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"I treat film as a private challenge" – a conversation with Michał Lorenc
Maciej Łukasz Gołębiowski talks to Michał Lorenc who has just started his cooperation with PWM Edition.
How did it happen that you became a member of the group of artists represented by PWM Edition?
The editor in chief called me and proposed publishing some of my scores. I was really shocked. I treat writing film music as creating sound tissue which is to be inscribed in image to make its background or to complement it. I have never considered it to be a separate concert oeuvre. And now PWM Edition wants to publish that music in the way Penderecki is published. I would never expect it and therefore I feel deeply honoured.
We can read in your CV that you started your adventure with music as a 15-year old, in a student tent base in the Bieszczady Mountains, where you met Belon, Kleyff and Bielecki. Do you ever come back there, in the mountains?
Yes, I do, and each of these visits is different and unique. Although the names of the towns are the same, I get an impression that everything has changed. You cannot compare the reality there to the matrix of memories in my head that I first created nearly 50 years ago. But music came much earlier in my life. As a boy from a good Warsaw home, I had piano lessons already at an early stage. Music drew me in. I started composing my first melodies when I was 10-12 years old. Then those melodies started to lead their own lives thanks to my friends, mountain guides, and wandered along the tracks long before me.
Could we say then that you are a composer by vocation rather than by education?
I do not at all feel like a composer. I can't compose. I am just a melody writer. Something comes to my mind and I try to use it to build more. However, I am only able to do it when I see the image, the film. The film and emotions it carries, its theme and script are not a limitation for me, but rather a necessary inspiration and determination of the frame in which I am to move. I am like Leonard Zelig from Woody Allen's film. I have never written other music than film music. I can't. I wouldn't dare.
You had a chance to work in the American Dream Factory. What impressions did you bring back with you?
A person speaking English called me and said he was Bob Rafelson. I know his films by heart, so I thought it was a joke and asked him to call me back later. At least in an hour. I asked Cezary Harasimowicz, a regular Hollywood visitor, to help me resolve that kind of joke. He came, the telephone rang again, and it was only after I saw the solemn face of Cezary holding a second receiver that I realised it was not a joke. Rafelson said I had a flight ticket booked in three days, a limousine and a hotel... And so I landed up in California. Rafelson represented a passing generation of directors. Working with him on Blood and Wine meant long hours of talking every day and arranging details together. It was a real partnership for the sake of creating something unique together. Then I wrote music to one more film in Hollywood and could experience working with a new generation of American film producers. They would come and show me the music they liked and would require me to write the same but in a different way. In the meantime, I was invited to work on Poznań’56 and shortly after on Bastard. I came back to Poland and the circumstances made me stay here. I don't regret.
What is film music like nowadays?
It is a genre that is constantly changing and, just like everything else, undergoes trends and passing fashions. Once those fashions would not last long. Now, in the era of the Internet, when new directions are spreading rapidly and the aggressiveness of the market is increasing, the role of music and the position of the composer in film have degraded. Beside five "hot" names, the composer is a service provider who is required to possess craft skills. Everybody writes in a similar way. I get an impression that we are far behind unforgettable musical experiences in film. Film masterpieces from the past, which were full of sophisticated artistry, are not interesting for a modern viewer prompted to continuously exercise his experiences by unexpected action turns, fast montage and narration speed. Today Antonioni would not have an opportunity to dazzle with The Adventure.
And your style?
Adjusting to the spirit of new times is not my forte, but, unfortunately, I have always liked showing off. The desire to play a part in film pushes you to writing a strong theme or to direct the film threads in such a way as to tell your own, second story with your music, which can give the image another dimension. I begin treating film as something that is my own, personal experience. As a private challenge. When I understood that music in film had all the characteristics of audience manipulation, and the composer was supposed to be absolutely loyal to the theme of the film, the servile approach started to be much more difficult for me. When I was young, arrogant and self-confident, playing Zelig was really easy. With time, understanding the value of music took away my cheek and ease of writing. To compose for the orchestra, you need to have skills, knowledge and understanding, also of people who are to play what you have painstakingly created at home. If I were to write to the script of 300 Miles to Heaven today, I'm afraid that I might not be ready to face it. I want to expect too much of myself, but, in fact, I know too little to meet these expectations.
How do you work on your music?
In the past you would write film music step by step, bar by bar, synchronously to image. While writing bar 24, you never knew what awaited you in bar 28. It brought interesting themes that were often really fascinating. Now, just like a great majority of film musicians, I work on my computer. You can see and hear everything, and it is simple, easy and comfortable. The times of improvised themes and astonishing music incidents in film are gone. Film is a very young area of communication, that is increasingly driven into strict codes of rules and discipline. Would I now have the power and courage to write music to Pasikowski's Pigs, if it was blatantly inspired by works of Charles Ives at that time? I don't know.
You are turning 60 this year. Such an anniversary is always a good time to reflect. Are you happy?
Looking back, I have an impression that I got from life more than I could have expected. I'm not only speaking about music, but about people whom I met, about my children, grandchildren or even my dog that I walk each day in the woods. It all adds to my personal happiness and keeps me strong every day. I can only be thankful.
fot. Waldemar Kielichowski
GREAT ENCOUNTERS are performers’ meetings with excellent music, but also the encounters of great personalities from the past with composers who enjoy successes in our own times. Fryderyk Chopin, Henryk Wieniawski, Stanisław Moniuszko, Karol Szymanowski, and Ignacy Jan Paderewski did for Polish music what the three great Romantic bards and the giants of positivistic novel achieved in the field of literature. Their music not only impresses audiences with its beautiful form and emotional charge, but also provides modern-day artists with an inexhaustible source of inspiration. That music preserves for us the idiom of Polishness, to which, willy-nilly, by way of homage or rebellion, successful generations of artists and music lovers continue to return as to a point of reference. On GREAT ENCOUNTERS, this is done by the most outstanding representatives of Polish jazz and popular music.
Music is normally supposed to be listened to. Still, it also flows through our other senses. Is it, however, connected with them in a necessary and inseparable manner? After all, we can close our eyes, open up our imagination, and let unexpected experiences flow through our minds. On its brand-new 2CD release from the PORTRAITS series, the ANAKLASIS label invites you to play with your experiences and expectations. The album ACOUSMATIC MUSIC presents the philosophy of music as interpreted by one of the most intriguing contemporary composers – Marcin Stańczyk.
FOREFATHERS’ EVE by High Definition Quartet, a mesmerising fusion of jazz, ambient, and electronics, will also be available on a gramophone record as of 17th March. The album features a galaxy of experimental music stars and will be released in the REVISIONS series under the ANAKLASIS label, as the second vinyl in that label’s catalogue. Apart from the Quartet, this release brings together such world-famous giants of ambient as William Basinski, Krzysztof Knittel, Robert Rich, Christian Fennesz, and Igor Boxx of Skalpel Duo.
The Polish Music Library is the youngest member of the top flight of Polish libraries, exceptional in terms of its collection and unrivalled for accessibility. It is maintained by PWM Edition, the biggest Polish publisher of sheet music and books about music, which thanks to its international prestige effectively promotes the output of Polish composers around the world. PWM sums up this project, which has been realised since 2017, with an attractive animation presenting the process through which its resources have been digitised.
Does music call for gender equality? It can surely defend itself. Nonetheless, the artistic advantages of excellent present-day women-composers and their eminent predecessors are worthy of being noticed and highlighted. Women have their separate and distinctive voice in Polish music. In recognition of the need to acknowledge that voice, on 29th January ANAKLASIS will release the CD POLISH HEROINES OF MUSIC, comprising orchestral works by Elżbieta Sikora, Hanna Kulenty, Grażyna Bacewicz, and Agata Zubel.
A panorama of compositional output combining Polish and Yiddish inter-war hits with sorrowful, despairing tangos from the Ghetto. The disc Bajgelman. Get to Tango represents a twenty-first-century take on the output of the outstanding musician Dawid Bajgelman, from Łódź. These arrangements and reworkings of selected works by one of the greatest composers of Jewish theatre music were produced by the outstanding musician and composer Jarosław Bester. The album comes out on 11 December.
The ANAKLASIS record label, created by PWM just one year ago (on 22 November 2019), already boasts sixteen albums, and it shows no signs of slowing down, with further releases announced.
PWM Edition has launched a campaign and an international educational project, which brings the works by Polish composers closer to the audiences worldwide. ‘Music from Chopin’s Land’ encompasses more than just pieces by Chopin – it also means Paderewski, Szymanowska, Moniuszko, Kilar, Kurpiński and many other composers.
On 7 November 2020, during a gala broadcast on TVP Kultura, the laureates of the 10th edition of the Coryphaeus of Polish Music awards were announced. The award for Event of the Year went to the premiere of Aleksander Nowak’s opera Drach. Dramma per musica, given at the AUKSODRONE festival. Aleksander Nowak’s work, to a libretto by Szczepan Twardoch based on his heralded novel, was rewarded for ‘emphasising local dimensions in universal processes, for the strength of its musical and cultural message’.
Paderewski was a great composer. Herdzin is a great improviser. The fusion of the worlds of these two musical giants has given rise to a new phenomenon, which we share with you today. On the 160th anniversary of the birth of Ignacy Jan Paderewski, it is time to prick up our ears to the most beautiful impressions on his music.