Roman Maciejewski

Man - Artist

How did such views on life influence Maciejewski’s work and career? A partial answer has already been given in the quotations concerning the composer’s overall philosophy of life in which he wrote that professional activity had ceased to be a priority for him and what mattered above all was the very fact of existence. Sometimes he used very emphatic words:

A continuation of artistic interests is really a compromise on my part now. I long for the moment when I will be able to devote myself to meditation and turn to spheres about which I can say, on the basis of my own experiences, that they are infinitely greater than all manifestations of humanity in art and music.

[J. Cegiełła, Szkice do autoportretu polskiej muzyki współczesnej, Kraków, 1976, p. 172.]

 Such beliefs led to an unusual situation in which the composer felt an urge to create and wanted to work as an artist, but did not care about the audience and reception of his works:

[…] I stand away from the whirl of public artistic activity, […] I have contact neither with the public, nor with agents, as is demonstrated by my empty pockets and a name known only to a few. But in exchange I have time, health and satisfaction of having done my duty.

[Roman Maciejewski’s letter to Zygmunt Maciejewski, 4 April 1957.]

I live here peacefully and quietly, and feel very good about it – I’m not made for making a lot of money – for me, music is not a milk cow to which you have to get pushing your way through and tripping others up. I may one day play or conduct, but I’m not insisting on this.

[Roman Maciejewski’s letter to Bronisława Maciejewska and J. Maciejewska, August 1967.]

Nor did he overexert himself when it comes to the speed of work. Spending nearly fifteen years working on the Requiem was an extraordinary luxury:

There were periods in my life when I fell silent, because when you want to express yourself, to convey your inner truth, you first need to get to know it, and the best way to do this – I think – is through silence and listening intently to yourself. This is facilitated by turning away from the current whirl of life. In such a situation you enter a sort of timelessness, which makes it much easier to find the right attitude to the Time in which you live.

[L. Winnicka, W poczekalni nieba. Rozmowy o życiu i śmierci, Warsaw 1999, p. 138.]

This attitude to “Time” was the reason why Maciejewski was free from pressure: he avoided corporate work and avoided commissions (even from the greatest artists), did not ingratiate himself with the public, and distanced himself from current trends guaranteeing greater interest in his artistic achievements:

There are two kinds of music […]. One reflects the spirit of time. The other stands above the boundaries of time.

[Interview with Roman Maciejewski, Gőteborg-Posten Nordost, 20 November 1980.]

My artistic statement must be sincere and authentic. I cannot follow the voice of changing fashions. This is alien to me.

[L. Winnicka, W poczekalni nieba. Rozmowy o życiu i śmierci, Warsaw 1999, p. 139.]

Of key importance to the sincerity and authenticity was the power of emotions but controlled by intellect with the help of the compositional technique:

I always tried to write consciously, and my work was driven by my emotional life. […] When working, I was always in emotional tension and always controlled this tension with my intellect, my professional experience.

[T. Kaczyński, “Rozmowa z Romanem Maciejewskim”, Tygodnik Powszechny, 19 March 1995.]

That music, like other sciences, has gone to the dogs, should also be attributed to the composers knowing less and less about their profession. In the past composers knew their instruments inside out. They were all instrumentalists, usually played a string instrument and were often singers. When it comes to instruments they did not play themselves, they studied them thoroughly in order not to write anything that would be against the nature of the instrument or beyond its capabilities. Practically the only instrument today’s composers can play is the piano. But, good God, how they play it. In any case, it is usually hard to use the word play to describe the noise they make with their wooden fingers and beefy voices […] When it comes to other instruments, they don’t care about them and the instrumental parts, a result of profound ignorance, are often impossible to play. Orchestral musicians can say a lot about this; those poor people have to play many, even very well-known contemporary pieces in distress because the nature of their instrument is violated.

[Roman Maciejewski’s letter to his parents, 17 April 1949.]

Maciejewski openly criticised the avant-gardists; effects of their work sometimes shocked, often bored but never moved him. Sometimes he got irritated and did not mince his words:

The avant-garde (the most modernist trend in music) is complete hysteria. I hate it. The avant-garde tries to violate the laws of physics and music. You can’t do that. The avant-garde leads nowhere. It is as necessary as disease.

[Interview with Roman Maciejewski, Gőteborg-Posten Nordost, 20 November 1980.]

He was offended by a lot, especially by the lack of the basic marks of good technique; he was also looking for external causes behind the directions in which art had gone. It is worth at this point citing some of Maciejewski’s opinions about various aspects of musical works. He wrote, for example, about:

The break-up of the musical form is a reflection of what happens in human psyche, in life between people and nations… That is why I try to keep my distance from the contemporary reality.

[L. Winnicka, W poczekalni nieba. Rozmowy o życiu i śmierci, Warsaw 1999, p. 139.]

Listeners do not necessarily have to realize how something is done, but in order to attract their attention, we need to have some tensions. And this is precisely one of the weaknesses of the so-called avant-garde music, that there are no such tensions, there are spots put next to each other without a conflict or leading to a conflict or its solution.

[J. Cegiełła’s interview with Roman Maciejewski, 29 June 1979.]

I try to leave the present behind. […] I’ve never been one of those artists who pursue the so-called career, very often requiring novelty, with constant desire for change. Changes happen also in art, but only with regard to the means, because human contents remain always the same. After all, we can be moved by Bach today as much as two hundred years ago! No contemporary means move people, if they are devoid of fundamental human features.

[T. Kaczyński, “Rozmowa z Romanem Maciejewskim”, Tygodnik Powszechny, 1961, no. 2.]

The rhythm of my works is certainly my own rhythm, because I start from myself, from the rhythm of my calmly beating, healthy heart. […] In my works I pursue my own breath – long breathing phrases. I set breath length records and I implement these physiological achievements in my music.

[T. Kaczyński, “Rozmowa z Romanem Maciejewskim”, Tygodnik Powszechny, 1961, no. 2.]

When it comes to melody, the predominant elements in my works are long arches illustrating the physiological function of my lungs. I have no inhibitions when writing music and I don’t get tired when choosing the means of expression, which in some sense is a consequence of the right functioning of the liver and other organs.

[T. Kaczyński, “Rozmowa z Romanem Maciejewskim”, Tygodnik Powszechny, 1961, no. 2.]

I’ve never departed from the natural laws of acoustics: from sound with all its structure. I start with a diatonic triad at the bottom; as it goes up, it becomes increasingly chromatic. […] The base of any combination of notes must be clearly defined in the bass in my works. For me there is nothing uglier than densification in the bass leading to a situation in which the basic notes become unrecognisable. My principle of following the laws of acoustics should not be understood as a rigid pattern; like in nature, there are certain deviations in my pieces. But random atonality does not signify a departure from elementary principles. Art should be in harmony with nature, maintaining its independence.

[T. Kaczyński, “W zgodzie z naturą”, Tygodnik Powszechny no. 12, 1995, p. 12.]

A majority of Polish musicians are lost in the labyrinths of boredom and hopelessness, successfully knocking together grey-tone mosaics – an image of the contemporary man confused by the problems caused by technology, which is choking us. Engineers are replacing artists – singing stops, while noise increases – an expression of a physiological arrhythmia of hearts, nervous breakdown and loss of fitness of the spirit and of the body.

[Roman Maciejewski’s letter to Wojciech Maciejewski, 17 April 1969.]