Polish electroacoustic artist Michał Jacaszek has been releasing tracks since 1998, his debut an album featured songs from poet-singer Miłka Malzahn, “MAPA” and was referred to as “trip-hop singing poetry.” Since then, Jacaszek has performed numerous collaborations with classical musicians and performers, releasing a number of albums that combine electronic music alongside sounds from classical acoustic instruments.
We have approached Jacaszek in the run up to Alpha-ville to offer you a taste of what to expect when you see him live at the opening concert together with 2 other musicians: a harpsichord and clarinet. His mix for the Alpha-ville podcast series bridges deeply atmospheric electronica with string instruments such as cellos and violins with percussion elements such as xylophones, chimes and orchestra bells. His sound is deeply moving and fuses a wide array of samples to closely match an acoustic classical set in turn, creating a highly emotive piece of music.
Due to perform at Alpha-ville Festival on the 22nd of September, we caught up with Jacaszek in advance to ask him a few questions.
1. Your mix is deeply emotive and, dare we say it, melancholic. How did you feel when you put this mix together? I felt really good. Some sort of melancholia is in my ordinary state and it doesn’t interrupt my work, life, everyday existence. I actually like it!
2. Do you feel there a sadness about your sound or do you find it can be optimistic or hopeful?
Sadness or sorrow have many different shades, on the one hand we have black, hopeless distress, on the other, a quite pleasant feeling of nostalgia. My sound is definitely not depressing, it carries some positive emotions; it is like with recalling beautiful memories, it’s sad, but somehow brings hope and pleasure.
3. What do you consider to be the cross over with poetry and musical performances? How can the two blend to compliment one another?
First of all I think that poetry can be present in music even when there are no words. Lets take Philp Jeck’s long instrumental poems, with their internal drama and narration. In Jeck’s case (but not only) poetry or poetic phrase is an initial impulse for instrumental composition. Another example: polish project Emiter_Franczak exploring the subject of “Concrete poetry” – a very successful fusion of “visual” poetry and music. Considering poetic text itself and its music interpretation you can find a lot of good examples in the classical music world: Schubert’s songs cycle to Wilhelm Muller poems, Pawel Mykietyn, Shakespeare’s Sonnets, Pawel Szymanski Georg Trakl poems and many, many more. I think good poetry doesn’t necessarily need music to become powerful, but sometimes by adding a melody, chords, music to the respecting text’s meaning can open someone’s heart to receive poetry.
4. Which classical music composer would you consider to be particularly influential in your music?
Arvo Part and H.M. Gorecki – that’s what I find in reviews most often and its true that I love these composers and I frequently listen to their works. Some critics point to Ligeti, Kancheli and Taverner as well. Film music composers have definitely influenced me as well: Badalamenti, Kilar and Nyman to name a few.
5. Likewise, which electronic music producer would you say has influenced your work?
I think it would be Geir Jenssen (Biosphere) and Murcof & Colleen.
6. When you say ‘recorded sound is going to enrich traditional acoustic instruments’, what do you mean?
Most artists nowadays use digital tools to process and edit traditional sounds. My idea is based on a certain respect I have for this traditional sound of acoustic instruments. I don’t intend to completely deconstruct its characteristics. I’m trying to find a way to keep all richness, subtleness and dynamic coming out from musician gesture, but at the same time I want to give it my own shape, adapt it to my own taste. This “enriching” process can be sometimes very simple: like cutting or exposing specific frequencies, lowering the tune a few octaves, combining two or more sounds together…
7. If you had to choose one performance space as a favourite to use where would it be?
Acoustic problems aside, I like it when a venue has some individual character. I don’t mind if it’s a church, concert hall or industrial space, but it is good when there is some dialog going on between the music and its surroundings. This dialog can be harmonious, but it can also turn into a quarrel! Generally I hate open air venues, but once we had great gig in a beautiful park in Brussels, where the stage was located in a big, ancient arbor.
8. Who would you name in Poland as someone doing something interesting musically right now?
Right now I’m more concentrated on classical music. I see many young generation academic musicians in Poland tending to cross academic borders: Neoquartet, Kwartludium, Kwadrofonik, Male Instrumenty and more. There are a lot of interesting events happening as well (I think curators can act as artists actually), Unsound Festival, Sacrum Profanum, Misteria Paschalia and many more.
9. Can you describe your experiences living under Communism in Poland?
Oh, this is complex issue! Let me just mention some experiences important in my current work. A good thing is that after communism I no longer relied on cultural institutions – which brings me the comfort of not being constantly disappointed! A bad thing is that I still subconsciously consider Western Europe as a kind of perfect world, and to some degree this may affect my work, preventing me from fully speaking with my own artistic language.
10. What project are you currently working on right now?
I’d like to recommend my new album that will be released in Ghostly International label in November, it is entitled “Glimmer’ and is a collection of ten pieces composed out of a live harpsichord sound, bass clarinet and some processed loops and samples. My friend called it “modern chamber music”. I will perform this at Alpha-ville Festival this September.