Polish Music: The Open Borders Generation

From November 5-16, 2014, Polish and American musicians joined forces in venues in Chicago and Louisville to present music by a selection of Polish composers born in the 1970s. This generation of artists can be called the Open Borders Generation—the first generation of artists to live their entire professional lives following the end of Communism in 1989. Poland’s newly open borders allowed these young musicians to continue their education abroad, broadening their experiences and exposing them to a large multidimensional range of musical cultures. Access to new technology allowed for experimentation with new aesthetics and new mediums. This is why the music of this newest generation of Polish composers is characterized by a multitude of individual musical languages, the courage to speak in one’s own voice, a consciousness of creating an independent aesthetic and an awareness of the advantages and risks of their artistic choices.

The concerts presented four artists from Poland and two Polish composers currently living and working in the United States. The project was curated by the composer and performer Krzysztof Wołek, who is currently Professor of Music Composition and Director of the University of Louisville New Music Festival in Louisville, KY. He will be joined by composer and soprano Agata Zubel, composer, improviser and pianist Cezary Duchnowski and composer and improviser Paweł Hendrich at the University of Louisville New Music Festival from November 5 to 9. They will perform together at the Electronic and Improvised Music Concert and Agata Zubel will also perform her own Cascando for soprano and chamber ensemble with the University of Louisville performance faculty. Each composer will give master classes and lectures to University of Louisville students. After the festival, they will be joined by pianist Małgorzata Walentynowicz, winner of the Gaudeamus Interpreters Competition, to perform three concerts with the Illinois Modern Ensemble of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, conducted by Stephen Taylor, on November 12, 14 and 16.

The program of these concerts featured: Not I by Agata Zubel, performed by the composer herself; 151 242 333 for violin, cello and live electronics by Cezary Duchnowski; Emergon for large ensemble and electronics by Paweł Hendrich; Minotaur for horn and electronics by Ewa Trębacz; and Motions, Stases for piano and large ensemble by Krzysztof Wołek. All these compositions have been commissioned and performed by highly respected contemporary music ensembles at the most important new music festivals around the world.

Although the November concerts showcased only a small number of artists selected from dozens of equally talented composers born in the 1970s and currently active in the Polish contemporary music scene, the high quality and varied landscape of their work demonstrates how changes in the political and social environment can bring about a creative transformation and greater individualism in art. The concerts provided a fascinating insight into the artistic and creative potential of a generation of composers who will shape the future of the Polish and international contemporary music scene in the coming decades. These and other composers in this group are highlighted in the “Generation ‘70” project organized by the Polish Music Publishers (PWM).

These concerts were presented by the Polish Cultural Institute New York and the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in Chicago in partnership with the Adam Mickiewicz Institute, the University of Louisville, the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Constellation in Chicago, and the Kosciuszko Foundation. Media partnership provided by Louisville Public Media.

[Sources: polishculture-nyc.org, louisville.edu]