What fun would private press week be without a polka records? Here in hearty Minnesota they seem to just appear between the Elton Johns and the copies of Tapestry at the Salvation Army. Maybe you’re a polka hater, or maybe you’re one of those people who thinks polkas are all the same record in different jackets – If you responded yes, you might want to skip today’s post. Otherwise, get ready to experience the Mrozinski Brothers Aleatoric Ensemble!
The Mrozinski Brothers Aleatoric Ensemble made three albums that I can find, all released on their own Aleatoric Recordings label. You are probably wondering what “Aleatoric” means. I did too, the first time I saw one of these records. The term was first applied to music by a German scientist named Werner Meyer-Eppler, an early explorer of electronic sounds in music. He once described a sequence of sounds as “determined in general but depend[ing] on chance in detail.” To draw an analogy, an aleatoric approach to musical composition might have the composer create a board game and the performer roll the dice. By and large the music is composed, but an element of chance remains. The two most familiar composers of aleatoric music are likely Karlheinz Stockhausen and Pierre Boulez.
Any real relationship between the Mrozinski Brothers Aleatoric Ensemble and Stockhausen won’t go much deeper than a shared German heritage. There’s more mariachi in this album than Mikrophonie. I think the Mrozinski Brothers used the term to capture what’s exciting about their music – Rather than traditional polka, the Mrozinski Brothers draw together brassy mariachi sounds, Straussian waltzes and klezmer music, while also paying homage to contemporary country music (With Tom T. Hall’s “I Like Beer” and the Charlie Daniels Band’s “Devil Came Down to Georgia”). At the risk of sounding too Minnesotan, I’ll bet these boys were a hoot.
Aleatoric music is often mistaken for improvisational music, which it is not. There’s some soloing on this album but the greater emphasis is on the ensemble sound. In this way, the Mrozinski Brothers are actually a lot like the show bands we listened to in this week’s first post, although they probably played different rooms. From what little I was able to find about the Mrozinski Brothers, this group was founded by Tom Mrozinski (Originally with his brother Pete Mrozinski, but here he’s actually the only Mrozinski in the group). Click here to see him in the International Polka Association’s Hall of Fame. Tom created his own recording studio and record label (Aleatoric Recordings), and the catalog on this copy of the Mrozinski Brothers’ In Session lists 25 titles. The recording quality and production on this album is very professional.
I am looking forward to hearing the other two albums by the Mrozinski Brothers Aleatoric Ensemble, if only because Tom Mrozinski is an inventive and exciting composer. “I Feel Good All Over”, the first song up above, is a Mrozinski original, as is this next song, my favorite on the album. This is “At the Russian Front”:
I typed Mrozinski 12 times in this post!
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