SONIC EXPOSURE :: Kuba Kapsa

“I established Contemporary Noise Sextet and started to write jazz music which was strongly influenced by my rock roots, and after a while I again felt caged, this time in this jazz thinking, which eventually led me to a musical dead end. Then, after some time, the sun came out…and that sun was…Igor Stravinsky.”

Kuba Kapsa (Photo by Maciej Falkowski)

Kuba Kapsa (Photo by Maciej Falkowski)

Smuggled vinyl and cracked lungs

Seems like the universe had been steering Kuba Kapsa towards a career in music already since the early stages of his life. At the age of five, his love for music started to develop when he found interest in his father’s smuggled record collection. It wasn’t long before he became a Beatles fan. At the age of ten, he found himself singing in a Christian ensemble after being charmed by one of the ensemble girls. Later on, his father bought him an old Russian piano, but Kuba didn’t want to practice on it. “I was an unruly kid” he recalls. During the nineties, influenced by Nirvana and Slayer, he and his brother established a rock band. Years later, a love for jazz had started to grow in his heart and a fascination with John Coltrane in particular led him to the saxophone. Cracked lungs due to too much practice made him find another instrument, and soon he found himself playing the instrument the ten-year-old unruly kid didn’t want to play. From that point things have started to bloom. Contemporary Noise Sextet was established and since 2006 released five albums including a live one.

Now, influenced by 20th century composers like Stravinsky, Varese, Bartok, Bacewicz, Kilar and Górecki, but also by luminary minimalists such as Steve Reich and Philip Glass, Kapsa returns with Vantdraught 10 Vol. 1, an album containing four original, brilliant pieces he wrote for ten classical instruments: four violins, two violas, cello, vibraphone, marimba and piano. The music is executed by a battery of skilled players with much grace and expressivity, under the conducting hands of Kapsa himself. It’s a highly inspiring work that most certainly can enhance a powerful ballet choreography or be a soundtrack of an epic fantasy or historical medieval drama film. Keep following Kuba Kapsa and his unique musical evolution, as he always works on something exciting, and who knows, maybe Vol. 2 in the Vantdraught series will be ready later this year.


Igloo logo The story?

Kapsa :: I live in Poland, in a tiny town called Szubin where I was born. My musical story started when I was a kid. I joined a Christian ensemble and soon became a soloist. I wouldn’t of course join the ensemble, if it wasn’t for a certain girl, as there were so many interesting and forbidden things to do for a 10 year old boy and definitely singing in a Christian ensemble wasn’t one of them. I also felt uncomfortable being a soloist, but you can’t fight love, right? Since she was a soloist too, I decided to sacrifice myself for a woman and sang with her at the front of the stage and felt happy anyway. Later my father bought me a piano but I didn’t want to practice on it. It was a Russian one, and was called “Nocturno.” As I recall it had the shittiest sound you can imagine, I would call it “a soviet piano sound.”

This, and me being unruly kid probably kept me from practicing. My father already didn’t listen to much music when I was a child, but he had a great collection of analog records that he smuggled from Western Germany to Poland under the interior panels of his car and so I became a Beatles fan when I was five. I remember listening to those records for hours. Soon me and my brother took control over the record player, moved it into our room and declared ourselves as owners of the record collection. My father didn’t oppose and since then silence in our home was considered as something weird, I presume. During the nineties I was of course a Nirvana fan and my brother loved Slayer. We established a rock band called Something Like Elvis, we started smoking cigarettes and lots of other stuff and joined the punk community in our town. After ten years of creating rock music I felt kind of caged in this rock thinking of music and this was the time when I was absolutely fascinated with John Coltrane, so I decided to leave the band and become a saxophone player. I bought a tenor saxophone and started practicing. I practiced so hard and for so many hours a day that my lungs cracked and I ended up in hospital. The Doctors said that I should forget about saxophone and find myself another instrument and so I chose the piano. I established Contemporary Noise Sextet and started to write jazz music which was strongly influenced by my rock roots, and after a while I again felt caged, this time in this jazz thinking, which eventually led me to a musical dead end. Then, after some time, the sun came out…and that sun was…Igor Stravinsky.

When I heard “The Rite of Spring” for the first time I knew this was going to be my next direction in music and so I started to write classical music and here we are now. As for Denovali, the label proposed cooperation one day and issued all Contemporary Noise Sextet albums. We shall be working together for quite some time I hope.

Igloo logo The Vantdraught series?

Kapsa :: Vantdraught series is yet another stage in my musical evolution. It is strongly influenced by 20th century composers like Stravinsky, Varese, Bartok, Bacewicz, Kilar, Górecki, Webern, Schoenberg and stuff like that. I also like Steve Reich and Philip Glass very much and the Vandraught 10 Vol. 1 album is very much based on repetitions, especially when it comes to percussive instruments. However, to me, repetitive conception of writing music gets worn out quickly and I tend towards variety more than repetition. The assumption for the Vantdraught series is to write classical music for different sets of instruments as long as it is associated with a specific approach and specific thinking of music. I’m not really sure what it is, but I will for sure know when this period ends. As for the title Vantdraught, it is an anagram, but if I reveal the word it is made of, there will be no fun in guessing it.

“I’m not really sure if I still am that live animal from the past. I guess the older I get the less I need to expose myself on stage. I’m addicted to creating music, but not so much to presenting it to the audience. I prefer to be a part of an audience, which in fact I am while conducting the ensemble.”

Igloo logo Vantdraught 10?

Kapsa :: As I mentioned before, Vantdraught 10 is based on repetitions and if we consider the piano as one of the percussive instruments, it perhaps recalls some of Reich’s work, but the upper part of the score, however, is something different and utilises longer phrases and melodies. Marimba, piano and vibraphone establish rhythmic and harmonic base for the compositions, while the string section tells the story. I decided to split Vantdraught 10 to Vol.1 and Vol. 2 as I would like to write some more music for this particular ensemble. This time less repetitive with more percussion instruments incorporated. In the meantime I work on Vantdraught 25, a project written for the extended string section, percussion and wind instruments. The work was commissioned by Szubin authorities for the 650 Town’s Anniversary and its live premiere will take place in summer. Recording session comes next and I’ll hopefully record it in Pomeranian Philharmony, one of the best sounding venues in Poland.

Igloo logo Live?

Kapsa :: I’m very much into writing nowadays and the Vantdraught 10 album was premiered in April, and I think live gigs are provided for autumn, but there’s no specific dates I know of. I’m not really sure if I still am that live animal from the past. I guess the older I get the less I need to expose myself on stage. I’m addicted to creating music, but not so much to presenting it to the audience. I prefer to be a part of an audience, which in fact I am while conducting the ensemble.

Igloo logo On heavy rotation?

Kapsa :: On my heavy rotation these days is the wonderful Grażyna Bacewicz. I totally love her music – Violin Concerto No.1, Concerto for String Orchestra, Piano Quintets No. 1 and 2, Music for String, Trumpets and Percussion and many more. She was an absolutely wonderful composer. Highest standard of compositional skills, kind of Stravinsky in a skirt, you know… Other then that I have recently been exploring Wojciech Kilar’s music, and Zappa’s “Dancing fool” is always available in my car.

Kuba Kapsa Ensemble / Vantdraught 10 Vo. 1 | Contemporary Noise Sextet | Denovali

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