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.