Canon.

The time when there is nothing left to do but start writing music itself can be extremely tiring. Everything is already set; the instrumentation, the text, the approximate “volume”. The container, if you can say so, for meanings of the contents, is so full that adding more will not explain anything. Any activities except writing itself start to resemble evading, pretending, what quickly causes tormenting pricks of conscience. All you can do then is to face a blank sheet of paper, which suddenly becomes a huge, dazzling abyss, not to look away, and to simply start. Despite the panic, despite the feeling that as you can do anything, so what should you do, and if you do one thing, what should come next. And despite the question that rather has no answer – what for. Writing is not a pleasant thing to do (by the way, as Jerzy Pilch said, I think, “someone who likes to write” is a quite good definition of a talentless hack), at least when you are about to start. But you don't start once, you start a million times. Truth be said, each and every moment is a new beginning. Each moment where your attention wanders off your thread and you need to focus again requires effort that you desperately wish to avoid, effort that is simply tiring. Luckily, the thread starts to weave as time passes by. You still have to keep an eye on yourself, do the work, but the results are more and more noticeable. The “acts of will” start bringing more and more results, and time, which had initially stood still, starts to flow again.


"The Mask” will start with a canon. A motif came to my mind, initially quite loose, incidental, random, until at one point it revealed its regularity and the various possibilities of putting it together with itself in canonical configurations – augmentations, diminutions, transpositions, and so on. Interestingly, I have never been attracted to such play before. Although maybe that is not quite true; in fact, in recent works (Drach, Siren) circular constructions are very clear. But they are not so strict. And they are more harmonious than melodic. Anyway, we’ll see how much strict the canon will be here. Well, here the canon seems to be exceptionally well placed, so I’m not avoiding it; quite the opposite, I treat it as a perfect underlying idea for the entire work. A strict structure with a given specific – but huge – number of potential solutions. A puzzle that gives you a sense of freedom – but within certain closed frames. That is – exactly what "The Mask” is. I've been reading and listening to Douglad Hofstadter a lot, which might play a part here. His “Gödel, Escher, Bach”, the great vision of conscious life as a special, canonical logical structure (a strange loop) inspires me in many different ways, though not directly – I simply allow my thoughts to wander around this concept which I still don't understand too well. Hofstadter also has many interesting things to say about translation, including machine translation, which is of particular importance here and I will comment on it soon (probably next week).


As it comes to canon, another inspiration, one of the most fantastic works created in the recent years, “Schnee” by Hans Abrahamsen, is actually a canonical structure in its entirety. Snow as a natural phenomenon that manifests a strict, geometric regularity in an infinite number of ways (as we all know, every snowflake is different). Perfectly symmetrical, delicate and fleeting structure of frozen water. Wonderful, poignantly cold, but deeply moving music, which conveys the message in a precise and clear manner, but on the other hand it is absolutely natural and leaves the space for the listener’s own interpretation. Another great piece by Abrahamsen, no longer related to the canon, but strictly related to the monodrama entitled “Let Me Tell You”, with lyrics written by Paul Griffiths (author of a great monograph on new music, “Modern Music and After”, and the libretto to “What Next” by Eliott Carter, another example of convincing musical strictness) loosely based on Ophelia created by Shakespeare. I was less convinced by the “Snow Queen” by Abrahamsen (one of the last pre-pandemic opera premieres). It is as if the dramaturgy of a full-length opera was a body that does not fully match the delicate and largely static sound structure. But perhaps my lack of conviction was affected by the interpretation proposed by the stage director and designer team: they set the story of Gerda and Kai in a psychiatric clinic, which seemed unnecessary to me, to put it mildly.


I’m going back to the Girl-Mantis-Machine and the canon.


(transl. Magdalena Małek-Andrzejowska)