Polish group to turn table on fans

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 December, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 December, 2008, 12:00am

Playing a table must be one of the most novel ways to make music, but that's exactly what The Table musical by Polish group Karbido is all about.

A sell-out at last year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the show features four men seated around a wooden table that has inlaid strings, amplifiers and technical wizardry. They use their hands, sticks, bows, coins and a mixing desk to drum up a smorgasbord of resonant acoustic sounds and rhythms.

The inspiration for such a novel method of musical entertainment arose out of boredom. 'We wanted to exceed our own habits,' said instrumentalist Marek Otwinowski. 'You know ... to get rid of all the traditional instruments we'd been playing for the past 20 years and to create something new as well.'

The reason the group chose to use a table as their instrument is simple. 'There are four of us and we wanted to play together at the same time on something that is not a guitar or a piano. And so the table was the best and simplest idea for such a meeting,' Otwinowski said.

The idea also came from one of the first carpenters - Jesus Christ - according to crew member Michal Litwiniec. 'Besides, we were led, and we still are, by the idea of freedom in art and by the wish to look for new sounds and to break musical barriers.'

Otwinowski said the ratio of science to musical skill to creativity in the show was 1:1:1. 'That's pretty good if you take into consideration all these trends that cannot exist without technology, such as pop music, for example,' he said.

'On the other hand, we are equally musicians and composers of the music as well as non-musicians and explorers of other media. Thank God. If we were only musicians, you would die from boredom and we would die with you.'

Litwiniec said: 'For many years we were fascinated by piezoelectrick pickups. This is a small device - a small bug - that can amplify everything that transmits vibrations. We've made and amplified several instruments with this bug. The table was a full improvisation in this area. In the beginning we only had a bare wooden table and as an experiment we started to amplify it. Then the idea of quadro sound appeared.

'It's always a kind of audio-mania that leads us through such a project as The Table.'

Instead of choosing one musical genre, the quartet prefers to mix things up, with sounds originating from Africa, Mongolia and even heavy metal.

'Music is a result of arranging and organising all sounds understandable to human beings,' Otwinowski said. 'A musical style is just an element of this arrangement that changes according to the personal, cultural, historical and mental experience of the musical community, including composers, musicians and the audience.

'If you want to treat music as a non-verbal way of expression, you cannot be restricted to just one alphabet. So using lots of means of expression is the main inspiration for us. At the same time, it's a challenge to communicate in spite of age, race and social status or musical, visual, literary, political or culinary preferences.'

Otwinowski said The Table was the group's attempt to communicate through an artistic event. 'That is why we are inspired by everything. Because we want to be understood everywhere,' he said.

The project also had to tell a musical story, according to Litwiniec.

The Table, February 27 (7.45pm) and 28 (3pm; 7.45pm), Hong Kong Cultural Centre; March 1 (3pm; 7.45pm), Tuen Mun Town Hall.