• WL100/17: Notebook, 6 February 1959

Lutosławski as parachutist

‘Emulating’ [lit. ‘Repeating’ after someone] is only worth it when what one does is even better than the model.  There are obvious examples: Mozart and the Mannheimers, Bach and Pachelbel, Vivaldi etc..  One has to have great self-confidence to ’emulate’.  If one does not have this, it is necessary to find things that have not yet been discovered.  Today there are no great ‘synthesizers’, ‘blenders’, no material to emulate. What scouts, ‘advance troops’, ‘parachutists’ discover is slight material with which little can be done. Each must seek his own nourishment, condemned to ‘the poverty of avant-gardism’.  He must be his own ‘parachutist’, and then also ‘occupy the ground’ himself.

‘Powtarzać’ po kimś warto tylko wtedy, kiedy robi się to samo lepiej niż model.  Przykłady oczywiste: Mozart i mannheimczycy, Bach – Pachelbel, Vivaldi etc.  Trzeba dużej pewności siebie, żeby ‘powtarzać’.  Jeśli się jej nie ma, trzeba wynajdywać rzeczy jeszcze niewynalezione.  Dziś nie ma wielkich ‘syntetyków, ‘zlewaczy’, nie ma materiału do powtarzania.  To, co wynajdują szperacze, ‘szpica’, ‘spadochroniarze’ – to jest wiotka materia, z której niewiele da się zrobić.  Każdy musi sam sobie szukać pokarmu, skazany jest na ‘nędzę awangardowości’.  Musi sam być ‘spadochroniarzem’, a później również sam ‘obsadzać teren’.

Witold Lutosławski, 6 February 1959  [my translation]

• WL100/5: Notebook, 2 January 1963

Cymer the carpenter

Lutosławski’s sketches have many worded sections exploring compositional ideas, often connected to a particular work.  He also jotted down ideas intermittently in a notebook.  He did this most intensively between 1959 and 1966, with further entries in 1969-74, half a dozen in 1979 and one in 1984.  Since his death in 1994, the notebook has become known as both Zeszyt mysłi (Notebook of Ideas) and Zapiski (Notes).  Excerpts have appeared in several publications, but the first complete publication was in English, in Zbigniew Skowron’s Lutosławski on Music (Lanham MD: Scarecrow Press, 2007), pp.291-329.  The Polish version was published as a separate volume, again edited by Zbigniew Skowron: Zapiski (Warsaw: University of Warsaw Press, 2008).

From time to time, as part of the WL100 series, I’m going to post both pithy and discursive entries from the notebook, on the day and month that he wrote them.  Here’s the first, which seems a quite random jotting.

Cymer the carpenter said: a man learns all his life but still dies stupid. 

Stolarz Cymer powiedzał: człowiek uczy się całe życie i jeszcze głupi umiera.

Witold Lutosławski, 2 January 1963  [my translation]

Who was Cymer the carpenter?  I’ve come to the simple conclusion that perhaps he came to do some woodwork in Lutosławski’s flat, fifty years ago today.

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