Like no other artist of his generation, Miron Białoszewski embraced new technologies to scrutinise himself and his work. His experiments are immortalised in the tape recorded audio materials now being released by Bołt Records, and in the experimental films currently on exhibition at the Warsaw Museum of Modern Art.
It's a well known fact that Miron Białoszewski's work connects with everyday reality in a specific way. It's far less known that from the mid 60s Miron intensely began to experiment with the possibilities offered by recording. He recorded his own voice, and later on in the 70s, he created his own videos. How did the audiovisual experiments influence his writing?
"I seek for the written word to be a transcript of the spoken word. And for writing not to swallow speaking. The worthy spoken word is written down. That which is worthy of the written word - is then spoken aloud."
Miron goes on REC
"I bought a tape recorder for 4 thousand. If you come to Warsaw in May or June, we can play a game of recording. It's a good activity. It's of interest to everyone"
In 1965 Białoszewski buys himself a tape recorder and starts recording - he does it for his own, completely private use. For Miron, recording was primarily a way to scrutinise himself and the way a voice could work. Indirectly, his new pursuit was linked to the termination of the Teatr Osobny (the last performance took place in 1963) - it was a way of redirecting his performative energy. Between 1964 and 1966, the so-called first phase, Miron records romantic texts Adam Mickiewicz's "Dziady" (Forefather's Eve), excerpts from Julisz Słowacki's "Kordian" and works by Cyprian Norwid. These were texts had already been staged as part of the so-called "romantic programme" of the Teatr Osobny repertoire.
Simultaneously, he records "Pamiętnik z Powstania Warszawskiego" (Diary from the Warsaw Uprising), a piece which would soon revolutionise Polish literature. What is more, he also records "Wyprawy krzyżowe" (The Crusades) and "Osmędeusze", both of which were created at the Teatr Osobny. The latter was the result of joint efforts by Białoszewski and Ludwik Hering. In due time he will start recording his own works. This happens around the same time that Miron transitions from poetry to prose, only to abandon poetry writing for 10 years.
All in all, Miron left behind around 100 hours of recordings, 80 of which originated in the 80s. In the series "Białoszewski do słuchu" (Białoszewski for Listening) Bołt Records brought together the most interesting recordings. The original recordings are supplemented with new radio plays by Patryk Zakrocki, Maciek Staniszewski and the band Mikrokolektyw.
Miron on the Walkman (AUDIO)
Around the same time, in the late 60s, Białoszewski bought a Czech record player: from that moment on he constantly listened to music, he spent days and - as his friend Tadeusz Sobolewski reminiscences - whole nights listening. Buying records became an addiction, he had thousands of them. His library was predominantly made up of records and a few books.
What did Miron listen to? Mostly classics: from polyphonic Gregorian chants (Dufay, Obrecht, Ockegem, Despres, Palestrina), baroque (Monteverdi, Schutz, Bach, Couperin, Telemann) to classical (Mozart, Haydn). During this period he almost never listens to the romantics and to no modern music at all - Sobolewski wrote in the memoir "Muzyka u Mirona" (Music according to Miron). What is interesting, is that Miron despised folk music but liked oriental music (Indian, Indonesian, Japanese and Chinese). He had another passion - traditional Polish muisc, especially baroque. He also listened to a lot of hymns.
- When you would come to his house, beside the bed, next to the record player, there would always be a pile of albums ready to be played that evening. I remember a night with Handel's "Messiah", when Jan Józef Lipski was lured into simultaneously translating the words. There were games relating to the music. For example, he convinced us to dance to the "Mass in B Minor" like a waltz - and we all danced next to his bed, amused [...] - Sobolewski recalls.
According to Sobolewski, music not only inspired Miron's artistic work - he used it for different purposes: enhancing experiences, arousing moods, for isolation from the world and for a better understanding of reality. "Music drowned out conversations, but that's what he wanted, to blur the outlines of a situation, to give fluidity to events, to set reality swinging".
This is what Maciej Byliniak, the author of the "Białoszewski bez słuchu" series' album introductions writes about the role of music in Miron's life: "If he had a walkman, I daresay he would never part with music. But even without it, he knew how to carry its rhythmic impetus with him. "
Miron's home-made videos (VIDEO)
He calls his film production in the second half of the 70s "filmikowanie" - production of home videos. The activity takes place in the house of Roman Klewin and Ada Buraczewska in the Warsaw district of Żoliborz where once a week a group of friends from Białoszewski's entourage would meet. Storylines were apparently born from conversations between Białoszewski and Klewin, Ada Buraczewska invented unusual costumes from any materials she could get her hands on, friends would take on various roles as actors. Miron performs in the videos as well, taking on various roles - Miron the spider, Miron the administrator, Miron in a bar mleczny (literally "milk bar", Polish state-run canteen), Miron the shaman performing a dizzying dance.
That went on for a dozen years. Towards the end of the 90s, ORWO tapes containing the films were developed by Piotr Morawski, author of the documentary "W pobliżu Mirona" (Near to Miron). Not long ago, the strange, oneiric and somewhat slapstick silent videos are part of the Warsaw Museum of Modern Art collections. They can be watched side by side with avant-garde American films.
Wokół kolekcji. "Filmikowanie" Mirona Białoszewskiego from Muzeum Sztuki Nowoczesnej on Vimeo.
Białoszewski – uncensored
Partly through its audio recordings, the traditionally "written" Białoszewski surprises time and again. In 2009, the monumental novel/ journal "Chamowo" relating Miron's life after his move to a giant residential block on the Eastern side of the Vistula river, appeared. The text was reconstructed in part thanks to the audio recordings. Since the 2012 release of "Tajny dziennik" (Secret Journal), last year, readers indulged in the new, "uncensored" edition of "Donosy rzeczywistości" (Denunciations of Reality). Forty years had passed since the work's publication.
Flaneur kulturalny, odc. 10 - Tadeusz Sobolewski from Dwutygodnik on Vimeo.
This year, on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising, the first uncensored edition of "Pamiętnik z Powstania Warszawskiego" (Diary of the Warsaw Uprising) comes out. Although the text wasn't completely cut by censors, the "Pamiętnik" was short, thus the few censored edits made a difference. A scene under the walls of the burning Warsaw Ghetto in which passers-by applaud a German soldier shooting at fighting Jews from atop a wall is considered one of the most important ones by Marianna Sokołowska – Białoszewski's long-time editor and now publisher of the new version of the "Pamiętnik". Furthermore, the digressions, which were lost in the previous editions, will appear in the endnotes. It's possible that a new edition of "Szumy, zlepy, ciągi" (Rustlings, Lumps and Pathways), a piece that underwent far more interference from censors, will appear this year.
Amongst the pile of Miron's artistic output there are still some unpublished works, including previously unknown prose (such as portraits of friends) as well as two dramas. His unpublished early poems could constitute a volume of their own. It's quite likely that Białoszewski's inedita will come out in 2014 in the series Dzieła Zebrane (Compiled Works) which is slowly nearing completion.
Miron's work doesn't cease to fascinate new generations of readers and researchers. The newest, a book about the poet "Tętno pod tynkiem. Warszawa Mirona Białoszewskiego" (Pulse under the plaster. Miron Białoszewski's Warsaw) (published by Lampa and Iskra Boża) confirms the claim. Thirty years after his death, young scholars from the Pracownią Studiów Miejskich (Urban Studies Studio) of the Polish Culture Institute of the University of Warsaw draw a double paged map of Białoszewski's Warsaw in the book.
"By showing what he saw from the windows of Chamowo, they remind the revelation in Siekierki. They make it clear that Parysów from "Osmędeusze" really existed even though the war erased him from the plan of the city. They suggest that reading his prose is akin to solving a puzzle – the transferring of spots in the space on a concealed net of relations and interactions" - the book reads.
Author: Mikołaj Gliński, translator: Mai Jones Jeromski 27/03/2014