His journey with music dates back to days when he played early music on oboe. A composer of contemporary music, he was nominated for the pretigious Passport Award from the Polish magazine Polityka in 2012. His work TRANSCRYPTUM was staged at Warsaw's National Opera.
Contemporary composer, currently pursuing a doctoral degree in composition at UC San Diego.
From Oboist to Composer
The oboist and a composer was born in 1981. As an instrumentalist of early music, he garnered praise and received awards: the Golden Eola Harp at the Schola Cantorum Festival of Early Music in Kalisz (1998), the Zofia Rayzacherowa Foundation prize at the 10th Festival of Early Music in Warsaw (2000), among others. Between 2000 and 2005 he went even further with the genre and took on responsibilities directing the band Pressus, playing medieval music.
It was at the same time that he was studying composition at the Warsaw Music Academy under the tutelage of Marian Borkowski. He graduated with honors in 2006 and received a scholarship from the Minister of Culture for outstanding achievements in his studies a year earlier. During studies, he composed Psalmus 82 for mixed choir (2003-2004, third prize at the Musica Sacra Composers Competition Częstochowa), Canto for baritone and string quartet (2005, third prize at the Adam Didura Composers Competition in Sanok) and Incantatus for female choir (2005, prize at the 2006 Jihlava Composers Competition in the Czech Republic). His search for paths of expression took him beyond instrumental music, and he recorded a tape piece, assonance (2006).
Critical acclaim came with the piece dim, composed for cello, accordion, piano and vocals (2006-2007). It won him first prize at the 48th Tadeusz Baird Young Composers Competition. Dim was sung by mezzo-soprano Anna Radziejewska, who has been cooperation with Blecharz since.
The Academy in Crisis
While studying, Blecharz didn't feel at home with the traditional nature of the academy and wished to go beyond the conventional musical solutions taught there. On graduating, he started searching for his own conceptions. He got support and help in the development of his own ideas at the University of California, San Diego, where he went for a PhD in 2008. There, he had the chance to meet French composer Philippe Manoury and Cambodian composer Chinary Ung.
2008 can be considered the year in which Blecharz began composing in an idiosyncratic manner. Airlines (2008), written for four performers, was created for The Modern Recorder Project of the 44th Summer New Music Workshops in Darmstadt. The piece was inspired by the process of breathing - irregular, violent, deprived of much-needed attention. Alongside the instruments, the wheezing noise becomes a quasi-caricature which takes the listeners attention away from what is happening in the musical layer.
Torpor (2008), on the other hand, written for the band Kwartludium, is a study of state that resembles hibernation. Typical of bats, it is a state in which the temperature of the body decreases and the heart beats slower. But there is no doubt that Blecharz is saying more than just describing the condition. His art is full of metaphores diving into cultural archetypes and his personal experiences.
Maturing Instruments and First Successes
Side by side with his interest in the oboe is his love for the accordion - an instrument much disliked by contemporary composers. It made its first appearance in his music for the piece dim, awarded at the Tadeusz Baird Young Composers Competition awarded, and reached maturity in Hypopnea (2010), presented at the Musica Polonica Nova festival in Wrocław. At the event, the piece was performed by Maciej Frąckiewicz – a member of the TWOgether Duo with whom the composer works on a day-to-day basis.
Hypopnea deals with disfunctional breathing. In order to stay true to Blecharz's idea, Frąckiewicz has to 'unteach' himself about playing the instrument, and learn the unusual method put forward by the composer, which consisted in making an arrangement from often repeated mistakes. The work was inspired by Blecharz's own health problems.
Autobiographical motives have a habit of appearing very often in his compositions. In an interview with Ewa Szczecińska and Jan Topolski, he said: 'the fact that I compose probably has a post-traumatic foundation' (Glissando, 18/2011). After the premiere of Hypopnea, music critic Monika Pasiecznik commented on Dwutygodnik.com,
This is more than an assembly of micro intervals, this is glissando, repressed sounds, growling, grunting (like a weird monstrosity) with a unbelievable power of expression. Blecharz approached the task with incredible creativity, he meticulously studied the nature of the accordion and discovered its untapped potential. He constructed the narration in a much surprising way, with plenty of unexpected turns. He differentiated the textured, made the extreme registers collide, made the instrument part in two independent sources of sound that pulsate in space, he brought different time layers together, used the tempo changes in an intriguing way. If Andrzej Krzanowski is the one who brought the accordion into new music, Wojciech Blecharz is the one who created new poetics.
In the piece Means of Protection composed for the accordion, cello and singing (2012), played for the first time at the International Festival of the Warsaw Autumn festival, the rhythm was subjected to bodily functions yet again. The process of describing trauma is particularly narrative here, to the extent of resembling a fairy tale. It makes use of objects of everyday use: the violin bow is replaced with a pipe, the singer repressed her voice with a disposable glass. Anna Radziejewska's screaming is accompanied by the sound of a breaking glass and rolling balls. Next to universal emotions, culture appeared, a human being that exists in the context of the things that surround him. The work was created as part of a study for the National Opera in Warsaw.
Blecharz was nominated for the magazine Polityka's Passport Award in the classical music category in 2012 for his 'Emotionally strong and disciplined new music', as Adam Suprynowicz wrote in the magazine justifying the selection. 'His compositions are an autobiographical communication that speaks to the emotions and the intellect at the same time and are unique on the Polish music scene'.
The opera-installation TRANSCRYPTUM premiered in May 2013. K'an composed for the gong and 130 thin wood sticks (2012) is a fragment of the work, made available earlier on. It was awarded at the Summer New Music Workshops in Darmstadt. K'an was created as a response to John Cage's Branches for Percussion (1976), a piece inspired by the Book of I-ching. K'an is a reinterpretation of the magical gestures of the Book. The title of the piece refers to one of the eight trigrams of the ancient Chinese text and signifies the recurrence of threat, which similarly to the attempt to describe trauma through music can be tamed when the feeling of insecurity keeps on coming back.
Transcryptum (2013) is site-specific art, closely linked to the place where it is created and performed. The building of the National Opera in Warsaw therefore becomes another performer - its winding corridors, the elevator, rehearsal rooms and even its laundry room. It's worth mentioning that over 1,000 people work there daily and almost all of the workers of the theatre are involved in the preparation of the performance. During general rehearsals the laundry workers carry on with their work while being watched by spectators. Whether it's meant as a part of the performance or not is left up to the audience to decide, Blecharz merely puts forward a series of props that one assembles to his own whim. Critic Mike Urbaniak wrote,
His Transcryptum (Blecharz is a composer, a librettist and a director at the same time!) has it all. It's not only a Twin Peaks-type fascinating story of a traumatised woman whose fate we follow but it's a total musical madness and an incredible path through the labyrinth of the most exciting edifice in Warsaw - the National Opera.
Maciej Nowak adds:
It resembles a journey through the intestines of some kind of strange monstor who gasps through the sounds composed by Blecharz and performed by the musicians of the opera lost in his entrails.
- Four Preludes for piano (1999-2003)
- Psalmus 82 for mixed choir a cappella (2003-2004)
- Molto for orchestra (2003-2006)
- Moments musicaux for piano (2004)
- assonance for tape (2004)
- Postromanza 1, 2, 3 for soprano and piano (2004-2006)
- Incantatus for female choir (2005)
- Postromanza 4 for soprano and 9 instruments (2005)
- Canto for baritone and string quartet (2005)
- Vespertinus for violin, cello and piano (2005-2006)
- Nox for French horn, saxophone and orchestra (2005-2006)
- transphère for two pianos (2006)
- métasphère for two pianos (2006)
- dim for voice, cello, accordion and piano (2006-2007)
- Que for chamber ensemble (2007)
- De for two cellos and two violins (2007)
- AD for soprano, mezzo-soprano, baritone, string quartet and organ (2007)
- Raven for clarinet and piano (2007)
- xyz for violin and piano (2007-2008)
- Ivory gate for tenor saxophone, viola, cello, percussion and piano (2008)
- Torpor for violin, bass clarinet, percussion and piano (2008)
- Airlines for wooden flutes (four performers) (2008)
- Com/m/a for flute and clarinet (2008)
- Edge for clarinet, electric guitar and piano (2009)
- Cartography for 12 instruments (2009)
- Hypopnea for retuned accordion (2010)
- -onym for bass flute, bass clarinet, violin, cello, percussion and live electronics (2011)
- DFRGMNTD (I flow) for two pianos and two percussions (2011)
- Transcryptum opera--installation for female voice, cello, alt flute, two percussions, two accordions and counter bass clarinet (2011-2013)
- Means of Protection for female voice, accordion and cello (2012)
- Phenotype for prepared and amplified violin (2012)
- K’an for steel drum and ca. 130 sticks (2012)
- Small Talks for accordion reed and baritone saxophone (2012-2013)
- DFRGMNTD (I am) for two pianos and two percussions (2013)
- September. The Next Reading for voice, two pianists (one piano) and two percussions (2013-2014)
- (one) [year] (later) for counter tenor, flute, erhu, pipa, guzheng, yangqin and percussion (2014)
- Liminal Studies for string quartet (2014)
- ocean in not enough for 13 performers (2014)
Author: Filip Lech, translated by MJ 20.08.2013, updated Feb, 2016