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Various Artists - 1. Wlodzimierz Kotonski - Study for One Cymbal Stroke (1951)
Various Artists - 2. Symphony. Electronic music, part I (performed by Bohdan Mazurek) (1966)
Various Artists - 3. Elzbieta Sikora - Letters to M. (1980)
Various Artists - 4. Bernadetta Matuszczak - Libera me (1991)
Various Artists - 5. Elzbieta Sikora - View from the Window (1978)
Various Artists - 6. Magdalena Dlugosz - Mictlan I (1987)
Various Artists - 7. Barbara Zawadzka - Greya part V (1991)
Various Artists - 8. Krzysztof Knittel - Poko (1986)
LTD 2LP [Includes Art Prints by Zofia Kulik]

Compiled on vinyl for the first time

GENRE/S: Library / Ambient


1. Wlodzimierz Kotonski - Study for One Cymbal Stroke (1951)
2. Symphony. Electronic music, part I (performed by Bohdan Mazurek) (1966)
3. Elzbieta Sikora - Letters to M. (1980)
4. Bernadetta Matuszczak - Libera me (1991)
5. Elzbieta Sikora - View from the Window (1978)
6. Magdalena Dlugosz - Mictlan I (1987)
7. Barbara Zawadzka - Greya part V (1991)
8. Krzysztof Knittel - Poko (1986)


Would It Sound Just As Bad If You Played It Backwards?"

A Collection of Sounds from the Studio Eksperymentalne Polskiego Radia (1959-2001)
Art by Zofia Kulik

"Would it sound just as bad if you played it backwards?" assembles a collection of audio experi-ments created at the Polish Radio Experimental Studio (PRES) from 1959 to the beginning of the century. These exceptional works are presented alongside images from the Polish artist Zofia Kulik, whose career reached its apogee between the late 1960s and early 70s. While PRES and Kulik remain touchstones in the recent history of the Polish avant-garde, presenting them togeth-er in one release may not have seemed like an obvious choice. There are, of course, some histori-cal intersections-the most notable being a shared interest in Polish artist and architect Oskar Hansen's Open Form theory. Open Form promoted a modular theory of architecture that became a tool adapted by its users and inhabitants. Hansen's ideas influenced Kulik's early works and also manifested in the PRES's iconic "black room," a music studio designed by Hansen, himself, which was equipped with moveable sound panels that absorbed or reflected sounds to promote a greater, creative freedom from its users. And yet, as it usually goes, the most obvious connections are usually the most deceitful. Whereas Kulik initially followed Open Form, she later turned away from it. And as for the black room-it mostly worked in theory but not in practice. What is it then that makes the two work together?

Within the realm of art history, Kulik's work is often divided into two periods: her early, artistic endeavours connected to Open Form, and the KwieKulik collaboration (with Przemys?av Kwiek), followed by her later turn towards a closed form, characterised by a departure from pro-cessual art in favour of material works of art. Yet these terms don't necessarily bring out the es-sence of Kulik's works. The artist explained that Hansen's Open Form was important for how it opened his students to perceive their environments in a different way. Reminiscing about those times, she states, "I wanted to catch the moment when the object I was looking at was real. I de-cided that as a static item it can never be real-it's possible only in the process of looking at it. That translates to the object being recorded and presented in certain sequences [...] there's the astonishment at the materiality of objects, colours, transformations."

Kulik's works chosen for this release are taken from two projects, Lady Halina and Cones (1968-71) and Excursion with White Screen. Route: Cemetery, The Palace of Culture, which were in-cluded in Kulik's diploma at the Sculpture Department of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. The projects consisted of slide projections presented on three screens, with specific temporal se-quencing. Lady Halina and Cones presents a woman's body, its forms, geometrical figures, and shapes undergoing a process of transformation. About Excursion with White Screen, Kulik says "this white sheet was supposed to signify an empty screen in different spatial situations in the city. I thought that I would later project a slide onto that screen, imposing another image after-wards, like a collage, but suddenly that screen became a material object instead of an abstract, pure idea of a potential image within an image. It became an object in itself and I began to notice that the screen sometimes wrinkles in the cemetery, and sometimes moves with the wind." A myriad of new meanings and references arise in the twenty-first century from Kulik's sequenced films. From the perspective of a young woman, Lady Halina and Scones poses questions about the objectification of women, the boundaries of their agency, and the recognition of their subjec-tivity within the patriarchal world in which their bodies often functioned as objects of control. In Excursion with White Screen the symbolism of a white sheet placed against a background image of a cemetery or the Palace of Culture questions the role of these religio-political monuments, the white screen acting as an empty, and potentially alternative, space between them.

The music chosen for "Would it sound just as bad if you played it backwards?" spans most of the history of the Polish Radio Experimental Studio, including tracks as early as W?odzimi-erz Koto?ski's "Concrete etude, Study for One Cymbal Stroke," and ending chronologically with Wolfram's rendition of Bogus?aw Schaeffer's "Symphony. Electronic Music." Just as with Kulik's works, the contemporaneity of the music presented is astonishing. The album opens and closes with Krzysztof Knittel's 1980s compositions, "Lapis" and "Poko," and perfectly encapsu-late his descriptions of his experiences in the studio: "We acted without any initial plans or elec-tronic scores, there were no goals to be achieved, no creative method defined in advance. We used our aesthetic and technological knowledge freely, the shapes of tracks emerged during our shared work in the studio."

The album also includes "Mictlan I" (1987) and "Yes and No," (1990) two stunning works by Magdalena D?ugosz, who studied composition with Krystyna Moszuma?ska-Nazar and music theory with Józef Patkowski. Since 1979 she has been teaching in the Electroacoustic Music Stu-dio at the Academy of Music in Kraków.

Also featured is the avant-garde composer El?bieta Sikora, Knittel's fellow member from the KEW Composers' Group, with her stark pieces "Letters to M" and "View from the Window," (1971), and Barbara Zawadzka, whose "Greya" (1988) is meant to evoke different sequencings of the colour grey. In this piece, particularly, it's hard not to appreciate the similarity to Kulik's notion of sequencing and transformation of objects.

Bernadetta Matuszczak's "Libera me" (1991) is an example of a somewhat different creative ex-perience. In a radio interview conducted by Marek Zwyrzykowski in 1992, the composer stated that she wasn't intending to discover any "extraordinary electronic effects"; instead, she focused on the piece's "expressive layer." With the help of Tadeusz Sudnik from PRES, she incorporated into "Libera Me" the characteristic melody from the Polish version of the Orthodox hymn "Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal" and then combined it with sounds of explosions and instru-mental recordings, a veiled response to the US's interventions during the Gulf War.

Eugeniusz Rudnik, the composer and sound engineer whose name is among those most strongly associated with PRES, contributes with his "Epitaph for Stones," (1984) a dedication to Jerzy Popie?uszko, the Polish Roman Catholic priest associated with the Solidarity trade union and an-ti-communist movement who was murdered by the Security Service. Bohdan Mazurek, who took over the reins of the studio from Rudnik in 1962 is also included with his piece "Canti" (1973).

As mentioned above, the album also includes W?odzimierz Koto?ski's seminal "Concrete etude, Study for One Cymbal Stroke," a piece sourced from the single stroke of a mid-sized Turkish cymbal; it is often considered to be an important starting point for the development of experi-mental music in Poland. And, finally, the album features two performances of Bogus?aw Schaeffer's "Symphony. Electronic Music," the first by Bohdan Mazurek which remains very close to the composer's score, and a contemporary version by Wolfram, which takes much more creative liberties.

In a text about his seminal work, Schaeffer stated that he "decided to include the factor of inter-pretation in a work that was greatly precise by nature" underlining the importance of shifting el-ements: "the development of music lies in individual elements shifting in the hierarchy of their functions." Indeed, an interest in shifting hierarchies seems present in Kulik's powerful images and most of the sound pieces contained in this release. When the Polish Radio appointed Eu-geniusz Rudnik to present PRES's technical capabilities to a conservative delegation of Soviet composers, he was met with a bitter reply: "Would it sound just as bad, if you played it back-wards?" asked the rigid composers. Rudnick's answer was to create "Skalary," (1966) a multi-version piece which could be played from start to finish and from finish to start, at different speeds, as well as with altered left and right channel distribution. This modular openness calls to mind the empty sheet in Kulik's images. Whatever the context, its static emptiness creates space for a different reality than that which those in power had in mind. This brings us back to Kulik's thoughts on her experiences as a student in the late 60s, a pivotal time in which she determined the process of looking and listening was central to reality itself, thereby shattering the rigidity of traditional forms and religio-political power: "I decided that as a static item, an object can never be real-it's possible only in the process of looking at it."