My music is often described as linking tradition with modernity – and I agree with this perception completely.  I create music the way I want to hear it, always trying to work at the highest artistic level.  My artistic stance, in which I endeavor to present matters both serious and important, is directly rooted in musical tradition which I rework using my compositional technique in such a way as to develop a non-anachronistic musical language designed to enrich the sound palette, to construct original, formal arrangements, and to introduce textural and instrumental solutions.

My use of musical techniques dating from the past somehow helps listeners make a connection with my art, who associate my music with forms of musical expression they know well.  I emphasize the fact that I am not concerned with writing easy music; however, I am of the opinion that the listener, after spending time with my art from a dozen to several dozen minutes or so, ought to have a chance to understand it.  Originality? Yes, of course, but not at any cost.  It is more important for me to develop my own contemporary style of music rooted in tradition, and to create my own sense of beauty without resorting to banality or kitsch.  When thinking of writing a new work, I start with sound, and not the main concept or contents usually included in long program notes.  I consider giving oneself up to transitory stylistic fashion and following the latest trends to be the first step towards creating ostentatious, soon-to-be-forgotten art.

As an active composer taking part in the musical life for over ten years, I observe the processes and mechanics that govern the laws of the music market, especially the one dealing with creating and interpreting new music. When it comes to performing a work, the composer relies upon many factors.  First in line are the performers necessary to present the work, next come concert and festival directors, record companies and music publishers.  I am convinced that only regular, hard work can bring about the greatest success; how the work fares afterwards is out of the composer’s hands. It is for this reason also that while choosing from among offered commissions to compose new works, I accept offers which are most artistically valuable, in which I know that the collaboration between the performer and me will be perfect, since I consult with the performer about every new work, and this has great influence on the final product. Concerning orchestral and operatic projects, the commissioning institutions are equally important.  Only through their effectiveness is it possible to obtain the desired, final effect, which is reached not infrequently by hiring dozens of facilitators, not to mention the soloists and orchestra players.

    In my work there can be found a few main trends or cycles, under which particular compositions can be categorized.  I created this division mostly on account of the sources of inspiration expressed in the titles of my compositions, since I rather try to avoid long descriptions pertaining to the philosophy of my works – I am of the opinion that I compose in order not to use words.  It is for this reason also that I treat my titles as road signs, as it were, for the listener, who has the right to his own interpretation and associating it with the music listened to.  The title should bring to mind a certain specific set of associations and also introduce the listener into a mood planned out by me.

The division is represented by the following:

•    absolute music, in which we can find compositions named after their form or instrumentation of a given work, e.g. Concerto for violoncello, Sonata da chiesa for accordion, Construction for saxophone,
•    sacred music is differentiated from other types by using religious texts, Missa brevis, Passion, Miserere, … et desiderabunt mori…,
•    works inspired by literature: the piano poem Orpheus and Eurydice based on work by Czesław Miłosz, In shadow of Emily D. – a work representing a poem by Emily Dickinson, three cycles of songs to lyrics by H. Poświatowska, H. Broch, and J.M. Rilke,
•    works inspired by the painter Marek Rothko: a cycle of works for different instrumentations entitled Hommage a Mark Rothko,
•    mythology of different cultures: Apollo for baritone and percussion, Óneiros – Concerto for violin, Nekyia for four trombones and percussion, Toxiuh molpilia for twelve saxophones, Orphée – opera.

    Recently I have been focusing on creating works of larger proportions, with which I am able to reach the listener in a fuller way, „abduct” him into my world of music, set out the rules governing my musical language in such a way, as to reach its depth, so that he may understand the ranges of technique I use that build certain moods, the emotions that are passed through music, and finally – so that he may understand my perception of beauty exemplified in my work.  At the compositional outset that pertains to building a large musical form, I try to keep in mind the listener’s perception:   places of tension and moments of relaxation appropriately planned out will cause the work to be enjoyed on a deeper level.  The concept of contrast here is important to me: a distinct division of the work into inner sections achieved by agogical, textural, and dynamic changes.

    My newest works (composed after receiving my doctorate in music in 2010) that belong to large musical forms are operas:  Manhattan Medea (2011) – an 85-minute chamber opera for five solo voices and an instrumental ensemble, Two Mice and a Cat (2012) – a 60-minute chamber opera for soloists, actors and a chamber orchestra, the 95-minute opera Orphée. Tragédie lyrique en musique (2015) designed for soloists, choir, vocal group and symphonic orchestra.  Instrumental works: … denn ich steure mit meinen Genossen über das dunkle Meer zu unverständlichen Völkern... (2011)  -- a 21-minute concerto for accordion and symphonic orchestra, Concerto for violoncello and symphonic orchestra (2013), also lasting 21 minutes, Murals. Hommage à Mark Rothko (2014) for accordion, piano and symphonic orchestra, lasting 24 minutes. An 85-minute vocal work Passio et Mors Domini Nostri Iesu Christi Secundum Ioannem (2013) for 12 voices a cappella.

    The most important achievements which I would like to point out pertaining to laws concerning degrees and academic titles are the two aforementioned works representing completely different styles, forms of music, and instrumentation: ...denn ich steure mit meinen Genossen über das dunkle Meer zu unverständlichen Völkern... (2011) – concerto for accordion and symphonic orchestra and Passio et Mors Domini Nostri Iesu Christi Secundum Ioannem (2013) for 12 voices a cappella.

    The Concerto for accordion was composed with its outstanding performers in mind: for accordionist Maciej Frąckiewicz, The National Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra in Katowice, and the conductor Michał Klauza.  The pre-premiere was held on 25 March 2011 at Górnośląski Dom Kultury – the former headquarters of NOSPR, during the Fifth Festival of Premieres – The Newest Polish Music in Katowice, and was transmitted live on the Polish Radio Programm 2.  The score was published by Verlag Neue Musik in Berlin.
At the beginning I would like to explain the origin of this composition’s title:  the work was inspired by a fragment from the First Book (verses 183-4) of Homer’s Odyssey, written in Greek on one of the bridges in Frankfurt-am-Main, translated as: … I sail with my comrades on a dark sea to an unknown people… The work was written during my post-graduate studies at the Hochschule für Musik Karlsruhe in Professor Wolfgang Rihm’s composition class, which explains the German version of the quote – a linguistic correlation between the place of the work’s origin and the inspiration flowing directly from the text.  The composition is supposed to illustrate a sea journey and different states of the sea itself; it is written for solo, amplified accordion and orchestra with the following performers: a double group of woodwind instruments with piccolo, bass clarinet, bass bassoon, 4 French horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, a complex set of percussionists – 4 performers, harp, Celeste and string quintet (14-12-10-8-6).
The 21-minute work, spanning 393 measures, is divided into six sections, one following the other attacca, and a coda of a dozen or so measures.  Section A (measures 1-39) is a presentation of aural material based on two dodecaphonic series – I: B-C#-D-G#-D#-E-F#-G-C-F-A#-A, noted for its repeated use of a minor second and a perfect fourth,  II: D-D#-E-F#-G-G#-A#-B-C-F-C#-A, where both minor and major second are characteristic intervals  –  this partly overlaps with Messiaen’s third modus.  The accordion’s part has its reflection in the orchestral part, where the solo instrument is supposed to “flow on the orchestral sea” – the group’s accompaniment takes over the aural material introduced by the soloist.  I make use here of a “composed echo”, long, evanescent blotches of sound which are supposed to represent large spaces – the instruments take over the sounds given by the soloist.  As far as technique in the solo part is concerned, a quite complex polyphony manifests itself, and the devices of diminution and double diminution of the material are often applied.  I consider Section B (m. 40-84) as “water effects” – here the inspiration was provided by a falling drop of water onto a mirror, creating waves upon its surface, while in my piece it’s the virtuosic and vibrating sound of the accordion that spurs on particular sections of the orchestra; it becomes a theme continued by the ensemble.  Section C (m. 85-136) was based on polyphonic material treated in an ascending fashion (the majority of intervals are ascending:  112-112-112…) with denser and denser treatment of rhythms (the sounds appear every 11-10-9-8-7 sixteenth-note values).  There appear also instances of diminution creating an even more irregular and syncopated rhythm.  An ever denser texture contributes to a temporary rhythmic and dynamic culmination of this section, after which follows section D (m. 137-218), called by me “wave processes” – in which a combination of a couple orchestral voices are supposed to imitate sea waves with their melodic painting.  This section is built upon the concept of an increasing accumulation of rapidly ascending and descending scales in both the soloist’s and the orchestra’s parts; I apply these phases interchangeably throughout the section.  The culmination, represented by a siren, is supposed to remind one of a storm, after which follows a period of relaxation in the form of descending structures in the string quintet, harp, and Celeste.  Section E (m. 219-289) is a symmetrically built toccata with numerous syncopated structures.  Section F (m. 290-375) presents different types of non-standard performance techniques, which causes it to be contrasted with previous sections on account of the applied musical material.  The short coda (m. 376-393) features the accordion’s high registers on a “waterphones’” background – percussion instruments imitating my idea of underwater sounds.

This short technical description is supposed to be a mirror of my constructive thinking during the composition process for works of larger proportions.  I consider such an approach to be very practical, enabling me to eschew fragments featuring emotional stagnation or its excessive exploitation.  The primary rule of contrast, in my opinion, facilitates hygiene of listening, and simultaneously becomes an inspiration to seek rather non-standard textural solutions.

The work mentioned above is one of a few instrumental concerts that I have composed.  I tried to show an original approach to the solo instrument every time.  Work with the soloists had a considerable influence, with whom I worked during the final writing phase, and, of course, I took into account their suggestions concerning strictly matters of technique, since during the creative process I try not to limit myself to matters of expression, which evokes certain corrections in confrontations with future performers. Among the artists with whom I collaborated when writing music for solo instruments and orchestra are: the violinists Patrycja Piekutowska and Janusz Wawrowski, the flutist Jadwiga Kotnowska, the violoncellists Magdalena Bojanowicz and Dominik Połoński, and the pianist Marek Bracha.  These are accomplished, outstanding artists, awarded many times.  I think that they also had some influence on the character and shape of the solo parts, which reflect their temperaments.  I would compare a concert in the art of music with a portrait in the art of painting.

In 2012 I started collaborating with the Berlin vocal group PHØNIX16 and its conductor Timo Kreuser, who have performed the works Miserere (2008) and ... et desiderabunt mori... (2008) several times. In 2013 I became resident composer of the ensemble, which also involved a commission for a work of large proportions.  In the year 2012 I began work on Passio et Mors Domini Nostri Iesu Christi Secundum Ioannem, in order that the ensemble might prepare for its pre-premiere for Lent of 2013.  This pre-premiere was held in the Evangelical-Augsburg Church of the Holy Trinity in Warsaw on 3 March 2013.  The score is currently being prepared to be published by Verlag Neue Msuik in Berlin.
This work of music, lasting about 85 minutes, called for consideration of its construction, the arrangement of its parts, compilation of texts, and the allocation of its material for a vocal group of 12 members without instrumental accompaniment.  I chose fragments from the Passion according to St. John which seemed to me to be most dramatic and which developed the plot best.  I decided to insert in between them Jesus Christ’s Seven Last Words on the Cross -- creating pillars, as it were, on which rests the entire formal construction of the work.  The text of psalm 130 De profundis and the sequence hymn Stabat mater have also been incrusted – becoming musical works that can be performed on their own, independently of the entire Passio.  Non-biblical texts that I have used are the Protestant chorale O grosse Lieb’ (a text quote from St. John’s Passion by Johann Sebastian Bach), and the Polish song Krzyżu Święty nade wszystko. When it comes to musical quotes, there is only one:  a fragment of the Gregorian chant Crux Fidelis in its monophonic form.  In the end, the work is divided into 21 sections preceded by an Exordio.

I tried to achieve an ecumenical expression in this work by using six modern European languages (English, German, French, Spanish, Polish, and Italian) contrasted against the dead languages: ancient Greek and Latin.  I assigned Ancient Greek – widely recognized as the language in which the Gospel according St. John came to be, and presumably Jesus Christ also used it – to Jesus’ part, performed by three bass voices in the fragments Seven Last Words of Jesus on the Cross.  Latin has been reserved for the presentation of the Gospel, where the Evangelist’s role is always assigned to three tenors.  Jesus’ role is performed by the aforementioned three basses, whereas the female voices perform Pilate’s part.

My Passion is a meditative, contemplative piece, in which I wanted to reach the listener in a special way.  I consider the human voice to be the most intimate instrument at the composer’s fingertips.  It is able to pass on extreme emotion, which in conjunction with an appropriately chosen word has greater impact upon the hearer.  The textually formal construction of Passio was of primary importance to me, because it was the text that built the dramatic effect of this work, from extremely agitated emotions in the Evangelical fragments to the static and contemplative character of the musical arrangements of the Last Words of Jesus on the Cross.  

The Passion according to St. John (2013) is a summing-up of my experience with sacred and vocal music. The technical and harmonic solutions used in it are the result of my artistic quest in the field of vocal textures:  various polyphonic fragments set against homophonic sections, “quavering” micropolyphonic textures, harmonies based on clusters, a solo voice set against a group, textural multiplicity exploiting sound space – these are the most important devices that are put into practice in this work.


Dariusz PrzybylskiDariusz Przybylski

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Dariusz Przybylski