Dead Man's Chest, 2 for Zbigniew Karkowski

by Jeff Gburek Projects



Tempted to title this album "I, of the Tyger" -- thinking of the poem by Blake and the image of Karkowski with the tiger on the "Dangerous Dreams" page (Fylkingen) -- still, what tawdry image solutions that granted, gave moments of pause. "Sound is like a wild animal; it will only hurt you if you are afraid of it." Images on the other hand, well, it could be the opposite. Stare it down. If I called Karkowksi the Doctor of Daring, no one who ever knew him would. Because it would be redundant. Ripple of a stone that plunged. So I call the album "Dead Man's Chest, 2 for Karkowski", instead. Pulled out of the vault of "this" dead man's chest of horrors for perhaps the very same ends of wildlife preservation.

Analysis: I've started using nomenclatures from Anthony Braxton to try to define epochs of restructuration in my own. As this continually leads to a revision of my musical prehistory, the carbon-dating is what Smithson called a "map under continual disruption" -- an Earthly, indeterminate and yet very determined process. I would call the two pieces post-reductionist, in personal terms of development. That is to say, after the experience of meeting and playing with many excellent people in Berlin, something had to change. I needed more head room but I couldn't work with other noise musicians. After Darmstadt, it was much more clear the gorges were widening. My musical heritage goes back to the USA and the Blues. My "noise" still bears this imprint of an inalienable set of spatial conditions Olson called American. Nevertheless, I wound up elsewhere. In the locale of sound, without clear relations or referents. With rather clear pulsations, however. Transhumant...

So, I dedicate these pieces to one of the Doctors of Daring Sound, Zbigniew Karkowski, more like a big brother I never had, now that I think about it... and, so what... nothing more than a howl...

On the day Karkowski died, I wrote this memoir, published on Facebook:

I rarely go in for the necrophilia but this is a special occasion... Karkowski RIP...

It started before the gig even, in Strasbourg, maybe 2003. On the third beer, I begged off, as I had to play my set before his. Convinced the girl working at the bar was Polish, he tried to seduce her with the mother tongue, came back with two beers, said she was Bulgarian, and insisted, pushing a glass in my direction. I nursed it while he proclaimed his love for Johnny Cash and American music in general. Suspicious and flattered simultaneously (because, as you all know, I am personally responsible for American musical heritage), oddly I started to feel comfortable in the foreign environment with this blue-streak talker, completely fluent in French. He said he'd just gotten off the plane from Tokyo, has a girlfriend in Paris. He launched immediately into berating the organizer of the gig, who was nowhere to be found to greet us. We met with the organizer's colleague in the museum, a lady. They spoke French and I comprehended only a bit of the exchange. When she left to take care of other pressing business, Karkowski told me all the insulting things he said to her and laughed at himself and the situation. Of course he asked me if I knew what my name meant in Polish. Above all, he seemed to be fond of reality and the controversy created by those out of touch with it. He also seemed equal parts delusional and cognizant, like an old soldier, like all the Europeans of his generation, completely convinced, utterly alienated.

His set-- he asked me if he could use my mixing board, the smaller Behringer I borrowed from Joseph Angelo, so that I might not to die from overweight charges-- his set sounded at first like some thousand bowling balls tumbling about in hot mud, a throbbing abuse of Ableton (probably 5 or 6 at that point), writhing, spiteful, audience-indifferent noise agit-prop, in tune only with the objective pointlessness of the natural sciences themselves, morphing into ever more ruthless hailstorms that must have been once the daily business of a grumbling and pummeled planet during one or or more of the formative asteroid bombardments. And I was pretty much okay with this jazz or jizz meets catastrophe theory sonic crapshoot until he spiked everything plus 2, 000 hertz at an estimated 75 dB but then walked the fuck off-stage, out the door. It hurt. He was smart to exit, otherwise... 3 full minutes, I'd guess, before the sound engineer trimmed it down. Karkowski came back the cloud of a recently extinguished stinking Marlboro in his wake. The people were already applauding. "Je joue encore," he proclaimed. Rimbaud's "Je suis un autre" echoed in my mind. Karko climbed the steps and powered off the laptop. Later he said, that Behringer board, didn't let me make it loud enough.

Dinner later at some restaurant near the hotel. With the organizer, curator of the museum in those days. On his tab, of course. Zbiggie orders two bottles of Bordeaux. "But are you sure you will you drink it?", the curator asks. He and I burst out laughing simultaneously. I order carpaccio du boeuf, determined to have new experiences. Wjat happened then? The mingling of the knives and forks, the slurps--- occasion to discuss Japanese eating etiquette (loud slurps is okay, you know)-- then the tirades of the Polish "composer"--- filled with that resentful effervescance that counts the corpses in the back of the mind almost as quickly as one adds 2 and two to equal five...

But the Germans, you know, they are the ones that add 2 and 2 up to three... who said that? I don't remember. Cuz einmal ist keinmal... a general laughter relieves the tension... Third bottle of Bordeaux hits the table with the full ritual--- you know this protracted time of wine-tasting and approval, which I've yet to witness "sent back"-- because who the fuck has problems with Bordeaux, especially if you don't have to grasp your ass for your wallet to pay for it? Nobody I ever met.

I'm still chewing of this ambiguous flesh I ordered... wtf is this-- as I smile and try to pay attention to the details of a scandal involving the GRIM, about which the curator of the museum knows nothing... Karkowski elbows me in the ribs, saying, "who is this guy?" I'm almost ready to smack the Polish composer upside the head... I spoke rheumatic French for the first time in ten years earlier today.. you insult a French woman and seduce unsuccessfully a Bulgarian bar-maid... you like Johnny Cash... you have a girl-friend in Tokyo and a girlfriend in Paris... I am going to Berlin tomorrow to catch the last night of Amplify festival... I don't' remember where I slept that night in Berlin...

Discussion in Strasbourg restaurant turned suddenly to Masami Akita (Merzbow), personal life-long friend of the Polish composer. Someone "asked" Akita Masami "must" design a T-shirt they want to sell for him, to help him. Karkowski rants against the grubby T-shirt pedestrians: "Don't they know who Masami Akita is?"

I threw my fancy French knife onto the table with a small klang. Hey, I said, let's go the round of the tables here and ask how many of these chatty friendly French bourgeios people know who the fuck Masami Akita is?

At last, I struck a blow that created silence for a millesecond or so. He knew I would do it table for table to prove a point far into the obvious. Nevertheless, he detoured, me, at least, by citing another scandal, involving Neubauten and an online remix project-- implying of course that he was the producer of NNNAAAMMM...

Karko said he hated WIRE magazine and "refused" them to publish any article on him (more on this later, as I conclude this inconclusive memoir).

Of the remains of this evening I only recall the hotel, the hot shower, flipping through channels on the cable, coldy watching late-night French soft-porn... unable to sleep... finding at last an Italian film, that one about the late days of WWII in naples... and trying to drift my mind over the peculiar streets of Strasbourg, this ambiguous city... just wondering what this is all about...

Meet in hotel cafeteria with Kark in the morning, discuss access to rail to station, have coffee at station while awaiting different trains... exchange cd's in familiar ritual... he scrawls on paper mostly illegibly his japan email address... i have the scrap of paper here in a box somewhere... strange autograph of a fleeting contact... He said that I should pas on greetings to Otomo Yoshihide when I saw him in Berlin... "Otomo is the greatest musician, no matter what hes' doing."

Months later I have a casual conversation with a Brit music writer (composer too, violinist, a man of his times, in short, trying to kick out the jams). The Brit writer had gone ballistic on the inanity of the Persepolis remixes fostered or executed by Karkowski -- in San Francisco, I guess, now, without checking databases-- but published later in CD form -- and which leads us into the Darius/Cyrus scenario and then the Shah of Iran's funding of Xenakis' rendering of the piece in Persepolis... as strange celebration, to say the least...while I can also say that the whole remix project seemed fitting with many of Xenakis's own ideas, so... why not?

Nevertheless, the email exchanges between the heated Brit and the heated Pole grew to such a palaver that admitted finally words of violence. "I'd like to stucco his face to a wall"... Oddly enough, I recalled this phrase a few days before I learned of Karkowski's death... it's even in a FB note there...

And so, we learn what? That drunken men say stupid things? Or that they say true things that go unheeded? In what state might be the one who decides?

Even these strike me as superficial estimations.

Karkowski called technology into witness after a long series of experiments which leave one pretty much continually baffled. They might be mild psychedelic experiences heard on low volume in your home delivery system and be completely forgettable. They may be delivered in a 16 channel environment in a high-tech shack in San Francisco ( surrounded by the s&m porn industry) and have been as equally forgettable. San Francisco friends are invited to chime in...

These are a few shards of what I remember.


released December 16, 2013



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Jeff Gburek Projects Poland

guitarist, composer, improvisor, sound artist, prepared guitar, unprepared guitars, stones, found objects, phonography, electronics, digital manipulation.studied Javanese and Balinese gamelan music, developed as a percussionist studied the theories of Partch and Xenakis while working in the dance/theater/butoh project Djalma Primordial Science.STEIM residency and Darmstadt summer. ... more

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