The National's Guitarist Performs Tribute to Lutosławski
credit. Keith Klenowski / promotional material
Bryce Dessner, member of the popular American guitar band The National, composes music based on Witold Lutosławski’s String Orchestra.
The premiere of the composition will be held on 29 November, 2014 at Teatr Wielki-Polish National Opera in Warsaw. That same evening, Beth Gibbons, the singer of trip- hop group Portishead, will also perform Symphony of Sorrowful Songs by Henryk Mikołaj Górecki. The National Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra is conducted by Krzysztof Penderecki. Filip Berkowicz is the curator of the concert, which is organised by NInA (Narodowy Instytut Audiowizualny).
In an interview conducted by Jędrzej Słodkowski for Gazeta, Bryce Dessner revealed that his song is sort of a tribute to Funeral Music - one of Lutowławski’s most beautiful compositions, according to the New-York based guitarist.
Funeral Music has been close to me for several reasons. Lutosławski dedicated this piece to the memory of Bela Bartók, on the tenth anniversary of his death. Before I got an offer from NIna, I wrote the song, Lachrimae, inspired by Bartók’s Divertimento for String Orchestra. We perform similar aesthetic approaches.
Bartók and Lutosławski had a lot more in common than just the fact that their biographies and works were shaped by the madness of the twentieth century, or were led by the principle of continuous and harmonious development of work through constant search. They were the the avant-garde - said Bryce Dessner.
The National also said that in many respects their work is close to Lutosławski’s aleatoric technique (or chance music) that the Polish composer established by re-adapting some solutions proposed by the American musician, John Cage.
I am very interested in aleatoricism - a space of freedom for the artist in the composed and recorded music; the role of chance. This is also a personal dimension for me as a New Yorker, because aleatorism was disseminated by John Cage, and the question is whether it can reach beyond the possession of a New York musician? Before studying aleatoric techniques developed by Lutosławski, I used ideas similar to his concept at the end of Lachrimae - revealed Dessner.
Scheduled for the end of November, the concert at the Grand Theatre - National Opera is associated with the jubilee of the three outstanding Polish composers: Lutosławski, Górecki and Penderecki. The rich collection of works by the composers became widely available with the 2013 launch of the National Audiovisual Institute’s website, http://threecomposers.pl/. The editorial team, headed by the musicologist Prof. Iwona Lindstedt, also provides a comprehensive and, above all, affordable database for developing knowledge about the biographies of the three artists and their compositions.
Studying works of Penderecki and hearing the Elegy for the Victims of Hiroshima changed our thinking about music. But perhaps I listened to Górecki more. He is stylistically the closest to me.
Bryce Dessner is a composer and instrumentalist with Polish roots. He is known to a wider audience as a member of the American band, The National. He has written songs with the Kronos Quartet and Steve Reich, with whom he has also appeared on stage during the Manchester International Festival.
He collaborated with Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead at the Holland Festival, for which Dessner composed the song Lachrimae. Together with Nico Muhlym and Sufjan Stevens they created Planetarium Songs, a series of works presented at London's Barbican Centre, the Sydney Opera House, and the Paris Salle Pleyel.
The guitarist is also the founder of the annual MusicNow Festival in Cincinnati, Ohio. Since its opening in 2006, the festival hosts representatives of various currents in contemporary music from around the world.
Author: A.G., Edited by E.M. 31.01.2014