Polish Radio Experimental Studio is the first official series of CD releases dedicated to the music produced in the legendary Studio. Established in 1957 by Józef Patkowski, it was among the first institutions of that kind in the world with only Paris, Cologne and Milano preceding the Warsaw one. Despite that, unlike their foreign colleagues who quickly became the most important figures of the XX century music, Polish composers working in the Studio are known only to a limited number of insiders. Yet, as Reinhold Friedl, leader of zeitkratzer points out, 'the pieces give the impression of an artistic approach which has never been as strict or ideologically restricted as German electronic music or French concrete music. It seems to me that none of the musicians connected with this studio have had the tendency to limit him/herself to 'electroacoustic music', rather they all have a natural and holistic approach to composing' [see: BR ES03]. This is why the releases give us opportunity to revisit our historical ideas of XX century music with a fresh and inspiring insight.
Eugeniusz Rudnik says: 'any time a pianist enters a room with a piano, there is no way for him to restrain from opening a piano lid and playing something'. Here is his approach to miniatures.
Unlike 'miniatures' or 'etudes', this kind of 'playing something' is rarely mentioned in the books on the history of music. It gets away from most of the categories of serious artistic practice dealing with sound. Is it composition? Improvisation? Rehearsal? Exercise? Joke? Possibly: irresistible urge to use an instrument, 'playing' - as one of the greatest theorist of the category, Derek Bailey, would call it. Perhaps he was hopelessly wrong about one thing: 'the largest amount of playing per cubic unit' is to be found not in free improvisation but in random and accidental situations like the one mentioned by Rudnik - when 'playing' becomes an impulse, pure desire. No matter if it is a scale, fragment of a piece by Boulez or pretentious improvisation.
But let's ask who is talking? The question takes the minor anecdote to a different dimension. It is not a pianist speaking but a sound engineer. The first time I had a chance to see Rudnik approaching his real-to-real tape recorder was 15 minutes after I was introduced to him: easiness of a full engagement, like with a waiter preparing his thousand's espresso or Glenn Gould sitting by the piano one morning, be it 18th of October 1964. That is why the term 'engineer' is up to the point unless it means less than 'composer'. It is because the studio is really becoming a tool. Not only a composer's tool, as Brian Eno would put it. It is not only a complex of electronic devices overloaded with potentialities to create entirely new opportunities like listening backwards, precise loops, endless range of tone colors. Studio can as well be - and actually always was - an improviser's tool. Or perhaps more precisely: an improviser's instrument. An instrument being at use regardless of its groundbreaking 'potentialities' or 'revolutionary character'.
Obviously, there are differences between playing with a reel-to-reel tape recorder in the studio and playing piano. One of them is that the tape always leaves a trace - a recording. In case of Rudnik's 'Miniatures' the traces have neither dates nor composer's explications. Nobody knows when and how exactly have they been recorded. Among them one can find cuts of laborious recording sessions, improvisations, ideas haunting Rudnik's imagination perhaps for decades as well as jokes made only to kill some time. But still - these are recordings and hence compositions, done and fixed. Imagine we have access to all the morning recordings of Gould...
Nobody knows how many miniatures have been conceived by Rudnik. But one thing for sure: a lot. Plenty enough to make a direct release impossible. The number of them calls for action - something needs to be done with them in the first place; a selection at least, some ordering perhaps. They remind a bit of music material, which form is eventually decided not by its composer but by a published or other user. Their virtual destiny was radio theatre. But in a first step of our attempt at Rudnik's 'Miniatures' we pass it not to a dramatist but to a musician. Together with other pieces from the Studio as 'Miniatures' are not only a material to work on but also an exposition of a specific approach to music concre`te making: work quickly, in-between other things you do, don't spend too much time on it. In other words: hit and run.
Marcin Lenarczyk in his portable studio improvises as often as composes or designs soundtracks. The studio is two amps (guitar and bass guitar), turntable, sampler, loop station. Even though the set up brings to mind decades of early concrete music, today it is hardly a tool to break in to new music territories. It is rather a tool to play (with). It is in the muscles and gestures of its users, just as much as 'Goldberg Variations' have been embodied in hands and posture of Glenn Gould.