In Wonder and Contemplation on „the Generation of 33” Cover Image

W zadziwieniu i zadumie nad „pokoleniem 33”
In Wonder and Contemplation on „the Generation of 33”

Author(s): Mieczysław Tomaszewski
Subject(s): Music
Published by: Akademia Muzyczna w Krakowie

Summary/Abstract: The very title of the symposium, “The Generation of 33” is an imposition, indeed a provocation, to at least attempt a discussion of this generational common ground. This, in turn, makes one listen to and read the music of the generation’s composers in a way that would answer the mutually complementary questions: 1/ what features can be seen as common for “the Generation of 33”? 2/ and, conversely, which of these are individual for each of the artists?Common features. Chief among these is their “rootedness” in tradition: in Christian as well as Polish culture, supported by their own statements and further witnessed to by monographers. In Górecki, the emphasis is on his “particular affinity to his native land and religion,” visible in almost all of his works beginning with Ad Matrem, often described as “taking roots in Polishness, in what we call our country” and “the obvious identity of influence of sacred and folk music.” Bujarski has clearly established the character of his patriotism by composing, during the period of martial law in Poland, a lofty song to a poem by Lechoń (“God let us sit at a table in free Poland one day”). In Penderecki, this is his place in tradition: this place is a constant element of his oeuvre, or at least of his works; there is not a single sacred composition based on a Latin text where the author of Credo would not insert a motif of a Polish song. At the same time, the three are united by a kind of cultural space in which they were born and bred: small towns lost in the expanse of Southern Poland: Rydułtowy in Silesia, and Muszyna and Dębica in Lesser Poland. A series of historical events is another source of their somewhat varied unity. All three lived their earliest childhood in Poland’s Second Republic, and their later childhood in the gruesome aura of German occupation; in fact, Bujarski and Penderecki found themselves at close quarters with the horror of the holocaust. The natural joy of youth was spoiled for them by the differently gruesome years of Stalinism in everyday life and of socialist-realist indoctrination in art. Their mature lives brought opportunities for creative self-realization due to “cracks in the Iron Curtain” that, with a little bit of luck, eventually opened into the so-called free world. Full freedom only was theirs when the three entered the late phase of their creative work. They all came in contact with several courses of events that could not have left no mark. Foremost among these were the festivals of the Warsaw Autumn series. They participated first as members of the audience, avidly taking in all the novelty; soon, too, they began writing for the festival. All three also took part in the cycle of Musical Meetings at Baranów where a number of significant pieces were presented for the first time and where free and uncensored exchange was possible in a censored reality.Distinctive features. Being oneself. It is beyond any doubt that this imaginary community referred to here as “the Generation of 33” has more individual than common moments and aspects. Despite their common roots and a certain community of experience (they all went through their phase of fascination with the Western avant-garde; they “did” dodecaphony, serialism, aleatorism and sonorism), their unique discreteness seems to stem from the very nature and the personality of each of the artists, the type of his temperament, character and imagination (Górecki’s temperament may be called choleric; Bujarski’s, melancholic; and Penderecki’s, sanguine). This allows a comparative approach to the constitutive properties of the personalities and the output of all three; properties that combine to create their clearly divergent syndromes. In GÓRECKI, his point of vantage and of departure, his individual arché, was faith of a type that is usually referred to as folk-like; particularly deep, earnest and natural and certainly not “private.” His Polishness was also of folk-like variety. He knew by heart the songs from the celebrated Kolberg collection (“my Bible”). His views on the world and on life were stable and, for some, highly categorical. Truth of expression was, for him, a primary category of art, expressed in a simple and concise way, with expression reaching extreme polarity. The lyrical character – never an epic one – of his utterance was underscored by drama, often of a tragic type. More often than not, its principal structure is circular; complexes of tone persist last rather than strive, they are confronted with each other (harte Fügung) rather than attuned. The texture is usually homorhythmic and homophonic; the course of musical narration is shaped by vertical thinking. This music has its genesis – apart from Polish folk and religious tunes – in Bach and Chopin; also in Beethoven, Szymanowski, Ives and Messiaen. The faith of Zbigniew BUJARSKI does not come to the fore; it seems to be of a particularly intimate type. The composer is strongly attached to his native land, although he exhibits no interest in its folklore. He clearly eschews assuredness in his judgements and opinions, and he sees the principal category of art in the beauty of tone. He combines the lyrical and the epic, although it is the epic of description rather than the epic of story. If there is a story, its nature is usually mysterious and oblique. The basic structure of his works consists in series of musical images, combined on a weiche Fügung principle. The texture is freely polyphonic, rich and varied; its excess of ornamentation makes it touch upon heterophony. PENDERECKI clearly diverges from the other two members of “the Generation of 33”. The position of the author of St Luke Passion towards his faith has been expressed at numerous instances and with some consistency: “Growing from its deeply Christian roots, my art strives to restore man to his metaphysical space.” This is stated by Penderecki the engaged artist: initially engaged in the struggle for the place of the sacred in art in the public space and the first to challenge, in this respect, the rules of a totalitarian system. His own and personal confession of faith can be deciphered in his music alone. Penderecki’s peculiar rootedness in Polishness has been most clearly stated in one of his conversations at Lusławice: “I love a Poland that exists in literature, one that has never existed in the real world. This is the Poland of my dreams.” Yet similarly to Bujarski and radically differently from Górecki, he has never made contact with Polish folklore. He has repeatedly stated his allegiance to a broader matrimonium, that of Mediterranean culture. He has stressed his ecumenism and his evident anti-orthodoxy. The sense of his artistic expression derived from the logic of musical narrative is the primary category of his art. The basic structure of his work is usually that of a final, teleological structure; his texture is usually polyphonic, and he likes to express it in a clearly-defined dialogue. With the exception of folklore, the genesis of his music may stem from almost anything, from medieval plainsong, renaissance polyphony, baroque music. At some point, late-romantic symphonism took an exalted place; chassidic music, preserved in memory since his childhood, was a particular element. Among all those inspirations, Chopin’s music may be a notable absence. Individual difference in type of narration. According to the system of integral interpretation, each work of art seems to consist of four layers, and its character is determined by the domination of any of these. Thus there may exist a priori phonic pieces (such as Penderecki’s Fluorescences), a priori structural (such as Berlioz’s Structures), a priori emotive (such as Górecki’s Ad Matrem) and a priori topoidal (such as Penderecki’s Black Mask). And the narration that is used by Górecki has, from a certain point, an emotive character, i.e. expressing feelings; Bujarski’s is phonic rather than anything else, i.e. focusing on the quality of the musical material, while Penderecki’s utterances become, with time, increasingly topoidal, i.e. directed at presenting a message by referring to a universal alphabet of culture. The emotive narration of GÓRECKI attains absolute extremities of feeling. Nobody has left as many as intense expressive indications in his scores as the author of Third Symphony. No other music described here has triggered so many extreme reactions at impact. Musical narration in the works by BUJARSKI, referred to as phonic, produces a response of a different nature: it is surprising in the character and, often, in the beauty of tone itself. PENDERECKI’s narration is termed topoidal for the reason that whatever he has produced is dominated by a “message” carried by the words of the music for those who are receptive to the music of the author of Threnody, Passion and Kaddish. And the fundamental message is: “Art should be the source of difficult hope.” Towards the transcendent. For all three composers who make up the aggregate referred to here as “the Generation of 33,” music is speech that carries – be it emotive, phonic or topoidal – varying traces of attempts to put one’s finger on whatever is transcendent in man’s life and world’s history as well as a more or less lucid record of reaction to world and life. This music has become inscribed into the history of Polish, European and World music as a different way of expressing the Good News that the most exalted values, sometimes referred to as transcendentals, have lost nothing of their significance and their actuality – despite all appearances.

  • Issue Year: II/2013
  • Issue No: 3
  • Page Range: 9-32
  • Page Count: 24
  • Language: Polish