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Sound Zone ( Strefa Dźwięku ) has been going as a company since 2006, run by Michał Żarnecki in collaboration with Joanna Napieralska.
Strefa Dźwięku was not only a business activity, which created the original sound for thirteen films as well as reconstructing sound for older films, but also a place with the mission of maintaining the highest artistic and technical quality of sound in film. Strefa Dźwięku was a place where graduates from the Sound Egineering Dept. of the FCUM gained their first professional experience. In 2017, Strefa Dźwięku transformed to Sound Domain, and continues its work under this name.
Outstanding Polish creator of sound layers of films in many genres and sound designer
Born on 12.11.1946 in Warsaw, the son of Tadeusz Żarnecki, later a distinguished professor at the Warsaw University of Technology and Zofia Żarnecka (née Jarocka), who after the war became custodian of the Warsaw University Library. He had two brothers: the older, the actor and director Andrzej Żarnecki (1935-2014), and the younger, an electronics engineer Piotr Żarnecki (born 28.02.1948). In 1960-1965 Michał studied cello at the State Secondary Music School in Warsaw. After his school graduation, between 1965-67, he studied at the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics at The University of Warsaw. In November 1967, though not yet enrolled, he began to attend first year lectures at the Sound Engineering Department at the National School of Music in Warsaw (now the Sound Engineering Department at the Fryderyk Chopin University of Music), and after passing the entrance exams in June 1968, he then formally began his second year of studies. He specialised in under Professor Jan Szmańda. In 1972, he graduated with distinction in his Master of Arts degree.
Already during his studies, in September 1970, he was employed as assistant sound operator on professional films at the Documentary Film Studio in Warsaw (currently the Documentary and Feature Film Studio). In 1973 The Qualifying Committee for Film Professions granted him the right to work independently as a third tier sound engineer in documentary film, however he quickly advanced, and in 1978 he had qualified into the highest tier of feature film sound engineer within the profession.
In 1974, through the film, First Love, Michał Żarnecki started an ongoing collaboration with Krzysztof Kieślowski, which lasted until 1984 ( with the film,“No End”). Żarnecki himself said this of the work relationship: “as a filmmaker I was undoubtedly shaped by many years of cooperation and friendship with Krzysztof Kieślowski”. During his 45-year career as a sound engineer he co-created about 130 film works (feature films, documentaries, series, TV Theatre performances). Among them are Krzysztof Kieślowski’s “Camera Buff” and “Blind Chance” Andrzej Żuławski’s “On the Silver Globe”, Stanisław Bareja’s “Teddy Bear”, as well as Janusz Morgenstern’s “Polish Roads” series. He was nominated five times for the Złoty Orły (Polish Oscars) for the sound design for: Pręgi (dir. Magdalena Piekorz), Hania (dir. Janusz Kamiński), Południe – północ (dir. Łukasz Karwowski), Piąta pora roku (dir. Jerzy Domaradzki) and Syberiada polska (dir. Janusz Zaorski). For the sound of the film “Pręgi” he received in 2004 an individual award at the XXIX Polish Film Festival in Gdynia. He was co-writer and co-director (in collaboration with Jacek Bławut) of An Auschwitz Love Story (1989) and co-producer of the films: “Tato poszedł na ryby,” directed by Grzegorz Pacek (2011) and “Catalina,” (2017), directed by Denjal Hasanović.
In 1990 he founded his first sound company Sound Film Studio (not to be confused with the later established Sound Film Studio AB), which changed its name to Toneton in 1993. Since 2006, the company, already run in cooperation with Joanna Napieralska, adopted the name Strefa Dźwięku (The Sound Zone).
He was a precursor of changes in sound engineering technology on Polish film sets. Already in 1981 he created the sound for a monophonic film “Blind Chance” by K. Kieślowski using a two-track recording technology. In 1993 he was the first person in Poland to start creating the sound layers in artistic audiovisual forms entirely in digital technology, which is the basis of a modern approach to sound post-production – multi-channel recordings and sound editing based on digital editing stations. He actively fought for raising the parameters of optical recording and sound reproduction in cinema halls, the quality of which left much to be desired until the end of the 1980s.
Michał Żarnecki was known by his peers for his extraordinary care for the quality of 100% recordings. He strove to faithfully capture the natural spatial qualities of sound in filmed scenes – using multi-microphone and multi-channel recording techniques. He was reluctant to use microphones and sound effects recorded in the studio, cherishing instead, the naturalness and uniqueness of his original recordings. He cared not only about the absolute quality of sound production, but also about its dramaturgical and aesthetic implications, he saw it as an important layer of the film that partners the image. Nicknamed “Bear” by his friend Krzysztof Kieślowski on the film set, he could fight quite uncompromisingly to maintain the quality of sound in all its possible aspects, thus going far beyond the boundaries of sound craft, and constantly aiming at creating sound that strives towards the film’s vision . As a result, he enjoyed respect among actors, who trusted his aesthetic sense and took into account his feedback on the quality of acting, which he gave after each take. He passed on this sensitive and creative approach to his students during his many years of teaching and research work, which ran parallel to his professional activity.
Immediately after graduation in 1972, he took up a position at his alma mater, the Sound Engineering Department at the Fryderyk Chopin Academy of Music (formerly known as PWSM, now FCUM), which he held continuously until 2016.
He was a tireless advocate of modernising the FCUM Sound Engineering Department’s technical base and curriculum to meet the demands of the rapidly developing technological and aesthetic professional world. With time, he was promoted to the following positions: assistant professor in 1980, associate professor in 1989, associate professor at the Academy of Music in 1992 and the title of professor of musical arts in 2002. He educated many sound professionals who continued the legacy of meticulous sound quality, not just film, but also many other fields of sound. From his class come, among others, Jacek Guzowski, Maciej Malisz, Joanna Napieralska, Elżbieta Mikuś-Lupa, Andrzej Rewak, Katarzyna Dzida-Hamela, Aleksander Musiałowski, Paweł Jaźwiecki, Dorota Nowocień (née Pawelec), Kacper Habisiak, Sebastian Brański, Michał Robaczewski, Tomasz Wieczorek, Leszek Freund. The technicians-microphonists Jerzy Murawski and Mirosław Makowski who cooperated with Michał Żarnecki on the set gained awards for their work as sound recordists on his film sets.
Michał Żarnecki was a respected and active within the industry and university bodies. Among his achievements were: secretary and chairman of the Sound Committee of the Polish Filmmakers Association (SFP) Main Board (1974-82), also a long-term member of the SFP Board as well as chairman of the SFP Circle of Sound Professionals in 2008-2016. He earned the respect of the film community for his matter-of-factness, preparedness, and the ability to think logically and deeply about the far-reaching consequences of decisions. In 2016, by a vote of the General Assembly of the SFP, he was elected a member of the SFP General Board. He was also voted-in as a member of the Association of Authors and Audiovisual Producers SFP-ZAPA. In 2016 he was a member of the Technical Council of the Polish Film Institute, charged with creating the standards of digital restoration of films within the framework of The Digital Poland Programme. He was twice a member of the jury of the Polish Feature Film Festival in Gdynia – in 2001 and 2015. For more than three terms he was a member of the Senate of the FCUM
He is the father of Łukasz Żarnecki, a chemist, and Anna Żarnecka-Wójcik, a film sound desinger. He was married twice: to pianist Krystyna Borucińska (1969-2004) and sound designer Joanna Napieralska (since 2006).
He died on 21.11.2016 in Warsaw. Buried at the Powązki Military Cemetery (cemetery section A, row UI, grave 39).
Michał Żarnecki photo from the set of the film “Senność” 2008
The Sound Zone has supported multiple scientific and research activities, resulting in the following publications:
Full version available here.
On the wfdif.online platform, in the LECTURES tab (access after creating an account and logging in to the STUDENT profile), lectures on Sound design (PL), Cisza (PL) and Silence (EN)