Friday, 7 August 2009
Krzysztof Komeda and the Abstracted Listening Test
I listen to music constantly while I work, and my work is writing so I tend to get very abstracted. I become so absorbed in what I'm doing that I might surface after an hour of concentration and realise I have no idea what I'm currently listening to. ¶ Today I was in the process of writing a new opening chapter for my spy novel and I was so wrapped up in it that I'd quite forgotten what CD I hastily popped on to play in the background. I've learned to treasure these moments because they throw up unexpected insights. ¶ Instead of trying to remember what the CD was or, worst of all, looking at the cover, I approach things from first principles. Who does it sound like? Well this was evidently 1960s jazz and it sounded a little like Henry Mancini, although I was sure it wasn't him. It also sounded like some of Mancini's great Italian contemporaries, such as Piero Umiliani or Piero Piccioni. It didn't quite have the depth or big band complexity of any of these stalwarts, but it definitely had a European sound. And it was very very funky. ¶ Was it that German guy who did the Edgar Wallace soundtracks (Peter Thomas)? I was studiously trying to avoid recalling who it actually was while these useful insights poured out. But then, like a bubble bursting, I remembered. It was Christopher Komeda, actually Krzysztof Komeda, one of the true stars of Polish jazz. ¶ Komeda was the composer of most of Roman Polanki's film scores, up until Komeda's untimely death in late 1968, after completing the music to Rosemary's Baby. That's a great soundtrack and well worth tracking down, but the CD I'd been listening to was Volume 13 of the Complete Recordings of Krzysztof Komeda on Polonia (CD 159) which features jazz standards and the score for Polanski's Cul de Sac. ¶ Probably Komeda's greatest jazz album was Astigmatic, which is generally regarded as a classic of European jazz, or anybody's jazz. There is a first rate reissue on vinyl which is still available. Click on the cover for a link to it. There's some good photographs of Komeda working on Polanski's early films and some further information here.