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TonyBannach

MUS4110
1252013

AnExtendedAnalysisofKrzysztofPendereckis
ThrenodytotheVictimsofHiroshima

KrzysztofPendereckisThrenodytotheVictimsofHiroshimaisoneofthehallmarkpieces
of20thcenturycomposition,agroundbreakingpiecethathaspenetratedbeyondtherealmsintoa
culturallyviablepiece,asseeninitsinclusioninthesoundtracksoffilmssuchasTheShiningand
ChildrenofMen.1Writtenin1960,itwasapiecethatbrokenewgroundintimbre,tonality,score
layout,andform.Butwouldthefameandattentionthatthispiecereceivedhavebeenfornaughthad
thetitlebeenkeptinitsoriginalformof837?Thisanalysiswillattempttodelveintotheinner
workingsofThrenodyinordertofindthematerialsthatmakeitsuchapivotalwork,andtheeffects
thattitlesprovidetotheirworks.

ScoreLayout
Withtheriseoftheavantgardeinthe20thcentury,andthenewapproachestomusic
thatcamewithit,fromserialmusictochancecompositions,oneoftheissuesfacingcontemporary
composerswaspropernotationthatwasreflectiveofthesenewsounds.Withmusiclike12toneor
serialmusic,nonewchangeswerenecessarytotheestablishmentofthescore,butwhenweseethe
riseoftheCageianindeterminantaesthetics,thisbecameaninterestingdilemma.Themosteffectiveway

http://sinfinimusic.com/uk/learn/composers/krzysztofpenderecki

todeterminenewideasinmusicwastoimplementnewgraphicaldevicestothescore,withsometimes
thescorebeinganewgraphicalconstructioninitsownright.In1960whenPendereckicomposed
Threnody,hehadtoimplementsuchanewconstructionforthispiece.
JanKaluznywroteanextensivepieceaboutPendereckiandhisventuresintonewnotation.Herehe
framesthecoreconceptofnewnotationalpractices:
Andhereanimportantquestionarises,whetherinthecontextofmodernmusic'sachievementsinthefield
ofconstruction,harmonicsandtonequality,thetraditionalsystemofnotationisstilloperative.
Undoubtedly,thisnotationalsystemhasbeenmostefficientinthetimeofMozart,orevenDebussy.In
relationtothemusicofthatperiod,itwasthemostadequateform(thenknown)oftransmittingthe
composer'sideatotheperformer.However,musicfromthattimeprogressed,whilethenotationalsystem,
which,afterall,isaparexcellenceconvention,remained.2

Thefirstconceptthatstrikesthereaderofthescore(whoisunfamiliarwithmanycontemporary
notationalpractices)istheabsenceofthebarlinesystem.Theverticalcomponentofthescoreis
comprisedoflinesthatdivideintotimesegmentsofsecondsratherthanbarreddivisionsofmeter.For
onewhoisonlyfamiliarwithtraditionalnotationalpracticesthiscanbeverydaunting,becausethe
divisionsarenotequallikeinstandardnotation.Theverticaldivisionsofsecondscanbeinanyduration
thecomposerwishes.Inadditiontothis,theamountofmaterialinagiventimesegmentisalsotothe
composersdiscretion.Amusicianmaybelookingatscenarioswherethereisalongtimesegmentwith
fewnotes,orlittleactivity,butisshownasaveryshortbarortheoppositecanoccur,wherethetime
frameisonlyafewsecondsbutthebarextendsforaverylongpartofthepage.Alsoeffectscanbe
prescribedbythehorizontallinesaswell.WhencallingformoltovibratoPendereckiutilizesawavy
lineinsteadofthestraighthorizontallinegraphic.Inanycase,thepiecesconstructionastimebased
ratherthanonthetraditionalbarsystemwasactuallyoneoftheprimaryideasofPenderecki,who

KRZYSZTOFPENDERECKIANDHISCONTRIBUTIONTOMODERNMUSICALNOTATIONJanA.Kaluznypg.
86

originallyentitledthepiece837,foritsduration(naturally,morediscussionofthiswillfollowlateron).
Theverticalcomponentofthescoreisalsovaried.Firstoffisthedivisionoftheinstrumentsfor
thisstringorchestrapiece.Thereare24violinsdividedinto4sections,10violasdividedinto2
sections,10cellosdividedinto2groups,and8bassesin2sections.Thebeginningofthepieceisthe
easiestplacetoseeasenseofthedivisionofparts,aslateronhowthevarioussectionsareemployed
becomesmuchmorecomplicated.
Ex.1

Asthispieceisanexperimentationinsoundmassesratherthanatraditionalpiecewithmelody,
harmony,etc.,themanipulationoftexturetakesanenormouslyincreasedroleofimportanceinthe
work.AndthewaythatPendereckiillustrateshowthesechangestakeplaceisintriguingaswell.As
wecanseefromexample1,thecontourofthesoundstartsatthehighestpoint(indicatedbytheblack
triangles)ofthe16violastothehighestpointinthefirstviolingroupdowntothefirstbassgroup,etc.
Comparethistoothersectionsinwhichvarioussoundchoirsaredivided.

Ex.2Ex.3

Bythispointwecanascertainthepiecehasafarmoreintricateschemainalmostallareasthan
traditionalnotation.However,traditionalnotationisnotabandonedaswecanseeinbothofthe
examplesabove,onlyexpandeduponwiththenewnotationPendereckihasdeemednecessaryforthe
creationofhisnewwork.Inexample2,weseetheimplementationofthetoneclusterlines.Kaluzny
elaboratesontheirfunction,stating:
Byexactnotationgiveninparts,i.e.bygivingexactpitchoftheoutersounds,thesoundlimitsare
determined.Also,thefunctioninconstructionisdeterminedbythecourseoftheline.Ifthesound
boundariesareextending,thelinerepresentingtheclustergrowswiderandsinceagaintheexactnotation
isgiveninparts,thelimitsoftheexpansionarethusestablished.Ifthegraphicalexpansionofthelineis
graduallydiminishing,theclusterthusrepresentedgraduallynarrowsitstonalrange.Inthisway,the
clustermaynarrowtoonetoneplayedbyallinstrumentalists,itmayalsospreadwiderfromonetonetoa
clusterwithatonalrange,forexample,ofanoctave.3

Thistechniqueisimplementedoftenthroughouttherestofthepieceaswellaswithinsomeof
Pendereckisotherscores.Aninterestingdevicetodivideupthevoicesoccursininex.3,wherehe
3

Kaluznyp.89

takestheinstrumentgroupsandstartseachofthematrelativemiddlepointsoftheirregisterandthen
fansthemouttotheirextremes.Thiscreatesaneerieeffect,asortofmusicalgestationthatisrepeated
throughoutthe5groups.Wherethegroupscomeintothetextureisdependentontheirrelative
positioningontheschema.Fortheperformerdevelopinganawarenessofthisgraphicalkindofreading
isimportant,astowardslaterportionsofthepiece,eventhoughitisstilltimeandeventbased,the
piecesnotationalstructurelapsesintoapseudorhythmicaffair.Allofthisinnovationcanbefound
justintheexternalpresentationofthegraphicscoreitself.Inordertoreallyunearththesoundsthat
Pendereckiwasaimingfor,weneedtodelvedeeperintothespecificindividualmarkingsofthis
notation.Ifwelookattheguidetohisnotation,wecanseethatprimarilyallthedifferentsymbols
correspondtooneoftwogroups:1)Thosethataffectpitchcontent,andthosethat2)affecttimbreor
haveadditionalpercussiveeffects.Thefirstgroupconsistsofthesymbolsshowninex.4.
Ex.4

Thefirstfoursymbolsindicatetheuseofmicrotonalintervals(quartertones)inthetexture.The
othertwosymbolsinthissymbolclassaretheupwardextendingarrow,whichindicatestheuseofthe

highestpossiblenoteoftheinstrument(anexampleofindefinitepitch),andthenthesymbolindicating
theveryslowvibrato,whichisplacedherebecauseofits1/4tonefrequencydifferentialthatisutilized
whenthefingerisslidacrossthefretboard.Thesecondgroupinex.5,demonstratevarioustimbral
effectsthataddtothecolorsofthevarioussoundmassesheardinThrenody.
Ex.5

Seenabovearemorehistoricalpracticeslikesultasto,ponticello,etc.,andmoreelaborate
timbralconstructionsthatPendereckihimselfcreatedlikethesymbolsindicatingstrikingoftheupper
soundingboardoftheviolin,orthearpeggiationofthestringsbehindthebridge.Bothofthesegroups

areveryimportantintheconstructionofthesoundmassesthatPendereckimanipulatesthroughoutthe
piece.

ImplementationofMicrotonality
WhilePendereckispiececertainlywasntthefirsttoutilizemicrotonalfeatures,itwasa
piecethathelpedbringasortofnewpopularitytomicrotonalityinWesternmusic.Intermsofwhat
Pendereckiwastryingtodowithhissoundmassstyle,utilizingthemicrotonalscalewasofobvious
benefit.Thematerialstoutilizefromstandardchromaticnotationwouldundermicrotonalprinciples
extendfourfold.Butwhyinapieceofmusic,thatisnttonalinanysenseatall,needanextensionofthe
scalarmaterials?Inadense,noisyclusterchordtheeffectsofmicrotonalsoundswouldbemostly
negligibletotheearitmightpossesssomeimpactonthechord,butPendereckifindsvariouswaysto
employmicrotonesthatprovidemoreweighttothetensionthatthepiecetriestocreate.Wefirstsee
theimplementationofquartertonesinthesamesectionwherewefirstseetheintroductionofthe
aforementionedtoneclusterlines,hereinsteadzoomedforeaseofreading,
Ex.6

Thesectionstartswiththecellos(note,notshowninex.6),thetopcellosstartingonaC,the
bottomcellosonaA.Sofromthisminor3rdtheglissandoeffectbegins,butbringingustoamicrotonal
texture.WhiletheAslidesdownaminorthirdtotheF#,theCslidesuptoaD3/4sharp,givingusthe
intervalofaMajor3/46thtypeofquality.Thiscreatesanincrediblydeepersenseoftensionthanifthe
intervalhadrestedonastandardchromaticbasedspacing.
Andthatisonlyjustthebeginningofthepiece.Weseethehighestpointsofmicrotonalityinthe
middlesectionsofthepieceandattheveryforcefulendingsegment.Inbothofthesesections,wesee
thatPendereckidistributesmicrotonalclusterchordsaroundthetexture,likethescalewecanseeinex.
7.
Ex.7

Hehasthoseclusterchordspassingfromvoicetovoiceduringthesesections,asopposedtowhenhe
hasthemicrotonaltexturesfanningoutlikeinexamples2and3.Whileinthesecondexample,this
spreadonlyoccursbetween2groups,butinthethirdexcerpt,wecanseethistonalexpansiontake
placebetweeneachindividualvoicingwithineachgroupingofstrings.Forexampleinthefirst12
violins,thefirstviolinplays,thenthesecond,thethird,etc.Theeffectthatthishasisstunningwhen
orchestratedwithmicrotonality.Startingfromtheinitialpitchineachgrouping,Pendereckihaseach
newnoteintroductioneitherraisedorloweredbyaquartertone.Solookingatthetop12violins,the
firstviolinstartswithag#,tog3/4#,tog1/4#,toanatural,tognatural,andsoon,untilthewehavea

textureofstackedmicrotonesofaalmostatritoneslenght(g3/4flatinsteadofanf,oppositeofthe
upperendbnatural.)Hereyoucanseethatplayoutinexample8.
Ex.8

Itwouldbealreadyveryeerietodothisexpansivegesturethroughoutthevoiceswithstandard
chromatictonality,butthiseffect,whenspreadthroughoutthefivestringchoirs,witheverysingle
instrumentresonatingaseparatemicrotonalentity,isastounding.Eachchoirsdifferentialinrangeis
aboutathirdtoatritonefromtopvoiceofthechoirtothebottomvoice.Now,keepinmind,thatwhile
eachchoirisacollectionofmicrotonalpitches,thesechoirsalloverlapwitheachothertoforma
compositemicrotonalcollectionthatspansfromanAbinthecontrabassestoahighBnaturalinthefirst
choirofviolins.Soallinallthatis52instrumentsplayingindividualmicrotonalnotesspanningarangeof
around4octaves.This,withoutadoubt,createsanincredibleamountofforceandtensionwhen
played.Thistensioncausedbymicrotonalclustersisfoundthepiece,andisenhancedwith
PendereckisimplementationofvarioustimbralandKlangfarbenmelodietypeeffects.

UseofTimbre
Timbreasahighlyutilizedconceptthatcouldstandaloneinacompositionhadnotemergeduntil
theearly20thcenturywhenthelikesoftheSecondVienneseschoolexperimentedwiththeconceptof
Klangfarbenmelodie,whichputmoreemphasisonparticularmusicallines,primarilyeitherthe
HauptstimmeortheNebenstimme.Timbrethentrulybecameanindependentcomponentinthe
1950swhenSerialismbecameaprominentmovementinclassicalmusic,fromthelikesofStockhausen,
Babbit,Boulez,andothers.Asastudentinthe50sPendereckibecameincreasinglyfascinatedwith
thetimbralandacousticalsideofmusic.DanitaMirkaherewritesaboutwherethisintriguemayhave
began,withhisintroductiontotheacousticianMieczyslawDrobner:
Althoughtheacousticwaveisahighlycomplexphenomenon,theprocessofitsgenerationcanbepresentedsimply
asacollisionoftwophysicalbodies,onebeingasoundsource,theotherbeingthebodythatvibratesthesound
source.Itislikelythatsuchasplendidlysimplifiedimageofthesoundproducingprocesswastakenupby
PendereckifromtheteachingofMieczyslawDrobner,theeminentPolishacousticianand
organologist.In1958DrobnermovedfromLoditoKrakowtotakethepostoflectureratParistwowaWyzszaSzkola
Muzyczna,theschoolwherePendereckihadrecentlyfinishedhisstudyincompositionandwas
employedasanassistant.Twoyearslater,in1960,theKrakowpublishinghousePolskieWydawnictwoMuzyczne
(PWM)issuedDrobner'sbookInstrumentoznawstwoiakustyka,whichremainstheclassicalPolishhandbookof
bothdisciplinesorganologyandacousticsnamedinitstitle.4

Threnodybeganwhatforalongtimewouldbeamainpointinhisvariouscompositions,timbre.
Whatisfascinatingaboutthispieceastootherpiecesthatfeaturetimbreisasaprimarycompositional
force,ishowPendereckiisabletocomposeapiecewithsuchavarietyoftimbreswiththesupposedly
limitedsoundsthatcanbeproducedfromastringorchestra.InThrenodythereisacleardisplayof
soundsthatemergefromthestringsthateventhemostcarefullistenerwouldbesurprisedtohearinthe
texture.Wefirstseetheuseofmultipletimbraleffectsnearthebeginningofthepiece,shownin
4

ToCuttheGordianKnot:TheTimbreSystemofKrzysztofPenderecki,DanutaMirkap.436

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example9.
Ex.9

Whenlookingatthissectionweseemostofthetimbraleffectsthatwerepresentedin
thesymbolguidearepresenthereinthisexample.Weseeheretheuseofthepercussivesoundboard
effect,thebowingoftheinstrumentsonthebridge,onthetailpiece,andbetweenthem,irregularbow
changesandtremolo,alongwitharpeggiationonthestringsalongthebridge.Astheyareplayedinthe
passage,itmaybehardtodiscerneachindividualtechnique.ThisisbecausePendereckihaseachchoir
splittinginto4units,whicheachcomeintothetextureattheirowntime.Inadditiontheyplaytheir
passagesasfastaspossiblecontinuinginthetextureevenwhennewchoirsjoinin.Allofthisassists
Pendereckiinhisgoaltocreateacompositionthatdealswithsoundmass.Whiletheuseoftimbral
variationsisreallyeffective,itreachesanewpeakofintensensitylaterinthepiece,wherethefull
orchestraisplaying,andthetextureisclearerandmoredistinctthanitssomewhatsmeared
counterpart.Weseethisintensityinexample10.

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Ex.10

Theclarityofhisworkhereisingreatcontrasttothetimbralelementsbefore,butthatis
nottheonlyinterestingconcepttograspfromthissection.Thewayheorchestratesthispassagehereis
verydifferenttothewayhehasorchestratedothersectionsinthepiece.Insteadofdividingintochoirs
ofthesameinstrument,herehedividesinto3choirsthatfeatureeveryvoicetype:2groupsofviolins,a
groupofcellos,andagroupofbasses.Andinadditiontothis,heemphasizesareturnto
pseudouniformity.Thefirstchoirplayseverythinginthepassagetogether,whilethesecondchoirplays
thefirsttwobarsindependentlythenperformingthefollowingbarstutti,andthe3rdchoirplays4bars
independentlyandthelast2aretutti.Thissectionisuniqueasitisthesoleareainthepiecewherewe
canfindclearandtotalrhythmicuniformity,outsideperhapstheveryendingofthepiece.Butoneofthe
mainquestionsthatsprungupwithanalysesofpieceslikethiswhentheywerenew,washowdowe
identifylargerformalstructure?
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BriefExaminationofFormalStructure
Theprospectofanalyzingnew20thcenturytechniqueslike12toneorserialismwere
dauntinguntiltheoristslearnedhowtoidentifythestrategiesofthesegenres,forinstance,with12tone
musicdiscerningwhatthetonerowwas,andfindingallofitspermutations,whetherinversions,
retrogradesorretrogradeinversions.Pendereckisworkswithsoundmassesmayappeartobe
initiallydaunting,butintermsoflargerformalstructure,itcanbearguedthattheyaremore
straightforwardandeasytoanalyzethanothergenres,perhapsevenmorestandardclassicalforms.
EspeciallygiventhefactthatPendereckiutilizesthisveryvisualandalmostschematicapproachtothe
score,itallowsustomoreeasilydiscernlargerstructure.Inordertodiscernbreaksinthestructure,one
cansimplylookatwherethenotationbeginstochangeinthescore.
Fromtheopening,withitswailinghightones,continuetoendurewithvariousapplicationsof
vibrato,allthewaytorehearsalmarking6,whereweseethefirstnewtextureenter.Wecanidentify
theopeningto6asthefirstsectionofthepiece.Fromtherethenextsectioncontinuesuntilrehearsal
mark10,wherethetextureswitchesfromthisideatothemicrotonalclusterswithouteredge
glissandos,wheresection3begins.Thispartcontinuesanddevelopsforawhileuntilthelargescale
implementationofthevarioustimbraleffectsthatbeginsatrehearsalmark26.Thisnewsection
continuestodevelopandexpandthetimbraleffectsthatitintroduceduntilwereachthefinalsectionthat
beginsatrehearsalmark56.Thereasonwemarktheseparationhereisthatat56weseethebuilding
ofuniformitythatwasshowninexample10,incontrastwiththeexchangeoftimbralmaterialthat
precededit.Thissectioncontinuesuntiltheverypowerfulchordthatfinishesthepiece.
Whenlookingatthispiece,wecanunderstandthatthethattheformalstructureofapiecelike
thisisntbasedoffmoretraditionalconceptsofmelodyofform,butratheranemphasisofsounditself,

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howitmutates,expands,contracts,etc.

ImpactofaTitleonaComposition
Asitwasalludedtoearlier,thepiecewasnotoriginallyconceivedasThrenodytothe
VictimsofHiroshima.Pendereckihadanintenttonamethepiece,837afterthepiecesduration,
similartoJohnCages433.Heonlyendedchangingthenameafterarecommendationfroma
friend,whoadvisedhimthatitwouldmakeamoreemotionalimpactforhisenteringintheUNESCO
PrizeoftheInternationalComposersJury.5Thatchangehadanobviousandintendedimpact.Theuse
ofHiroshimaevokessomanyemotions,butmostlyofsheerhorror,akindofterrorhithertounknown
bymankind,thatofanuclearannihilation.Butthischangeoftitlehascertainimplications.
Whenanycreativeendeavorisundertaken,usuallythetitlesarethelasttocomealong.While
thisisthenotalways,thecase,generallytheworknearingitsfinalstageswillcommunicatesomesortof
messagetoitsauthorthatwillletthemknowwhatthepieceshouldbecalled.Weshouldnotdownplay
theimportanceoftheroleofthetitleeither,asitisthesameasanametoaperson,whiletheperson,
likethebodyofart,stillretainstheirowncharacteristicsbydefinition,becausetheyarethatthing,their
identityiscraftedbytheirname,orinmorephilosophicalterms,thelabelwhichhelpsthemind
categorizeobjectswithgreaterease.
Herearethetwoprincipalquestionsthatgoalongwithtitles:Howeffectiveisthetitleat
conveyingthework,andwouldthework,alternativelytitled,stillhavethesameimpactasitsoriginally
titledcounterpart?ThetitleofThrenodyfortheVictimsofHiroshimaworkstwofold,becauseit
identifiesitselfprimarilyasathrenody,orasongofmourningorlamentationforthedead,andthen
becauseofthehorrorassociatedwiththeworldsfirstexperienceofatomicwarfare,theshockofthe

Burkholder,J.Peter,andClaudeV.Palisca.NortonAnthologyofWesternMusic.Vol.3.pg.637

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imageryofanentirecitylaidtowaste,thedeformitiesofmanyofthesurvivors,andtheconstantfear
anddreadthatthelaunchingoftheColdWardrapedovertheworld.Thesecondquestionismore
difficulttoanswer.WouldPendereckispiecestillhavebeenanexcellentexampleofanewtimbral,
soundmasscompositionalstyle?Absolutely.Butwouldithavehadthesamelevelofemotionaland
culturalsignificanceaswereittitled837.Chancesare,thatwouldnotbethecase.Becausethe
powerofatitle,isalsothepowerofconnection,andchoosingatitleisoneofthemostimportant
decisionsanauthorcangivetoanycreation,asitwillbethefirstthingtheaudienceseesand
contemplates.SowhenanaudienceseesThrenodyinsteadof837,thereisasetofhistoricaland
culturalexpectations,andfeelingsmoreover,withsomethingthisdrastic,thatarepresent,thatsimplyare
notpresent,withamoreabstracttitlelikeadurationoftime.Thisdoesnotundothepowerofthe
pieceasaworkitself,butonlyacknowledgestheconceptualpoweratitlehasonawork.
PendereckisThrenody,inthisregardsucceedsbecausetheemotionalpowerthatthetitleadds
tothemusicisundeniable.However,thispiecestandsoutasalandmarktitleofthe20thcenturyforits
abilitytoaddvariousmusicalconceptslikemicrotonality,prominenceoftimbre,andarrangingfor
soundmassestotheforefrontofcontemporarymusic.Thepiecesabilitytobreakconventionis
somethingthathasearneditapplausefromtheclassicalmusicculturesandpopculturealike,and
thereforehasbecomeaprincipalpieceofthe20thcenturymusicalcanon.

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Bibliography

http://sinfinimusic.com/uk/learn/composers/krzysztofpenderecki

KRZYSZTOFPENDERECKIANDHISCONTRIBUTIONTOMODERNMUSICAL
NOTATIONJANAKAUNYThePolishReviewVol.8,No.3(Summer,1963),pp.8695
Publishedby:UniversityofIllinoisPressonbehalfofthePolishInstituteofArts&
SciencesofAmerica
StableURL:http://www.jstor.org/stable/25776495

ToCuttheGordianKnot:TheTimbreSystemofKrzysztofPenderecki
DanutaMirkaJournalofMusicTheory,Vol.45,No.2(Autumn,2001),pp.435456
Publishedby:DukeUniversityPressonbehalfoftheYaleUniversityDepartmentofMusic
ArticleStableURL:http://www.jstor.org/stable/3653444

Burkholder,J.Peter,andClaudeV.Palisca.NortonAnthologyofWesternMusic.Vol.3.
NewYork:W.W.Norton&,2010.637.Print.

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