Warsaw Autumn 2006 – Festival Retrospect

The past week at the Warsaw Autumn was really a fantastic experience: 16 concerts in 8 days, a wide variety of modern music, and a great deal to think about. I was very glad that the focus of this year’s festival was on Polish Music as I have been very interested in a number of Polish composers for quite some time and had wanted to become more familiar with the music going on in this country. It’s really amazing to me to think about the festival as an institution, as something that has been going on here every year, how composers here have opportunities in not only getting performances but also to hear a great deal of new music from both within the country and abroad. It was great seeing the composers who would have their pieces performed also showing up to just about every concert as well, just as interested in hearing these concerts as everyone else.

Speaking of everyone else, how great is it to see not only younger people at these concerts but also women and men of all ages, including many older people as well as children! Not only that, to feel a real genuine interest in the music as opposed to the pageantry of being at a classical music concert. I imagine some of the older people may very well have been attending these concerts for the past 50 years…

Thinking about the Polish composers specifically, I found that most of the composers had a really good taste for extended techniques and thought how the composers learning composition here must have access to a great deal of knowledge and experience from the older generations. It was interesting to see how a lot of the composers seemed to greet and know each other and how that there was a sense of community. I never felt that sense of a real music community anywhere else where composers, performers, and listeners seemed to be in tune. (It may very well be just an impression really and I do not know if that is how it is, but even if not, it was a very nice impression to have…)

Regarding the music, looking back and reviewing on a piece by piece basis, there were only a handful of pieces where I felt a really strong listening experience. However, overall I think the quality of composition and technique was on a high level, and if anything found that a good number of the composers weren’t playing it safe and were really pushing for something in their work and had a lot of great moments in them. Also, I think some composers may very well have achieved exactly what they were trying to achieve, but perhaps simply not what I am interested in exactly. I think when you can go to concerts and hear pieces where you’re not spending most of your time criticizing compositions on basis of form and technique but rather spending time contemplating aesthetic values and the efficacy of music, it’s a good place to be.

Thinking back, I also noticed that for pieces that used electronics, I found that as a general trend I did not care for pieces which involved live processing of performers, those with tape parts could go either way depending on the content, and those where electronics parts were used more like instruments left the most impression on me. I think it’s just a matter of my personal taste, but it was interesting for me to put it so concretely to myself and to get to know my own taste a bit better. Of course this is just a general trend for myself and tastes change, but good to know nevertheless.

Being at these concerts reminded me a lot of being back in college when there were far fewer distractions and music really was more omnipresent in daily life. Spending a week doing almost nothing but listening to concerts and really listening to music (as opposed to just casually listening) made me feel very opinionated but also very focused, rejuvenated, and inspired to work.

I think it’s a very good thing to listen carefully and to expose one’s self to as much music as possible, even if one finds it flawed or completely flat in experience, as one often learns a great deal from these pieces and about one’s own self. It’s good to think the experience all the way through too, that if you did like a piece or if you didn’t like a piece, to think why you did or didn’t like it, why someone may have wrote it, to try to think of the piece and the experience of the piece from a different point of view, from a different person’s shoes.

Overall I found the Warsaw Autumn to be a really fantastic and inspiring experience. A wide variety of wonderfully performed music, great venues for listening, and a great deal to think about. I am sure that the experience will stay with me quite some time and hope that we will have more opportunities to attend this excellent festival in the future.

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