“The immersive experimental record Singing Warmia by Polish sound artist, producer and queer activist Zosia Hołubowska aka MalaHerba, whose practice is rooted in Slavic folklore and healing rituals, is a moving autobiographical meditation. On the album cover, a moss-infested forest sets the tone for the opener 'Forest Of The Expelled'. Throughout the record, Hołubowska explores the relationship with their place of birth Olsztyn, the capital city of the Warmia region. It’s a psychogeographical audio essay for which the artist "sonified" various photos of their favourite places around the city, using atypical production tools. Its sonic material consists of spectral spatial sounds, controlled feedback, found field recordings and archival material, all of which are interwoven into a complex nexus of eerily saturated frequencies. Most compositions conjure an uncanny atmosphere with occasional glimmers of hope. Such an example is the composition 'I Don't Know The Dialect Hard To Tell' where their echoey voice gives the impression of Spring droplets falling lightly on a meadow in bloom, before turning into a storm. A more alienating experience is provided by the composition 'Warmia Forever'. Here, Hołubowska modulates the singing and talking of a Polish woman from an old record into an unrecognisable, almost non-human dialect. The contemplative armchair character of the album, originally commissioned for a five-speaker system and later reworked, requires you to sit back and simply let your memories flow.”
—Jaša Bužinel (The Quietus)
“How to tell a story about being from a place you don't come from? The lives of both my grandmothers were marked by moving to the other end of their world. And this is how I was born in Warmia. A place that has repeatedly uprooted its history. From the Prussians to Warmians, Germans, and Jews, to the forced resettlement of Ruthenians and Ukrainians in the Vistula operation and repatriation of the Kresowiaks...”
“Singing Warmia” is an attempt to deal with the lack of family archives and the inability to establish a relationship with the place of birth.
Instead of family stories, the album's material is photos of the artist's favorite places around Olsztyn (capital city of Warmia region), which were sonified using processes designed by the artists. Zosia Hołubowska follows Saidiya Hartman's critical fabulation, that is, the transformation of history that counters the violence of historical representations and archives. Singing Warmia expresses both the pain of exile and the gloomy beauty of the abandoned landscape: the slow current of the river grazed by tree branches.
This process concerns the landscape, or rather the soundscape inviting the voices of the spirits that inhabit it. The bends of the Łyna become the signals controlling the synthesizers. The arrangement of tree branches is translated into a melody, and the splashes of light on the waves of the river constitute a harmonic spectrum of sounds resembling the whispers and wailing of phantoms. This piece is another example of creative work with archives, following the "undoing" approach, which means deconstructing, collage reassembling, and animating the elements to reinterpret the performative and magical potential of the material.
The album is a rework of the 5 speaker concert commissioned by Canti Spazalizzati.
In the process of sonifying the photos, Zosia Hołubowska used the following programs: IANNIX and programming their instruments and effects using M4L and OSC, SuperCollider, and Photosounder. They also used archival songs from Warmia and random field recordings from places with similar flora.
released March 21, 2023
written, composed, and mixed by Zosia Hołubowska
mastered by Roland Nagy
artwork by Peter Mazur
font: HIDE productions