Wednesday, January 4, 2012

AudioTong is not anymore?...

(Editor) AudioTong recording label released a lot of interesting albums last year: Jachna/Buhl "Niedokończone książki", Nucleon "Fitoplankton", DM&P "Insular Dwarfism" or Niski Szum "Songs From The Woods". I was therefore very sad when recently news has reached me that the label is unfortunately closing... Read text for more details... 

Q: When Audio Tong project started and why?

A: It was 2004 or 2005. Sound artist from Krakow, Lukasz Szalankiewicz (aka Zenial) and myself started meeting at concerts and other occassions and came up with an idea for an underground organization to promote music we were interested in. It was supposed to be a netlabel first which would turn into a CD label later on. Mainly though we wanted to promote concerts in Krakow which at the time had rather random music scene. Things were happening from time to time but there was no sense of long-term music-oriented activism. Krakow is a city of festivals (now even more than it used to be back then) and we wanted something more constant, something that would keep on happening regularly throughout a year.

During first 3 or 4 years of our activity we were organizing at least one concert a month showcasing experimental / noise / avantgarde musicians from Poland and – mostly – from abroad. That's how we managed to gain a rather significant audience here. Also, simultanously a pretty interesting scene of local musicians emmerged which I tried to follow as much as possible.

Still we have been researching unknown and forgotten territories – stylistically as much as geographically – having released compilations of noise music from Poland, experimental music from Eastern Europe (from Moldova to Uzbekhistan) and loads of music happening locally here in Krakow. We have also collaborated with and co-curated a number of festivals, presentations and publications.

In 2009 we decided to promote Polish experimental scene outside of the country and made two compilations of new Polish music for The Wire magazine (CD's were given away for subsribers in 2009 and 2010). This „Exploratory Music From Poland” project ( has been also continued in series of concerts in Europe (London, Brussels, Berlin, Amsterdam and Paris) as well as in Tokyo in November 2011.

Also we have started releasing music in physical format (CD's and CD-R's) with a wide range of various music not only from the region.

Although the label was rather successful, Zenial moved out from Krakow and our interests in music went into different areas. The AudioTong formula started to fade out and we need to come up with a new idea. ...which will be announced soon.

Q: Conceptual description of the label?

A: That's a difficult one. AudioTong has always been focused on showcasing music that would never find an audience any different way than through us. Helping out interesting musicians from the region and promoting them elsewhere – in fact, via Internet, worldwide, presenting demanding music to Krakow-based audience, encouraging young artists from here in their experiments, etc.

Obviously it was a suicide from the business-oriented point of view. Most of the CD's we've released didn't sell in big enough amounts to cover our expenses, even though most of them had really good reviews and those who listened to them appreciated the music a lot. But it was never supposed to be our dayjob, kind of idealistic work rather.

Stylistically we didn't know much limitations. From noise to improv, from field recordings to so-called IDM, from psychodelic music to avant-garde composition and from blues to avant-pop - anything that was interesting for us, was suitable for a release. This variety did help a lot although our catalogue seems a bit random now.

Conceptually, AudioTong was supposed to be a place of meeting, a crossing point between different cultures, genres and expectations. I believe we've mixed loads of weird shit enough by now.

Q: About your personal background?

A: Marcin Barski: "I have studied journalism and literature, although I've been doing loads of various crap to make my living and to financially back up AudioTong – translations, teaching English to kids, had an episode at advertising bussines, etc. Music became a very important part of my life very early but cannot really describe why. This experimental scene seemed to be the most interesting, the most demanding and the most clever of all music I've heard. And the most underpreciated, I thought, so I decided to help :)))"

I don't consider myself a curator even though that would probably be the best description for what I'm doing now... But I'm rather a music promotor and a publisher."

Lukasz Szalankiewicz (aka Zenial): "I'm a sound-designer, a digital music composer and historian. My family place is Sanok, but now I reside in Cracow... I'm one of the first people in Poland, who found the demo-scene on PC (the hermetic group of artists creating on computers a different kind of expression: programming [coding], graphic art, animation, music and text). Since 1994 under pseudonym ZENIAL I cooperated with multimedial groups like HYPNOTIZE and THE GRID. I'm an author of articles for disc magazines (disseminated in digital form) I also wrote for official computer press about demo-scene (for example CD - ACTION).
From 1995 to 1997 I was creating music in a special project called ANASTAZYA. In 1998 I participated in two projects: the JANTAR DC55 (ambient) and the PALSECAM (
I was the cooperator of the net magazine Eld Rich Palmer which specializes in experimental music and of NOMAD ( My current specific areas of interest include an aesthetics of noise, particularly the Japanese form of radical sounds and every symptom of abstraction and grotesque in life and art.
I actively cooperate with many kind of artists. For the time being I'm working on series of compilations , where I invite various experimental composers."

Q: What do you consider is the first thing an aspirant of curatorial processes has to known? And wich important mistakes you consider new curators and independent spaces normally commit?

I'll answer these two questions together. Being a curator is a risky business. First of all, what does that mean, to be a curator? I've met many so called curators who believed that curating is a synonym for organizing concerts or festivals. It's not. Curating needs some expertise, knowledge and independent thinking not only about music itself but also about ideas and processes it communicates. Especially when the music does so not in a straight or conscious way.

Nowadays curators more and more often start taking artists positions, coming up with ideas and forcing them on the musicians/sound artists they work with. They invent themes and topics for their events and persuade artists to adjust. Most cases the result is shit. A situation when an artist is being treated like a craftsman is a situation where no-one has anything to say: the artist does what the curator expects and the curator in most cases hides behind the performing artist. What you get is emptiness and usually overdesigned boring bullshit.

So, the conclusion would be that a curator needs to care a lot for what artist wants to say. Listens and tries to understand. Curator should communicate with an artist rather than a crowd.

A music curator should not read too much of the most popular, trendsetting media. If something is attractive to the masses does not necesarilly mean that its artistic value is at least half as big as the piece's accessibility. You have to be careful with the audience because audience can easily fuck you. Doing what you think people want is like performing a nice fat filthy blowjob on a group of people. A simple pleasure is not necesarilly what you should give to the people, they can get it in other ways.

A curator should be brave and open-minded. Easy to say, I know. There's no excuse for not doing things you want to do and for doing things you don't really feel like doing. I know that very well, made this mistake way too many times.

Finally, a curator should not follow trends or give too much attention to what people say. You know, it's really simple: some people will get it, some people won't. If you're 100 percent sure about the message or idea you want to explore, just do it. What have you got to loose? Except for public funding, of course?

Be independent, don't be polite. Do what you believe in, not what you're being told to believe. First think, than do. Discuss. Don't push yourself in front of the artist. Give up if you don't like it. That's just about it. All other things – technical, logistics, etc. – you can figure out within an hour or two by yourself.

Q: At the end of the year Audiotong will close as a label, but keep on running on different terms... You want to advance us new strategies and activities? Why you decided to close the label ?

Reinventing the idea still. Not really closing the label – but closing it in the way it functioned until now. There will be some music coming out in that way or another from us. Too early to say much about the future. It will be different – in what way, you will see.

Marcin Barski, 13 December 2011

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