Polish Radio Experimental Studio
Arne Nordheim worked for several periods at Polish Radio’s Experimental Studio in Warsaw, assisted and trained by the leading Polish producers and composers of electroacoustic music. In collaboration with the studio staff, he created a number of electronic works that became Norwegian classics of the genre. Most of the sound material from Warsaw was developed and used in later compositions.
The Experimental Studio, one of the world’s few electronic music studios for composers, radio, television and film, was established on 1 November 1957.
In the Morgenposten of 1 February1960, Arne Nordheim, discussing Dag Schjelderup-Ebbe’s impressions from the Warsaw Autumn festival of 1959, remarked that the musical examples were too traditional: ‘Why, Poland today is teeming with rapidly developing musical life, and a special studio for the production of electronic music has even been created’.
In 1962, Tadeusz Żakiej (aka Tadeusz Marek), a musicologist from Warsaw, gave a series of lectures on Polish music at Oslo University’s Institute of Musicology and produced several programmes on the same subject for the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK). At a press conference, he invited Norwegian musicians and composers to the Warsaw Autumn.
Arne Nordheim first attended the Warsaw Autumn in 1965, when he met Włodzimierz Kotoński. Thanks to a bilateral cultural agreement, in January 1966, Kotoński was able to visit Oslo. He promised to put in a good word with the head of the Polish Radio Experimental Studio, Józef Patkowski, who consequently invited Nordheim to visit, in order to discuss the possibility of his working at the Studio.
Nordheim arrived in Warsaw in the summer of 1966, and in the opinion of Eugeniusz Rudnik he made a good impression on everyone and was among the first leading foreign composers to work at the PRES.
Eugeniusz Rudnik (b.1933) worked at Polish Radio from 1955, and at the Experimental Studio from 1958. He was one of the founders of the so-called Polish School of electroacoustic music, known for his innovative sound solutions. His quadrophonic compositions were a key inspiration for Nordheim’s compositions using the same technique.
Rudnik became one of Nordheim’s most important collaborators. During the latter’s next visit to Warsaw, in 1967, they produced together such works as Warszawa, Colorazione and Solitaire (1968). Warszawa was put together from various sounds which the composer had come across during his work at the Studio. Nordheim called the end product ‘notes on tape’. Added to this were excerpts from Polish Radio’s archive recordings and a Polish children’s song. Dodeka (2003) consists of twelve elements created from fragments of sound that arose during work at the PRES.
Other important works to make use of material from the PRES were tape music for the aural sculpture Ode to Light at the Institute for the Blind in Skjeberg and the music for the EXPO 1970 in Osaka, Poly-Poly. Among the musicians and producers with whom Nordheim worked in Warsaw, one should mention Czesław Palkowski, Edward Borowiak, Zygmunt Krauze, Witold Gałązka (Warsztat Muzyczny), Bohdan Mazurek and Józef Patkowski.
The 29-second jingle produced in 1969 for the NRK was created at the PRES. Nordheim was actually working on another composition when the producer suddenly leapt from his chair shouting ‘Damn, I’ve broken my tooth!’ While the producer was at the dentist’s, the composer played around with the studio’s equipment; thus was created the jingle. It consists of pure tones produced according to the scale of natural tones, as on a willow flute. Nordheim wanted Norwegians to associate it with folk music.
The electronic work Pace (1970) was written to a commission from Polish Radio, and the composer dedicated it to Józef Patkowski. It was first performed in Warsaw on 21 September 1970. In this work, Nordheim and Rudnik explored the sound capacities of the human voice, with the idea of reducing language to phones, which could be used like building blocks to produce music. He asked a child, a man and a woman to read aloud the first sentence of Article 2 of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights: ‘Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.’ The electronic processing was based on the phonic elements that made up the sound of the voices, but they were no longer recognisable as text. Nordheim regretted that the work would not have been written without inspiration from the text and that listeners ought to be familiar with the content of the original text.
Nordheim created the tape passages for the ballet The Tempest / Stormen (1979) in collaboration with Bohdan Mazurek. When the ballet troupe of the Norwegian Opera took that ballet on a tour of Italy (Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bari and Lecce) in June 1968, it was accompanied by the Radio Symphony Orchestra from Warsaw under the direction of Terje Boye Hansen. (jc)