Music of Poland

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Artists from Poland, including famous composers like Chopin or Lutosławski and traditional, regionalized folk musicians, create a lively and diverse music scene, which even recognizes its own music genres, such as poezja śpiewana (sung poetry).

Beginning[edit]

The origin of Polish music can be traced as far back as the 13th century, from which manuscripts have been found in Stary Sącz, containing polyphonic compositions related to the Parisian Notre Dame School. Other early compositions, such as the melody of Bogurodzica, may also date back to this period. The first known notable composer, however, Mikołaj z Radomia, lived in the 15th century.

During the 16th century, mostly two musical groups—both based in Kraków and belonging to the King and Archbishop of Wawel—led the rapid innovation of Polish music. Composers writing during this period include Wacław z Szamotuł, Mikołaj Zieleński, and Mikołaj Gomółka. Diomedes Cato, a native-born Italian who lived in Kraków from about the age of five, became one of the most famous lutenists at the court of Sigismund III, and not only imported some of the musical styles from southern Europe, but blended them with native folk music.[1]

17th and 18th centuries[edit]

Orchestra of Władysław IV Vasa, 1649

In the last years of the 16th century and the first part of the 17th century, a number of Italian musicians were guests at the royal courts of Sigismund III Vasa and Władysław IV. These included Luca Marenzio, Giovanni Francesco Anerio, and Marco Scacchi. Polish composers from this period focused on baroque religious music, concertos for voices, instruments, and basso continuo, a tradition that continued into the 18th century. The best-remembered composer of this period is Adam Jarzębski, known for his instrumental works such as Chromatica, Tamburetta, Sentinella, Bentrovata, and Nova Casa. Other composers include Grzegorz Gerwazy Gorczycki, Franciszek Lilius, Bartłomiej Pękiel, Stanisław Sylwester Szarzyński and Marcin Mielczewski.

In addition, a tradition of operatic production began in Warsaw in 1628, with a performance of Galatea (composer uncertain), the first Italian opera produced outside Italy. Shortly after this performance, the court produced Francesca Caccini's opera La liberazione di Ruggiero dall'isola d’Alcina, which she had written for Prince Władysław three years earlier when he was in Italy. Another first, this is the earliest surviving opera written by a woman. When Władysław was king (as Władysław IV) he oversaw the production of at least ten operas during the late 1630s and 1640s, making Warsaw a center of the art. The composers of these operas are not known: they may have been Poles working under Marco Scacchi in the royal chapel, or they may have been among the Italians imported by Władysław.

The late 17th and 18th century saw a decline of Poland, which also hindered the development of music. Some composers attempted to create a Polish opera (such as Jan Stefani and Maciej Kamieński), others imitated foreign composers such as Haydn and Mozart.

The most important development in this time, however, was the polonaise, perhaps the first distinctively Polish art music. Polonaises for piano were and remain popular, such as those by Michał Kleofas Ogiński, Karol Kurpiński, Juliusz Zarębski, Henryk Wieniawski, Mieczysław Karłowicz, Józef Elsner, and, most famously, Fryderyk Chopin. Chopin remains very well known, and is regarded for composing a wide variety of works, including mazurkas, nocturnes, waltzes and concertos, and using traditional Polish elements in his pieces. The same period saw Stanisław Moniuszko, the leading individual in the successful development of Polish opera, still renowned for operas like Halka and The Haunted Manor.

Traditional music[edit]

Polish folk music was collected in the 19th century by Oskar Kolberg, as part of a wave of Polish national revival.[2] With the coming of the world wars and then the Communist state, folk traditions were oppressed or subsumed into state-approved folk ensembles.[3] The most famous of the state ensembles are Mazowsze and Śląsk, both of which still perform. Though these bands had a regional touch to their output, the overall sound was a homogenized mixture of Polish styles. There were more authentic state-supported groups, such as Słowianki, but the Communist sanitized image of folk music made the whole field seem unhip to young audiences, and many traditions dwindled rapidly.

Polish dance music, especially the mazurka and polonaise, were popularized by Frédéric Chopin, and they soon spread across Europe and elsewhere.[3] These are triple time dances, while five-beat forms are more common in the northeast and duple-time dances like the krakowiak come from the south. The polonaise comes from the French word for Polish to identify its origin among the Polish aristocracy, who had adapted the dance from a slower walking dance called chodzony.[3] The polonaise then re-entered the lower-class musical life, and became an integral part of Polish music.

Podhale[edit]

While folk music has lost popularity in Poland, especially in urban areas, the tourist destination of Podhale has retained its traditions lively.[citation needed] The regional capital, Zakopane, has been a center for art since the late 19th century, when people like composer Karol Szymanowski, who discovered Goral folk music there, made the area chic among Europe's intellectuals.[4] Though a part of Poland, Podhale's musical life is more closely related to that found in the Carpathian mountains of Ukraine, Slovakia, Moravia in Czech Republic and Transsylvania. The people in the Tatra mountains of Poland and Slovakia are descendants of Vlach shepherds who settled there from 14th to 17th century.

Local ensembles use string instruments like violins and a cello to play a distinctive scale called the Lydian mode. The distinctive singing style used in this scale is called lidyzowanie. The lead violin (prym) are accompanied by several second violins (sekund) and a three-stringed cello (bazy).[4] Duple-time dances like the krzesany, zbójnicki (Brigand's Dances) and ozwodna are popular. The ozwodna has a five bar melodic structure which is quite unusual. The krzesany is an extremely swift dance, while the zbójnicki is well-known and is perceived as being most "typical" of Podhale and Northern Slovakia. Folk songs typically focus on heroes like Juraj Jánošík.[5]

Other regions[edit]

Outside of Podhale, few regions have active folk scenes, though there are music festivals, such as the Kazimierz Festival, which are well-known and popular.[5] Regional folk bands include Gienek Wilczek Band (Bukowina), Tadeusz Jedynak Band (Przystalowice Male), Stachy Band (Hazców nad Wislokiem), Franciszek Gola Band (Kadzidło), Edward Markocki Band (Zmyslówka-Podlesie), Kazimierz Kantor Band (Głowaczowa), Swarni Band (Nowy Targ), Kazimierz Meto Band (Glina), Ludwik Młynarczyk Band (Lipnica) and Trebunie-Tutki.

Classical music[edit]

Tomasz Stańko performing in Kraków, 2007

At the end of the 18th century, Polish classical music evolved into national forms like the polonaise. In the 19th century the most popular composers were Józef Elsner, Maria Agata Szymanowska, Franciszek Lessel, Fryderyk Chopin and Ignacy Dobrzyński. Important opera composers were Karol Kurpiński and Stanisław Moniuszko. Famous soloists and composers were Henryk Wieniawski, Juliusz Zarębski. At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries the most prominent composers were Władysław Zeleński and Mieczysław Karłowicz. Karol Szymanowski gained prominence prior to World War II. Józef Koffler was the first Polish twelve-tone composer (dodecaphonist).

Contemporary classical music[edit]

Between the wars, a group of composers formed the Association of Young Polish Musicians; these included Grażyna Bacewicz, Zygmunt Mycielski, Michał Spisak and Tadeusz Szeligowski.

Following World War II, some composers, such as Roman Palester and Andrzej Panufnik, fled the country and remained in exile. In the early 1960s, however, a number of composers known as the Polish Composers' School arose, characterized by the use of sonorism and dodecaphonism. The style emerged from the political crisis in 1956, following Stalin's death; that same year saw the Warsaw Autumn music festival inaugurated, from whence came additional popularity for the Polish Composers' School.[6][not in citation given] Composers included Tadeusz Baird, Boguslaw Schaeffer, Włodzimierz Kotoński, Witold Szalonek, Krzysztof Penderecki, Witold Lutosławski, Wojciech Kilar, Kazimierz Serocki and Henryk Mikołaj Górecki.[6]

More modern composers include Krzysztof Meyer, Paweł Szymański, Krzesimir Dębski, Hanna Kulenty, Eugeniusz Knapik, Paweł Łukaszewski, Paweł Mykietyn, Maciej Zieliński and Agata Zubel.

Contemporary popular music[edit]

Poland has always been a very open country to new music genres and even before the fall of the communism, music styles like rock, metal, jazz, electronic, and New Wave were well-known. Since 1989, the Polish scene has exploded with new talents and a more diverse style.[citation needed]

Every year, a huge gathering of young Poles meet to celebrate the rock and alternative music in Jarocin, Żary, at Woodstock Festival Poland in Kostrzyn nad Odrą and at Open'er Festival and Off Festival. These events often attract more than 250,000 people and are comparable to the gatherings in Woodstock and Roskilde.

In jazz music, Polish musicians created a specific style, which was most famous in 60s and 70s. Some famous Polish jazz artists are: Krzysztof Komeda, Zbigniew Namysłowski, Adam Makowicz, Tomasz Stańko, Michał Urbaniak. Some of the most popular Polish vocalists of 20th and 21st centuries are Edyta Górniak, Doda and Maryla Rodowicz.

Two contemporary big Polish music festivals are Opole Festival and Sopot Festival. Among other important festivals there are: Jazz Jamboree, Rawa Blues Festival and Wratislavia Cantans.

Heavy metal[edit]

In the early 1980s, in the times of martial law, Polish heavy metal began its existence. TSA and Turbo were the first Polish heavy metal bands. Turbo was often dubbed as "the Polish Iron Maiden", while TSA played in a similar style to AC/DC. A lot of Polish heavy metal bands played at Jarocin Music Festival.

1985 was a crucial year for polish heavy metal—Iron Maiden played a concert in Szczecin, Poland. The concert was the cause of an avalanche of new polish metal bands. KAT was the first thrash metal band. KAT was very satanic, with lyrics moving such topics like LaVey's philosophy and anticlerical lyrics. This band was the symbol of metal rebellion in Poland and first Polish band who openly attacked the Catholic church. KAT made their debut in 1985 with the single "Ostatni Tabor / Noce Szatana", heavy/speed metal "666" from 1986 and thrash metal "Oddech Wymarłych Światów" from 1988. Poland had a very strong thrash metal scene in the late 80s. Most popular Polish thrash metal bands were Wilczy Pająk, Dragon, Destroyers, Hammer, Open Fire, STOS, Hellias and Alastor. Polish thrash and early death underground of the late 1980s: Exorcist, Imperator, Vader, Smirnoff, Armagedon, Piekielne Wrota, Quo Vadis, Egzekuthor. Late 80s Poland was already filled with metalheads—thrashers in kutte's (jeans or denim jackets with severed arms, covered in patches etc.), leather jackets, jeans, white sneakers, biker shoes, or most notably as of today—steel-toed boots called glany in Polish.

1990s Poland had a very strong death metal scene. One of the biggest record labels of death metal in Poland is Empire Records. The death metal band Vader is considered the most successful Polish heavy metal act[citation needed] and have gained commercial and critical praise internationally. Their career spans more than three decades with many international tours. They are often seen[by whom?] as a huge inspiration for modern death metal. Both Behemoth and Decapitated have also found significant success both inside and outside of Poland. Both have toured extensively across Europe, America, and in the case of Decapitated, have recently toured Australia and New Zealand. Recently Indukti, Hate, Infernal War, Azarath, Trauma, Crionics, Lost Soul and Lux Occulta have started to become well known outside of Poland. Though there is also a healthy and active grindcore scene, death metal remains Poland's strongest and most successful genre in terms of heavy metal. Black metal also has a presence on the scene, led by bands such as Graveland, Mgła, Darzamat and Vesania.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Music Courts of the Polish Vasas". www.semper.pl. p. 244. Retrieved 2009-05-13. 
  2. ^ Broughton 2000, p. 219.
  3. ^ a b c Ibidem, p. 219.
  4. ^ a b Ibidem, p. 220.
  5. ^ a b Ibidem, p. 222.
  6. ^ a b (Polish) Andrzej Chłopecki. "CONTEMPORARY POLISH MUSIC". www.culture.pl. Retrieved 2009-04-22. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Broughton, Simon. "Hanging on in the Highlands". 2000. In Broughton, Simon and Ellingham, Mark with McConnachie, James and Duane, Orla (Ed.), World Music, Vol. 1: Africa, Europe and the Middle East, pp 219–224. Rough Guides Ltd, Penguin Books. ISBN 1-85828-636-0
  • Cooley, Timothy J. Making Music in the Polish Tatras: Tourists, Ethnographers, and Mountain Musicians. Indiana University Press, 2005 (Hardcover with CD). ISBN 0-253-34489-1
  • Czekanowska, Anna. Polish Folk Music: Slavonic Heritage – Polish Tradition – Contemporary Trends. Cambridge Studies in Ethnomusicology, Reissue 2006 (Paperback). ISBN 0-521-02797-7
  • Grzegorz Michalski, Ewa Obniska, Henryk Swolkień and Jerzy Waldorff, An Outline History of Polish Music. Edited by Tadeusz Ochlewski. Warsaw, Interpress Publishers,1979, (194 p., index of names), + fully illustrated pages (c. 80).

External links[edit]