• A Polish Quintet

On the plus side of the recent WQXR Q2 Muzyka Nowa week of Polish music was being introduced to the music of a handful or so of composers who are still in their mid 20s to late 30s.  The five whom I mentioned briefly at the end of my review of Muzyka Nowa all have something different and interesting to say.  So here are a few details, the odd observation, and some links.  Each has his/her own website, either entirely in English or in English/Polish, where you can find all the details that they want you to know!

Jakub Ciupiński (b.1981)


Jakub Ciupiński presented two short guest selections during Muzyka Nowa and was without doubt its star broadcaster.  He studied at the Music Academy in Kraków, then at the Birmingham Conservatoire in the UK before moving on to the Juilliard School in New York, where he now lives.  He has two compositional personalities.  As (Jakub) Żak, he’s composed pop-electronica-world albums, the most recent of which is Dezyderata (2011). As Jakub Ciupiński, he has a wide range of output, from chamber and orchestral to live electronics. His elegant website has audio samples – including Morning Tale (2009) and Street Prayer (2009), which were played during Muzyka Nowa – and a video of the premiere of Flashbacks for small orchestra and electronics (2009).  There are several uploads available on YouTube, including a two-part interview (in Polish, with video excerpts).

I was particularly interested to see that Ciupiński has brought the art of the theremin back to life: http://www.ciupinski.pl/Jakub_Ciupinski_-_homepage/Theremins.html.  In 2009, Ciupiński co-founded a composer collective called Blind Ear Music, ‘a team of open-minded composers and great performers with incredible sight-reading ability’.  Its activities are predicated on the real-time manipulation of loops, transmitted from a ‘master’ computer (composer) to ‘slave’ computer screens (performers).  This is an aesthetic as well as a technical challenge, and you can check it out for yourself on their website, Blind Ear Music.  (There doesn’t appear to have been any concert activity over the past year, however.)

(Michał) Jacaszek (b.1972)


Jacaszek, as he prefers to be known, is the best known, and oldest, of these five Polish composers.  I know nothing about his background, except that he was trained as an art restorer and that his first compositional foray was to rip a recording by Jack DeJohnette and Keith Jarrett on the family’s PC in the mid-90s (source: a 2011 interview for the Czech radio station ‘Wave’: http://soundcloud.com/easterndaze/michal-jacaszek-interview).  His website indicates his decided preference for acoustic over electronic sound sources.  He’s particularly keen on the interaction of live instruments with electronically manipulated sound sources.  Jacaszek’s myspace site (>Profile>Albums) currently hosts nine Vimeo videos.  His is an immersive world, one which blends natural sounds, existing music and electronic manipulation.  The reviews for his most recent album, Glimmer (2011), are enthusiastic.  Here are links to a few that I’ve found on the web:

• http://themuseinmusic.com/2011/11/27/no-one-reads-reviews-anymore-glimmer-by-jacaszek
• http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/16150-glimmer/
• http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/reviews/fj8r
• http://www.residentadvisor.net/review-view.aspx?id=10178

The Czech radio interview took place at the time that Jacaszek launched his Glimmer album at the 2011 UNSOUND festival in Kraków (it was broadcast during Muzyka Nowa last week).  UNSOUND subsequently uploaded part of this event.  If I’m not very much mistaken, there’s a clear reference in the closing minutes of this excerpt to the opening idea of Górecki’s Little Requiem.

Mateusz Ryczek (b.1986)


Mateusz Ryczek is the youngest of this selection of Polish composers. He studied at the Music Academy in Wrocław and has already produced a sizeable body of work, ranging from chamber and orchestral pieces to music for the theatre.  His works have been played at the Composers’ Union Youth Circle concerts at the ‘Warsaw Autumn’, from whose 2009 Sound Chronicle his NGC 4414 (2008) was played during Muzyka Nowa.  Perusing his website, I came to the conclusion that he is energetic and rather good-humoured – as witnessed by his brief birthday salute to Lutosławski three days ago (I reposted it yesterday).

An audio file of the world premiere of NGC 4414 (which, for the uninitiated like me, is the name of a galaxy 60 million or so light years away) is available on Ryczek’s YouTube channel,<http://www.youtube.com/user/kompozer86>.  It was given at the Musica Polonica Nova festival in Wrocław in 2008 by Kwadrofonik.  Audio and video files may also be accessed on his websites.

Krzysztof Wołek (1976)


Krzysztof Wołek’s interests embrace chamber, orchestral and electronic mediums; he also works in dance collaborations and with video.  He has the most artful and informative of all the websites, including plentiful samples from his wide range of compositions, although I could find only looped excerpts lasting about 2′ each rather than complete works.  This was a bit frustrating, as the excerpts whetted the appetite, from the early (A)Symmetrics for orchestra (1999) to Elements (2008), which was played during Muzyka Nowa (admittedly under the misapprehension that his surname was Wolef).  Wołek’s complete Mobile Variations for six-channel tape (2005) is, however, on his myspace site and is a fresh take on an electronic soundworld that dates back to the 1950s. Educated initially at the Music Academy in Katowice, Wołek subsequently studied at the University of Chicago and now teaches at the University of Louisville.

Agata Zubel (b.1978)


If the photo on the homepage of her website is anything to go by, Agata Zubel is the most exuberant of the five in this selection.  She studied both voice and composition at the Music Academy in Wrocław and she continues to combine both activities.  As a singer, she performs music from Augustyn to Zubel, taking in classics like Berio’s Sequenza III along the way.  As a composer, she works in a wide range of media, including music theatre, electronics and orchestral music (she already has three symphonies to her name).  She tends to set modern poetry in her vocal works, particularly Beckett, as in Cascando (2007) which was broadcast during Muzyka Nowa.  Her most recent piece What is the word, already dated 2012, is another Beckett setting.  Like Wołek, Zubel has put only extracts on her website (they’re even shorter than Wołek’s), but her music has been released on several CDs, including the monographic Cascando (2010), and on DVD.  Here she is in action as vocalist in her own Parlando for voice and computer (2000), recorded in Moscow last October.

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