Polish Radio Experimental Studio Eugeniusz RUDNIK (b.1932)
Birds and People (1992) [15:52] Krzysztof PENDERECKI (b.1933)
Basilisk Encounter (1961) [10:07]
Glass Enemy (1961) [11:00]
Left Home (1965) [13:46]
Painters of Gdansk (1964) [19:40]
Polish Ballad (1964) [13:37] Eugeniusz RUDNIK
Homo Ludens (1984) [32:28]
Remasters, Polish Radio Experimental Studio 2015. DUX RECORDS BÔLT 1261/2 [50:45 + 65:55]
The Polish Radio Experimental Studio was initiated by Jósef Patkowski in 1957, and the young Krzysztof Penderecki was one of many names who became involved in this new medium. “The studio soon became a meeting place for Eugeniusz Rudnik and Krzysztof Penderecki … In the early 1960s the duo created over 30 movie and theatre scores … With time the two composers achieved great creative synergy, and their work seemed to take place in an atmosphere of ‘boyish horseplay’. They became homo ludens incarnate.” The booklet also refers to Penderecki’s statement that, “if it weren’t for his experiments with Rudnik, he would never have written Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima, De naturasonoris and many other scores” that were influenced by the techniques and experience of working with electronics and multi-track recording.
Printed as ‘Bids and People’ on the back cover and ‘Birds and Men’ in the booklet, Rudnik’s Birds and People is a ‘Concert etude for four artists, three violins, two nightingales, a pair of scissors and one village potter’. Opening deceptively with a warm electronic chime that makes you smile, the drama almost immediately becomes a surreal interaction of voices and sounds both natural and transformed, quasi-familiar and strange. 1992 is a big leap from the 1960s, but is still a long way from the easy to use computer-power we’re used to today. The work makes use of tape samples from the composer’s tape archive and is full of self-references, including a recording made of a nightingale singing to a pre-recorded track being played back in a field. These and other ‘heroes’ are brought together to create a fascinating piece filled with irony, humour and plenty of seriously valuable and virtuoso electronic technique.
Penderecki’s pieces were all made for film or theatre, and it would be intriguing to be able to see the original pictures to go with the music. Basilisk Encounter uses concrete sounds and recorded instruments to create an unsettling sequence that sets the imagination alight. Glass Enemy takes a jazz recording that sounds like the MJQ quartet as its starting point, with a variety of percussive sounds using glass and metal also forming a thread throughout, interspersed with electronic effects, changing tape speeds and the like. Left Home was made for a theatre production, the sounds in this case using the human voice transformed into something ghostly, and with threatening thuds and taps creating an uneasy atmosphere. The voice becomes its own soloist further on, playing against multiple echo effects to create urgent pulses, emerging from what sounds like a deep well, and haunting us from beyond veiled filters.
Painters of Gdánsk was made for an educational film illustrating artist’s work. Jazz plays an important part, with gently swinging bass and brush-drums shadowed by a church organ early on. This is a complex soundtrack that ranges from fairly straight but surreal instrumental recordings through abstract electronics and a plethora of transformations and multi-tracked effects. This again is music that makes you want to see the film, but provides enough stimulus for you to imagine your own accompanying artwork, more than likely seen in black and white. Polish Ballad brings us back to the theatre, and the human voice is once again invoked to create spectral associations and darkly monastic spaces. Stereo effects are a strong element of this piece, and better experienced through loudspeakers than over headphones.
The final work, Homo Ludens, is Eugeniusz Rudnik’s ‘radio ballet not without autobiographical elements.’ Summed up as a “spectacular, humorous collage [and] one of Rudnik’s most colorful compositions”, there is plenty to get ones teeth into here, from fragments of a variety of musical recordings, vocoder-transformed speech and electronics that “draw the listener into a nonsensical, albeit poignant narrative.” Rudnik’s art reminds us of the joy of turning an analogue radio tuning dial, with a sensation of being in control but being constantly surprised and intrigued by the seemingly random sounds and sources that we encounter along the way. Rudnik lingers at just the places we might linger, without hanging around too long and always with another discovery just around the corner.
Anyone who has an affection for the striking imagery of classic 20th century poster art from Poland by the likes of Jan Lenica or Waldemar Swierzy might find a musical equivalent in the music of Eugeniusz Rudnik, and it is fascinating to hear where electronic studio took Penderecki in those formative years of the 1960s. This well-documented and nicely mastered collection is a must for anyone interested in early electronic studio work and less familiar byways of Polish music in general.