In these dark and foreboding times, it’s important to latch on to things that provide hope. Maybe that’s why the music of Poland has seemed so striking to me lately. The vast majority — at least the majority which remains unheard and “out-there” — of this music was the product of unimaginable restraints. Before the rise of Glasnost and Perestroika, Soviet-style censorship made it nearly impossible to project true feelings of dissent and rebellion through song. So tightly was the rest of controlled culture that music — divorced from overt lyrics — had to contain the lyricism in melody, harmony, and dissonance. It’s no wonder, that outside of the U.S., some of the best and brightest proponents of Free Jazz, and the avant garde, were Polish musicians.
Pictures aren’t the only things that can paint a thousand words. Music has that fascinating power to conjure the unimaginable. The music of Polish composer Jan A.P. Kaczmarek tries to take exactly what Polish Jazz distinguished as a viable path for protest, and run with it in decidedly new territories. In Music For The End Jan, on Fisher’s Fidola, piano, vocals, recorder, and Jupiter-6 synth, and his musical cohort Grzegorz Banaszak on guitar, take impressionistic Classical, Polish folk, and experimental electronic music on the search for a higher meaning.
Written in 1982, before they left Poland for America, during the throes of the Polish regime’s crackdown on the anti-government Solidarity movement, its title and feeling conveyed a certain sense of darkness engulfing the Polish people. What lingers the longest in this recording, is its rumination on what is required to get out of darkness, something that’s eternal. It’s this idea: that the future is malleable and what could be done, could also be undone — that the future is always free for those who wish to shape it. No one knows what the future will hold. Dark times may be around, and/or happening, but time always lends itself to the possibility of seeing through the unexpected and unimagined, no matter the situation. There is hope in this recording. There is beauty in this music of possibilities.
A Conversation with Studs Terkel, June 7, 1982.
STUDS: Is Music For The End part of one large work?!
JAN: This composition is the final recording that we made before we left Poland.
STUDS: Why is it called Music For the End, it sounds a little ominous, did you mean the end of the world?
JAN: This music sprouted from the recognition or the forecasting of the end. The end understood multilevel. The end of my personal matters and the recognition or the feeling of the end of the world. This feeling is very close to us right now in Poland. I want to be wrong about it. One that listens to our music will find a wealth of hope with this anticipation.
STUDS: So there is an aspect of hope within it as well?
STUDS: Your music has so many influences and people will ask you if it is avant-garde, and that is a general influence. Who influenced you, Jan?
JAN: Directly, no one, but I know to my ears there falls a stream of different types of music and it is impossible to be completely free, there are many influences and styles. There is no one direction, no one maker.
STUDS: To me your music is hopeful.
JAN: Yes, for me too. For example, the intense situation in my country, and no one knows what will happen, but hopefully it will be good.
STUDS: How did that lyric go…There is a new day…
JAN: …being born, and nobody knows what will be born.
STUDS: There are two things going on, the ominous note in Music For the End, and you say wait a minute, there is hope. Who is the audience for your music?
JAN: Our audience is very diverse, young people and people about 40 and some older ones too.
STUDS: Why do you have this diverse audience?
JAN: Perhaps because our emotions are universal.
STUDS Your music comes from various sources, yet wasn’t that a folk motif on the recorder?
JAN: There are traces of Polish folk music, especially the recorder and they are a result of our culture. There is only one direct quotation within our music of Polish folk music and it is from a funeral song.
STUDS: By the way Grzegorz is a guitar virtuoso that teaches at the University in Poland, you have been a bit silent. What are your influences?
GRZEGORZ: Many, I use traditional technique but the idea is creating a full sound for the Orchestra. When I met Jan I was no musician and then I devoted myself to his music and it was the great beginning of the Orchestra of the Eighth Day.
STUDS: You were a rock musician for a while?
GRZEGORZ: Yes, but only as a child in high school.
STUDS: What about jazz in your lives?
JAN: The most important similarity between jazz and our music is the way of creating the concept of improvisation. The general score is controlled, but there is a great room for improvisation.
STUDS: You do improvise a great deal.
JAN: It is mainly improvisation.
STUDS: Why the Eight Day?
JAN: We started our work as part of the Eighth Day Theatre, a well-known Polish avant garde theatre group. The Eighth Day does not exist, and for us it is to create this nonexistent day.
STUDS: Therefore you are creating a world that is not but can be, of a life of a world, possibilities…you are the music of possibilities. I like that phrase, let’s use it.
– Studs Terkel, in conversation with Orchestra Of the Eighth Day on WFMT Radio, Chicago /as found in the record’s liner notes/