Wilk Prizes and the New Journal

Editorial by Maria Anna Harley

In 1946 Józef Reiss entitled his popular survey of the history of Polish music with an expression of pride: “Polish music is the most beautiful of all.”[1]The following two editions of this volume, edited respectively by Zofia Sokołowska (1958) and Marta Pielech (1984), brought Reiss’s belief to the attention of numerous Polish students. However Reiss’s slim volume was one of the many Polish books devoted to its subject; the number of scholarly publications about music history and aesthetics, ethnomusicology and musical criticism steadily rose through the decades of the Polish People’s Republic.[2] Meanwhile, readers not fluent in the Polish language had very few books and monographs in English at their disposal.[3] The scarcity of publications outside of the country and the predominantly poor quality of English translations of material published within Poland contributed to the wide-spread ignorance about the musical achievements of Polish composers and performers.

This disparity seems to have survived the changes of political contexts and governments. Meanwhile a number of Polish music studies have appeared in the West, including the book series initiated by Wanda Wilk at the Polish Music Reference Center and entitled Polish Music History Series (1981-).[4] In Poland, a similarly named series of monographs, “Historia Muzyki Polskiej” [History of Polish Music] was initiated by the Sutkowski Edition, Warsaw (after 1989). The majority of its volumes are in Polish, though English translations of selected titles have also begun to appear.[5] The Cracow-based Musica Iagellonica, formed in 1989, has produced an extensive catalog of musicological publications, again mostly in Polish, with one important exception, i.e. its yearbook, entitled Musica Iagellonica (1995-) and containing English and French translations of scholarly essays by Polish authors, as well as original works by English-speaking scholars.[6]

Books and yearbooks may take a long time to produce and an even longer period to reach their intended audiences. The advantages of scholarly publication on the Internet have been tried and tested with encouraging results by, among others, the Society for Music Theory. Its online journal, Music Theory Online initiated in 1994, has generated widespread interest and received strong support from the scholarly community.[7] The main appeal of such a venue for prospective authors is the speed of communication. The downside of the change of format? The attractive, handy printed form, has to be replaced by sheets of paper, i.e. a hard-copy printed from the downloaded files of the journal. Nonetheless, the example of the thriving MTO and its younger colleagues, such as the Critical Musicology Journal in Great Britain,[8] encourages experimentation with the new medium for the sake of reaching a wider audience in a more efficient manner.

The electronic format creates new possibilities: in addition to visual illustrations, diagrams, and musical examples, the online journal may include sound samples (for the moment we will use the Real Audio format). Thus, the authors may illustrate their theses with excerpts from the musical works under consideration; consequently, the validity of the scholars’ statements may be aurally tested by their readers. The first issue of the Polish Music Journal will not explore such advanced possibilities, limiting the illustrative material to scanned score excerpts and figures. The reason for this limitation relates to its content: this issue presents the essays awarded prizes in the 1997 edition of the annual Wilk Prizes for Research in Polish Music. (The essays are presented in the traditional paper form).

This competition was established in 1986 by Stefan and Wanda Wilk who initially funded the award; in 1987 the School of Music added a student prize. The purpose of the prizes is to encourage the scholarly community to devote more attention to music of Polish roots, especially to the less explored topics and composers. The rules and winners of the eleven editions of this contest are published at the Polish Music Reference Center web site.[9] While the copyright of the winning entries rests with the PMRC, several authors have published their essays as book chapters or independent publications (e.g Jeffrey Kallberg, John Rink, Ann McNamee). Many other essays, despite their considerable merits, remain unpublished.[10] The creation of the Polish Music Journal provides these fine contributions to Polish music scholarship with an appropriate, and technologically-advanced publication venue.

It seems that the function of an “in-house” bulletin board is hardly glorious, and the new journal would be committed to obscurity since its inception, had it no other role to play than posting the Wilk Prize winning essays of each year. The exponential growth of scholarly production, a result of growing enrollments and academic opportunities, will provide us with another source of research material. These submissions will be evaluated by experts in Polish music from around the world, including, but not limited to, the Journal’s editorial board.[11] The third source of scholarly papers that will be published in the Polish Music Journal is, perhaps, the most significant for scholars in Poland. The General Editor of the Polish Musicological Quarterly, Muzyka, Prof. Maciej Gołąb, has graciously agreed to join the editorial board of the Polish Music Journal. Working together with Dr. Elżbieta Witkowska Zaremba, a member of the Muzyka board, and researcher at the Institute of Fine Arts, Polish Academy of Sciences (where the Muzyka editorial offices are located) Prof. Gołąb will provide the Polish Music Journal with the most significant fruits of the Polish musicological scholarship published in the past issues of Muzyka. While these articles now appear with English summaries, it is important that the English speaking scholars have access to full texts of these publications.

While two issues of each volume of the Polish Music Journal will include translations from Muzyka, one issue in each year will bring the prize-winning essays from the Wilk Prizes competition. There are two prizes, actually, one for student entries and for one for professional scholars; with an occasional tie, the number of articles will range from 2 to 4. The first issue of the Polish Music Journal presents two papers written by professionals (Tyrone Greive on Paul Kochański, Jill Timmons and Sylvain Fremaux on Alexandre Tansman) and one essay by a graduate student (Timothy J. Cooley on the music of the Tatra mountains). Each paper is different and each has received its prize for a different reason. Prof. Greive is a violinist and a scholar: his pioneering study benefited from the insights of a performer. Dr. Timmons and Fremaux provided the scholarly world with the first, significant source of English material for a Tansman’s biography — a translation of his interviews with Radio France, preceded with a brief overview of the life and oeuvre of this neglected composer. Finally, Timothy J. Cooley, presented results from his doctoral research (based on several field trips to Poland) into performance practice of the Górale musicians of the Tatra mountains. I should add here that the editorial board of the Polish Music Journal had no need to review these essays, since their quality was assured by the jury of the 1997 Wilk Prizes Competition. The jury included scholars from the University of Southern California (Prof. Janet Johnson, Prof. Giulio Ongaro, Prof. Bruce Brown, Visiting Prof. Lloyd Whitesell, Prof. Bruce Simms), Honorary Director of the PMRC, Wanda Wilk, as well as the undersigned who served as the jury’s chairperson.

Reiss begins the first chapter of Polish Music is the Most Beautiful of All with the following rhapsody to music as a source of national identity: [12]

From Polish mountains and valleys Polish song began to flow. Thus, the Polish people gave the nation its native song. This song has existed as long as the Polish nation has existed; it emerged at a moment when the Polish nation arrived at the scene of the centuries. This song, similarly to the native speech, is the indispensable part of the national organism. Its melody grew from the Polish soil; it germinated for centuries within the soul of the nation in order to enter into the depths of the native musical culture, in order to endow this culture with its characteristic tone, and to color it with the features of its distinctiveness.

While the “Polish song” and the study of the ethnic heritage of Polish communities within their homeland and elsewhere will provide scholars whose work will be published here with interesting subjects, the Polish Music Journal will include articles on many other issues: composers, performers, and scholars, musical life, music criticism, aesthetics, and history, ethnic minorities in Poland, and Polish emigres to other countries. The scope of the journal will be as broad as Polish music itself. In conclusion, I would like to think while this music may not be “the most beautiful of all” it certainly deserves a special place where knowledge about its merits and faults may be presented, exchanged, tested, and questioned.


[1]. Józef Władysław Reiss: Najpięknięjsza ze wszystkich jest muzyka polska . Cracow: PWM Edition, 1946. Second edition, ed. Zofia Sokołowska, PWM Edition, 1958. Third edition, subtitled Szkic historycznego rozwoju na tle przeobrażeń społecznych [Sketch of the Historical Development with the Background of Social Transformations], edited by Marta Pielech, PWM Edition, 1984. [Back]

[2]. Among the many achievements of the state-owned and controlled main music publishing house in Poland, PWM Edition (Państwowe Wydawnictwo Muzyczne [State Musical Publishers]) there are numerous biographies of composers, musicological studies (series: Muzyka polska w dokumentach i interpretacjach,[Polish music in documents and interpretations]), volumes devoted to social history, folklore and music criticism. Other series of books and monographs have been issued by such publishers as PWN (Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe [State Scholarly Publishers]; academic material) or Wiedza Powszechna ([Universal Knowledge], popular publications). Nonetheless, the situation was not too easy for scholars who had to deal with strict censorship of the state and to bear with long delays before seeing their work in print. In the case of Zofia Helman’s Neoklasycyzm w muzyce polskiej [Neoclassicism in Polish music] ten years passed after the submitted manuscript appeared in print. [Back]

[3]. According to Wanda Wilk’s bibliographic research very few books in English were available in the 1970s and there were frequent cataloging mistakes in regards to material from Poland. Cf. Wanda Harasimowicz Wilk: An Annotated Bibliography on Polish Music Limited to Selected Series, Collected Editions and Monumensof Music, Primarily those Published in Poland After 1945 M.A. Thesis. Los Angeles: University of Southern California, 1975. [Back]

[4]. The series now includes five published titles, listed here. The series, published by Friends of Polish Music at the University of Southern California is now included in the catalog of Pendragon Press, Stuyvesant, NY. [Back]

[5]. For example, a new edition of Jerzy Gołos’s 1972 study of the Polish organ, expanded to two volumes. Jerzy Gołos: The Polish Organ. Vol. 1. The Instrument and Its History, transl. Barbara Dejlidko. Warsaw: Sutkowski Edition Warsaw, 1992. Ewa Smulikowska: The Polish Organ. Vol. 2. Organ-Cases in Poland as Works of Art, revised by Jerzy Gołos, transl. Barbara Dejlidko, Warsaw: Sutkowski Edition Warsaw, 1993. [Back]

[6]. The 1997 issue of Musica Iagellonica lists Jaromir Cerny, Aleksandra Patalas, Andrej Rijaves, and Laszlo Somfai as members of the Editorial Board, with Zygmunt M. Szweykowski serving as General Editor. The volume includes, among its 11 articles, studies of Monteverdi in Seventeenth-Century Poland by Anna Szweykowska, The stylus a cappella in the Music of Bartłomiej Pękiel by Tomasz Jasiński, and Szymanowski’s Opera [King Roger] in the Light of his novel Efebos by Alistair Wightman. [Back]

[7]. Music Theory Online, one of the two journals published by the Society for Music Theory (the other one being the traditionally-presented Music Theory Spectrum) may be found on the SMT web site. The editorial board, led by General Editor, Lee Rothfarb, includes Henry Klumpenhouwer, Justin London, and Catherine Nolan, with Robert Gjedringen serving as Reviews Editor. [Back]

[8]. Critical Musicology Journal is published by the Music Department of the University of Leeds. Its editor, Dr. Steve Sweeney-Turner, is supported by the editorial board including: David Cooper, Barbara Engh, Peter Franklin, Liz Garnett, Dai Griffiths, Stan Hawkins, David Johnson, Charlotte Purkis, and Derek Scott. The journal may be found at: http://www.leeds.ac.uk/music/Info/CMJ/cmj.html[Back]

[9]. The description, rules, and winners of the Wilk Prize can be found here[Back]

[10]. Several of these will be included in the After Chopin volume, edited by M.A. Harley, forthcoming in 1998 (by Michael Kline, Barbara Milewski, John Rink, Stephen Downes, and others). [Back]

[11]. The Editorial Board currently includes: Prof. Maciej Gołąb (University of Warsaw, Poland), Dr. Martina Homma (Cologne, Germany), Prof. Jeffrey Kallberg (Univeristy of Pennsylvania), Prof. Zygmunt Szwejkowski (Jagiellonian University, Cracow, Poland), Prof. Adrian Thomas (Cardiff University of Wales, U.K.) and Dr. Elżbieta Witkowska Zaręba (Institute of Fine Arts, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, Poland). [Back]

[12]. J.W. Reiss: Najpiękniejsza ze wszystkich jest muzyka polska op. cit. (1984 edition). Introduction to Chapter 1: “Bezimienny geniusz ludu stworzył pieśń polską” [The nameless genius of the people created Polish song]. s. 11. Transl. Maria Anna Harley: “Z polskich gór i dolin popłynęła pieśń polska. Lud polski dał więc narodowi jego pieśń rodzimą. Istnieje ona tak długo, jak długo istnieje naród polski; a zatem powstała ona w chwili, gdy na widowni dziejowej zjawił się naród polski. Pieśń ta jest, tak samo jak mowa ojczysta, nieodłączną częścią organizmu narodowego. Jej melodia wyrosła z gleby polskiej; kiełkowała ona od wieków w duszy narodu, by wejść następnie w głąb rodzimej kultury muzycznej, nadać jej charakterystyczny ton i zabarwić ją właściwościami swej odrębności.” [Back]