Emerge – Tomasz Jakub Opałka
Tomasz Jakub Opałka seeks for inspiration in history of music (including the relatively new one – from the 20th century), science and his own experience in creating film and theatre music.
Emerge (Warner Music, 2016) is the first monographic album created by Tomasz Jakub Opałka, a composer born in 1983 who is more and more noticeable on a dense and crowded map of contemporary and applied music (he has also worked in Hollywood on film scores). Opałka is not looking for a novelty, he continually emphases it, creating his own identity as a composer. In the biographical note on his website we read:
In his compositions, the artist joins together influences and inspirations, moving away from both conceptualism and postmodernism (…) The fundament of his works are creative intuition, conscious composer's workshop and attention to structure, form and narrative course of composition.
It is well visible in the four compositions he created in the years 2007-2014 which we find on Emerge. In fact, nothing points at the fact that Opałka's compositions were created in the 21st century, they could be easily written by the contemporaries of Henryk Mikoła Górecki or Krzysztof Penderecki in the golden times of Warsaw Autumn. If created back then, they would have a chance to visit international festivals and leave its mark on international music consciousness. Today, they represent solid, interestingly instrumentalised and vivid contemporary symphonic music performed on a high level.
The album opens with Opałka's PhD, Collisions of the Matter (2012), performed by Sinfonia Iuventus Orchestra under the baton of Krzysztof Słowiński. The structure of the composition is based on rhythmic, harmonic and melodic figures being clashed with each other. The character of the composition is determined by twenty three percussion instruments (served by four musicians) which create a gloomy, dense ambiance strengthen by wind instruments. The final effect is not hermetic though, Opałka is more keen on sound combinations that dissonances. Grzegorz Dąbrowski and Marlena Wieczorek wrote in Meakultura:
Collisions of the Matter is a quintessence of Opałka's music language: sonoristic sound combinations and a quarter tone harmonica are clashed with gentle phono-aesthetic sounds.
The titular Symphony no. 2 Emerge (2014) is dedicated to Władysław Słowiński, a composer and father of the conductor Krzysztof Słowiński. Amid his inspirations Opałka lists: a submarine, bright American metropolises and photographs of Earth taken from space. He admits that the construct of his composition is much closer to film montage than to traditional music forms. It is no wonder as writing film scores is among his main occupations. Here, we also encounter an elaborate percussive layer (five performers). The changing tones of repeated motives make an impression of a well-narrated story.
D.N.A. Bass Clarinet Concerto (2012) was written on order from The Witold Lutosławski Society on the 100th anniversary of the author of Chain. In the composition one finds Opałka's interest in science as the concept of his work refers to the DNA strand. The composer wrote:
The main assumption of the composition was to refer to Witold Lutosławski's Chain in a perverse way as in this case we deal with the DNA strand. The construction of the composition is largely based on the latter. I built four six-tone scales to the needs of this work (…) In determined moments, each scale shows up in a particular group of instruments. They can be heard simultaneously or separately depending on how many groups ought to play in specific moments. The scales are submitted to permutation after 10-, 11- or 12-tune fragments which reflects the number of rules coming in turn-helix within double stranded B-DNA, A- DNA and Z-DNA formats. After each of such sections, the chain turns and the scales find their ways to another group of instruments.
The strict, resulting from natural world concept transfers to a vivid and essentially lyrical music.
The album closes with Quadra (2007) performed by The Polish Radio Orchestra conducted by Łukasz Borowicz. It is a study of the crescendo (Italian to grow, to increase) and another disciplined but glittering with details and inner dialogues composition.
In press materials attached to Emerge we find a statement of John Corigliano, an American composer, teacher and author of film scores who said that 'Tomasz Opałka is clearly a fully-shaped and complete composer'. Hopefully, it will be proved by further large-scale authorial ideas.
Author: Filip Lech, December 2016, translated by AW, December 2016