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Yale University Department of Music

To Cut the Gordian Knot: The Timbre System of Krzysztof Penderecki Author(s): Danuta Mirka Source: Journal of Music Theory, Vol. 45, No. 2 (Autumn, 2001), pp. 435-456 Published by: Duke University Press on behalf of the Yale University Department of Music Stable URL: Accessed: 06/01/2010 09:18
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of Timbreis certainlythe most complex parameter sound perception. In contrastto pitch,loudness,andduration, each of which possesses a sinof gle equivalentamong the acoustic parameters sound, timbredepends on the interactionof several physical aspects of sound. These aspects include overtones,wave forms, sound pressure,transients,as well as the numberand frequencyof formants.Moreover,a sound's frequencyand intensity-parameters whichrelatebasicallyto pitchandloudness-exert an influence on the resultingtimbre.The complexity of timbreis evident when one attemptsto depictit withina representational space:timbrecannot be modeled within one-dimensional space, but only by means of multi-dimensionalscaling techniques (Spender 1980, 401). However, a set thatcannotbe projectedonto a one-dimensionalline of real numbers does not constitutean orderedset, and its elements arenot comparablein the mathematicalsense. As a result,no clear relationshipbetween particulartimbrescan be established,and hence no rationalorganizationof the of perceptualparameter timbreby means of any rigid system is possible on the acoustic level. This may be why in the course of music history timbrehas usually been set aside as a secondaryfactorof musical form. Even where it achieved a dominantposition in the styles of individual of composers, as in the case of Debussy or in the Klangfarbenmelodie 435

Schoenberg,timbrewas invariablyorganizedin an intuitivemanner.Nor was the problem of timbre solved by serial composers. In spite of the of the appearances rationality, serializationof timbrewas essentiallyarbiWho, afterall, will withoutqualificationagreethatthe trarilydetermined. relationbetween the timbresof violin and contrabassis the same as, say, between the violin and oboe or trumpetcon sordino?Assumptionsof this sort lie at the base of the timbrerows used in serialcompositions.For the young Penderecki, faced with the Gordian knot of timbre, nothing wholesale the probremainedto do butto cut it. He did so by transferring lematic issue of timbrefrom the hopelessly muddledacoustic level onto the motoricone: the level of sound generation. I. Categories Although the acoustic wave is a highly complex phenomenon, the process of its generationcan be presentedsimply as a collision of two physical bodies, one being a sound source, the otherbeing the body that vibrates the sound source. It is likely that such a splendidly simplified image of the sound-producing process was takenup by Pendereckifrom the teachingof Mieczyslaw Drobner,the eminentPolish acousticianand organologist.In 1958 Drobnermoved from Lodz to Krakowto take the post of lecturer at Panstwowa Wyzsza Szkola Muzyczna, the school wherePendereckihadrecentlyfinishedhis studyin compositionandwas employed as an assistant.Two years later,in 1960, the Krak6wpublishing house Polskie WydawnictwoMuzyczne (PWM) issued Drobner's book Instrumentoznawstwo akustyka,which remainsthe classical Poli ish handbookof both disciplines-organology and acoustics-named in its title. In this book, Drobnertermedthe sound source a vibrator,and in his subsequentpublicationsintroducedthe complementary term, inciter, for the body which agitates the vibrator. combinationof vibratorand A inciter is a sound generator.This formulationproposedby Drobnerbecame an ideal point of departure the consistentand rationalsystem of for timbre organizationelaboratedby Penderecki in the early 1960s, the periodof his outputlabeled in Polish musicology as sonoristic.2 At that time Pendereckiunderstoodtimbreprimarilyas a function of the materials-in the most common sense of the word-employed in any individualprocess of sound generation.Thereforethe timbralcategories in Penderecki'ssonorismare based upon materialsmost commonly used in the constructionof the musical instruments accessories of the traand These ditional symphonicorchestra: metal, wood, leather,felt, and hair.3 materialscan serve as both vibratorsand inciters.Yet, while the role of inciter can be played by any of the listed materials,the vibratorcan be only a metal, wooden, or leatherbody. In fact, almost anythingcan be made to vibrate;thus, it is theoreticallypossible for felt and hairto act as 436

sound sources.But with these materialsthe vibrationis so heavily dampened thatit does not persistlong enough to be heard.In practice,then, at least one of the two sound-generatingbodies must be made of metal, wood, or leather.For this reason,I will call these threematerialsprimary materials.In otherwords, metal, wood, and leathercan interactwith any material, including themselves. On the other hand, neither of the two remaining materials-hair and felt-ever collides either with itself or with the otherwithin Penderecki'ssystem, but must always interactwith one of the materialsthat constitutes a potential sound source. A simple matrix, shown in the following table (Figure 1), displays all possible pairs of interactingmaterials. Though inspiredby Drobner'sacoustics, Penderecki'ssystem nevertheless goes one step furtherthan Drobner.In Penderecki'stimbre system, it is of no importancewhether metal, wood, and leather are represented by a vibratoror by an inciter, both colliding bodies being of equal weight as primarymaterials.In this respect Penderecki-if he had of to wanted-might havereferred the authority the firstfatherof physics, Sir Isaac Newton: according to Newton's third rule of dynamics, if a body A acts with some force on body B, body B acts with the same but reciprocallydirectedforce on body A. The same principleapplies to bodies acting on one anotherin the process of sound generation.Even if one is accustomedto think that hitting a metal cymbal with a wooden stick results only in the formeremitting a sound, in reality what sounds is not only the cymbal, but also the beater.One may generalizethis conclusion in the following way: if a given body can be a sound source-that is, if it is made of one of the threematerialscapableof performingthis function

vibrators m

w wm ww wl wh wf

1 lm lw 11 lh If

m w 1 h f

mm mw ml mh mf

Figure 1. Pairsof materialsrepresentedby combinations of vibratorsand inciters 437

m 1 f* h .
0 *

. |

* *

Figure 2. Pairs of materialsafterthe reduction (m, w, 1)-then it becomes a sound source regardlessof whetherit is hit, rubbedor pluckedor itself hits, rubs or plucks. It follows that the material pairs "mw" and "wm," "ml" and "lm," as well as "wl" and "lw," repeatedin the matrixabove, may be reducedto single entries.As a result of this reduction,twelve pairsof materialsremain(Figure2). Every such pair indicates one type of sound generator,as well as the type of timbre of characteristic sounds generatedby it. As statedearlier,all the materialcategorieschosen by Pendereckifor his timbresystem occur among the traditionalmusical instrumentsof a symphonicorchestra.This does not by itself mean, however,that a symrenset automatically phonic orchestrawith its traditional of instruments ders the realizationof that system practicable.On the contrary,in order to use the timbresystem in concretepieces, Pendereckihad to subjectthe orchestral forces to serious changes. The timbre system presupposed an equal weighting of the three primary materials-metal, wood and leather-in performingthe functionof vibrators,whereasmetaltypically predominatesin the symphonicorchestra.One merely needs to compare the numberof stringedinstruments (which constitutethe body of the conventionalorchestra)augmentedby an assortmentof cymbals, gongs, tam tams, vibraphonesand celestas, to the much smaller numberof membranesof drumsand timpani,and the almost inconspicuouscollection of rattlesand wood blocks, to convince oneself of this simple fact. Not only is there a greaterdiversity of metallic objects that generate sound, but metallic objects also predominatein terms of sheer number.To balance of it this unequalproportion, was necessaryto enlargethe representation the two remainingmaterialcategories:leatherand wood. Beside addinga whole arsenalof percussiveinstruments-such as rattles (raganella),claves, guiro, xylorimba,wood blocks (blocchidi legno), of and drums (casse di legno)-to augment the representation wooden bodies, the composer also employed several elements of stringedinstruments (sound board, fingerboard,bridge, tailpiece, bowstick). Furthermore, Pendereckiused non-musicalequipmentthat is usually presenton 438

stage, but that hithertohad never been exploited for sound production: chairsandstands,which at the beginningof the 1960s were almostalways made of wood. To play on these new sound sources, the sticks and nuts of bows were employed. Incidentally,it is worthnoting thatthe selection of new wooden accessoriesbetokensa very pragmaticattitudeof the composer.Avoiding the cost that would inevitablyresult from inventingand producing fanciful percussive tools, he managed to radically increase the numberof wooden bodies by using objects near at hand. Moreover, these objects allowed him to diversify the timbre within the group of stringedinstruments,enabling him to employ this group separately.Indeed, from among the pieces based on the timbre system, as many as four-Threnody-To the Victims of Hiroshima, String Quartet No. 1, Polymorphia,and Canon-are designed for stringsalone. Leather, as the third of the primary material categories, is supplemented first of all by instrumentsof non-Europeanorigin. Congos and bongos stem from South-American popular music, while tom-toms reachedPoland along with jazz, about which the young Pendereckiwas to Oftentimesthe composerbids instrumentalists play trulyenthusiastic.4 these instrumentswith bare hands, which considerablyenlargesthe representationof thatmaterialcategory(skin being understoodas analogous to leather). Hands and fingers serve also to play stringed instruments: apartfrom the well-knownpizzicato effect, the composer instructsplayers to rub,tap, or strikeon soundboardsand stringswith the palm of the hand or the fingertips.5 The invention of new instrumentsand accessories does not exhaust the changes entailedby the timbresystem. Apartfrom balancingthe primary materials, it was necessary to obtain the appropriatecombinations-classes of sound generators-that could embrace all the classes of timbres determinedby the pairs of materials.And even a rich representationof a given material did not by itself guarantee the existence of all its possible combinations with other materialcategories. In this respect the case of metal is exemplary.Whereas its combinationswith hair (mh) and felt (mf) existed among the traditionaltechniquesof playing orchestralinstruments-the formeras the arco playing of strings,the latteras the strikingof gongs, tam tams, or cymbals by soft, felt stickssound generatorconsisting of two metal bodies hardly ever occurred. Theironly representative within a symphonicorchestrawas a trianglehit with a metal rod. The generatorclass "mm"thus had to be created by combining several traditionalmetal accessories to form hitherto nonexistent pairs of vibratorsand inciters.As a result of one such combination, an astounding sound generatorarose: piano strings rubbed by a cymbal.Another,no less surprisingcombinationof a metal inciterwith a metal vibratorwas achievedby agitatingpiano stringswith a trianglerod, the latter disconnected from its original instrument.A true revolution 439

resulted, however, from the practice-derived from jazz-of playing with metalbrusheson suspendedcymbals.These same brusheswere also employed by Pendereckito play gongs, tam tams, and tubularbells, and even to play the stringsof harpsandpianos.Withthe aim of enlargingthe numberof generatorsof the "mm"class, Pendereckiintroduceda typewriter,creatinga sensationduringthe first performancesof the Fluorescences. As this quasi-musicalmetal instrument demonstrates, makingup a representation an earliernonexistentclass of sound generatorscould of with incidentallylead to an expansionof the set of orchestralinstruments new accessories.Mostly, such cases issued frompracticalconsiderations, as when the interactionof a certainform of inciter and a certainform of vibratorcould have been obtainedon traditionalinstruments,but would have damagedthem in the process. In the class of generatorsunderconsideration,rubbingtwo metal bodies against one anotherwould scratch their surfaces.Therefore,instead of costly percussive instruments,Penderecki simply used a piece of iron rubbedwith a file or sawed with a handsaw.A saw can also serve to saw wood, in this way creatingan additional generatorof the "mw"class, but this entails the use of a disposable piece of wood. Although Pendereckitook into account such practicalmatterswhen inventinghis new soundgenerators,orchestralmusiciansoften disagreed with the composeras to whatwas or whatwas not harmfulfor theirinstruments. Characteristic the technique of playing strings that originally is called for the instrumentalist tap the soundboardwith the nut (i)-an to of interaction two woodenbodies (ww)-which Pendereckidid not intend to be harmful.However,the performers thoughtthe techniquewoulddamage the varnishcovering their instruments(Erhardt1975, 36). The composeryielded andspecifiedthatthe soundboardcould also be tappedwith fingertips. Therefore, in the scores of the earliest pieces based on the timbresystem-Threnody (publishedin 1961), Dimensions of Timeand Silence and Fluorescences (printedin 1962), as well as the StringQuartet No. 1 (issued for the first time in 1963)-this effect is described as the with the nutor finger-tips." "tapping body of the instrument Evidently, musicianspreferred latterpossibility,andthusin Polymorphia(issued the at the end of 1963), and Canon (whose score was published as late as constitutesthe sole way 1974), "tappingthe soundboardwith fingertips" of performingthis effect indicatedby the composer.As a result of this compromisebetween the composer and the performers,a generatorwas included among the class "ww"of sound generatorswhich in reality did not at all belong to it. In light of the above discussion, it is clear thatthe notion of a musical instrumentis useless-not to mention anachronistic-in Penderecki's pieces based on the timbre system. Because most of the instrumentsexcept for some simple percussive tools-consist of a numberof con440

stituentparts, with each part able to interactwith a numberof inciters, every instrumentbecomes the basis for several differentsound generators, which, in addition, may represent different classes. This has an obvious effect on the groupingof instruments,that is, on the orchestration. In contradistinction traditionalorchestration, which every inin to strumentis ascribed a certain timbral quality, here one and the same instrument be used in a numberof differentways and cooperatewith can several different classes of sound generatorsin different musical contexts-depending on which of its elementsis employedas a soundsource. This issue has in the past been touched upon by musical critics who applied the term "percussiveeffects" to some playing techniques on But For, if the classifistringedinstruments.6 this term is unsatisfactory. cation of instruments dependson theirvibrators-and this is actuallythe basic criterionfrom Sachs and Hornbostelup to Drobner-then a violin tappedon with the nut of a bow or with the fingertipsdoes not so much it producea percussiveeffect, butrather becomesa percussiveinstrument: thatis a wooden idiophonein this instance. Similarly,a wind instrument not blown buttappedwith stops or pistons is not an aerophonebuta metal effect"occurs in Fluorescencesas a repidiophone.This last "percussive resentativeof class "mm,"and it is the only instance of winds in Penderecki'spieces based on the timbresystem. Parenthetically, absence the of aerophonesfrom other Pendereckiscores writtenin the early 1960s also resultsfrom the system. Since its underlyingmaterialcategoriesare all solid bodies, blown air-the propervibratorof wind instrumentsconstitutesno categoryin the framework this system. Fromhere it folof lows thatsoundsemittedby the traditionally played woodwindsandbrass have-from the viewpoint of Penderecki's timbre system-a neutral, value. Thatthey occur in Fluorescences is most likely due "transparent" to the circumstancesof its commissioning.The piece was commissioned by the Sinfonie-Orchesterdes Stidwestfunks,Baden-Baden. If Penderecki had used the wind section exclusively for snappingstops and pistons, he would have exposed himself to the commissioner's displeasure while the musical critics would-in the best case-have suspectedhim of a very peculiarsense of humor. Penderecki's invention of new sound generators-and thereby new timbres-was thus not a manifestationof extravagance the composer. by It was not intendedmerely to shock the audience,nor did it springfrom an exuberantimage of sound. Conversely,the new timbreswere not-at If least originally-to serve some vague "new expression."7 Penderecki introducedin his pieces new quasi-musicalinstruments, unusualcombinations of traditionalmusical accessories, or any previously unknown techniquesof sound articulation,he did so in terms of his system. Without them, the system would remainmerely an intellectualconstructdevoid of anypossible musicalrealization.Seen fromthis angle, the orches441

trations,and instrumentaltechniquesPendereckiemployed in the early 1960s departfrom traditional ones in the same way as the timbresystem based on the materialcategoriesmetal-wood-leather departsfromthe traditional partitionof the orchestrainto strings, winds and percussion.At this point, one must also rejectthe suggestions formulatedby some critics who claimed that,in Penderecki'searly output,the "new"effects are ones. Such an oppositionfindsjustificaopposed to the "old,"traditional tion neitherin the timbralorganization concretepieces nor in the comof ments of the composerhimself. On the contrary, Penderecki'sstatements make it clear thatthe "history" a given generatorwas entirelyinessenof tial.8In the framework his timbresystem, both traditional non-traand of ditional sound generatorsare equivalentrepresentatives classes fixed of by materialpairs.As in the case of the periodictableof Mendeleev,where classificationaccordingto the atomic mass disclosed places for new, not yet discoveredelements,Penderecki'ssystem revealednew niches which could be filled with distinctive timbres.Thus, the system helped stimulate his discoveries. II. Morphology Let us turnfrom the problemsof the practicalrealizationof the timbre system to the main subjectof this article,a reconstruction the sysof tem itself. As explainedearlier,the materialpairs shown in Figure 2 fix classes of timbres representedby individual generatorsand-what for Penderecki is one and the same thing-by the individual sounds they generate.But individualsounds are secondaryin Penderecki'smusic. In his pieces based on the timbre system the elementary unit is a set of sounds, which I will call a segment. Sound phenomenacontainedin one timbralsegment can be identical or different,in the sense that they are identicalor differentpairs generatedby collisions of bodies representing of materials.If all sounds are producedin the same way, thatis, through interactionsof the same two materials,then the timbreof a segment will be covered by only one materialpair.Yet such "monochromatic" segments occur comparativelyrarely. Much more frequent are segments whose component sounds belong to several differentclasses. How can their overall,resultanttimbresbe determined? The initial analyticalprocedurein such cases is an enumerationof all the materialpairs producingthe sounds of these segments.At this stage of the descriptionof a single segment, a given materialcan occur several times as a componentof differentpairs.This is so because bodies representingone materialcategorycan interactwith bodies made of eitherthe same or differentmaterials,in this way producingsoundphenomenathat differ in timbre.Fromthis it follows thatdifferentmaterialsmay vary as to the numberof occurrencesin a segment description.Of course, the 442

....... . w




f h

Figure 3. Segment with one main material composite timbre depends most on the materials that occur most frequently. Those exerting a decisive influence on the timbre of a given segment will be markedas its main materials.The main timbralroles, however, can be played only by primarymaterials-metal, wood, and leather.Felt and hair can never dominatethe timbreof a whole segment, just as they cannotbecome a source of any one of its componentsounds. The main materialscan be discernedby means of a methodthat I call a "commondenominator search." This searchis easiest andmost obvious when all pairsbelonging to a given segment form differentconjunctions with one primarymaterial.The latter,which occurs in all pairsand in this is way forms their"commondenominator," the mainmaterialfor the segment. Such a segment thus has only one main material(Figure 3). If no single primary material constitutes a common denominatorof all the pairs within a segment, one has to search for the common denominator of the greatestnumberof pairswithin this segment,andthen for the common denominatorof the remainingpairs. If such a denominatoras a primary materialdoes exist, the segment has two main materials,and the search procedureends (Figure 4). However, if a common denominator still cannot be found within the group of remaining pairs, one has to repeatthe procedure:first find the common denominatorof the greatest numberof pairs,and then the common denominator the last remaining of In such a case, the segmenthas threemain materials(metal,wood group. 443

...... ....

Figure4. Segment with two main materials and leather), thus representingan amalgam of all timbralcategoriesthe richest, though at the same time the most heterogeneous(Figure 5). Needless to say, threeis the maximumnumberof main materialsthatcan occur in a segment, since in the timbresystem of Pendereckithere exist no more materialcategories able to function as sound sources. At any stage of the above-described"commondenominatorsearch"it can hapin pen thattwo or even all threeprimarymaterialsmay be represented the same numberof pairs. In that case, one has to choose one of them arbichoice does trarilyand then continue with the procedure.The arbitrary not affect the resulting set of main materials,which will always be the same irrespectiveof which materialwas chosen first. It is, however,possible thatafterthe firstor the second step of the analytical procedurejust described there remains one pair of materials.If this is the case, then one treatsit in the same way as a segment containing sound generatorsof the same class, which is thus representedanalytically by only one pair.With regardto such a segment, the searchprocedurefor the main materialsmust be slightly modified.The most common situationarises when the only paircharacteristic the segmentis a reduof plication of the same primarymaterial(metal, wood, or leather) or its groupingwith hair or felt. Since in either case thereoccurs only one primary material,it must be the main one for the segment in question. A more complicated situationarises when the only pair of a segment consists of two differentprimarymaterials.Because either of those materi444

als can constitutea sound source, they are of equal value in determining the timbre of a segment, irrespectiveof which one excites (inciter) and which one is excited (vibrator)in a given process of sound generation. Hence, if a segment containing such a pair is considered as an isolated unit, or if in the given musical context it is separatedby a general pause from the preceding and following segments, both primarymaterialsof Yet the pairwould have to be interpreted its main materials. this almost as never happensin Penderecki'ssonoristicpieces. Every segment usually constitutesa link in a chain whose perceptionis subjectto the Gestaltlaw of good continuation(Koffka 1935; for good continuationin music see Meyer 1956, 83-127). As applied to syntactical units of Penderecki's timbresystem, this law means that, in terms of the anticipationof future the events, the listenertends to perceive, or "continue," main materialof a precedingsegmentin the following segments as long as it is possible to do so. On the other hand, orientationtowardpast events allows reinterpretationof the precedingsegment,such thatthe listenerdiscernsin it the origins of the timbrequalitythatis only establishedas a main materialin the currentsegment. Thus in an uncertainsituation, such as that which arises in the case of one-pairsegments, there is a tendency to perceive a segment's timbre under the influence of adjacentsegments and, consequently,to prefer as the main materialthe one that predominatesin the precedingand/orfollowing segment (Figures6a and 6b). Thus both primary materials of a single pair appearto be evenly balanced as main

Figure 5. Segment with three main materials 445



.......... ..............

w, f



f h


Figure6. One-pairsegment with one main material.This material can be metal (a) or wood (b), dependingon the context of adjacentsegments


materialsonly if they are equally markedas main in the adjacentsegments (Figure7a), or if neitherof them occurs among main materialsof eitherthe precedingor the following segment (Figure7b). In light of the above remarksit seems clear that the complete definition of a timbre segment, as an elementary syntactical unit of Penderecki's timbre system, requiresboth the specification of all materials involvedin the generationof its componentsounds,andthe identification of those which function as main materials.According to these stipulations, any two timbresegmentsare differentif they varyin eitheror both of those two constitutiveaspects. Conversely,if no difference in either respect occurs, they then form the same segmentin two differentrealizations. It is noteworthythat, as with the above-discussedexamples, segments consisting of the same set of pairs, and hence identical as to their preliminarymaterialdescription,can appearto be differentin the sense just stated when put into different musical contexts, because of differences in theirmain materials.On the otherhand, segments consisting of differentsets of materialpairs may appearto be two realizationsof the same timbresegment, if the sums of all their materialcategories and of the main materialsare identical. For the timbre segment as an abstract syntacticalunit, differencesin its concreterealizationare insignificantso long as all the materials,including the main materials,remainthe same across variousrealizations. III. Syntax The timbre system based on materialcategories rules not only the inventory of the elementary units (segments) that determine the morphology of timbrein Penderecki'searly output,but also its syntax,thatis, the succession of segmentsover the course of a piece. In its essence, this course is formed by a play of timbraloppositions between metal, wood and leatheras primarymaterials.First,materialcategoriessingled out in a given piece as opposing timbralqualitiesmay be contrastedby way of a directjuxtapositionof segments whose main materialsconstitutepoles of opposition.For instance,a segmentwhose main materialis wood may come directlyaftera segmentexhibitinga metallictimbre.In such a case, a presentationof a timbraloppositionwill happen.Secondly, an opposition may be submittedto mediation,thatis, a soft, gradualchange forming a transitionfrom one timbralextreme to the other.Segments of opposing main timbresare in this case separatedby one or more segments whose main materialis either: (1) neutralin relation to the opposition, standingoutside the materialopposition operativein a piece (leatherin the case given); (2) a sum of the opposing materials;or (3) a sum of all three primarymaterials. Other types of transitionresult from varying temporalrelationsbetween segments. Segments need not form a simple 447

(a) m

1 f h


f h

f h

Figure7. One-pairsegment with two main materials,metal and wood, in two differentcontexts such thatthese materialsare contained(a) or are not contained(b) among main materialsof the adjacentsegments


succession;they may also overlapor penetrateone another.Interpenetration of segments happenswhen a segment graduallydecays and the subsequent segment increases in loudness until it completely dominatesthe sound field. This may be achieved by dynamics or orchestration: by graduallylessening the numberof sound events belonging to a segment and adding events belonging to the following one. Interpenetration is thus a "soft" overlappingof segments. Still more subtle timbraltransitions are possible. It must be kept in mind that the sound color of a segment is determined not exclusively by main materials, but bears the in stampof all the materialcategoriesparticipating the sound generation Thus, before a given materialis establishedas having the staprocesses. tus of a main material,it may already occur among the materialcategories of the precedingsegment.In turn,a materialwhich ceases to function as a main materialmay be preservedin later segments, to recall the previously dominant timbre. Such procedures result, respectively, in for anticipationor continuationof a main material,and are important the smoothnessof a succession in termsof the law of good continuation. The very presentationof a main materialmay be more or less suggestive. Obviously,the main materialwill appearwith the greatestforce and brightnessif it constitutesthe only materialof a given timbresegment,as in the case of a sound generatorconstitutinga reduplicationof the same material(for example, "mm"representedby gongs, cymbals, and piano stringsplayed with wire brushes).On the otherhand,the introductionof other materials, which combine with the main material category, will result at the same time in a dimming of the latter'scharacteristic timbre. Of course,both "dimming" "brightening" the maintimbrecan proand of ceed either graduallyas a succession of slight changes or abruptlyby juxtaposition of contrastingsegments. It is noteworthythat the aforementionedpossibilities of timbremodulation,thoughconditionedby the timbresystem, are not rigorouslygovernedby it. Rather,they are subject to free choices made by the composer and express his strategy-some times tending to sharp,contrastingjuxtapositions,at others to soft transitions and nuances.It is in the realm of strategy,not of system, that one can explain the disparitybetween the Dimensions of Timeand Silence, operatingwith a pastel palette of color nuances and penetrations,and the glaringFluorescences.The very choice of a materialoppositionfor a given piece, which marksthe poles of its timbralspectrum,is also a matter of compositionalstrategy. As an illustrationof the above discussion, let us consider Polymorphia, the most outstandingof Penderecki'searly pieces.9 This composition of classical proportionsis based on an opposition markedby the materialcategoriesof metal and wood. The analysis of the timbralcourse tracedby Polymorphiais summedup in the diagramshown in Figure 8. 449

w we

1 h ?

9 e
.1 = 11-;_
> k ! , KE ME Ba _ M

w 1 0 ? ?

Figure 8. The timbraltrajectoryof Polymorphia Felt is not includedin the diagram,because it does not occur in the piece, which is writtenexclusively for stringedinstruments: 1-24 (mh): traditionalarco playing on all stringedinstruments,from 22 continuedby violas alone; 22-32 (mw, ml): strikeslegno battutoon strings,as well as taps con dita between bridge and tailpiece; 32-37 (ml):pizzicato introducedby violins, then taken over by the remaininginstrumental groupsas pizzicato con due dita; 38-40 (wm, wl): stringsstruckwith the palm of the hand as a playing techniquecombining two sound generators: fingerboard incited at the same time by the hand of the player (wl) and by the strings(wm); 39-42 (wm, wl, ww): percussiveeffect of the previous section, continued in contrabassi(40-41) and second violins (41-42), joined by taps on the sound boardwith fingertips(wl) and strikeson the standwith the bow or on the chair with the nut (ww); 42-45 (ml, ww, wm): sound boardtappedwith fingertips,the stand 450

tappedwith the bow or the chair with the nut, legno battutoplay between bridge and tailpiece, and stringspizzicato; 44-67 (mh): returnto the typical arco articulation. Apartfrom the traditionalway of playing stringsbefore the bridge, in rehearsal numbers63-64 the strings are bowed between bridge and tailpiece (which representsthe same materialpair), and the bridge and tailpiece are bowed as well, the lattertreatedby Penderecki as a substitutefor the formertechniquein the low registerof cellos and contrabasses. Observethatin the course of Polymorphiasegmentsusually overlap.The simple succession of consecutive timbresegments happensjust once: in rehearsalnumber 38, when the pizzicato play gives way to percussive effects. At this moment the opposition between metal and wood-the polartimbresof the piece-is presented.The same oppositionis featured in other early pieces writtenfor strings alone. (Leatheronly occurs as a pole of a materialopposition in orchestralworks including a large percussion section. Here, in Polymorphia,it never plays the role of a main the material.Apparently, the framework a stringorchestra composer in of could not completely balance all the individual material categories.) Mediationof the markedoppositionis carriedout in the course of returning to the initial timbrethroughthe joint occurrenceof wood and metal as the main materialsof the same segment (42-45). In this way the timbral course of the Polymorphiaassumes a three-part, ABA form.
* * *

The timbre system, whose rules are presentedbriefly in this article, governsthe organizationof soundcolor in eight pieces of KrzysztofPenderecki:Anaklasis for 42 stringsand percussion(1959-60), ThrenodyTo the Victimsof Hiroshimafor 52 strings (1960), String QuartetNo. 1 (1960), Dimensions of Timeand Silence for mixed choir, stringsandpercussion (1960-61), Fonogrammi flute and chamberorchestra(1961), for Polymorphiafor 48 strings (1961), Fluorescences for orchestra(1962), and Canon for stringorchestraand tape (1962). It was thus employed by Pendereckiforjust threeyears:from 1960 until 1962. Beginning with the St.Luke'sPassion (1963-66), andin laterworks,the composerabandoned this system-most likely for rather prosaic reasons. Since Anaklasis, Dimensions and Fluorescences all requiredlargegroupsof percussionrarewithin the orchestra,but indispensable includingseveralinstruments for articulatingthe basic material categories-they were prohibitively expensive and at times logistically impracticalto perform.In turn,atypical techniquesof playing instrumentsfrightenedconventionalperform451

ers, which very often led to sharpconflicts, protests,or even mutiniesof orchestras.One needs only to mentionthe famous scandalduringthe FifteenthMusic Festivalin Venice, when-in spite of BrunoMaderna'spersuasion-the renownedorchestraRAI-RadiotelevisioneItalianorefused to play Threnody.Such events created a climate unsympatheticto Penderecki'searly scores and discouragedfrequentperformance.Renunciation of the timbresystem, though resultingin the loss of a strict control over sound color, solved all these problems and providedthe composer easier access to the musical market. With Penderecki's abandonmentof the timbre system, the properly sonoristicperiodof his outputends and a late sonorismbegins. In the latscores such ter period-in additionto a numberof famous instrumental as De natura sonoris I (1966) and De natura sonoris I (1970), Sonata for cello and orchestra(1964), Capriccio for oboe and strings (1965), Partita for harpsichordand chamber ensemble (1971-72) or the First Symphony(1972-73)-Penderecki also composedoperas,oratorios,and other works destined for large vocal-instrumental forces: The Devils of Loudun(1968-69), Dies Irae (1967), the diptych Utreniaconsisting of The Entombment Christ (1969-70) and The Resurrection(1970-71), of Cosmogony (1970), Canticum canticorum (1970-73), and Magnificat (1973-74). The renunciationof the timbresystem led to a revaluation of orchestrationand instrumentaltechniques. The composition characteristicof a traditionalsymphonicorchestrais restored,with its predominant string section plus a competing group of winds. The sudden promotion of wind instruments,hardlyutilized in the precedingperiod but once again taking over the role of the second most importantorchestral section, is evidenced by the score of De natura sonoris II, in which a leading role is performedby the brass. In turn,the percussion,exploited so extensively fromAnaklasis until Fluorescences, now recedes into the even if still given importanttasks in individualpieces, it is background; employed more sparinglythan before. The composer'srecourseto atypical sound articulation also much more sparing. is all these differences,the pieces belonging to the periodof late Despite sonorism are closely connected with the earliersonoristic outputthanks to another,morebasic system, which constitutesthe otherpartof Penderecki's compositionaltechniqueconceived at the beginning of the 1960s. That system, complementaryto the timbresystem, concerns the organization of the three remaining parametersof sound perception-pitch, of loudness,andtime-which in turngovernsthe othercharacteristic segments-their texture-and resultsin a numberof effects typical for Penderecki, especially clusters and glissandi. The basic system, which is a topic of anotherstudy (Mirka 2000),10turns out to be more persistent in Penderecki'soutput:it makes for the stylistic unity of the sonoristic periodbefore and afterthe Passion, and its abandonment-in the Awak452

ening of Jacob (1974)-definitively closes the whole period.True,in his post-sonoristicoutputPendereckidoes not completely renouncethe conquests of sonorism.But even thoughone occasionallyfinds glissandi and non-traditional playing techniques in his later scores, they occur sepafrom their original basis: not as an indispensablemeans for the rately realization of systemic assumptions, but rather as interesting sound effects once inventedand, though still remainingat the composer's disposal, alreadyrelatingto a differentmusical world.


NOTES 1. To clarifythe theoretical claimsof my article,it may be necessaryto emphasize thanofferingone of severalpossiblehypothetical theoriesaboutthe that,rather timbralorganization Penderecki's of worksfrom 1960-62, it providesa reconof struction the compositional system he employed.The full system,presented (Mirka1997), consistsof two halvescalled broadlyin my doctoraldissertation the uponmy respectively basic systemandthe timbre system.Havingelaborated via I in withPenderecki April1995,who confirmed perreconstruction,consulted he sonalcommunication it corresponds that with the procedures actuallyused in the processof composition. 2. The firstto use this termwas J6zefM. Chomifiski. latergave a broadtheoretHe ical description what he called the "sonoristic of regulationof musicalform," which he extendedonto any sort of contemporary music containingnon-traditionalmeansof soundproduction and 1983, (Chomifiski Wilkowska-Chomifiska and the 126-153). Morespecifically, noun"sonorism" the adjective"sonoristic" music areused in Polishmusicologicalwritingsfor the avant-garde sound-mass of the 1960s thatwas composedby Penderecki, well as WojciechKilar,Henas WitoldSzalonekandothers. rykMikolajG6recki, mate3. As is well known,in the construction contemporary natural of instruments rialshavefrequently beenreplaced syntheticsubstances, especiallyin the case by of percussion instruments. this processof technological But progresswas not as in timbresystemas long advanced theearly1960s.It is irrelevant Penderecki's for as the synthetic materials. materials of the preserve acoustical properties natural 4. Hardly tookplaceduring of that anyoneremembers the Polishpremiere Anaklasis "JazzJamboree," most important the Polish festivalof jazz music organizedin to Warsaw this day. Penderecki's interestin jazz is evinced also by Actionsfor free-jazzorchestra, composeda few yearslater(1971). 5. The effects meanthereincludestriking stringswith the palmof the handsul the the tasto,tappingthe soundboardwith the fingertips, rubbing soundboardwith the open hand,andtappingthe stringsbetweenbridgeandtailpiecewith the fingers (con dita). 6. Thistermwas usedforthefirsttimeby Marian in Wallek-Walewski his article"W Penderecki" (1960).Thisarticlewas kreguposzukiwafi materialowych. Krzysztof intended the introduction a study,Partytura as to (A wsp6oczesna Contemporary Score),thathe was to writetogetherwith KrzysztofPenderecki-a studywhich aboutmanysuch"percussive neverappeared. Tadeusz writesextensively Zielifiski effects"in his articlesof the 1960s(Zielifiski1961, 1962, 1964, 1966, 1968). 7. Incidentally, is worthstressingthatPenderecki-contrary his most fervent it to apologists-was and still remainsskepticalaboutthe expressivecapacitiesof said: music.In a TV interview withAlicjaResich-Modliniska, thecomposer 1995, or "Musiccannotexpressanything. course,one cangive somededication title, Of butthatis it. Musicis abstract ideal,it boils downto structures forms." and and 8. Verycharacteristic thisrespectis thecomposer's in utterance the during interview A. NutidaMusik, in givento Tadeusz Zielifiski,firstpublished Swedishmagazine thenreprinted thePolishRuchMuzyczny. in abouthis innovative ways Challenged of treating "Thus also yield to traditional he musicalinstruments, responded: you


illusion...; you pay attention only to new elements,althoughin my piecesbesidesnewarticulatory means-there arealsoseveral olderones"(Zielifiski 1963, in timbres the the 8). He explained relationof the new soundeffectsto traditional the noisesonly supplement orchesnon-instrumental followingway:"Occasional In timbre." traltimbreas coloristicretouching areadjusted thatorchestral to and in the courseof a discussionclosingthe seminar his output, on organized 1975in "Forme, there the Krak6w, composerstatedthe sameideaevenmorelaconically: has neverexisted any differencebetweennoise and a sound[of definitepitch]" ([Discussion]1976:46). Thesetwo notionswereused-imprecisely-at the time as synonymsof soundsproduced a new andtraditional in way,respectively. 9. In my dissertation will (Mirka1997)the reader findfurther analysesof full comAnaklasis(186-188), Dimenin positionsusing the termspresented this article:
sions of Time and Silence (205-208), String Quartet No. 1 (226-228), Fluores-

cences (256-259), Canon(269-270). 10. Fora detailed discussion boththebasicsystemandthetimbre of system,see Mirka use 1997.Penderecki's of thebasicsystemin St.Luke's Passion,as well as its symbolic andexpressive in is significance thatcomposition, discussedin Mirka2002.

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mentalne. Formy muzyczne I. Krak6w: Polskie Wydawnictwo Muzyczne. Drobner, Mieczyslaw. 1960. Instrumentoznawstwo i akustyka. Krak6w: Polskie

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Erhardt, Ludwik. 1975. Spotkania z Krzysztofem Pendereckim. Krak6w: Polskie

Wydawnictwo Muzyczne.
Koffka, Kurt. 1935. Principles of Gestalt Psychology. New York: Harcourt,Brace and

Co. Meyer,LeonardB. 1956. Emotionand Meaningin Music. Chicago:Universityof ChicagoPress.

Mirka, Danuta. 1997. The Sonoristic Structuralismof KrzysztofPenderecki. Katowice:

Akademia Muzyczna. in 2000. "Texture Penderecki'sSonoristicStyle."Music TheoryOnline <> the 2002. "Passion In: to ed., according Penderecki." SiglindBruhn, Voicing Press. Ineffable. Hillsdale,NY:Pendragon
Sadie, Stanley, ed. 1980. The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. London:

Macmillan. na [Discussion].1973. "Dyskusja seminarium poswieconymtw6rczosciKrzysztofa 2(81): 29-52. Muzyka Pendereckiego." Natasha.1980."Psychology Music," I-III.In:StanleySadie,ed., TheNew of Spender,
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Zieliniski,Tadeusz A. 1961. "Nowe utwory Krzysztofa Pendereckiego."Ruch 12: Muzyczny 17-18 and24. . 1962. "DereinsameWegdes Krzysztof Melos 10: 318-323. Penderecki." . 1963. "Wspo6czesny 12: a RuchMuzyczny 8-9. kompozytor tradycja." . 1964."Fluorescencje 2: Ruch Pendereckiego." Muzyczny 5-6. Krzysztofa . 1966. "NeueKlangasthetik." Melos 7/8: 210-212. . 1968. "Technikaoperowaniainstrumentami smyczkowymiw utworach Krzysztofa Muzyka1(48):74-92. Pendereckiego."