Conversations with Andrzej Slawinski: Creator and Developer of AudioStrobe Technology

 

Conversations with Andrzej Slawinski:

Creator and Developer of AudioStrobe Technology

 

(From e-Interview with Michael Landgraf in AVS Journal, Spring 2002)

 

So, how did AudioStrobe technology begin?

“Well actually, it really is about the story of my life.At the age of 14 I had the chance to visit the Soviet Union and after two weeks recovery back inPoland, to leave for the USA. I think it must be a kind of a culture shock for me visiting so differentsystems in such short period of time. (Apparently Poland was not so much ‘communistic’as it was supposed to be!)

Having the great luck of getting financial support for attending a private high school (Gilman)in Baltimore. There, I was computer spoiled for the first time in my life. Almost every afternoon after the study hall, before gym, I disappeared in the computer room. And what a computer they did have! It must be one of the first solid state HPs with 64 K RAM and large as a wardrobe itself.

But anyway, at Gilman in the music class I heard for the first time in my life Tomita’s electronic interpretation of Musorsky’s ‘Picture at an Exhibition’ and then ‘Switched on Bach’. I was very fascinated by the possibilities of the electronic music and I made my first attempts with the school’s HP. I did not bring it to sing like the HAL computer but still the tape puncher made several different rhythms. Also I used my parents hi-fi set for making recordings of sounds of falling books, clapping chairs and feedback tones between the speakers and the microphone. I played this piece to an American colleague of my Father and he just asked ‘How did you generate this?’ I believe he was disappointed to hear it was so simple.

In one of the mail order catalogs I found simple devices for relaxation using biofeedback techniques. I would love to order one but they were just beyond my financial fantasies. One day I read an article in one of the American magazines about synesthesia. I was fascinated by the descriptions of people who could see sound or smell visuals. Although the description was rather popular description of pathological state I felt that there must be much more about this ‘symptom’ in the art creation process. I did not imagine then that this phenomenon of synesthesia will be one of my main ideas in the role as a producer and director in my life.

After one year of stay in the USA I had to go back to Poland. There was a further electronic music fascination in me especially after watching in Kubrick’s and Clarke’s film ‘2001′ the ‘Tunnel Flight’ scene. In order to heal my depressions from the grey reality of the ‘socialistic’ society and the rigid school system I built a color organ and ‘danced’ with my hands throwing shadows on the wall to the rhythm of the hard rock music of the ‘70’s.

Having just passed my 16 I read an article in an official ‘Poland’ magazine about a Polish artist, Stanislav Ostoja-Kotkowski, living in Australia, who was doing experiments with music and visuals generated through modulation of laser light by the original audio signal. I have seen some of the photographs from his performances and I was very impressed. The editorial staff of ‘Poland’ magazine was kind enough to pass my letter to the artist and some weeks later I received a letter from him. I wrote him back and received an answer again. He was so kind to describe some of his next plans for his project and they dealt with controlling the laser lights with biofeedback in order to create visuals. This brought me back my interest on EEG and other biofeedback systems from the USA. I checked some of the electronic catalogs for operational amplifiers but they were not sensitive enough and not yet available in Poland. I moved to another city with my parents and then I lost contact to Mr. Ostoja-Kotkowski. Today through an internet search I learned that he has passed away. Some of his works are stored in the database of the Melbourne University.

I was able to try out one of the first ‘moogs’ on an international fair in Poznan. The keyboard was a kind of a touch panel. My girlfriend waited patiently for me but I was lost in the world of sounds, starting and stopping the simple sequencer, and playing with the effect patches. Some time later, maybe hours later I just heard a voice ‘We have to close now. Man, you have to stop playing otherwise you will become crazy!’

Together with two of my high school friends we took apart a transistor-built Russian ‘Minsk’ computer, which was ‘donated’ to our school by the local university as they had to make place for a new integrated circuit model. Using these parts and others we were building from optical pickups for guitars up to a simple polymoog system including a ring generator and some audio effects. With these equipment I did my first compositions.

This was time of many changes, in myself, as well as in the political climate in Poland. My inner outlets was reading modern literature, writing poems and play scripts, short stories, experimenting with sound and I also started to paint again.

This time I had a project in my mind where music and visuals would be united in a synesthetic experience. I planned to use air-brush technique and frame by frame recording film camera. The music was to be the first part of Beethoven’s 9th. In high school I began to study physics but soon noticed my artistic part taking over. I joined one of the experimental theater groups, ‘Maya’, first as doing lights for the running play, but soon I had the chance to receive professional training as actor. This was fascinating time working on plays, improvisation techniques, changing and growing. I visited many Polish and international theater festivals, workshops and other cultural events. These 3 years were so intensive for my personal growth process, intensive in the social changes culminating with the ‘Solidarity’, and in the interaction with the artists in the community that it is more proper to spare all this memories for a separate story.

 To be continued…

Copyright: AVS Journal, Michael Landgraf, Publisher (2012) CA.