Nov 232016
 

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Following listening to her fully enjoyed and deeply immersive self-titled album on 130701, the Brighton-based sub-label of Fat Cat, we had an interesting chat with Karolina Rec, debuting as Resina. “Resina” – the album by this brilliant Polish cellist and composer – which has been aptly described as “an immersive and deeply enchanting album, which unveils a unique and striking new talent,” (Inverted Audio) was produced by the legendary and hyperactive Polish musician Maciej Cieslak, her former partner-in-art in the band Kings of Caramel. Let’s get deeper into it.

 

interview picture 1

courtesy of Kamila Chomicz

Chain D.L.K.: Hi, Karolina! How are you?

Resina: Very good, thanks. Ready to go.

 

Chain D.L.K.: Before focusing on your astonishing debut album, let’s trace your history back…do you remember the exact moment when you fell in love with the cello and music in general?

Resina: I remember when I fell in love with the cello very well. It was on the first day of my music school. My private piano teacher (who was preparing me for the entry exams) really wanted me to be a pianist, but I was too old to start that kind of regular serious piano training, according to the school norms (I was 9). As I passed the entrance exams well, they were pushing me to try the cello. I didn’t want to play flute and wasn’t so sure about classic guitar (other possible options), so I decided to go and try my first cello lesson – before that, I didn’t even know what a cello looked like, and had no idea how it would sound. So yes, the first cello lesson was kind of a shock for me, but at least I was 100% sure I wanted to play the cello! The sound of this instrument was powerful and natural at the same time, and somehow more organic, more direct than the piano for me. And of course, a lovely, nice teacher was a good reason too. However – to be honest – my interest in music started from the piano. When I heard it for the first time in my life at primary school when I was 8, I felt like I was enchanted or under a spell, and I forced my non-musical family to find me a piano teacher.

 

Chain D.L.K.: You also have academic training, as you graduated from the Music Academy of Gdansk. Do you feel that academic knowledge could be an obstacle for creativity, or not?

Resina: Academic training in Poland is very conservative (but I think only in the case of music education). Apart from some instrumental-technical background, which is of course important, I haven’t received much more. I couldn’t study what I was really interested in, because in the instrumental department there were no subjects like: different ways of improvisation, basics of composition techniques, contemporary art, etc. This type of education mostly helps to train focused machine-people with perfect technical skills, making them good at playing ”historical music,” but it doesn’t encourage them to develop a musical/artistic personality or to try other, different types of music. I’m aware that the main part of classical instrumental education has to look like that. However, not offering any other forms of developing an artistic background at all often results in bored musicians, not interested in other forms of art. That was the reason I wanted to leave the cello and start to study composition (which has not yet happened). Now I feel like somebody between two worlds, with whom classically trained people are not sure what to do: I can’t be a “real” composer (as I didn’t finish in the department of composition) and yet I’m not a classical performer… From this point of view, the classical education gave me a lot of knowledge about my instrument, but nothing more – including the encouragement to be creative.

 

Chain D.L.K.: What are the most important lessons you were taught inside and outside Music classrooms?

Resina: Actually, what I remember most from my classrooms is this: you have to practice if you want to know how to use your instrument; it’s true and obvious. All the rest I’ve learned outside: how to develop my own music personality, a language, and identity – that for example, I need to stay curious but also learn how to trust my own feelings and intuition. The intuition, which has its base in some personal preferences and sensitivity, but also in all of my experience, all “hidden” knowledge I’ve collected. Outside, I’ve learned why I want to play and why I wasn’t so sure if I wanted to play throughout my music studies… I mean, a classical background IS very important, but it definitely won’t do all the work for you. 

 

Chain D.L.K.: I read that you already had a background in Polish underground music. Could you tell us something about it, and what do you mean by underground music in Poland?

Resina: Meeting Maciej Cieślak – who is some kind of legendary figure on the Polish independent scene, and the leader of the band Ścianka – was one of the first impulses that kept me playing the cello. I was invited to play in a band that he also was part of (Kings of Caramel). He was recording an album, and I think we were both a little bit shocked by how fast and naturally we found a common language. Even if Maciej has a classical background also, he’s one of the most uncompromising experimental musicians I’ve ever met. We started thinking about another band with a string section, and then other friends with bands came (like Nathalie and The Loners or Michał Biela). All of them had some avant/experimental guitar background, but at the same time I was working with electronic music producers, which has led me to composing and performing music for contemporary dance theaters. That was all a very natural process. The underground music scene in Poland is amazing (in all genres), and you can see how it is slowly but surely gaining the attention of a global audience right now.

 

Chain D.L.K.: Your music seems to come out of spiritual caves and speak to listeners’ souls, but do you feel more comfortable while performing by yourself, in a studio, or on a live stage?

Resina: For me personally, the great value is the possibility of performing these pieces 100% live. Once they’ve been released as an album, I still want to check how far they can take me. Mostly they have an open structure, and I really like to push my own borders as a performer and cellist and to move the pieces further. I can’t imagine playing them the same way every time. I believe the audience can feel that and somehow takes part in a kind of ritual of performing live. I love the feeling that something true, unplanned and unexpected can happen. From my point of view, this type of performing involves people on a very different level. I  hope it also gives some true intensity during concerts, even if it’s a solo show. The composing process is a different thing, of course…

 

interview picture 2

courtesy of Kamila Chomicz

Chain D.L.K.: Some reviewers matched your music to Hildur Gudnadottir’s work… do you agree with them, or do you feel such a comparison is not totally correct?

Resina: Well, when I think about all cellist-composers, I understand how that comparison can be the most obvious. Maybe we both like to work with our sensitivity firmly based on something local? I believe that to receive a strong effect you can use minimalistic ways of expression, and I can find all that in Hildur’s music too.

Chain D.L.K.: What’s the weight/importance of improvisation and intuition in your compositional process?

Resina: During the compositional process of my first album, it was maybe even the main driving force and a key to my work. As I mentioned before, I believe in intuition – it’s not magic, but it takes time to learn how it works and how to use it. When I was composing main motifs/themes and improvising around them, I was able to decide very quickly if something captured my attention or not. That was a 100% intuitive process – very honest but sometimes very critical, with no half-measures.
Chain D.L.K.: It was incredible to find that most of the people who randomly listened to some of your tracks – while I was listening to it by myself – gave me the same feedback…they “visualized” a tormented process of ever-changing balance between humanity and nature…would you feel the same?

Resina: This definitely can be one of the points of view. The album has a lot in common with my personal experience: it could be a story about my (our?) ambivalence in experiencing nature – feeling beauty and anxiety (because of nature’s power) at the same time. One of the best ways to feel is to visualize it first. Often people come after a show to share with me their feelings and ”visuals” that music brought them, like for example, places they remember from early childhood.

I’m very happy that it works on this very personal and archetypical level at the same time.

 

Chain D.L.K.: Have you ever done an exercise of “detachment” with your compositions by trying to listen to them as if they weren’t composed by yourself? If yes, did your music “tell” something different/new to your soul?

Resina: It worked once – when I was listening to the album for the first time from the complete physical release. I felt two things: that these compositions were captured at a certain time, and now – being performed live – they have their own, new life. The second thing: the whole album is even darker than I remembered it (and I liked that).

 

Chain D.L.K.: I read this debut album was conceived while moving from the quiet village of Gdynia to Warsaw…how does this key event in your life condition your music?

Resina: This is another way of looking at this album: the time of my moving to another city was full of a feeling of suspension between the past and the future, of hope but also tension and uncertainty. Surely it affected the process of composing. Although I wanted to move, I knew that I was slowly leaving behind some kind of safe place with really unique access to magnificent nature and space. I only felt that a particular part of my life was going to be finished – maybe this type of nostalgia is noticeable somewhere on this album.  Warsaw is a difficult place with a painful history, but most of my friends-musicians live here, and the alternative music scene is very vivid. However,  I’ve just started to feel I could change places again.

 

Chain D.L.K.: Some compositions sound like a nod at “movie music.” Do you feel the same? Have you ever melded your music with other forms of art (including cinema)?

Resina: Yes, let’s say I’ve realized it could have some associations with movie music, but it happened much later. During the compositional process, it wasn’t my clear intention; I was more focused on digging into the deep, not obvious archetypical motifs and feelings – maybe that’s the answer and reason it could also work with movies. I have a long affair with writing and performing music for theater, mostly contemporary dance theater, but as yet I have no real experience with cinema (I hope that will change soon). Probably the first step to trying this will be writing music for some short animations by my husband,  who is the director and animator Mateusz Jarmulski (he’s the author of the video clip for one of the album tracks, ”Nightjar,” and he’s also responsible for the visual side of my live performances).

 

Chain D.L.K.: Most of the tracks in your self-named debut album feature a sort of friction on the development of harmony, except “Flock,” where tones seem to slide or flit about like joyful and crazy butterflies…do you remember the source of inspiration for that enchanting track?

Resina: The first idea was this main melodic structure, such a happy thing that I couldn’t imagine that would fit this album! I wasn’t sure what to do with that, but playing it over and over again was pure fun and pleasure. When I was trying to make a field recording of several single birds in isolation, I noticed that it’s nearly impossible, and the most interesting part is that moment between the total chaos of singing birds and the perfectly coordinated flight of flock. Then I realized how to introduce this simple rhythmic melody.

 

Chain D.L.K.: Is the fact that your debut is self-named somehow related to a desire to introduce and speak of yourself before any other themes? Is it a sort of self-portrait? If yes, why did you choose that cover artwork?

Resina: I think I just didn’t want to complicate things. My ”artistic” name, which comes from Latin and means resin (in other words ”the blood of tree”), contains the strongest, primal idea of this album: to use all of that wooden, organic nature of this instrument. This includes some non-classical techniques, but challenging myself to find other ways of expression is one of my favorite parts of playing the cello, and it’s strongly present in this album.

The cover art was something obvious for me – when I saw this picture drawn by Polish artist Hanna Cieślak, I didn’t hesitate for one second (although I couldn’t find anything I would be happy with for a long time). That strong, minimalistic and organic piece of art has exactly something I was recognizing as a so-called main theme of the album that I’ve mentioned before: beauty and anxiety, ambivalence, suspension with no clear answer and relief, something more like a question or a mirror of the viewer’s expectations.

 

Chain D.L.K.: Is Tatry a reference to a place that many Polish friends recommended to me (in particular, they recommended Zakopane; I hope I didn’t misspell), those mountains in between the Slovakian and Polish borders..if so, how do those hills I’ve only seen in pictures resound in the two parts of that composition?

Resina: Yes, of course, I agree: it’s worth a visit, and Zakopane is a good starting point for many great climbing options (but avoid the high season!). I spent a lot of holidays there when I was a kid and have a lot of strong memories connected to this place.

However…the title ”Tatry” works rather as a symbol of a particular type of place, where you can feel haunted by beauty but at the same time you have to be aware of your every step. This may be the mountains, or the middle of the sea or any place your own experience and imagination suggests to you. These two pieces have their source in some particular kind of minimalistic sound that provokes a feeling of anticipating danger, but rather somewhere very deep under the skin, not in the real field of vision.

interview picture 3

courtesy of Kamila Chomicz

Chain D.L.K.: What’s the best place where you dream of performing your music to emphasize both your music and the setting?
Resina: Of course it’s nice to imagine playing in the mountains, hearing the natural echo-reverb of rocks. But to be honest, I’m getting more and more happy about performing live. It’s a very strange, special new feeling for me when the audience really follows your music, no matter if it sounds pretentious; that’s one of the highest rewards. I like playing in the places where people can sit very close to me (which never ceases to astonish me, especially since I usually start my concerts with a little bit of stage-fright).

 

Chain D.L.K.: Would you describe your music by transposing sounds into shades of light or color? If yes, what’s the darkest, the brightest, the grayest or the most shining moments in Resina?

Resina: That sounds like playing a synaesthesia – unfortunately I don’t have this ability, but let me play this time: ‘Tatry’ I could look at like morning light – sharp, piercing rays fighting with fog at dawn; ‘Flock’ is, of course, full of contrasts and dappled; ‘Tatry II’ has a colour of fog or smoke, and could be probably the greyest; ‘Nightjar’ is naturally dark blue, maybe the darkest one; ‘Dark Sky White Water’ looks like the reflection of light on a grey sea, the most unpredictable, changeable one; ‘Not Here’ – again it has a colour of an evening or even deep night sky on a sea. As you can see, I have my own pictures of these pieces, but I hope they still can work as a mirror of a listener’s personal experience and imagination.

Click here to listen an extract of “Not Here” from Resina’s album