Barbara Okoń-Makowska

A producer of music - any music - creates actual, audible sounds based on a certain set of rules - he is just a performer. No more, no less. Where is the room for experimentation here? Bogusław Schaeffer used to say that the true experiment was when the composer handed over the finished score to the performer - at which point, the result of the experiment is increasingly uncertain. Work in an electronic music studio allows for the composer?s ideas to be verified quickly, by converting them into sound at every stage. Therefore sound production is intrinsic to the experimental creative method, though it doesn't attempt to make any predictions as to whether the end result will constitute an artistic experiment.
The Polish Radio Experimental Studio was established as a studio for artists and researchers fascinated with the limitless, as it then seemed, possibilities of shaping sound using the latest technologies. As each laboratory required someone qualified to use complicated apparatus - the producer naturally assumed the role of technical assistant, a translator of sound concepts into specific sounds' and consultant. The first sound producers, the founder-fathers of the Polish Radio Experimental Studio - Józef Patkowski and Krzysztof Szlifirski, created innovative sound illustrations for films and took part in the first recordings of autonomous pieces, such as the Etude Concrete on a Cymbal Strike and Penderecki's Psalm. In their efforts, they were accompanied by Eugeniusz Rudnik, who soon rose from a simple technical assistant to someone who displayed the talent of an experienced sound producer, a partner of the composer and in the end, one of the Studio's most interesting independent artists. Later, the Studio would work with professional sound producers, graduates of the National Academy of Music in Warsaw. For it soon turned out that an artist in the Studio would expect his producer not only to provide ordinary technical assistance, but also to be a qualified musician. The producer's instrument is the technical team, sitting in the Black Room designed by Oskar Hansen. In fact, the avant-garde "music workshop", a complicated, though flexible, technically modern (considering the artistic purpose of the activity ) one, intended to be run single-handedly, was enclosed in an exquisite architectural form, which in itself was a piece of art. But that is not the end of the story. Close and long-term cooperation during the composition process in the Studio (which would take hundreds of hours using analogue technology!) allowed the composer and sound producer to build a kind of artistic trust. Composers would be allowed to edit tapes, set the parameters of the equipment (they were adequately qualified to do that), whereas sound producers would be allowed to propose their own sounds and musical structures and make decisions that would traditionally be taken by the composer. But can we call them co-composers (because doubtless they were co-authors)? That would depend on their mutual relations; for in the Polish Radio Experimental Studio?s catalogue, there are a few pieces where two authors are named (such as Vocals by Rudnik and Kawka) - although there are many more productions where two sound producers are named. And there is one more important role - the sound engineer.
When creating recordings - such as "pieces for tape", the phonographic aspect is extremely important, namely the ability to shape the sound space in such a way that all of the composers' intentions are properly rendered. Elegance and clarity of sound in a piece are the distinguishing qualities of all of the works recorded in the Studio. Is this a result of the model of cooperation between the composer and sound producer adopted in the Studio? As a long-serving sound producer at the Polish Radio Experimental Studio, I can easily subscribe to such point of view?