recorded by Miro Tóth at Divadlo 29, Pardubice
edited by Tarnovski
artwork by Barbora Polyxena Nowak
edited by Tarnovski
thanks to Divadlo 29, Miro Tóth, Jára Tarnovski, Zdeněk Závodný, František R. Václavík, Vít Hoigr, George Cremaschi
special thanks to Jakub Slováček & Petr Slabý
released February 4, 2023
Barbora Polyxena Nowak fluently oscillates between old music and the contemporary improvisation scene. “These two worlds are primarily connected by improvisation. While each of these musical expressions is based on different techniques and approaches, I find similar freedom and variability in both“. Barbora graduated in classical piano at Pardubice Conservatory and is currently studying harpsichord at the Academy of Ancient Music in Brno. Lately she’s mainly been experimenting with unorthodox piano techniques, preparations, and playing inside the instrument. “When I first heard Makrokosmos I by George Crumb, it completely changed my perception of the piano. I started experimenting myself, there were a few attempts at composition, and then it got to the stage of me being completely devoured by preparation based improvisation. In that time I’ve met for instance Elisabeth Harnik, a great pianist and composer, or Reinhold Friedl, and both influenced me strongly. In free improvisation itself, Cecil Taylor is my great role model.“
Among others, Barbora has collaborated with Prague Improvisation Orchestra, Tomáš Niesner, and with the freejazzcore band Frisk, and she is also a part of the Nowak / Páchová / Raková trio, with which she’s currently preparing an album. In the future, apart from interpretation and improvisation, Barbora would also like to compose. “Composition has always been my great dream. However, my free improvisation is always partly composition as well. Preparation of the piano on its own dictates which tones I will play, and that sets the ground for topics and thoughts, which I prepare beforehand. What is also important in improvisation is form, or at least a time frame of its structure. For instance, I really love to interpret graphic scores, which doubtlessly are compositions, but there are infinite possibilities of performance.“
Arborio is Barbora's debut album. She recorded it with the help of Miro Tóth (Shibuya Motors, Drť, Srnka, Dystopic Requiem Quartet) in Divadlo 29 in Pardubice. “Arborio rice wonderfully binds various flavours to itself, similarly to the way I attempt’d to connect various noises and sounds with melodies and harmony, so that the outcome is not utter chaos, but rather something along the lines of a musical risotto.“
"Various piano preparations are a broken reflection of classic arrangements and motifs. Barbora Polyxena Nowak combines disparate approaches into a seamless whole, creating a muted yet transfixing aural environment. Across four pieces, Nowak shows incredible skill in building tactile atmospheres full of dark, imposing expressions and then layering them with melodic, sometimes haunting improvisations. A scattered rattle bleeds into quiet, dampened notes, spread out like a pointillist map of the stars. Spacious resonance mixes with exciting textures to encapsulate Arborio in a fading sheen. I feel lost within Arborio, but I’m not sure I want to be found."
(Brad Rose / Foxy Digitalis)
"On her first solo album, Barbora Polyxena Nowak uses a prepared piano, meaning she has personally altered the instrument in unexplained ways. This also means she knows a lot about what will happen when she strikes a key, but there is still chance involved since she’s improvising. You can hear that tension between control and unpredictability throughout Arborio, with Nowak simultaneously directing the instrument and letting it direct her. Her push and pull reaches a peak in the title track, which drizzles, halts, pounds, and fades, yet never feels random or rushed."
(Marc Masters / Best Experimental Music on Bandcamp)