Digging for Gold - Sławomir Wojciechowski International Festival of Contemporary Music Warsaw Autumn

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“Digging for gold, diving for pearls” is a quote from Matt Johnson’s album. In my mind, it has become associated with the surreal aura of the winter in 1987, the snowbound streets and the lively post-punk songs. Most of all, however, I remember this album for the numerous cracks and gaps in the music arrangements, which feature seemingly random sound objects. These minor, inconspicuous details magically transformed an otherwise ordinary song into a multilevel spatial object. 

The 1980s brought unique musical experiences. New digital tools made it possible to transform sounds with previously unimaginable ease. It was the time of legendary explorers of new types of sound, such as Trevor Horn, who spent the equivalent of a family house worth of money on a Fairlight sampler, and paid a competent programmer to translate the instruction for its use into a language comprehensible to musicians. Thanks to such investment, Horn was able to change a simple demo such as Welcome to the Pleasuredome (two looped verseor refrain-like fragments) into a dazzling masterpiece, about a dozen minutes long. 

The 1980s were followed by other eventful decades, with developing technology, globalisation, and the internet becoming an all-embracing data cloud. As viewed through the lens of a search engine, the past fuses with the present, while the previously existing differences, distinctions, boundaries, and styles get blurred owing to their constant reinterpretations, mutual quotations, mixing and copying... New music thus announces the end of the age of progress in music material, whereas popular music promotes remixing and retromania. 

There still are, nevertheless, large groups of daring explorers who do not cease to dig and dive, and sometimes they manage to find some gold, pearls, or other treasures. It is my private collection of such bits and pieces that has inspired me to write this composition. 

Sławomir Wojciechowski