A colourful adventure in sound

Bachelor of Music graduate Jakub Gaudasinski has achieved international success with the global release of his electronic music record Entanglement – his most ambitious musical project to date. Building upon a strong academic foundation at the University of Adelaide’s Elder Conservatorium, Jakub has taken the art of music-making to new levels, proving he has what it takes to make it in this challenging industry.

University degree details, including year of graduation:

I completed a Bachelor of Music Studies (Composition) in 2007. Prior to that, I completed a Certificate IV in Classical Music in 2004, also at the University of Adelaide.

Why did you choose the University of Adelaide to study?

There were a number of reasons. Mainly, it was the fact that many of the former Flinders Street School of Music staff had taken up positions there, and as they were my music teachers back when I did, ever so briefly, attend the FSSoM, there was an element of poetry to this sort of reunion. Of course there was also some very positive feedback from university graduates.

Even though I thought the course would be largely theoretical, there was quite a sizeable practical component to it, and in my case at least, it was most welcome.

What attracted me to university in general was the freedom of thought, and the forum to converse and work with like-minded people and artists alike, and by any opinion it seemed that the University of Adelaide was just such an institution.

Truly and unabashedly, I count my years at university as some of the best years of my life.

What were some of the highlights and successes during your time at University?

Two that immediately come to mind are the choral performances back in 2006, one of Brahms’ German Requiem, and the other of Orff’s Carmina Burana, both performed at the Adelaide Festival Centre. Those were spectacular events and the energy of those two nights, and the German Requiem in particular, still resonates with me today.

Carl Crossin is an amazing choral director and I have always had a lot of respect for him and the work he put into the university choirs. Another source of great memories were the often voluntary out-of-class composition work experience assignments organised by David Harris for his tutorial class. Everything from music for theatre and dance, music for film and independent installation art; the work was interesting, relevant, and often very challenging, requiring many hours of single-minded dedication.

I remember quite vividly the long rehearsals with groups of theatre students whom I was teaching to sing the songs I wrote for their stage production. There were many odd looks exchanged as, working with actors who often do not read music, I needed to demonstrate all the songs myself, and as this was my first ever attempt at this kind of work, I would often get things wrong… sometimes very wrong, and with hilarious results. Sometimes the vocal range, or the speed, or the complexity were too ambitious, sometimes I would throw the whole song out because I would learn that the actor actually had a much better voice than I imagined, and a more complex piece was needed.

Adaptation was key, and luckily for me I was always able to rewrite things at a moment’s notice. It was a fantastic exercise in a real-world, professional context. I always took advantage of all the opportunities I was given, because this was why I was there, and because of those assignments I have met some very interesting people, some of whom I still work with to this day.

What were your lecturers and tutors like?

Actually, I can quite honestly say that they were fantastic, and I have many fond memories from some very enlightening lectures. Doctor Mark Carroll was a stand-out in my opinion, and some of his political musings and stories I can still recall, especially those on social realism in the former Soviet Union. Lectures with Doctor Mark were like a combination of weekly story time, an intellectual comedy show, and a stark and brutal look and dissection of some very interesting issues, both past and present.

But really, though one could say that the music faculty was composed of the sort of characters that perhaps wouldn’t naturally gravitate, they were an amazing group of thought-provoking and intellectually diverse people who truly loved their chosen fields. Each one of them was almost an archetype of their own kind; a clearly defined and charismatic character who wanted to take you on an adventure into their own world. Or at least that’s the way I saw it.

I did enjoy the way in which nothing was ambivalent about any class. There always was a point, sometimes obscure and not immediately visible, and sometimes one that I would not necessarily agree with, but a point nonetheless, and the expert way in which the subject was treated and discussed nurtured a profound sort of respect for my lecturers and tutors.

Can you tell us a bit about your journey from University to where you are now? 

Shortly after graduation I have started working freelance with a few television producers that I’ve met over the years while trying to find other work in commercial music production. Being completely on your own like that is tough, but it was then that I learnt how to differentiate between work contracts that are worth the time and ones that aren’t.

I’ve also started working pretty much exclusively in the electronic music domain, and because of the lack of funds, I had to invent some interesting and cost-effective ways of working.

I wrote a lot of music over that first year and a half after graduation, and it was then that I’ve managed to secure a licensing deal to have my music used by ABC Television’s international arm, Australia Network. That was a moment of significant vindication for me, and the much needed proof that it is possible to make music and have it recognised in a professional forum.

Having a lot of material, a friend of mine suggested that some of it could make an album, and so I set out to do just that. Throughout the following year, as the demos of the new album recording were being sent about, it generated some interest in the United Kingdom, particularly with a few independent artists and film makers. Shortly thereafter I have released my first fully commercial album: Desa Systems – Origin Of Us, recorded and produced independently on near-zero budget.

ENTANGLEMENT by Jakub Gaudasinski

On 20 July 2013, I launched my most ambitious project to date entitled ENTANGLEMENT. Part experimental electronica, part international collaboration, and inspired largely by the recent research and findings at CERN, this record is what my entire colourful adventure currently culminates in. Written, composed, and produced by me, mastered by an ARIA panel engineer, and released worldwide across every major music store with a limited edition CD. This is perhaps my biggest achievement to date, but I’m not stopping here.

Apart from your academic qualifications, how do you think your experience at the University of Adelaide has helped shape you as a person and helped shape your career?

Being a person whose work is based almost entirely on praxis, the University of Adelaide’s academic, theoretical and research-based approach to academic education has exposed me to some very important ways of thinking about the theoretical, historical, and technical implications of the craft. This was a very different thing for me. For instance, while I rarely use printed scores in what I do specifically, exercises in score analysis and score drafting were [pardon the pun] instrumental in my development as a composer and producer. This is but one example of something I thought unnecessary that has ultimately helped me.

I think that by being open to the often challenging views on the very nature of music that the tutors and lecturers at the university held, I have grasped the art and craft of music and music-making in an entirely new light. This is not to say that I have always agreed with that I’ve learnt, or that I have necessarily always employed the theory, but to be aware of what has been done and how to manipulate the strings on which music is suspended on, is a very valuable thing. Almost every notion of what I thought music was, had been obliterated and built anew into a better, clearer, and ultimately more functional concept.

What has helped you achieve success in the industry?

That would be sheer determination and my own willingness to inconvenience myself for the sake of my art and craft. I know that it’s a tired cliche, but there is a certain level of, dare I say, suffering that is involved in any artistic pursuit: little money, few resources, and the ever-present pressure to succumb to the daily grind and get a “normal job”. But the truth is that I have never really been one to do things in the ordinary way, and whilst those pressures were and continue to be very prevalent constants in my life, I have always been a musician, and as far as I can foresee, I will always be one.

Having spent most of my life on music, beginning with cello training at a specialised music school in Poland, my goal always was to be a musician. I have been a cellist, a drummer, a pianist, and perhaps most importantly of all, a composer and a recording engineer.

Some people succumb to the pressures of toeing the line, others don’t, and I suppose it takes the willingness to inconvenience yourself for the sake of something greater than your own sense of want and need, and to put up with having nothing for a while in order to build something that is entirely your own.

I’ve heard that if you don’t build your dream, someone will hire you to help build theirs. Perhaps this is a bit too black-and-white, but it is, in essence, the core issue. What you sacrifice in terms of your own comfort will help you later on. How much you sacrifice is up to you. But more than that, being an artist is not a job or something that you do. It’s something that you are, and it is a part of you in every conceivable way.

What are some of the benefits and challenges of a career in music?

Like in many industries, and especially those concerned with the arts, music is governed by fashion, trend, and a healthy dose of gimmickry. From my experience, you need to know how to maintain a balance between those things without sacrificing your own artistic and technical integrity. It sounds relatively simple on paper, but this has been one of the most difficult things for me to achieve, and not for a moment would I fool myself thinking that I have actually achieved it. It’s an ongoing process, and there really is no final goal.

As an example, when you’re writing a composition for someone other than yourself, say an indie pop vocalist, you have to ask yourself what is more important in your production: is it being true to the current and perhaps tired and uninteresting trends in indie pop music, or is it your original artistic take on the composition? And while it may seem poetically die-hard for me to say that it’s always your artistic take that’s important, the truth is that it’s a mixture of the two.

The challenge isn’t to come up with something new; it’s to come up with something that is the right mixture of the new and the familiar. If you separate the fashion from the art, you may very well end up with art for art’s sake. Likewise, if it’s all fashion, the music may have some immediate appeal, but will quickly fade into obscurity. This goes for everything; the work you do for others as well as your own.

The main benefit of this work, however, is that you get to work at your own pace, within your own environment, with your own tools and techniques. There is no one who tells you HOW your work is to be done, only that it HAS to be done, so whereas the balance of art and trend is a process with no destination, the piece of work itself is a destination with an open and largely irrelevant process. And while trends and gimmicks come and go, your intellectual development as an artist has to be largely independent of that.

What do you enjoy most about your current work and life?

I think that what I enjoy most is the freedom that it affords me. I am my own “boss”, so to speak, and this definitely isn’t for everyone as it does require a LOT of self-discipline; something that, admittedly, even I didn’t have a lot of when I started in this business. But like all things, you live and learn. However, freedom comes at a cost. Long hours spent sequencing music that, for all you know, may get thrown out the next day because of some unanticipated change in direction is something that just seems strangely matter-of-fact to me.

I have a lot of music that went nowhere, simply because things changed, but you accept it and move on, and having the opportunity to develop this somewhat philosophical view on what you do is something I enjoy a lot. As they say, it builds character. I also get to spend a lot of time outdoors, go wherever the wind takes me, and do a lot of sound recordings… mainly just atmospheres and random noises that I capture with a portable recorder wherever I am.

While I wasn’t convinced about Musique Concrete back when I was a student, I have ended up using a very similar set of techniques for creating sound by means of capturing random occurrence. Many of my latest compositions are based on those ideas, of writing music around random events. Having time to think about all those things is one of the most underrated luxuries, I believe, and it’s something that I probably enjoy more than anything else about my current work and life.

What’s the next big thing on the horizon for you?

I’m always working on something, be it a purely commercial endeavour or something more involved and transcendental. It’s the double-edged sword of my kind of work; you need to keep moving and writing, and while it’s often exhausting, it’s also fodder for some great ideas among so many that get left on the proverbial cutting room floor.

But the next big project has started already, and it’s the successor to ENTANGLEMENT, slated loosely for release some time next year. This one will be much richer and even more ambitious, especially given my modest means, and again will feature collaborations, lots of original sound design, and perhaps a few secrets here and there.

Like many producers out there, I like hiding things in my music, and in my case it’s usually numbers, and sounds that are never quite what they seem. It’s more fun that way. I’m experimenting a lot with non-traditional digital interfaces for music creation, discrete mathematics, and applications of information theory to sound design, the beginnings of which can already be heard on my latest record, ENTANGLEMENT.

Your advice to incoming students to gain the most from their time at university?

I think that if your heart is in the right place then you don’t need my advice, and if it’s not then no amount of advice from me, or anyone else, will help you. But if I could say anything, the most valuable thing I’ve learnt was to think for myself and not to be swayed by rhetoric and popular opinion.

My advice is to experiment a lot with sound and music, because your time as a student at university is for you to find out at least a bit about what kind of artist you are and what kind of artist you are going to be. So be open-minded, and don’t be afraid to disagree with ideas and with people, and always try to encourage healthy intellectual discussion.

But most of all, don’t listen to me, and find your own way, your own process, your own destination, your very own polar star to follow. There isn’t enough I can say in favour of being your own person. It’s tough out there, but I assure you that every bit of it is worth it.

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