Switched on – Jacaszek: Music for Film (Ghostly International)

What’s the story?

Polish composer Michal Jacaszek has pulled together excerpts from a number of different cinematic projects into a single work that runs for 45 minutes. It includes music from Rainer Sarnet’s black and white film November, a fantasy drama from 2017, where the brief was to create music ‘full of dark magic, strange beliefs, poverty, grit and natural beauty’, all around a story of love in old Estonian pagan times. Also included is music from He Dreams of Giants (2019) and Golgota wrocławska (2008).

What’s the music like?

As you might expect, Music For Film offers vivid imagery, often with cold and dark undertones. Jacaszek’s music unfolds with a measured tread throughout, a slow but determined walk forward that often leads into places of darkness. There is a close link to the music of Penderecki and Górecki here, more in mood than in explicit style, for Jacaszek is individual enough to hold his own comfortably.

The sparse textures of 49 are an ominous introduction, with a particularly cold piano sound, and this leads into the unsettling scene described by The Iron Bridge. Dance, too, has an underlying dread, the metallic and macabre sounds shuffling above a steadily moving bass line, eked out on a pizzicato bass instrument. Liina has a similarly bleak profile, with a cold vocal taking the lead.

There is white light in and around this music however, carefully and often beautifully shaded. Christ Blood Theme makes slow and stately progress while Encounter Me In The Orchard stops the listener in their tracks with a rich choral texture, like an imported piece from the Renaissance suspended in time.

November Early is particularly striking, painting the natural beauty required by the Estonian picture while reminding us of the bitter cold. Soft pianos toll, distant strings offer icy tremolos, but the steady foundations of pizzicato strings are what holds this music together, Jacaszek recreating the figurations of an old baroque-style Chaconne. By contrast the remove November Late builds from sparse beginnings to a full blooded orchestral climax.

Does it all work?

Yes, though Jacaszek’s work should come with the caveat that the listener needs to be in the right frame of mind to fully appreciate it! There are some very cold scenes here, achieved through masterly orchestration and the intriguing and often lingering glances towards older musical forms. Again this is in common with fellow Polish composers, but Jacaszek has plenty of original touches himself.

Is it recommended?

Yes. Jacaszek writes with powerful emotion, often through restraint. His music is often headed for dark places but it is well worth encountering if you haven’t previously heard it.

Listen and Buy

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