score, thinking in desperation. Oh, I did forget to add that Rudnik never learned to read notes. Perhaps this is why his music is so universal.
Eugeniusz Rudnik, ERdada na taśmę (ERdada for tape), Requiem Records 2014.
Author: Filip Lech, translated by Paulina Schlosser, 6/05/2014
Sources: Bolesław Błaszczyk’s commentaries on Rudnik’s compositions included in the booklet of the Requiem Records album,''Rzęch, Bzdryngiel i Wysięk'', and interview with Rudnik conducted by Jędrzej Słodkowski for the Gazeta Wyborcza daily (02.04.2013), ''Studio Eksperyment. Leksykon'', Warsaw 2012.