The Polish electroacoustic musician connects the dots between his own work and classical music giants on this week's RA podcast.
Michał Jacaszek is the latest in a tradition of Eastern Europeans exploring the reaches of sentimentality in classical music. A resolutely modern musician, the Polish electroacoustic composer has constructed his work like any producer on his six full-lengths. But while he painstakingly plots his out his pieces on the computer, there is nonetheless a current of emotion that connects Jacaszek to beloved modern composers like Arvo Pärt and Henryk Górecki as much as there is between Jacaszek and producers like Gas, Fennesz and Jóhann Jóhannsson.
Jacaszek interest in the sacred was made explicit on his most recent album, 2009's Pentral, in which he sampled sounds from churches, exploiting the natural reverb that occurs in such enormous structures. And he also makes it plain on his RA podcast, in which he connects the dots between modern classical music and his own compositions—with the likes of Bach and Tallis also thrown in for good measure. Slow and delicate, it may be one of the most ambient RA podcasts yet.
What have you been working on recently?
I've been producing soundtracks. Since Treny was released, I have been receiving quite a lot proposals from film and theatre directors.
How and where did you record the mix?
I'm using some popular software sequencer to do the mix. All my productions are created in a small studio I own.
Can you tell us a little about the idea behind the mix?
I decided to interlace my own tracks with works that I've been inspired by over the years. I listen to a lot of classical music or electronics with classical instruments. I've chosen pieces that influenced me more or less directly and mixed them with a similar sounding selection of my music... and I think the result is surprisingly homogenic: Of course I'm not able to create compositions like Gorecki, Part or Szymanowski but somewhere within the colour of the sound, our music is definitely corresponding.
You've been playing live recently, and have an upcoming show at the New York Unsound Festival. What can we expect from this performance?
I am going to present music from my album Treny, released in 2008. It's a fusion of electronics with live performed strings (cello and two violins). I'll be playing with three musicians from the American Contemporary Music Ensemble.
On your album Pentral you tried to describe the inside of a Gothic church through your music. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Pentral is a Latin word of different meanings: it means "spirit," but also "temple" and "interior." (It also means "hand-drill," but let's forget it.) My idea was to collect samples generated in gothic churches (as we know, sound is prolonged by characteristic long-tiled reverb in gothic temples), and just make music out of it. Yes, I aimed to describe the inside of a Gothic church, but remember that it was an artistic—not scientific activity. Using organ phrases, vocal samples, bells, any kind of noises—I created harmonies and melodies illustrating the atmosphere of gothic church in its visual aspect: Light filtered by stained glass, darkness, stones with old histories they store.
What are you up to next?
Well, I have to finish some soundtracks first, then I'll be working on another album. I'm fascinated by voices more and more. My dream is to work with a small choir or Schola, but I'd love to record some non-classical voices as well and blend all this into some emotion-evoking structures.