Instruments

Szłamaja

„Lewandowskiego”, Mazurki – Janusz Prusinowski Trio

The shawm is an instrument central to my music-playing. The origins of this double reed wind pipe are to be found in ancient Greece (aulos). During medieval times, it became popular in Europe as a consort instrument, often played in tandem with bagpipes, or used as a solo instrument. In the mid 17th century, the shawm evolved into a form of the oboe, an instrument that soon completely replaced its forerunner. Today, instrument makers produce copies of models from specific times, and the folk shawm is popular now in many places including Brittany, Turkey, India and the Balkans.

My first teacher, in the 1990s, was Paweł Iwaszkiewicz, an exponent of early music, while subsequent instructors include Breton musicians Jean-Michel Veillon and Gilles Lehart. The shawms I play were made by John Hanchet (Britain).

Flet

„Kujawiak Twardowskiego”, koncert w S1 – Janusz Prusinowski Trio

The flute is an instrument very close to my heart. Its use dates back to prehistoric times, it is a feature of many cultures throughout the entire world, often used to emulate the human voice or animal sounds, and its functions are both ritual, ceremonial, and religious on the one hand, while on the other it provides accompaniment in different contexts, that of the dance, for instance.

The wooden flute gained currency during the baroque period, and reached the heights of its popularity during the 19th century. When, in the latter half of the 19th century, Theobald Boehm introduced change to the structure of the flute, adding a system of keys, the flute, enhanced by these innovations, was accepted as an orchestral instrument in its own right. The English model, built of black wood (ebony or grenadilla) and silver, featured six basic finger-holes along with a system of keys designed to allow half-notes to be played. These flutes were made with a cylindrical bore, unlike modern-day metal flutes whose bores are cylindrical. The Boehm revolution bolstered the wooden flute, and the instrument soon became widely available. Of those who bought these flutes in huge numbers, we remember for example the Irish emigrants, part of the low-paid work-force of the day, who adapted the instrument to their own traditional music.

Thanks to its system of open finger-holes, the wooden flute boasts a limitless variety of possible shades and hues of sound, and its wooden body lends the music a warm tone. The keys facilitate chromatic playing, and so we may describe the flute as a hybrid instrument that allows the musician to express, for example, the glissando characteristic of Indian music, and the bee-bob rhythm of jazz.

Of the many teachers with whom I have worked, the most important were the Bretons Jean-Michel Veillon and Jean-Luc Thomas. Others from whom I learnt much during various workshops were Malo Carvou, Erwan Hamon, and the jazz flautist Nicole Mitchel (AACM Chicago). I play flutes made for me by Thomas Aebi (Switzerland) and Gilles Lehart (France).

Klarnet

„Tibetan Dance”, 3 Movements – Michał Żak/Magdalena Wojciechowska

Despite its relatively short history, the clarinet is one of the most important instruments in modern-day orchestras. Only in the years at the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries was its construction made possible by innovation applied to the chalumeau, a popular baroque instrument that offered the musician ease of handling and a sound produced with comfort. Mozart was champion of the clarinet, and he was the first to compose symphonic music for the clarinet. In addition to its application to classical music, the clarinet is widely used in the traditional music of many cultures. Other aspects of its history worth mentioning are its use in wind orchestras and village groups, as well as in army bands and jazz formations.

The clarinetists of Epiros, Greece, Albania and Israel have always been an inspiration to me, as have the Polish musicians of Rzeszow, and many jazz clarinetists. Thanks to meetings with the great Brad Terry (USA), Eyal Talmudi (Israel) and with Poland’s own Ryszard Hanejko, Józef Piątek and Jan Krztoń (Rzeszow), my enthusiasm for the clarinet has never diminished. In 2013 I met Stanisław Witkowski a master player from Kielce region whose lessonswh enriched my sound. I play on the Yamaha Custom model instrument upgrated with barrel and resonator from Hubb Instrument Workshop Izmir, Turkey.

Bansuri

„Raag Lalit” – Michał Żak solo

The bansuri is one of the oldest types of instrument in India. It is a transverse flute made from bamboo, comprising six or sometimes seven finger holes, the bore being cylindrical in shape. Culturally, its associations are with the traditional music of northern India (Hindustani), and it was used as a folk instrument for centuries until the 20th century when Pandit Pannalal Ghosh brought the bansuri its current status as an instrument of classical Indian music. The bansuri flute has special significance for Hindus, as it was reputably played by Krisna, one of the foremost Gods of the Hindu religion. Also, along with the veena and the mridangam, it is one of three instruments mentioned in early Indian literature. Ragas account for the greater part of the bansuri's repertoire, and these are characterized each by a particular scale, rhythm and mood. The raga is a complex musical genre, comprising several distinct passages, a fundamental feature of which is the art of improvisation.

My tutors and instructors were the guruji Shakthidhar Iyer (a pupil of Pt. Rajendra Prasanna) and Annada Prasanna Pattanaik Butto (a pupil of Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia), both of whom live in Bangalore, Karnataka, southern India. My bansuri flutes were made by Subhash Thakur of New Delhi.

Duduk

„Duduki”, 3 Movements – Michał Żak/Magdalena Wojciechowska

The duduk is one of the oldest double reed instruments in the world. In earliest times, the instrument was made of bone, later from a single cut of reed, with a mouthpiece at one end, and openings along the body of the instrument to vary the pitch according to the effort exerted. The structure of the instrument evolved with time, and today's instruments vary in shape and sound according to the tuning reed, made of a single piece, and the wooden body, very often made of apricot, walnut or plum. The duduk is now recognized as the national instrument of Armenia, although it is characteristic of other Caucasian traditions (the duduki in Georgia, the balaban in Azerbaijan), as well as in parts of Turkey and Persia.

I first came into contact with this instrument in Armenia, where some basic instruction was given me by a duduk master from Gumri – Gagik Malkhasyan, teacher and soloist with, amongst others, the Kohar Symphony Orchestra. My duduk were made for me by Grigoryan Hovsep (Erewan, Armenia).

Zurna

„Azaran”, Azaran – Lautari

Various folk shawms may be found in most corners of the globe, their names differing from place to place: the Breton bombarde, the Tunesian zokra, the Moroccan raita, the Indian shenai, and the zurna in Turkey, Armenia and Greece.

The zurna produces a sound by way of a single piece of reed, attached to the end of the metal tube. The narrow, flat design together with the conical shape of the instrument contribute to the impressive volume that is the hallmark of this instrument. My zurna is an instrument from the workshop of Grigoryan Hovsep (Armenia), and the master musician who introduced me to the instrument was Gagik Malkhasyan.