Archive | December, 2012

Tadeusz Woźniak: Pewnego Dnia O Świcie (1974)

19 Dec

Like Zegarmistrz światła two years earlier, and Odcień Ciszy, the title song on the same LP that features it, Pewnego Dnia O Świcie is both a collaboration between Tadeusz Woźniak and Bogdan Chorążuk and a strangely oblique and dream-like song, set to an uptempo musical score that is arguably slightly at odds with its own somnambulant theme. The track was issued on Odcień Ciszy, a consistently strong 1974 LP, and can be heard here. The original Polish lyric (from which this version diverges in all kinds of mostly minor ways at several points, though hopefully in order to more effectively mirror its curious effect in English) can be found here.

Pewnego Dnia O Świcie (One day near dawn)

(after Bogdan Chorążuk/Tadeusz Wozniak, 1974)

One day near dawn cars fell from the sky.
Even as I slept I drove a car away.
The seat was cold. The steering wheel,
the dashboard, smelled of angels.
It happened last June, to someone else, perhaps.

I drove through the streets, passed corners, lamps,
paving stones and shop facades:
I knew their every brick and painted sign.
An illusion, reflected in living glass
where girls sleepwalk or shine like sighs.

Maybe it’s the silence, or an engine’s noise?
One silver car draws so close to us
we catch the pure metal of its machine breath turn.
Lilies of the valley overwhelm all sense
where horizons flourish with narcotic leaves.

And I am moving further, always, further on,
dawn exploding in the windscreen’s glass
at every turn and bend of the road.
Everything happens. I might even meet myself
living other lives I’ve never known.

Maybe it’s the silence, or an engine’s noise?
One silver car draws so close to me
I feel its velocity and momentum fade.
The roads seem clean as white surgeons’ screens
someone, anyway, is already taking down.

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Tadeusz Woźniak: Odcień Ciszy (Muza, 1974)

19 Dec

Issued in 1974, two years after the enormous success of Zegarmistrz Swiatła, the poet Bogdan Chorążuk and musician Tadeusz Woźniak continued their collaboration on a second LP, Odcień Ciszy (Shades of Silence), a recording that often seems to straddle a kind of symphonically scaled emotional impact and some of the inventive structures and ambitions of Progressive Rock, at the height of its international popularity at the time of release. In the lyric here, as elsewhere in Chorążuk and Woźniak’s collaborations, a self-conscious obscurity merges with natural symbols, Chagall-like images of airborne, hair-strung violins and intimations of some kind of transfiguration. The text reminds me a little of Richard Crashaw’s Musick’s Duell, written in the 1640s, mainly owing to certain coincidentally baroque qualities and some apparent similarity of intent in matching text to music: the violins and their symbolic flights, as described by Woźniak’s voice, seem matched by the music’s arrangement, created by Woźniak in collaboration with Henryk Wojciechowski. This suggests the words are intended as a kind of semi abstract tonal colouring, intent on creating atmosphere rather than specific or easily understood meaning. It goes without saying, then, that this version is as much an exercise in intuition and relatively free improvisation on the song’s imagery than anything more literally faithful to the Polish text on which it is based. The full 15m version of Odcień Ciszy can be listened to here while the original Polish lyric can be read here.

Odcień Ciszy (Shades of Silence)

(after Bogdan Chorążuk/Tadeusz Woźniak/Henryk Wojciechowski, 1974)

What was it? How could it happen? Violin clouds flew very high
and their hair-strings woven into the wind
made the quietest of sighs.

A hair-string is night when the moon blooms among evening flowers.
I have been, done much, but own little now –
one small box could hold everything.

I ran, touched by light: the fingers, my eyes, a gleaming fossil field.
The lakes scattered when the sound of silver seemed to live,
when gold encircled swarms of calm.

This is certain: a violin might open its wings above a sleeping lake,
seduce flight to altitudes where nothing’s seen.
There is no time to turn, return,

as sound heads for the setting sun, getting smaller, smaller…
The strings are so many, each one the slightest of sighs
where tension gathers till it resonates.

There is no time. When the hammer strikes low notes in these ears
even the deaf man opens his hands, sees swallows
in flight as a feathered cloud.

There was no time. There is no time now, for the strings are so many,
their cries breaking, like echoes, across the lake
where I live among reeds and fear

and do not move, seem paralysed. There is no time for strings,
camped on the shoreline from daybreak till dawn,
to break their bows or blind thirsty crowds –

and because strings swell from too much height, do not count spaces
between the echo and any hollow note,
there can be no time.

We scythe wind, worms carving wood, hand-knives wet hay,
cut through silence with beaten strings
made helpless by sound.

There is no time to fill these hours. In each instant of sunlit skin
I will not rust time, for there is no time
and I was never here.

There is no time for forests to prepare, resin bursting at each seam,
neither air nor space nor anything either here or there.
There was never time.

I hung the music’s thunder on a hooked bough bleached by light,
felt so thirsty, then, so burned by my own body’s fire
I understood those Saints who loved the poor.

I knew where the days went, how fires ignite with your every move
when you choose to rise. There was never time.
Now I’m walking inside these woods –

trees lean and leaves stroke light. Music’s green and hung on boughs.
Can you hear violins brushing gold hair among leaves?
Behold: stones open when thunder comes.

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Hana Zagorová: Verbíř (Supraphon, 1969)

18 Dec

Like Marta Kubišová’s Balada o kornetovi a dívce, released in the same year, Hana Zagorova’s Verbíř (The Recruiter) is a song that draws on a folk tradition going back beyond the Napoleonic era to feel relevant to almost any situation in which women are left behind by lovers, husbands and sons in times of conflict to reflect on the futility and loss caused by wars over which they have little control. At the time these records were released, at the close of the 1960s, their sentiments would almost certainly have been understood on a very personal level, resonating with both the relatively fresh memories of an older generation that had experienced the Second World War and, perhaps, with the raw experience of the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, which had itself separated many people of younger generations from their own families and partners as many left the country or found themselves unable to return. The original Czech text can be read here and the song itself listened to here.

Verbíř (The Recruiter)

(after Jan Růžička/Drahoslav Volejníček, 1969)

My blood taps its fingers on my body’s wall,
the birds’ dawn chorus is a long croak,
black crows, starlings, dark buzzing flies
where thunder drums stone steps with rain.

A small grey man haunts the town square,
his recruiting song a wind between houses,
a whip’s shadow on the lit windows
where women stand and break like days.

To the fields, the cemeteries, the men go.
There goes my song, too, with a mourning keen.
Listen: my skin’s drum is tightening now
as I hear that shadow call for fresh recruits.

And the sun has fallen back. The fields swell.
Every village hears the galloping horse
pass by some silent corner of an empty house.
In the square, this small gray man sings on.

To the fields, the cemeteries, the men go.
There goes my song, too, with a mourning keen.
There is no man left to owe us anything:
each gave his life and left a woman here.

Now, pale as linen or the morning rose,
white with sorrow as a freshly laundered sheet,
we haunt this village that has no men left,
hear the shadow calling for still more recruits.

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