Znak Politechniki Warszawskiej

Eugeniusz Rudnik – Engineer and Musical Innovator

Eugeniusz Rudnik

Eugeniusz Rudnik, phot.15 corners of the world

Nowadays, this graduate of the Faculty of Electronics at the Warsaw University of Technology is recognized as one of the creators of the Polish school of electroacoustic music. In the world associated with inspiration, a hard to name or predict flash of genius – a man who reconciled the world of art and the world technology became famous and appreciated. Eugeniusz Rudnik died on 24 October 2016.

He applied to work at the Polish Radio of his own initiative. It was 1955 and the conflict  with his superior from the Military University of Technology landed him in jail. He worked out his sentence in a mine. His ending up at the radio station was accidental. At first, he supervised plumbers, carpenters and painters. In 1958, he began working at the Polish Radio’s Experimental Studio, created a year before. It was the fourth place in Europe that professionally addressed electronic art. Rudnik was first employed as a technician. He completed his studies at the University almost ten years later – in 1967.

Music from Garbage

He already had tried his hand at composing music. They were extraordinary attempts. As a person responsible for technical issues, and not a trained musician, he saw the potential of electronics that would be worth including in musical pieces. It was avant-garde in its purest form, more avant-garde than pieces made by professional musicians. Rudnik used sounds discarded by reporters. “I listened to discards several times and caught fragments you wouldn’t hear when you listened to them just once. Like a momentary hesitation in voice. Or a strange change of accent. I discovered that entire dramas could take place in the span of one second, which tell the truth about a man”, he said during an interview with Jędrzej Skłodkowski, published in “Duży Format” [Large Format].

One of Rudnik’s first composed works is 1965’s “Kolaż” [Collage]. It can be said that this piece, just because of its title, can perfectly describe the entire creative output of the legend of the Polish Radio’s Experimental Studio. Antoni Beksiak wrote about Rudnik’s work in his article “Dlaczego Eugeniusz?” [Why Eugeniusz?]: “Always clear, legible, he attempts to use well-known, yet unreal sounds even in the core sonoristic avant-garde. He fills his pieces with warmth, emotion and sensitivity to tone, suggestively creating atmospheres. Noises, scrapes, signals sound like tin birds (second Poemat [Narrative Poem], 1976), bass thumps play out like in dance music, echoes and rhythms sound similar to dub (Gilotyna [Guillotine], 1989), abstract structures are parroted by a human voice reconstructed using phonemes (Mobile, 1972), a science-fiction-esque menacing breath in Korzeń [Root] (1965)”.

Collaboration with the Masters

The interesting part is that composing - just like working at the Polish Radio, happened to Rudnik by chance. When he started, he didn’t have any sound engineering  or production jobs under his belt. His basic duties at the Polish Radio’s Experimental Studio primarily consisted in helping composers. “Theoretically, his role was limited to technical tasks, but since composers often hadn’t had the faintest idea how to cut and splice the tape, use tape recorders or sound generators to compose a musical piece, Rudnik also had to display an artistic sense and sometimes – even though he doesn’t say it straight – perform most of the work for them”, Jędrzej Skłodkowski wrote in “Gazeta Wyborcza”.

Rudnik helped with the performance of pieces by Krzysztof Penderecki (including “Ekecheirija”, for the opening of the Olympic Games in Munich in 1972), Andrzej Markowski, Włodzimierz Kotoński, Bogusław Schaeffer, Stanisław Radwan or Andrzej Dobrowolski. Music composed or engineered by the graduate of the WUT could be heard in plays of the Polish Radio Theatre, Television Theatre, radio and TV programmes, as well as in films.

Rudnik’s fame has grown internationally. For Arne Nordheim, the Norwegian composer, he prepared a piece for the World Expo in Osaka. His message was that of environmental protection. The piece has been continuously played over six months. On the other hand, Karlheinz Stockhausen – the legendary electronic and electroacoustic musician – asked him to become his assistant. Rudnik turned him down because he didn’t want to take that risk – leaving could mean permanent emigration.

Just a Piece of Tape

“People were and still are discussing whether what we did is actually music”, he wrote on 28 October 1960 in his journal cited in the documentary titled “15 Corners of the World”, directed by Zuzanna Solakiewicz. It’s an attempt to translate Rudnik’s works to the language of film.

Regarding the engineer’s attitude to music, his answer to the question what sound was for him, also cited in “15 Corners of the World”, is quite telling: “For me, it’s just a piece of audio tape on which this sound is recorded, i.e. the phenomenon that we could observe as it was happening, now retained, recorded, materialized in the form of a piece of tape [...] a phenomenon occurring in time, often unique”.

“15 Corners of the World” is available for viewing free of charge at the Ninateka website.

 

Agnieszka Kapela

Office for Promotion and Information

 

Sources:

“15 Corners of the World”, directed by Zuzanna Solakiewicz, Germany, Poland 2014, http://ninateka.pl/film/15-stron-swiata-zuzanna-solakiewicz, last accessed: 27 October 2016

Antoni Beksiak, Dlaczego Eugeniusz?, http://culture.pl/pl/artykul/dlaczego-eugeniusz, last accessed: 27 October 2016

Małgorzata Kosińska, Eugeniusz Rudnik, http://culture.pl/pl/tworca/eugeniusz-rudnik, last accessed: 27 October 2016

Marek Zwyrzykowski, Studio Eksperymentalne Polskiego Radia i początki muzyki elektroakustycznej w Polsce [Polish Radio’s Experimental Studio and Beginnings of Electroacoustic Music in Poland], http://culture.pl/pl/artykul/studio-eksperymentalne-polskiego-radia-i-poczatki-muzyki-elektroakustycznej-w-polsce, last accessed: 27 October 2016

Eugeniusz Rudnik, legenda Studia Eksperymentalnego Polskiego Radia. Rzęch, Bzdryngiel i Wysięk [Eugeniusz Rudnik, the Legend of the Polish Radio’s Experimental Studio. Clunk, Bdring and Splurg], interview conducted by Jędrzej Skłodkowki, http://wyborcza.pl/duzyformat/1,127290,13667784,Eugeniusz_Rudnik__legenda_Studia_Eksperymentalnego.html, last accessed: 27 October 2016

Jędrzej Skłodkowki, Eugeniusz Rudnik na ekranie, koncercie i płycie. "Główny Taśmociął" triumfuje po osiemdziesiątce [Eugeniusz Rudnik on Screen, Stage and Disc. “Chief Tapecutter” Aged 80+ Triumphs], http://wyborcza.pl/1,75410,16404431,Eugeniusz_Rudnik_na_ekranie__koncercie_i_plycie___Glowny.html, last accessed: 27 October 2016

Eugeniusz Rudnik, mistrz muzycznej awangardy, nie żyje [Eugeniusz Rudnik, Master of Musical Avant-Garde, Is Dead], http://www.polskieradio.pl/8/4933/Artykul/1684164,Eugeniusz-Rudnik-mistrz-muzycznej-awangardy-nie-zyje, last accessed: 27 October 2016