Yesterday I interviewed Polish film composer Jan (Yahn) A.P. Kaczmarek for Film Score Monthly Online. I have been writing for FSMO for two years, and it has been one of the most rewarding, exciting ventures I have ever endeavored upon. FSMO is the parson that married my love of writing and my love of film music; a match surely made in heaven.
It took a few attempts to get through to Maestro Kaczmarek. I was calling a Los Angeles number that connected to a number in Poland, so the few hiccups were excused. The first word out of my mouth, when I finally reached him, was a gaff: “Jan?” He genially said it happens all the time, but it must be annoying to be addressed as “Jan” when your name is pronounced “Yahn.” I tried to compensate for my blunder by inquiring how to pronounce his last name, and what the ‘A’ and ‘P’ stand for (the Polish equivalent of Andrew and Paul, it turns out).
I asked if it was customary for Polanders to include the middle initials of their name; Jan explained that, when he first began his career, there existed another famous Jan Kaczmerak, and the burden of differentiation fell on the young newcomer.
He invited me to visit his new institute, which represents his attempt to unify composers and artists—who tend to be a solitary, fragmented lot—in central Europe. I told him of my love for Polish food, and he said the Instytut Rozbitek will incorporate great Polish food into its holistic structure. That practically bought my plane ticket.
We talked about our love of woodwinds, and their unfortunate absence from modern film music. He claimed the great Ennio Morricone as his idol, and cited The Mission as one of the greatest scores ever written.
Jan spoke with a thick accent, but I had little trouble understanding him. For a non-native English speaker, he was incredibly eloquent and articulate with his word choice and the way he structured his sentences. There was even a kind of beauty in the way he strung his words together, especially as he waxed eloquent about the power of “extracting the essence” of films when he composes.
I was equally impressed with the warmth of personality that was able to traverse continents over phone waves. He told me that he looks forward to meeting me in person someday, and I wholeheartedly agreed.
You can hear Jan’s latest creation in the new Robert Duvall film Get Low.