A pioneering Polish composing duo, pianist-singer Hania Rani and cellist Dobrawa Czocher present a unique, introspective sound-world.
In their debut album titled Inner Symphonies (released by Deutsche Grammophon), the two women, who began making music together in their early teens, discover an instinctive artistic connection. Led by a sense of mutual trust and understanding, they composed ten contrasting tracks casting light and shade.
We met with them before they perform on December 4th at London's The Southbank Centre.
This new album is about creating something outside of the conventions of classical music. What do you like about each other’s instrument?
Hania: for a technical side, a big part of Inner Symphonies is based on the possibilities of the cello, which opened an experimental chapter. The Cello allowed us to bring in elements that didn’t exist in my own music. With just two instruments, we were able to think in a symphonic way and bring a modern touch to it. This polyphonic take on composing would have been impossible just with piano: cello feels closer and more intimate. It is like clay: a fragile material and generous fabric. In the end, the two instruments are intertwined; they complement each other.
Dobrawa: I would say the opposite of what Hania just said. The cello is only capable of playing one or - maximum - two lines. I can’t play a strict consonance without involving a special movement of the body. When you play the piano, it feels self-sufficient: it can play many lines at one, so when Hania composes, she can hear the whole structure. There is a wholeness to piano and a purity of sound: the sound of cello always comes with a scratch. It also feels more melancholic.
The music you compose feels meditative and therapeutic. Can you explain why?
Hania: I’ve been thinking about it a lot as I am often told that about my music. What I compose is very personal, it’s a personal language. I know Dobrawa feels the same. So, it might have to do with the state I am in when composing; I live a chaotic life, I have no home nor routine. Yet, my music is very meditative probably because it is what I am looking for: when I perform, it is one of the rare moments when I feel I can ‘tame’ time! My mental and physical state need music: both Dobrawa and I have been playing instruments since we were small children. Music coincides with learning how to write and read: it best explains who we are. It’s an abstract language we can always dive back into to find comfort: our ability to focus on musical notes only is therapeutic. We don't know any other way.
Dobrawa: I absolutely agree. Whether we compose or perform, music acts like a portal to our real spiritual self. It's a language that easily touches us deep down: although we don’t know where it comes from, we feel it. Music is who we are on a very deep level; the notes in this album explore this unknown space. We don’t know why, but they are. It’s very hard to express in words: so yes, our music is therapeutic because through it we connect with ourselves, and then with others. Concerts are so emotional for we are on a deep level together.
This album is very much about speed, spaciousness, and pulsation. What do these bring you?
Hania: Yes, these words are very close to me. It’s the way I am, personally. Writing music, composing and performing allows us to be free; maybe we are not courageous enough to be free in normal life, but on stage, we possess our instruments and our music. We are able to go in a direction that is intense (more intense than in real life). Music is like wings of freedom, and I love it: when I play, my over-thinking switches off as I focus on doing only one thing. Music gives me a unique feeling of flow: it is very addictive for it allows me to follow the momentum, be who I am in the moment. It has a lot to do with freedom.
Dobrawa: Spaciousness is the first things that comes to me. I long for dreamscapes; I always want to connect to a vast atmosphere, reach the aura of dreams. It’s a familiar feeling I can’t fully comprehend. It’s like when I sleep or wish for something: I’m connected to an endless space, that (potentially) brings me everywhere I want. It’s a field of possibilities: with one musical line you can create thousands of lines. With music, everything can happen.