Space dissonance. Krzysztof Penderecki's retrospective

For adults
Short films
6 pm


Space dissonance. About short films with music by Krzysztof Penderecki.

 Electronic music of the 1960s was associated mostly with space conquest and rapid technological development. Krzysztof Penderecki was cautious with it, which was supposedly caused by his electrocution some years back. It took experimenting along with Eugeniusz Rudnicki to convince the composer to incorporate electronically produced music into the grammar of his music language permanently. There is a section of the Animocje festival dedicated to the rarely seen face of Penderecki. He did not make a secret of his entering the world of animated shorts just to earn money and freely test his new ideas on viewers that were not as serious as seasoned music lovers from the philharmonic. And so, thanks to this unusual cooperation, miniatures for kids, movie jokes, animated posters and variations on tales gained some innovative soundtracks.

Lightnings of joy in the ocean of good fun - that is how the founders of Polish Radio Experimental Studio described those creative get-togethers. It’s the early sixties and the composer Krzysztof Penderecki is just in the middle of the most free and informal period of his career, since he had come across Eugeniusz Rudnik. This duo has led to creating some of the most extraordinary music illustrations for over 30 films and theatrical productions. Discoveries made by boys playing in the “black room” in Malczewskiego street in Warsaw were later incorporated into Penderecki’s individual compositions, including “Polymorphia” (1961), a piece opening the series, and “The Second Cello Concerto” (1974), the one that closes it. The other titles were created as movie soundtracks, combining composed instrumental parts with concrete music collage and electronic creations.

“Polymorphia”, as a mirror of destruction, is embedded into Ravel’s „Bolero” by Aneta Grzeszykowska. Combining these two pieces lets the artist create a ballet of autodestruction. Elements of her multiplied body form perfect compositions, falling apart at the same time. Striving for perfection, the body self-destructs. The title „Bolimorfia” means the pain of physical transformation. The structure built by Ravel’s music gradually collapses through overwhelming “Polymorphia” - the power of entropy, finally taking over its own naked body. 

This method could echo in „The Charm of Two Wheels” by Kazimierz Urbański. In the introduction, Penderecki mixes „Flight of the Bumblebee” by Nikołaj Rimski-Korsakow, speeded up, with electronically produced sounds representing the environment, where „Flight of the Bumblebee” is in a way trapped and processed into an engine sound. The soundtrack is expanded with another layers, from under which the original music theme emerges, as tireless as a perpetual motion machine, impossible to stop like the rushing progress. The essence of the fil is  perverse criticism of the system. The sound race represented with volume changes gives way to an inbred wave at times, spinning and stamping like the eye of the storm. The cars are just vehicles here, hurtling towards death like a speeding coffin.

Another film is „Basilisk Encounter” by Leokadia Serafinowicz - the old legend filtered through modern sensitivity, making one see Basilisk as an alien. Music dynamizes the story, making it vivid and full of rhythmic swells. It plays with terror: a clock’s ticking, an effect imitating someone creeping in the dark, howling, or cauldrons falling down the stairs like an avalanche. The editing of this film is sharp, with strong cuts between particular takes. The movie combines sounds of voidness, mockingly descending to the depths of subconsciousness, with a joyful accompaniment of a bedtime story. In Penderecki’s version, the monster from the past announces anxiety of the future.

„The Harlequin” is full of little vibrant flashes - drums, percussion, snare drum represent light matter such as soap bubbles, balloons, glass balls and, finally, the title character - a tightrope dancer. A subtle play with balance, based on simple shaking of objects. The Harlequin plays balloon strings like an instrument. He is both a ballet master and a conductor, floating among forms and, at the end, among tears. It’s a debut of Mirosław Kijowicz, before he had the film sound designed by such artists as Włodzimierz Kotoński, Waldemar Kazanecki or Krzysztof Komeda. When he came back to „The Harlequin” yeas later, the new release was illustrated by Zygmunt Konieczny - in a completely different style.

„Don Juan” by Jerzy Zitzman is a parody of various conventions. Like in  „The Charm of Two Wheels”, „Flight of the Bumblebee” is speeded up to the level of grotesque, and overture is Aria from „Don Giovani”. It is a crazy play with sound deformation: exaggerated sounds of hoofbeats, gunshots, choir, serenade and San Remo hit create a noisy collage. The scream of a lady trapped by Casanova is looped into a tiresome effect of a skipping record, which suggests the character’s adventures are about repeating the same pattern over and over. The music represents repetition, chaos and the rush of this life. Don Juan is like a force of motion, continuously leading up to collisions, unable to stop, just like life.

„The trap” by Krzysztof Dębowski is the second part of „The Star Diaries” based on Stanisław Lem’s text. We can hear electronic music, typical of space stories of that time, adorned with voice -  emanations from the future in a form of whispers, whistles of boy scouts song „How wonderful it is to conquer mountain peaks”, Jan Kiepura’s „Ninon, oh smile”, and operetta theatrical cries. Music played on instrument that sounds like banjo resembles the adventurous theme composed by Penderecki for „Penknife” by Leszek Lorek. In this form, it seems to be a variation on fast-paced themes of adventure films.

In „Persephone”, Stephanie Twyford-Rigley uses a part of Cello Concerto No 1. by Penderecki, defined as purgatory and concentrated around vibrations from the lowest to the highest. It makes a funny combination of the symphonic piece conducted by the composer and a static scene of a shivering cat, trying to come out of the shade. Increasing tension of the sounds represent the cat’s fear and the rushing feelings explode when the cat decides to come out of the shade: in that moment the orchestra can be heard as a whole.

Bolimorfia, Aneta Grzeszykowska, Poland, 2008, 7'21''
piece by Krzysztof Penderecki: Polimorfia / Polymorphia (1961)

In „Bolimorfia” – in the rhythm of „Bolero”, on which composition „Polymorphia” by Krzysztof Penderecki is superimposed by the artist to perfectly deconstruct and disturb the development of this classical piece by Maurice Ravel towards its culmination –  we can see a constant multiplication of Anetas, one after the other creating decorative choreographic figures. The artist’s body progressively becomes a machine, an element of a perfectly working clock mechanism. Finally, she becomes an ornament - to the extent that a new “organism” emerges and Anetas start to play the roles of its head, hands, torso, legs.
Description based on text by Krzysztof Pijarski.

Czar kółek / The Charm of the Two Wheels, Kazimierz Urbański, Poland, 1966, 6'00''
original music by Krzysztof Penderecki

Experimental film impression about overgrowth of automotive industry and its destructive influence on the environment.

Spotkanie z Bazyliszkiem / Basilisk Encounter, Leokadia Serafinowicz, Poland, 1961, 9'30''
original music by Krzysztof Penderecki on DUX 2015 album

A story illustrating the legend of Basilisk playing pranks among the Warsaw old town tenements.

Arlekin / The Harlequin, Mirosław Kijowicz, Poland, 1960, 5'52''
original music by Krzysztof Penderecki

Ballet mime - The Harlequin’s dance with balloons.

Don Juan, Jerzy Zitzman, Poland, 1963, 10'00''
original music by Krzysztof Penderecki

The adventures of the character from Molier’s drama and Byron’s poem, facetiously told.

Pułapka / The Trap, Krzysztof Dębowski, Poland 1962, 9'00
original music by Krzysztof Penderecki

A science fiction story with a wink: adventures of space traveller Ilion on an uninhabited planet.

Persefona / Persephone, Stephanie Twyford-Rigley, USA, 2016, 3'08''
piece by Krzysztof Penderecki: Cello Concerto No 1. (1973)

The cat video you never knew you wanted.

Curator: Adriana Prodeus

Film and art critic. In “Kino”, she is responsible for cover stories and develops a series of reportages on women in animation. In “Vogue”, she publishes a regular column titled “Dismantling of attractions”. Author of the book “Themersons. Biographical Sketches” (2009). She lectures at The Institute of Art of the Polish Academy of Sciences, the University of Lower Silesia and Artes Liberales. Her specialisation are film avant-garde and animation. She is a selector and a jury member at numerous festivals, a curator of film adaptation review at the International Short Story Festival in Wroclaw and many more, including Polish animation retrospective in the Anthology Film Archives in New York. 

She was a vice-director of U-jazdowski and a literary advisor in Kadr Film Studio. She hosted cultural programs in the public media: “WOK. Wszystko o kulturze” (“Everything about culture”) on TVP1 and “O wszystkim z kulturą” (“On everything with culture”) on PR2. She published, among others, in Newsweek, Filmweb, Dwutygodnik, Kultura Liberalna, Krytyka Polityczna, Zeszyty Literackie, Twórczość