Jacaszek; Joining the dots between classical music and electronica

Words by: Polly Lavin
Posted: 1/12/11 16:46

Jacaszek; Joining the dots between classical music and electronicaFor those familiar with classical dalliances of Carl Craig and Les Siecles and Luciano and Ricardo Villalobos work with vegetable orchestras, Michal Jacaszek the classically trained Polish musician who has released music over the last 10 years on labels such as Erik Skodvin's “Miasmah” maybe a welcome addition to Michigan/New York based label “Ghostly International”.

The Polish musician joins the ranks of artists such as Francesco Tristano, Brandt Bauer Frick Ensemble and Arandel who have crossed from conservatories filled with wood wind, strings and percussion to computer programmes and machines presents new album “Glimmer”.

Fusing centuries old classical traditions such as baroque and utilising instruments such as clarinets, Spanish guitars and harpsichords which combine with fuzzy static of electronic, he creates pastiches of colour with his music and says “I built a kind of curtain out of dirts and fuzzes and used pure sound of clarinet and harpsichord playing beautiful melodies as a contrast to its harshness.

Clearly, the album marks music’s evolution in the first decade of the 21st century. Acoustic musicians and an open minded approach to remove what were once defined boundary markers between the upper class and lower class of music genres.

Jacaszek points out the cross over between classical and electronic music is more harmonious then some may assume “Let me just say that those two areas can co-exist in many ways. The number of combinations is endless.” And the marriage is quite spectacular as ‘Glimmer’ dances in ambience and artistic feeling.

Jeff Owens label manager for Ghostly International explained the labels decision to release the classically trained artist “I originally heard his first album, Treny and was floored by it. Ghostly actually released a comp I curated called SMM: Context which included Jacaszek & Svarte Greiner tracks. However, we have been releasing this sort of music since the beginning. Artists like Twine, The Sight Below, Kiln, Christopher Willits, Aeroc and more. "SMM" is a moniker established to stand for the gentle, texture-focused instrumental music “Ghostly” releases. The styles generally fall under ambient, modern classical, Baroque, home listening etc and we feel this is an under-appreciated form of music right now and a form that needs to be heard.

We decided to grab some time to talk to Jacaszek about the growing attraction for classical composers to electronic, how that fits with Ibiza’s club culture playing spectacular spaces across Europe and being an artist in one of Europe’s newest member states, Poland. For the musicians I invited to my project it was a step into the unknown. They were really excited about this co-operation. They had to act on completely virgin land and I think it was a kind of adventure for them...

Why do you think electronic music has become so appealing for classical musicians to cross over into the genre?
For the musicians I invited to my project it was a step into the unknown. They were really excited about this co-operation. They had to act on completely virgin land and I think it was a kind of adventure for them.

I think for the musicians who want to explore their instrument possibilities, some areas of electronic music are really inspiring. Let’s take “Zeitkratzer” an ensemble of 12 classically trained musicians playing only their electronic repertoire on acoustic instruments!

Isn’t it just a statement that older music instruments are being pushed aside by new electronic technologies and the ‘mouse’ musician? Do you feel that classically trained musicians have to adapt?
For the open minded “live” musician, electronic expansion is not a danger – it is a challenge and the area of new possibilities and combinations.

What do you feel classically trained musicians bring to electronic music that producers who work with cubase and logic and have no music training are missing?
They bring classic training. Live performing has something very unique – all techniques, gestures, subtleness are not possible to be recreated by samplers.

How do you feel about artists like Francesco Tristano and Arandel who are taking organic instruments and filtering them through electronic programs to build upon them? Is that your process also?
Yes, my source is always acoustic. It could be an orchestral phrase, piano loop, harp sequence, or live vocal recording which is processed before or after recording. This is a kind of foundation for further arrangements. I think each of us has his own approach.

What is in your studio?
My studio set up is based on 2 computers. One is a sequencer and the second is a sampler armed with tons of sounds. Those two units are linked together via 2 Kaos Pads, the machines that affect the source sound rather deeply.

Where did you train and study?
Considering education, I do not have any musical background. I studied art restoration.;

You’ve played some amazing spaces across Europe where and which have really stood out for you?
I was particularly impressed by Onassis Cultural Centre in Athens. OCC is an outstanding piece of modern architecture. 5 floor building made of glass, stone and real gold! Each floor is a concert hall with fantastic acoustic conditions and great equipment. I played a surround sound system gig and it sounded fantastic!     

You’ve worked with classical baroque musicians such as Silva Rearm and modern elements such as AV – Do you feel promoters are making the effort to make events special and different and dress spaces with AV and production etc or what is missing in your eyes as a musician entering a space? What makes an event extra special?
Yes I feel so. There are a lot of festivals around and we can observe a very positive trend of competitiveness between them. One tries to become more prestigious than the other. As a result, we are invited to play in very interesting contexts: baroque halls, temples, industrial spaces, historical gardens, etc. What makes an event extra special is a correspondence between the music and the interior character which sometimes takes place.

What are your feelings on Ibiza and club culture which surrounds electronic music in general? Does classical music belong in clubs? Can you ever imagine playing the clubs in Ibiza?
Club culture is a big part of nowadays culture and I can easily imagine it could be an inspiring source for a classical composer. Do you need examples? Francesco Tristano + Carl Craig project, Haushka's last album, Zeitkratzer playing DJ Sprinkles, Villalobos/Londebauer's ECM release and many many more. I also recommend the program of this year's C3 (Club Contemporary Classical) festival to check out more ideas.

The BandWhich composers and compositions influence your work both past and present day composers? Why do they influence or inspire your work?
I listen to a lot of classical stuff. I particularly love sacral minimalists (Part, Gorecki, Silvestrov, Szymanski) baroque chamber music like Purcell, Bach, Biber, Dowland choral works of Tallis and many, many more.

Are there any really old classical pieces of music that are timeless and could be deconstructed and re-arranged into modern day electro acoustic pieces? Why?
Of course. Bach is timeless. But it does not mean that we can successfully rearrange his music.

You said once you bear images of your beloved grey Polish landscape when you compose – what would an arrangement made in the sun sound like?
Such things are not easy to define, but I am sure there is a big emotive difference. When we take European art as an example, in painting, it is the matter of light and colour, but in music? Too difficult to define.

They say you have a long storied love affair with classical music (10 years) why so this genre over others?
Because the classical music world is an endless source of inspiration and it has the potential to survive beyond the times it was created. It is simply universal.

Have you ever contemplated selling out and providing your services for ‘pop’ or other?
I do not make calculations like that. I just work to express myself and this will always be the priority. Whether the result is “jazz”, “pop”, “classical”, “dark ambient”, “alternative” is of secondary importance.

Poland seems to be an emerging country in terms of music can you tell me a bit about what is happening in ground level in that country, who are making a mark and why? Is the support there also or do your artists have to emigrate?
Hard to complain really. We have a whole bunch of great exploratory artists here: Male Instrumenty, Kwadrofonik, Mitch and Mitch, the whole Lado ABC label, Emiter, Mikrokolektyw, Dawid Szczesny and Igor Boxx to name just a few from the alternative scene.

We also have supporting institutions here, great festivals (Unsound, Sacrum Profanum, Kody and more) and I do not think there is a need to emigrate because being an artist is not a very wealthy business anywhere.

What are your plans for 2011 and beyond (releases, projects, touring, etc)? You said something about doing work on music with poems – how will that combine?
Music as a platform for expressing particular texts (vocal music) has always fascinated me. I started to collaborate with singers (Magna Ferreira, Hugo Race) working on some English poems. One of my plans for 2012 is to develop this project.

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