Conversations with Andrzej Slawinski:
Creator and Developer of AudioStrobe Technology
(From e-Interview with Michael Landgraf in AVS Journal, Spring 2002)
In the friendly and international climate of the Heidelberg University I founded a new theater group ‘Tamas Theater’. As starting script was my adaptation of Herman Hesse’s tale ‘A Message From Another Star’. We used black light (UV) and regular spots to change fast from one world to another. In this play dealing with the subject of war and peace we were using recordings of interviews from passers-by on the street and children talking about war. I was using language lab equipment for preparing the tracks.
Outside of Tamas, I rehearsed with a professional Argentinian artist Jorge Aquista. He saw one of my performances and asked me to work with him. His main activity was at this time conducting theater workshops and seminars. We learned much from each other through our meetings in the rehearsal room, where he taught me his techniques and I taught him mine.
We decided to do an audiovisual performance based on Carlos Castaneda’s books, Polish poem writer and visionary Adam Mickiewicz, Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Treaty and others. It was named ‘The Power of the Other Reality’. I played Don Juan, and he, Castaneda and each of one of us was the other’s director. We went on tour to many German cities, living from performances and conducting theater workshops.
My next play was about ‘Birth, Life and Death’, which I performed with my pregnant wife. This time it was a collage of our thoughts about this subject. For the first time I was using a piece of my own composed music, which I performed on a PolySix Korg synthesizer to a 4 Track recorder.
Then, we moved from Heidelberg to a small village, Krumbach, in southern part of Germany. Here I had adapted part of our house to a small theater and workshop room. I continued the ‘Tomas Theater’ doing workshops and seminars. One of our plays was a world premiere by a Russian playwright Vvedensky’s ‘Christmas at Ivanoves’, a very absurd and poetic theater piece.
My passions in Krumbach were music and photography (slide shows). First I adapted my PolySix’s appregiator and my Amiga Commodore 64 so that I was able to ‘program’ single music sequences and synchronize it to my 4 track DBX recorder. Using ping-pong techniques I was able to get as many as 10 different tracks. I made my first tape for theater and meditation: ‘Waves of Coincidence’. My next step was to control the single keys of the PolySix by computer. Then, the MIDI system became available.
I bought one of the first MIDI sequencers for Commodore 64 (C Lab?) And a MIDI interface. I sold my good old PolySix with all its extra cables and bought DX7 and Korg synthesizer. The sequencer was very primitive but enough to arrange a piece of Prokofiev. When I received my new copy of the Scientific American, just looking at the fractals pictured inside, I had my first synesthetic experience which changed my life. Here’s a quote from an article I wrote in 1993 for ‘Chaos Magazine’ out of Technical University Munich: ‘My hand moved, attracted to the red, bursting flames, coming from the two connected circles. It was called Mandelbrot set, and I thought, what does it really mean, the ‘almond-bread’, and this strange picture. I opened the magazine and my eyes were pulled into a spiral, a tunnel, where you can fly further and further. My imagination was flooded with ideas for stage design, patterns of colors and sounds. For a short moment I was flying over a landscape, filled with moving, cycling but ever changing color lights and pulsing sounds.
I tried to understand how the pictures were made, and soon I knew, they had been generated by a computer: The Fascinating World of Fractals. The link was there, but no hardware to run it. Just several days ago I had soldiered a small interface to the Commodore 64 computer to run the appregiator of my Korg PolySix synthesizer. I asked our friend, disturbing his talk about the Spanish wine, for the copy of the magazine. Still excited with the proceeding experience, I tried to transform it into musical patterns. The first composition, which included chaos and order in its structure, was done on 10 analogue tracks and I called it ‘The Waves of Coincidence’. I have used it many times in my theater workshops for body relaxation exercises.
Some months later, again inspired by an article on iterative graphics in Scientific American, I began setting up my electronic sound studio. I bought some of the first MIDI synthesizers, a sampler, an 8 track recorder, a studio mixer, effect devices and two Atari ST computers.
The first computer was used to generate a sequence of midi events on the basis of fractal algorithms, to represent the events as a fractal graphic and finally to send it through the midi out to the second computer. There, the midi events were recorded by a sequencer program, edited, scaled to a chosen key, represented as a musical score, transposed, copied to different tracks, reversed, etc. It was possible to assign several different musical instruments to the same part and then store the whole setup on a disk. At this time there was a hardware limitation to 16 MIDI channels, and most of the current synthesizers had no MIDI-mode; they could play only one instrument at the same time. The problem was solved by using the multi-track recording system.
Some of the parts of the musical score were recorded one after another to the multi-track recorder, synchronized to the MIDI clock prerecorded on one of the tracks. The recorded tracks were remixed, using electronic sound effect devices like reverb, delay, chorus, etc. to a master recorder. At this time I used the PCM video system, which was afterwards replaced by DAT recorder.’ As I was getting more and more into experimenting with fractal music, I have discovered that it was more than just fun and strange ideas.
To be continued…
Copyright: AVS Journal, Michael Landgraf, Publisher (2012) CA.