• A Discarded Lutosławski Page

What happened to the first draft of Lutosławski’s Third Symphony?  (A numerically appropriate question for today, the third anniversary of his birth after the centenary in 2013.)  Charles Bodman Rae commented in The Music of Lutosławski on the gestation of the Third Symphony:

Initially, he envisaged a one-movement symphony in four sections: Invocation, Cycle of Etudes, Toccata, and Hymn.  This was plan was eventually rejected, however, and he temporarily abandoned the project.  Work was resumed in 1977, after the completion of Mi-parti, and extensive sketches made, only to be set aside once more as still unsatisfactory.  When he finally returned to the symphony in 1981 he began afresh, although some material from the earlier sketches was incorporated into the new scheme.

Lutosławski put it slightly differently, commenting in an interview published in Polish Music in 1983 to mark the world premiere of the final version that he ‘wrote the main movement which I then scrapped, disqualified it completely, and began a second time’.

Wherever the manuscript of this first ‘main movement’ now lies, it’s not going to be complete, because I have one page of it.  It was given to me as a present in 1995 – marking the 25th anniversary of my first visit to Poland – by the founder of the Polish Radio Experimental Studio, Józef Patkowski.  He in his turn had been given it by Lutosławski, along with some other score materials (although Józef did not specify what they were).  My apologies for the quality of the image – it was the best I could do through the glass – but it is mostly readable, even though the new WordPress format compresses photos.  I have posted a larger photo on my Facebook WL100 site:

IMG_8377 copy-2 copyAs was Lutosławski’s custom with rejected ideas, the page has a big X over it.  The page is actually half a page of (I suspect) 28 staves, now measuring 25×17.5 cms, and the music is notated in pencil.  It must have come some way through the movement as it is numbered ’96’.

The tempo marking is Meno mosso (crotchet = 90) and the music is scored for a ‘choir’ of 3 flutes, 3 oboes, 3 clarinets, joined shortly by 3 bassoons (playing at the top of their register and using Bb rather than the out-of-reach Gb as their starting point; the oboes soon join them).  The initial downbeat includes a semiquaver beat on 3 trumpets (although three further pitches are squeezed in, first and second violins (four pitches), violas and cellos combined (six pitches).  The resulting asymmetrical chord contains ten pitch-classes, all except D natural (which soon appears) and C natural (which is absent across the page).

The material for the woodwind choir (which evidently carries over onto the next sheet) is characteristically organised, with different versions of a basic idea overlapped to create a dense weave.  The core motif is a descending chromatic line, sometimes presented ‘straight’, sometimes developed into little curls and eddies, sometimes extending the semiquaver runs to as many as eleven notes.  Such ideas are already evident in the woodwind material at the start of the page.

Lutosławski has lettered the motivic variations ‘a’ to ‘l’, making twelve in all.  The disposition of the motifs across the twelve instruments is as follows (I have inserted three letters that he missed out on the score, in square brackets, in the parts for oboe 2, clarinet 1 and bassoon 3; and I have put into round brackets three motifs which begin at the very end of the staves in flute 2, oboe 1 and bassoon 3):

fl.1:  def
fl.2:  efg(h)
fl.3:  fgh
ob.1:  jbc(d)
ob.2:  [k]cd
ob.3:  lde
cl.1:  gh[i]
cl.2: hij
cl.3: ijk
fg.1:  kl
fg.2: la
fg.3: a[b](c)

The pattern for the most part is clear, but the sequence is disrupted occasionally, as in the placing of ‘j’, ‘k’ and ‘l’ in the oboes.  If one were to replace these three (jkl) with the regular pattern (abc), the sequence would be: flutes: def-efg(h)-fgh; oboesabc(d)-bcd-cde; clarinets: ghi-hij-ijk; bassoons: j?kl-k?la-l?ab(c) (these last three start later so putatively are each missing their first motif).  All the possible ‘forward’ combinations of the 12 letters in batches of three are now accounted for.  Yet, as often with Lutosławski, what might be presumed to be a regular pattern is subverted by substitution (oboes), by omission (bassoons), or by not sequencing it regularly down the page (the oboes in such a pattern would go above the flutes).

Of course, a single page like this tantalisingly whets the appetite for the preceding 95 pages and however many followed.  Now there’s a task for someone to round them all up and do a proper analysis!

• WL100/62: Notebook, 19 October 1960

Lutosławski on objet sonore

Lutosławski’s affinity with French music and literature is well-known.  But the connection with the pioneer of musique concrète, Pierre Schaeffer, has largely slipped by unnoticed.  In truth, it is not Schaeffer’s tape music as such that caught Lutosławski’s attention but his discourse on the objet sonore.  Lutosławski referenced Schaeffer’s term in talks that he prepared for the Zagreb Biennale (1961) and the Tanglewood Summer School (1962), but his musing on the implications of objet sonore began earlier, in 1960, in his Notebook of Ideas (Zapiski).

There is no evidence that Lutosławski had read Schaeffer’s book À la recherche d’une musique concrète (1952). Almost certainly, he came across the term objet sonore from both fellow Polish composers and Schaeffer himself. Schaeffer came to the third ‘Warsaw Autumn’ festival to introduce a programme of musique concrète (17 September 1959) that included a number of pieces, including his own Étude aux objets (1959).  It is more than likely that Lutosławski attended this concert (ground-breaking in the Polish context) and met Schaeffer during his visit.

Pierre Schaeffer

Just over a year later, on 21 September 1960, the fourth ‘Warsaw Autumn’ presented a lecture by Józef Patkowski, the head of the Experimental Studio at Polish Radio.  During his talk, Patkowski referred to Schaeffer and played Étude aux objets again.  Was it pure coincidence that just two days later Lutosławski made the first of two entries in his Notebook that elaborated on the idea of the objet sonore as it related to his own thinking?  Four weeks later, on 19 October, he returned to this theme.

Although Lutosławski subsequently stressed the prominence of chance procedures in his musical development in the early 1960s, he did not make any entries in his Notebook on alea and aleatorism for another year (the first appears on 20 December 1961).  In other words, it was Schaeffer’s visit in 1959 and the idea of the objet sonore that first drew his attention.  It was six months later that Lutosławski heard Patkowski introduce a recording of John Cage’s Concert for Piano and Orchestra in his ‘Musical Horizons’ programme on Polish Radio (16 March 1960) – the event which Lutosławski subsequently credited as being the critical juncture in his compositional thinking.  Yet we must no overlook Schaeffer in these developments.  In combination, both Schaeffer and Cage gave Lutosławski conceptual support just at the moment when Jeux vénitiens (1960-61) was being conceived.

It seems that rhythm (in the broadest sense, as a division of time in which the action of a musical work takes place) is the hardest element of musical material to destroy.  The idea of the ‘eternity’ of this element is tempting.  Instead of ‘melody, ‘harmony’, there appears a new element (perhaps not entirely new in its essence, but new in application) – objet sonore – the sound object.

Wydaje się, że rytmika (w najszerszym pojęciu – jako podział czasu, w którym rozgrywa się akcja utworu muzycznego) jest najtrudniejszym do zniszczenia elementem tworzywa muzycznego.  Kusi myśl o “wieczności” tego elementu.  Na miejsce “melodyki”, “harmoniki”, zjawia się nowy element (być może niezupełnie nowy w swej istocie, ale nowe w zastosowaniu) – objet sonore – przedmiot dźwiękowy.

Witold Lutosławski, 23 September 1960 [my translation]

In connection with technique based on ‘objects’:
Object = a collection of sounds, between which there is a closer connection than between each of these s[ou]nds and sounds belonging to another object.  This closer connection ensures, above all, connectivity in time.  But it can also be similarity of timbre, rhythm, attack, harm[onic] profile, choice of intervals etc..
Hence 2 rhythmic currents in a piece:
1) local rhythm, ‘small’ – interior of an object
2) general rhythm, ‘large’ – i.e., the rhythm of a sequence of objects.

W związku z techniką opartą na “przedmiotach”:
Przedmiot = zbior dźwięków, między którymi istnieje ściślejszy związek niż między każdym z tych dźw., a dźwiękami należącymi do innego przedmiotu.  Ten ściślejszy związek zapewnia przede wszystkim łączność w czasie.  Ale również może to być podobieństwo barwy, rytmiki, ataku, profilu harm., doboru interwali itd.
Stąd 2 nurty rytmiczne w utworze:
1) rytm lokalny, “mały” – wewnątrz przedmiotu
2) rytm ogólny, “duży” – czyli rytm następstwa przedmiotów.

Witold Lutosławski, 19 October 1960 [my translation]

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