A Protean Diversity

A Book Review of Lutosławski Studies


by Nicholas Reyland


It is a fine testament to Witold Lutosławski that so many of the scholars caught, at one time or another, in his soul-fisher’s net have contributed to the collection of essays recently published under the title Lutosławski Studies.[1] Indeed, it is a remarkable tribute that such a volume has emerged so quickly after the composer’s death in 1994; the first moves towards the book were made as early as 1995, when editor-to-be Zbigniew Skowron issued a call for papers considering the composer’s oeuvre complète. An ensuing international research project and conference in Warsaw led eventually to this collection, which includes essays by almost all of the most eminent “Lutosławskians” plus a range of additional authorities.[2] It is naturally an indispensable read for scholars and students of Lutosławski’s music. Refreshingly, its fourteen academic essays also have much to offer non-academic enthusiasts.[3]

For the most part fastidiously edited and proofed,[4] the book must also be commended for bringing together a heterogeneous collection of ideas about Lutosławski, uniting scholars from different European countries and the USA in a way which enables the reader to compare contrasting musicological approaches and traditions. In the years to come, this book will be an invaluable indicator of the state of Lutosławski studies at the end of the twentieth century. The fortunes of the various viewpoints may ebb and flow, but the book’s importance as a musicological document can only increase.

In this regard, the volume’s weighting – five essays on “Aesthetics,” nine on “Style and Compositional Technique” – tells an interesting story. Lutosławski Studies has an end-accented, two-movement form, with Part Two bearing the structural weight. One would not wish to place too much emphasis, however, on this similarity to Lutosławski’s most abiding structural archetype, not least because Part One flows more smoothly (or “directly”) from essay to essay; such connections are less apparent in the more “hesitant” second part, where the various theoretical approaches jangle profitably against one another. Yet the book’s weighting does relate an enduring fascination with the protean diversity of elements Lutosławski combined in his mature compositional voice. Of course, a “protean diversity” of Polish compositional voices was released by the country’s partial cultural thaw of the mid 1950s, as Poland’s composers engaged with the sounds of musical modernism in that remarkable torrent of avant-garde creativity. My designation of Lutosławski’s individual voice as protean, however, has a rather more specific intention.[5]

During the mid 1950s, as events in Poland were taking a decisive turn, American psychologist Robert Jay Lifton was interviewing Chinese immigrants in Hong Kong. Lifton was struck by the unusual identity shifts his subjects described in relation to their move from an atmosphere of communist thought reform to the dizzying array of cultural ideologies competing for their attention on the island. Lifton subsequently called their response to this diversity “protean,” and proposed a “protean self,” a sense of being which could emerge as the result of a sudden exposure to conflicting culture streams.[6]

Named after Proteus, the Greek sea god of many forms, Lifton’s protean self is a sense of being “appropriate to the restlessness and flux of our time,” as people “engage in continuous exploration and personal experiment,” and discover “a capacity for bringing together disparate and seemingly incompatible elements of identity”[7] in their “quest for authenticity and meaning.” His 1993 book The Protean Self is subtitled Human Resilience in an Age of Fragmentation, signalling Lifton’s belief that, while there are certain connections to be made between proteanism and postmodern theories of contingency, polyvocality and multiplicity—not to mention the role of fragmentation in modernist art and thought—the protean self is primarily distinguished by its ability to plot a unique and coherent course through “fragmentary and chaotic currents of change.”

It would obviously be risky to imply a direct analogy between the artistic experiences of Polish composers after the thaw and the situation Lifton describes as a fertile bed for rapidly evolving proteanism. Nevertheless, in the case of certain Central European composers—and not least Lutosławski—proteanism may provide a useful metaphor for their attempts to shape “unique and coherent” idioms from “disparate and seemingly incompatible elements of identity.” The desire of musicologists to examine Lutosławski’s ostensibly contradictory techniques certainly generates the contrasts in the second half of Lutosławski Studies, with its focuses on, for example, 12-note rows, prolongational structures, chain technique, motivic organisation, aleatory, symphonism, microtonality, fragmentation and integration. On the other hand, Lutosławski’s “quest for authenticity and meaning,” his need to shape coherent artistic statements from that diversity of techniques, animates the discussions in Part One. This review will begin by discussing the approaches taken in Part Two.

A good starting point when reading Lutosławski Studies—Skowron’s pithy “Preface” aside—is Steven Stucky’s essay “Change and Constancy: The Essential Lutosławski,” which stands at the gateway to Part Two of the book. Although hardly silent on the subject of Lutosławski since the publication of his groundbreaking monograph in 1981, Stucky takes this opportunity to provide a welcome update on his thinking. He starts by proposing a no-nonsense tripartitioning of Lutosławski’s output into Early (up to 1955), Middle (1956-79) and Late (1979-94). This leads to some eminently sensible consequences, such as including works elsewhere labelled as transitional in the Middle period, and uniting the neo-classical and socialist realist works under the same stylistic banner.

In posing the question “Who is the essential Witold Lutosławski?,” however, Stucky raises a more fundamental issue: to what extent should narratives about the composer’s oeuvre complète seek to smooth over (or highlight) its stylistic gaps and inconsistencies. Lutosławski’s own narrativizing strategies in this regard are duly noted, and Stucky mentions the “consistent, dependable stories” Lutosławski told about his development. The desire of musicologists to form framing points of reference is also acknowledged, before Stucky sets out to tread a fine line between a postmodern levelling of quality and content for all periods in Lutosławski’s career and a more difficult, but perhaps ultimately more rewarding, acknowledgement of qualitative differences. Stucky’s tracing of “tendencies” which exert “a more or less continuous influence on all of Lutosławski’s music,” irrespective of style and period, are, as such, “agreeably imprecise.”

Stucky’s seductive depiction of Lutosławski as “a grand, inclusive synthesizer; an artist who knitted together all the best traditions and discoveries of his time into a broad, flexible language”—like J. S. Bach or Brahms—is more provocative. Although one would probably wish to join Stucky in recognising how the uniqueness of Lutosławski’s voice helped him to “leave behind masterworks of lasting, universal significance,” one might also question whether terms like “synthesizer” —which pepper some of the essays in the second half of Lutosławski Studies—are entirely appropriate. One might even argue that, if there is a “synthesis” in evidence in many Lutosławski works, it is a “trace” of narrative action through which the listener is able (somewhat paradoxically) to connect elements that, at a more local level, create fragmentation, discontinuity and disunity.[8] Stucky’s usage is hardly casual, but it does flag up the need for a precise and careful deployment of value-laden concepts like “synthesis,” “unity,” and “systematic.”

James Harley’s “Considerations of Symphonic Form in the Music of Witold Lutosławski” and Andrej Tuchowski’s “The Integrative Role of Motion Patterns in Lutosławski’s Mature Symphonic Works: A Comparison of Livre pour orchestre and the Symphony No. 4″ are ambitious essays which reflexively highlight the virtues and challenges of their contrasting approaches. Harley’s chapter is a balanced and insightful examination of ways in which Lutosławski sought to shape symphonic arguments in the absence of functional tonality—balanced, that is, until the final couple of paragraphs, which jar somewhat awkwardly. A peculiar change of tense (Lutosławski is suddenly referred to as if still alive) and tone make for a slightly puzzling conclusion.[9] In particular, Harley’s assessment that “Lutosławski has [sic] struggled to find substitutes,” “risks [sic] ossifying . . . tradition, turning it into an “object” of consumption” —and his association of late capitalism’s “fetishism of style and surface, its cult of hedonism and technique” with Lutosławski structures “meant to gratify, not provoke” —contrasts sharply with his carefully poised discussions of Partita, Chain 2 and, particularly, the Third Symphony.

The penultimate paragraph does, however, echo a key theme in Harley’s essay. “Lutosławski . . . ended up relying to a great extent on . . . “statistical” climax—the use of non-discursive parameters such as dynamics, tempo, or orchestration to convey the effect of culmination,” writes Harley, criticizing Lutosławski’s climaxes for not achieving a level of “syntactic” meaning found in tonal masterworks. Yet, as Patrick McCreless and others have shown, climax and closure in tonal works are achieved as a result of elements whose roles—syntactic, thematic, formal, rhetorical, etc.—are at best slippery, and often collapse into each other. [10]Tuchowski’s essay, by contrast, seems almost too beholden to the idea of syntactic unity in Lutosławski’s music. Adapting elements of Schenkerian analysis to demonstrate long-range structural connections in Livre pour orchestre and the Fourth Symphony, Tuchowski traces another layer of detail onto his graphings in a theoretically ambitious attempt to map ways in which textural and registral “motion patterns” (i.e., registral shapes) add an extra layer of unity to Lutosławski’s music. Most interesting, in view of Harley’s criticisms, is Tuchowski’s idea of motion patterns “tracking” from one “nodal point” (i.e., a syntactically important pitch or sonority) to another, a concept demonstrating one way in which syntactic and statistical elements could be heard to collapse into each other.

Jadwiga Paja-Stach provides the only other Polish contribution to Part Two, and demonstrates one of the major strengths of fielding an international team of scholars, namely the fresh range of reference brought to the table by different intellectual traditions. Paja-Stach offers a reading of Lutosławski’s neo-classicism drawing on Zofia Helman’s work,[11]and her essay, which examines shared stylistic traits in Lutosławski’s early and late works for solo instrument and piano, forms a useful companion piece to Stucky’s wide-ranging study. Her stress on the role of limited-interval structures in Lutosławski’s neo-classical and later works is sound, although a more thorough investigation of the sources (which composers? which scores?) from which, Paja-Stach posits, Lutosławski inherited his “intervallic structuralism” would have been welcome. Also, her assertion that the “complex of melodic and harmonic strategies which distinguishes Lutosławski’s mature chamber works leaves no doubts about their stylistic originality and unity” feels only half-correct: surely a “complex” of such strategies can only raise doubts about the nature of their “unity”?

As Peter Petersen’s excellent essay “Microtones in Lutosławski’s Music” attests, one element at least unifies Lutosławski’s approach to his various strategies: his quasi-systematic organisation of sound at a local level. Here Lutosławski was a steely constructivist, and almost obsessively so.[12]It is no surprise, therefore, to find more evidence for this in Petersen’s dissection of Lutosławski’s meticulously crafted microtonal structures. As Petersen demonstrates, almost every microtonal idea that Lutosławski used to articulate his macro-dramatic inspirations, however small or “syntactically” insignificant, was possessed by the composer’s commitment to localized unities—no matter how they might relate (or not relate) to the strategy deployed in the next bar.

Three of the essays in Part Two are studies of Lutosławski’s compositional sketches, and each offers intriguing new insights. Martina Homma, who excels at forensic analytical dissections of the composer’s finished scores, here presents an innovative study of sketches charting Lutosławski’s “parallel path.” These do not (necessarily) relate to particular works. Rather, they are technical studies, particularly in 12-note harmony. Homma’s analytical demonstration of Lutosławski’s exploration of pitch rotation and harmonic strands is typically incisive, and this essay profitably extends her primary Lutosławski project—an examination of the role of 12-note rows in his music.

The zeal with which Homma approaches this topic, although deeply admirable and probably necessary considering the composer’s disavowal of the role of serialism in his music, occasionally leads to questionably definitive language. Her careful description of Lutosławski’s lifelong “logical (if not systematic)” investigation of 12-note possibilities, for example, almost immediately morphs into an approach “which one might well declare to embody a system because of its coherence and meticulously worked-out inner logic” occupying “a higher theoretical level . . . [at] the very centre of Lutosławski’s compositional thinking.” However, whether or not one agrees with Homma about the absolute centrality of 12-note thinking in Lutosławski’s music (especially when her thoughts are juxtaposed with other persuasive ideas, as here in Part Two of Lutosławski Studies), the force of her argument provides a necessary corrective to one of Lutosławski’s less “dependable” stories about himself.

One problem for theoretical approaches to Lutosławski which use analytical findings to predicate theories of system or unity is that, while the composer often worked “close to the ground” on his music’s details, he also “descended through clouds,”[13]gradually creating some kind of order out of ideas which, at their point of conception, were anything but systematically unified. Adrian Thomas’s consummately researched essay on Jeux vénitiens offers a fine analysis of this dual process, examining Lutosławski’s alterations to this pivotal score between its early and final versions. In particular, Thomas illustrates how the original “actual chaos” of woodwind ideas in the first movement’s A, C, E, G sections—viscerally represented by slashes and dashes in Lutosławski’s initial graphic sketch of the movement—was eventually replaced by a texture of lean motivic uniformity.

Some of the most revealing observations in Thomas’s essay marry analysis to documentary discovery, as in his mapping of quotes from Lutoslawski’s Notebook of Ideas onto the evolutionary chronology of Jeux vénitiens. And the enlightenment runs in both directions, illuminating the music and the quotations. For instance, Lutosławski’s familiar statement “I very often view my finished works as poor caricatures of the original concept” is oft-quoted, but originated in a Notebook entry on 6 April 1961— the day after that “chaotic” first version of Jeux vénitiens’s opening was completed. Given Irina Nikolska’s unique knowledge of the series of conversations she conducted with the composer,[14]one might also expect her essay to form correlations between analysis (in this case of the Chain sketches) and a wider creative context. This is certainly the case, although of the three “sketch essays,” Nikolska’s is perhaps the least innovative in terms of its use of the raw materials. Nevertheless, where she draws on her personal contact with the composer’s thoughts, her arguments are compelling, as in her focus on chaining’s role in the control of tensions Lutosławski defined as his music’s “centripetal” and “centrifugal” forces.

Panel discussion during 1997 conference in Warsaw (R-L): Skowron, Trochimczyk,
Stucky, Rae, Thomas, Casken, Tomaszewski, Chłopicka, Gąsiorowska, Homma, Tuchowski.

Questions of centrifugal and centripetal force come to the fore in Arnold Whittall’s “Between Polarity and Synthesis: The Modernist Paradigm in Lutosławski’s Concertos for Cello and Piano.” This essay sits uneasily in Part Two of Lutosławski Studies as, more than any other in this section, its discussion of style and technique is rooted in questions of aesthetics. The division of the book’s chapters may reflect Lutosławski’s personal predilection for separating talk of artistic aesthetics from details of compositional technique, but Whittall’s authoritative essay demonstrates the ultimate invalidity of such divisions. In Lutosławski’s music, in all of his stylistic periods, aesthetics collapse into style and technique, and visa versa.

In stark contrast to some of the essays in Lutosławski Studies, Whittall makes no appeal to systematic logic or underlying unity as an index of musical value. Indeed, he implicitly questions whether an analytical quest for unity in Lutosławski is even appropriate.[15]Following Adorno, Whittall traces a modernist “tendency to underline the forces making for disruption of unities and the fragmentation of coherent wholes,” citing Carter as a composer whose modernist music “is organized around sequences of stratified textures which interact but avoid decisive convergence or synthesis.” However, Whittall proposes a “modernist paradigm” not exclusively “about” polarity (even in the case of Carter), but mobile enough to explore a continuum of positions between “the notional extremes of polarity as absolute opposition and synthesis as total integration.” He then places Lutosławski in a stance towards modernism signifying the composer’s “resistance to the pull of both extremes.”

This rich context provides an opportunity to consider Lutosławski’s music “as the site of particularly intense interactions between opposing tendencies: connection and fragmentation, progressiveness and conservatism, polarity and synthesis.” In other words, rather than trying to demonstrate inner unity connecting the manifold elements of his protean musical voice,[16]one might seek to analyse how his works, far from attempting to smooth over those gaps, utilize their internal tensions.[17]Whittall’s essay offers a compelling example of the fruits such labours can yield, exploring his thesis through the Cello and Piano Concertos. The later work may be heard, Whittall suggests, as a piece in which classicizing tendencies have the upper hand, while the “more personal and more powerful” Cello Concerto explores “sustained polarities and ambiguities”—thus creating a site of intense interactions.

Skowron’s own brief chapter, which opens Part One of Lutosławski Studies, does not quite live up to its billing as “Lutosławski’s Aesthetics: A Reconstruction of the Composer’s Outlook,” due no doubt to its modest length. It is nevertheless crammed with insights which, one hopes, the author will expand upon in the future. His use of Polish aesthetician Maria Gołaszewska’s concept of an “aesthetic situation” integrated by “aesthetic value,” for example, and suggestion that this model is “well fitted to reflect Lutosławski’s aesthetics,” could warrant a chapter in its own right.[18]As it stands, however, Lutosławskians will eagerly devour his essay’s “new” quotes from the Notebook of Ideas, such as the composer’s description of the “breathing of the brain,” and not least thanks to Skowron’s skilful cross-referencing of fresh material with more familiar discussions.[19]

The four other essays in Part One all happen to discuss—advantageously from the perspective of the reader, as it enables one to make direct comparisons between the different authors’ approaches—Lutosławski’s extraordinary 1975 score Les espaces du sommeil. Benoît Aubigny’s “Poetic and Dramatic Schemes in Lutosławski’s Vocal-Instrumental Works” and Maja Trochimczyk’s “‘Dans la Nuit:’ The Themes of Death and Night in Lutosławski’s Oeuvre” both deal substantially with his vocal music in pursuit, respectively, of their “oneiric” and “dark” subject matters. Aubigny’s essay is generous and frustrating, the latter quality due perhaps to the problem of translating philosophical French into readable English. For example, Aubigny’s proposition that his essay offers the “frail hope of seeing a coherent linguistic model prevail over particular modalities” has a dreamlike quality of its own.

The sheer amount of ground covered by Aubigny’s essay, however, more than compensates for its occasional opacities. His discussion of Lutosławski’s use of melisma, of the ending of Les espaces du sommeil in terms of surrealist André Breton’s concept of dialectical balance, and of André Souris’s “process of forming” all deserve detailed consideration. His focus on the “polysemic” facility of Lutosławski’s music—its multiple meanings, or rather “no definite meaning, which comes to the same thing”—and proposed link between the composer’s desire for semantic plurality and choice of surrealist texts is especially striking, not least when read alongside Trochimczyk’s essay which, at first glance, seems to suggest the opposite. Here, in place of surrealist ambiguities, Trochimczyk proposes “topoi” used by Lutosławski for their persistent associations with certain ideas, concepts and situations.

‘Dans la Nuit’ contains some choice documentary details, such as Lutosławski’s consideration of death-related texts by Hölderin and Hugo von Hofmannsthal, and the story of his plans to compose an “existentially ambivalent” opera on an ancient Persian parable, The Conference of Birds. The richness of Trochimczyk’s essay, however, comes from her provocative hermeneutic interpretations. At times, the ambition of these readings leads to deeply subjective assertions, as in the “musical symbol of death modelled upon Bach’s last unfinished fugue” she hears in “the chaotic incompleteness” of the endings of Paroles tissées and Les espace du sommeil. On the other hand, her discussion of a “macabre seme” in Lutosławski’s music (the interval-class pairing 1+6) and its place in a “hierarchical structure of depictions of mourning” is stimulating. Moreover, her even-handed discussion of the composer’s apparently agnostic “philosophy of life, predisposed towards scepticism and disbelief in matters relating to ‘life after death'” and her own perceptions of a religious undertow (“reunification with the beloved after death”) in works like Epitaph mark the most sensitive handling yet of the issue of Lutosławski’s attitude towards religion.

It is almost impossible to imagine that the other “pair” of essays in Part One—Charles Bodman Rae’s “Lutosławski’s Sound-World: A World of Contrasts” and John Casken’s “The Visionary and the Dramatic in the Music of Lutosławski” —were not conceived as such by their authors. Rae’s excellent essay outlining “conceptual” (aesthetic) and “compositional” (stylistic) contrasts at the heart of Lutosławski’s style sets the scene perfectly for Casken’s inspiring exploration of the philosophical, even spiritual, implications of such contrasts.

Rae’s essay is one of his best yet about Lutosławski. His book is invaluable, of course, but this essay has a quality of critical independence (from Lutosławski’s own views about his music?) previously glimpsed most clearly in the “Epilogue” to the third edition of The Music of Lutosławski—a postscript written, like this essay, after the composer’s death.[20]The range of reference is impressive. Rae’s discussion of Edmund Burke’s contrast between the “beautiful” and the “sublime” in relation to Lutosławski’s music, and his textbook exposition of sublime in its “proper sense” of “awe-inspiring” or “awesome,” provide object lessons in this knotty branch of early romantic aesthetics. But the details also add weight to his critical interpretations, such as the “Kantian” quality he hears in the “awesome” climax of Les espaces du sommeil. Delving deeply into the issue of Lutosławski’s romanticism, Rae even risks amending one of the composer’s “dependable” stories—his anti-romanticism—to an objection to later romanticisms, going so far as to suggest that Lutosławski did not have a “clear or objective view of how his music related to a broader aesthetic picture.” Rae’s advocacy of Lutosławski is only made stronger by the admission of such closely argued contentions.

One suspects that Lutosławski, having read Rae’s essay, might almost have been won around to this view of his “romanticism.” As Casken gamely points out, however, Lutosławski would probably have been aghast at the extra-musical content Casken reads into, or in his word “beyond,” the music.[21]Focusing on works of the 1960s and 70s, but casting his net much wider, Casken identifies moments in Lutosławski—such as the shift from “sublime” to “beautiful” between climax and coda in Les espaces du sommeil— where his music attains a new level, transcends or opens “new windows onto imaginary worlds.” Casken suggests that achieving such moments of transcendence may even be the fundamental purpose of Lutosławski’s goal-orientated musical discourses.

During such moments Casken experiences “a visionary intensity,” followed by “a mysterious evocation of the Unknown, a dreamlike vision, a vision of the night, or a moment of intense introspection.” These are, of course, exactly those speculations “of the kind that the composer would most certainly have disapproved.” Yet, as in Rae’s essay, the range of reference Casken brings to his writing—George Steiner, Charles Ives, Berg, Martin Amis and Jung—adds import to his critical perceptions, as he seeks to form coherent interpretations of the artistic statements Lutosławski created from his diversity of compositional ideas.

All of the essays in Lutosławski Studies celebrate this protean diversity of style and technique. A few, like Casken’s and Whittall’s, go further, plotting a course through the stylistic cross-currents with readings that encompass the contrasting elements of Lutosławski’s voice without watering down their essential differences. Readings like these—alongside much-needed further research into political, biographical and performance-related topics not adequately represented in the present volume—will surely be prominent in Lutosławski scholarship of the future, not least because they mirror the composer’s quest to shape unique, meaningful and authentic artistic statements.[22]Like the fourteen essays in Lutosławski Studies, such readings can only inspire new hearings of Lutosławski’s music—the finest possible testament to this most human, and humane, of composers.



[1]. Zbigniew Skowron, ed., Lutosławski Studies (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2001). The book was published in Polish as Zbigniew Skowron, ed., Estetyka i styl twórczości Lutosławskiego (Kraków: Musica Iagellonica, 2000). Lutosławski described his deepest artistic motivation as “an attempt to find people who in the depth of their souls feel the same way as I do,” depicting creative activity as “a kind of soul-fishing,” with the catch being “the best medicine for loneliness, that most human of sufferings.” See Bálant András Varga, Lutosławski Profile (London, 1976), 43. [Back]

[2]. Notable absences include Stanisław Będkowski, Danuta Gwizdalanka/Krzysztof Meyer, Michael Klein and Douglas Rust. [Back]

[3]. See the present writer’s short review in BBC Music Magazine (March 2002): 112-3. [Back]

[4]. There are occasional typos and inconsistencies, but only one such inconsistency (mentioned below) seriously detracts from the essay in which it occurs. [Back]

[5]. Elements of this review essay were developed from the present writer’s paper “Poland’s Protean Thaw (and Lutosławski’s Livre),” delivered at the conference The Modernisms of the 1960s in Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland held at Bristol University on 27 April 2002. That paper contrasted Lutosławski’s “proteanism” with Henryk Mikołaj Górecki and Bolesław Szabelski’s responses to the thaw’s creative impetus. [Back]

[6]. Robert Jay Lifton, The Protean Self—Human Resilience in an Age of Fragmentation (New York, 1993). See Lifton, pp. 1-12, for an overview of his concept of proteanism, from which all of the following quotes have been drawn. More generally, Lifton suggests, proteanism could develop through a sustained engagement with mid to late twentieth-century cultural pluralism. [Back]

[7]. As Tibor Tallián pointed out at the Bristol conference, a Central European tendency towards such conjoinings can be traced back at least as far as Bartók. Lutosławski’s “protean” tendencies, moreover, were to an extent already in place by the late 1950s. The “thaw” might therefore best be thought of as having intensified a pre-existing aesthetic need as far as Lutosławski is concerned—influenced, perhaps, by the example of Bartók. [Back]

[8]. The ways in which Lutosławski works of the 1960s and 70s mediate between tendencies toward synthesis and tendencies toward fragmentation, and harness the tensions created by that polarity in the formation of what the composer described as his “purely musical’ actions, plots or narratives, is the key topic of the present writer’s forthcoming Ph.D. thesis. The word “trace” refers to Jean-Jacques Nattiez’s usage in his seminal essay “Can One Speak of Narrativity in Music?,” Journal of the Royal Musical Association 115 (1990): 240-57.[Back]

[9]. The change of tense in these paragraphs is the inconsistency mentioned above. [Back]

[10]. See Patrick McCreless, “The Hermeneutic Sentence and Other Literary Models for Tonal Closure,” Indiana Theory Review 12 (1991): 35-73. McCreless cites work on closure by musicologists including Leonard B. Meyer (whose distinction between statistical and syntactic climax Harley draws upon), but also V. Kofi Agawu, Robert Hatten, Esther Cavett-Dunsby, Joseph Kerman, David Smyth and Lewis Lockwood, plus literary models drawn, principally, from Roland Barthes, Barbara Herrnstein Smith and Quintilian. [Back]

[11]. Zofia Helman, Neoklasycyzm w muzyce polskiej XX wieku (Kraków, 1985). [Back]

[12]. An obsession Lutosławski acknowledged on more than one occasion, for example in discussion of his predilection towards such strategies in light of his early mathematical training. See Irina Nikolska, Conversations with Witold Lutosławski (1987-92), tr. Valeri Yerokhin (Stockholm, 1994): 22-3. [Back]

[13]. The composer’s metaphorical description of this dual compositional process contrasted coming in to land at an airport with construction work started on the ground. See, for example, Varga, Lutosławski Profile, pp. 35-6. [Back]

[14]. Available in Nikolska’s flawed but invaluable book, Conversations with Witold Lutosławski. [Back]

[15]. This essay is one of Whittall’s many important contributions to his ongoing consideration of the nature of modernism, and its implications for analysts and critics, in the music of many different composers. With regards to Lutosławski, Whittall’s writings on Peter Maxwell Davies make for a particularly interesting comparison. See, for example, Arnold Whittall, “Comparatively Complex: Birtwistle, Maxwell Davies and Modernist Analysis,” Music Analysis 13 no. 2-3 (1994): 139-59. [Back]

[16]. Or, as some critics have done, use a proposed lack of such unity as a stick with which critically to beat Lutosławski! [Back]

[17]. The present writer’s thesis on action in Lutosławski’s music attempts this kind of analytical reading. [Back]

[18]. See Maria Gołaszewska, Zarys estetyki (Warsaw, 1984). [Back]

[19]. Such juxtapositions form a tantalizing prelude to Skowron’s forthcoming publications – a critical edition of the Notebook of Ideas and an edited collection of Lutosławski’s essays and writings. [Back]

[20]. See Charles Bodman Rae, The Music of Witold Lutosławski (London, New York and Victoria, 1999): 253-62. [Back]

[21]. At least, Lutosławski would have given that impression—one suspects he may also have been privately delighted by his music’s power to provoke such deeply felt responses, however “extra-musical’ or different from his own. [Back]

[22]. This work, of course, is already ongoing. Stanislaw Bedkowski’s archival research, and Danuta Gwizdalanka and Krzysztof Meyer’s forthcoming biography, alongside Thomas’s ongoing work on Lutosławski’s music under socialist realism and Skowron’s aforementioned new publications, will add vital new documentary and critical dimensions to our knowledge of the composer and his music, as will Michael Klein’s work on intertextuality and narrative in the Fourth Symphony. The present author’s own forthcoming thesis on action will, he hopes, also make a useful contribution, in the form of the most comprehensive examination yet of Lutosławski’s narrativizing strategies and their underlying aesthetic objectives. [Back]

Lutosławski Bibliography


Nicholas Reyland is a British musicologist who divides his time between musicology, lecturing and work for the London Sinfonietta. As a part-time Ph. D. candidate at Cardiff University, he is engaged in research, under the supervision of Professor Adrian Thomas, centering on the music of Witold Lutosławski. His thesis, provisionally entitled Action, narrative and modernism in the music of Witold Lutosławski (1965-76), explores Lutosławski’s conception of “purely musical” action/narrative in key works of the 1960s and 70s. He has published and broadcast on subjects including Ligeti, Lutosławski, Penderecki, socialist realism, sonorism and the Warsaw Autumn, and written for publications including BBC Music Magazine, British Postgraduate Musicology, Central Europe Review, Opera and Tempo. He currently lectures on Cardiff University Music Department’s course in 20th-century Polish music. Forthcoming papers include “Looking for some action: Lutosławski, narrative and the modernist paradigm” (1 April 2003, Cardiff University) and “Lutosławski in action” (29 June 2003, Nottingham University) – part of the session “Lutosławski Studies: new narratives”, which he is organising for the Third Biennial International Conference on Twentieth-Century Music.

After three years as the London Sinfonietta’s Marketing Manager, Nicholas Reyland became the new music ensemble’s Web & Publications Editor in 2001. He now produces and edits all of the ensemble’s web pages, programme books and publications, a multifaceted job which includes interviewing leading composers for the ensemble’s multimedia website (www.londonsinfonietta.org.uk). He has also been Editor of the journal British Postgraduate Musicology since 1999, and created BPM’s current home – the website www.bpmonline.org.uk – from scratch. Asides from Lutosławski, Polish and contemporary music, his research interests include narrativity, tragedy, and film/TV soundtracks.