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The First Contemporary Classical Music NFT

The score of V Symphony composed by Maciej Zielinski

V Symphony

            V Symphony (pronounced vi) is in fact only the second symphony in the catalogue of Maciej Zielinski’s work. It goes beyond the catalogue numbering conventions and tries to reach out to the great tradition of the genre, where Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 is not only the pinnacle of the composer’s career, but also, according to E.T.A. Hoffman, “the essence of romanticism”. Suffice to say that the title of Zielinski’s symphony is no accident. The composer evokes both the number 5 and the visual aspect of the Roman letter V.

            In V Symphony Zielinski uses the eponymous digit-letter as the starting point for defining the form and syntax of the work (5 movements, the two outermost parts consisting of 5 episodes divided by 5 harp chords and rising or decreasing number of short accents tutti) as well its time signature (predominantly 5/4). The spatial set-up of the orchestra is also based on the letter V, and the score itself often implements musical gestures that hark back to the shape of the letter and its rotating variations. They are rather easy to notice, e.g. the “undulating” up-down movement of the string instruments in the third movement of the symphony, or divergent flows of brass and woodwind instruments in the first movement.

























Fundamentally, V Symphony is symmetrical, just like the letter V. Fourth movement is a mirror reflection of the second movement, as the fifth is of the first. What is more, while the second movement displays an ascending contour (strings), the fourth movement is characterised by a descending contour, resulting in overall outline of an upside-down letter V. The effect of mirror symmetry is further enhanced through the fact that the abrupt ending of the second movement (the percussionist creates an unexpected loud noise by dropping metal objects to the floor) is then mirrored by a parallel noise at the beginning of the fourth movement.

            Part III is the axis of the symmetrical structure of the symphony, itself not subjected to the laws of the mirror. Most of the pitch material comes from the twelve-tone row, symmetrical in terms of the sequence of intervals and following a melodic contour that reminds the shape of the letter V. The row and its transformations appear in horizontal and vertical structures and its characteristic intervals (tritons and seconds) are always easily recognizable. Importantly, using the dodecaphonic technique by Zielinski is not an attempt to “revive” the historic technique in its original shape, but a conscious method of controlling the distribution of the musical material, a creative transformation of dodecaphony, as witnessed in the works of Witold Lutoslawski.

Zielinski’s V Symphony incorporates numerous interesting and original elements, including what the composer refers to as “parallel tempos”. He creates layers of music, which give an impression of different tempos, despite being written with the same tempo mark. Typically they start together, but soon after one of them slows down or speeds up seemingly. When slowing down is accompanied by lowering of the tone, the effect reminds the listeners of the operation common in electroacoustic music – it sounds like on a slowed-down tape (incidentally, combining electronics with symphonic orchestra is characteristic of Zielinski’s film music). The effect of a delay heard at the end of the first movement and at the opening of the last part is similarly achieved purely through orchestra work.

„V Symphony” is certainly the piece in which I seek my own understanding of postmodernism. [..] I am trying to find a way to combine elements of musical tradition and contemporary musical language.

– writes the composer. Indeed, starting with the title, V Symphony is full of elements of “double coding”, so typical for postmodern art and its ambiguity. For example, the “noise” of the percussion at the end of Part II and at the beginning of Part IV was intended by the composer not just as a truly Haydn-like “surprise” for the listeners, but his idea was also – in his words – “inserting a sort of postmodernist inverted commas”, whereby a rather traditional form of the two parts “gains a new meaning, it becomes a certain echo of the past of the musical tradition”. The close of the work is a true sign of times. It is a memento of an incident that took place at the symphony’s first performance – on the last tone a mobile phone rings. The composer decided to include it in the score as a message that “is consistent with the postmodern feel of the work”.

[…] I think an artist should always look forward and search for new things. It doesn’t have to involve smashing a violin against a chair, but finding something different, not necessarily a ground-breaking discovery, it could be only a tiny invention. I believe the word “creative artist” implies the need to create new things.

said Maciej Zieliński in 2000 (interview: “I look into the future full of hope...”, „Muzyka 21” no 3)

Undoubtedly, the autonomous music of Maciej Zielinski addresses the most crucial challenges of the modern world, starting from the sound language, through means of shaping form and drama, to general aesthetics. V Symphony is a significant example of the development of the individual style of Maciej Zielinski. He presents an interesting technique and expressive discoveries as well as reveals himself as a postmodern composer.


Excerpts from V Symphony album’s booklet note written by Iwona Lindstedt

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