Polish Music Journal
Vol. 6, No. 2, Winter 2003. ISSN 1521 - 6039

Mater Dolorosa and Maternal Love in the Music of Henryk Górecki

by Maja Trochimczyk [1]

I. Outlining the Terrain

In a recent interview, when answering a question about his links to the country of his origin, Górecki compared a personal connection to one's homeland with the power of maternal bonding: "Even though a child is cut off from the umbilical cord, it is a child of its mother, and, this is, perhaps, the strongest tie. . . There are not many 'renegade' children, 'renegade' mothers who would not admit their kinship, who would reject what is theirs by birth. . . Nobody chooses their time and place of birth."[2]

FIGURE 1: Górecki in his studio in Katowice, April 1998.
Photo by Maja Trochimczyk. See its larger image.

These words evoke the primordial "ecofeminist" metaphor: the earth (land, country, or region) is the mother, the human person is the child, the two are connected by the "strongest tie." Górecki's statements also reflect the traditional view of motherhood according to which an unbreakable bond links the "mother/child dyad" so strongly that it overwhelms the mother's separate personal identity; by becoming a mother every woman is irreversibly transformed and all her aspirations are submerged in her "primary maternal preoccupation."[3] The composer's choice of the maternal metaphor as a final argument in his discussion of cultural belonging, as an image of national, regional, and personal identity, opens a new avenue for the study of his music: an examination of his use of "maternal" imagery, subjects, and myths.

An exquisitely annotated catalogue of Górecki's works, included in Adrian Thomas's recent monograph, enumerates all of the composer's dedications.[4] Thomas mentions two works dedicated "to the memory of my dear mother:" Three Songs, op. 3, for medium voice and piano (composed in January 1956) and Do Matki/Ad matrem, op. 29, for soprano solo, mixed choir, and orchestra, composed over five days in June 1971. These two compositions, and the differences between the images of the maternal love arising from their texts and their musical settings, are an obvious choice for study. However, Górecki's output includes many other pieces connected to the idea of the maternal (see Appendix 1). There are three groups of works celebrating the heavenly motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God: (1) pieces with prayerful texts addressed to Mary, (2) Marian songs, and (3) works with references to Bogurodzica [Mother of God], a 13th-century Marian anthem. Ad matrem again appears on the list, under the first of these subheadings, and it is accompanied by Symphony no. 3, Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, op. 36, for soprano and orchestra (1976), O Domina nostra (Meditations on Our Lady of Jasna Góra), op. 55, for soprano and organ (1982, 1985), and Totus Tuus, op. 60, for mixed chorus a cappella (1987). The choral songs are a testimony to a sincere private devotion and strongly contrast with these monumental testimonials of a public religious commitment. This group consists of the Marian Songs, op. 54, for unaccompanied mixed choir (1985), Pod Twoją Obronę [Under Your Protection], op. 56, for eight-part mixed choir (1985), and some of the twenty-one unpublished Pieśni Kościelne [Church Songs] for mixed choir (1986), based on texts and melodies from Jan Siedlecki's Church Songbook, published in 1928.[5] According to Adrian Thomas, references to Bogurodzica permeate Górecki's output from the 1960s onwards (See Ex. 1: The first line of Bogurodzica): a "motto" motive based on the incipit of this anthem (e.g. D-E-F-E) is used in such diverse works as Songs of Joy and Rhythm (version of 1960), Symphony No. 1 (1959), Miserere op. 44 for unaccompanied mixed choir (1981), and the Harpsichord Concerto, op. 40 (1980; first movement).[6]

EXAMPLE 1: Bogurodzica, as published in Jan Siedlecki, ed., Śpiewnik kościelny
[Church Songbook] (Lwów: Wyd. Ks. Misjonarzy, 1928), 167. See its larger image.

After a further review of Górecki's topics and titles, one could add his lullabies to the list of maternal-related compositions: Kołysanka [Lullaby] for piano, op. 9 (November 1956, rev. June 1980) dedicated "to Jadwiga" (the composer's wife since 1959), Kołysanki i Tańce [Lullabies and Dances], op. 47, for violin and piano (1982; dedicated to the composer's son, Mikołaj), and Trzy Kołysanki/Three Lullabies , op. 49 for unaccompanied mixed choir (1984). Lullabies are a particularly maternal form of music, existing in every culture; moreover, as will be shown later, their expressive and structural characteristics are significant for Górecki's musical portrayals of motherhood.

There is a range of questions about Górecki's images of the maternal. What features of the music are used in his musical representations of motherhood, and to what effects? How is the mother portrayed? Is she an active subject, a person that develops and transforms over the duration of the work? Is she a "good" and happy mother? Do the images of motherhood have stable features in Górecki's output, or do they evolve over the course of his career? Does he accept the models and myths of motherhood that permeate his culture? What could be said about these myths?

II. Feminist Rejection and Affirmation of the Maternal

Studies of cultural representations, models and myths of motherhood are associated primarily with the feminist movement. Radical feminist writers have been very critical of construing motherhood as a woman's main or sole vocation.[7] One of the main difficulties that the feminists experienced with motherhood, and the reason for its rejection, was the ambiguous role of mothers in the transmission of patriarchal values and their apparent compliance with the oppression of women by social systems. Nancy Chodorow, for instance, claimed that the source of this ambiguity resided in the replication of the stereotypes of maternal behavior from one generation to the next.[8] Another group of feminist writers singled out not the biological-social constraints of motherhood as such but the myth of the "perfect mother" as the object of their criticism.[9] As a cultural construct, the maternal can be re-appropriated by authors of feminist theory; Hélčne Cixous and Julia Kristeva, for instance, used the imagery of the birthing process, the bodily states of conception and pregnancy, as well as the mother-child interaction in early post-natal stages for constructing their visions of a new, body-oriented culture.[10] In an essay entitled "Stabat Mater," Kristeva defines the maternal as "an identity catastrophe that causes the Name to topple over into the unnameable that one imagines as femininity, non-language or body."[11] For Kristeva, the maternal is wordless, non-conceptual, bodily, and emotional. She seeks to reaffirm the prelinguistic signification that she associates with the early stages in human development, the physical comfort and wordless emotion of mothering, or, rather, the state of "being mothered" experienced by the new-born "Other," that is, the baby.[12] Unlike Kristeva, whose theoretical feminist writings shift the attention somewhat to the level of a pre-logocentric infant (an approach viable only for certain aspects of Górecki's "maternal" music), American feminists tend to view the maternal from the perspective of the mother, and highly value her active role in this existential state. Sometimes the affirmation of motherhood extends into utopia: feminist theorists posit a return to the idealized societal order of matriarchy, defined as a society in which "all relationships are modelled on the nurturant relationship between a mother and her child."[13]

However, the maternal paradigm may be positively valued even without reaching such extremes. Sara Ruddick, for instance, defined "maternal thinking" as an important type of philosophical thought, differing from all abstract systems by being "holistic, field-dependent, open-ended, not because of any innate sex differences but because that is the kind of thinking her [mother's] work calls for."[14] Ruddick's maternal thinking is the "capacity for attentive love" which serves to "invigorate preservation and enable growth" of individual persons; she borrows the concept of "attention" from the philosophy of Simone Weil.[15] Attentive love is "the supreme respect and concern for all life, the fostering of the development and growth of all human beings."[16] Both men and women may practice this form of thinking, but it arises from the existential experience of motherhood.

We will find traces of such affirmative approach in some of Górecki's texts and his interpretations of these texts. Not that he knows the feminist writings mentioned above and accepts their statements; when hearing the first version of this paper the composer was surprised by the virulence of the feminists' critique of the maternal and by my locating his work in this context.[17] Insights of Ruddick (maternal thinking) and Kristeva (the maternal as wordless, bodily, non-conceptual) will cast light on aspects of the Polish composer's work. Of more importance, though, is his involvement in and relationship to images of the maternal permeating Polish culture. These myths and stereotypes differ considerably from notions put forward by the Western feminists, because motherhood is a culture-based institution. As Shari Thurer explains:[18]

Motherhood—the way we perform mothering—is culturally derived. Each society has its own mythology, complete with rituals, beliefs, expectations, norms and symbols. Our received models of motherhood are not necessarily better or worse than many others [. . .] The good mother is reinvented as each age or society defines her anew, in its own terms, according to its own mythology.

Understanding the ideals of motherhood prevalent in Polish culture is vital for the study of Górecki's representations of the maternal. This is, though, a neglected area: in Poland the maternal mythology has not yet attracted much critical attention. For this reason, it will be useful to try to articulate some main points here.

III. Maternal Imagery in Polish Culture

My thoughts on the subject of maternal imagery are partly rooted in my personal experience: I view the Polish concept of motherhood from the double perspective of an "in/outsider," that is, as an heir to this cultural tradition and a mother, but also as a scholar who now observes Polish culture from North America.[19] It is interesting to note that postwar Polish popular culture was characterized by a wide-spread distrust and rejection of Western feminism.[20] This phenomenon has two main roots: (1) the profound and centuries-old cultural influence of the social doctrine of the Catholic Church, created and furthered by a male-dominated and masculinist hierarchy,[21] and (2) the internalization of the socialist-government-driven critique of American feminism ridiculed by socialist propaganda as an instance of the anarchist struggle to achieve what all women could take for granted in the Polish People's Republic, that is, gender equality in public life.[22] Even the word "feminism" has had negative connotations for many Polish speakers.[23] Only since 1989, after an open backlash against women in the workplace began,[24] have women's "feminist-oriented" voices appeared in various publications.[25] Unfortunately, these texts often mirror Western descriptions of the role of women in a patriarchal system without addressing issues particular to Poland, such as for instance, the apparent acceptance of the status quo by women who are not perturbed by their obvious linguistic invisibility (Polish language uses masculine generics).[26]

The dominant myth of motherhood in Poland is that of the heroic figure of "Matka Polka" [Mother—Polish woman], whose work for the country is as vital as her importance for the family. The esteem for motherhood is connected with the emphasis on the mother's achievements in preserving the Polish language and culture. This gender-paradigm arose during the years of partitions (1795-1918), when the country lost its independence and the family became "the stronghold of national identity."[27] A nineteenth-century allegorical postcard of a woman holding the torch of light for her small children, with an explanatory caption, "Let the survivors not lose hope and let them carry the light of education for the nation," provides the best visual interpretation of this tendency to link the maternal with the patriotic (see Figure 2 below). Thus, the maternal element in culture became particularly prominent through the emphasis on the survival and transmission of Polish cultural values in the homes. During the nineteenth century, the dividing lines in Polish society did not separate the public and the private domain into spheres of fixed gender (male and female); rather, the borderlines were drawn between the family and the community on the one hand (Polish), and the foreign state on the other (the three parts of the divided country were ruled by Russia, Prussia, and Austria).[28] Polish culture was affirmed through an allegiance to, and knowledge of, Polish language, literature, poetry, and music, all of which had a precarious status in public life and thrived in the homes. Thus, national identity was cultivated in the families; women's special role in that process has been widely recognized.[29]

FIGURE 2: Postcard "Niechaj żywi nie tracą nadziei i przed Narodem niosą oświaty kaganiec"
[Let the survivors not lose hope and let them carry the light of education for the nation]
issued by Towarzystwo Szkoły Ludowej [Folk School Society] in Kraków, n.d., c. 1880. See its larger image.

There is also a strong religious factor in the Polish vision of motherhood, based on the predominant position of Mary in the Polish form of Roman Catholicism. Unlike the Catholic churches of North America, where, under the influence of competing Protestant churches, faith in Jesus is often the sole focus of the liturgy, it is hard to find a single Mass celebrated in Poland without any Marian hymns or prayers. The religious calendar is filled with Marian holidays; she is the dedicatee of the months of May ("May services" in honor of Mary), October (the Rosary month), and December (Roraty that is, services on the theme of waiting with the pregnant Mary for the birth of Jesus). In addition, there are sixteen Marian feasts scattered throughout the Church calendar, including the Feast of the Queen of Poland which coincides with the state celebration of the May Third Constitution. In the Polish version of the popular Loreto Litany, Mary is named the Queen of Poland; her images proliferate, she is the subject of songs, poems, and popular devotions.[30] These two models of motherhood, the Heroic Polish Mother (Matka-Polka), and the Mother of God are the most important elements in the Polish concept of the maternal.[31]

FIGURE 3: Our Lady of Jasna Góra - Matka Boska Częstochowska -
icon housed at the Pauline monastery, Częstochowa, Poland. See its larger image.

The venerated image of "Our Lady of Jasna Góra," (Jasna Góra is a Pauline Monastery located in Częstochowa, the destination of yearly pilgrimages), presents Mary as powerful and intensely serious. This heavenly mother has captured the Polish collective imagination so completely that various copies of her image are present in most Polish homes (see Figure 3: Black Madonna).[32] The frontal position of Mary, confronting the viewer with an unflinching gaze, commands feelings of awe and respect; the scars on her cheek are a sign of suffering that she shares with her worshippers. The 13th-century Byzantine icon is very distant from nineteenth-century representations of the Blessed Virgin as a charming and subservient child-mother, looking up to the heavenly Father. However, Mary's portrayal as silent, humble, obedient, and patiently waiting for grace frequently appears in the vast mariological literature, written almost exclusively by priests and male theologians.[33] This Mary, "the Mother of God, but not God, the Mother" has been the subject of much criticism from the Western feminists. Shari Thurer points out the emphasis on Mary's perfect humility and warns that "there is an underside to Mary's selflessness if we consider that Mary has no self, she has no needs of her own."[34] This selfless Mary is "a perfect canvas for our projections;" not a real woman, but an imaginary ideal construed as a model for all mothers. Thurer suggests that while Mary is worshipped, real mothers are often objects of contempt; this duality informs the main problem with the maternal, that is its distance from, and the influence upon, real human life.[35] In Poland, such ambivalence towards Mary is uncommon. Her image juxtaposes several ideals of womanhood: a powerful, heavenly queen, a suffering mother, a perfect nurturer, an innocent virgin, a humble servant, and a superhuman being excluded from the common fate of all humans—the birthmark of original sin—by virtue of her Immaculate Conception. What aspects of this complex mosaic have captured the imagination of Henryk Górecki?

IV. Górecki's Madonnas

While the equation of Polishness with Catholicism is an oft-repeated, though strongly contentious statement, the cultural uniformity of post-war Poland, with seriously limited minority populations of Jews, Ukrainians, Byelorussians, and Germans, has led to a prominence of Catholic symbols in the country's social life (90 percent of contemporary Poles define themselves as Catholic).[36] Sociological studies have found that a nation's dominant and unified religious environment affects the religious beliefs of its citizens to a much greater extent than their personal background and parental influences.[37] Therefore, the traits of the Polish brand of Roman Catholicism could be a significant factor in the formation of Górecki's understanding of the maternal: he is a deeply devout man whose profound attachment to his faith has often been commented upon.[38] The strong adherence to Catholicism and a high degree of personal religiosity is apparent in Górecki's public statements and aesthetic beliefs, in the choice of his texts and occasions for which he has composed music. One could mention here the commission of Beatus vir dedicated to Pope John Paul II, or the circumstances of Miserere written after clashes between Solidarity supporters and security police in Bydgoszcz.[39] Górecki's home is filled with folk paintings and sculptures on religious themes, including reproductions of the Black Madonna of Częstochowa and folk sculptures of the "sorrowful Christ" [Chrystus frasobliwy].

His library is stocked with texts by Polish poets who express strong religious sentiments in their writings, e.g. Juliusz Słowacki, Cyprian Norwid, and Maria Konopnicka. The composer's Christian faith is closely connected to his aesthetic creed and he is particularly fond of Andrei Tarkovski's statement that "art is prayer."[40] In his acceptance speech upon being awarded an honorary doctorate at the Catholic University of America in Washinton, DC, 28 February 1995, Górecki states that authentic artists know that their art is nothing else "but the reflection of God's beauty."[41] Many of his works explicitly focus on the sacred subject matter, particularly the devotion to Mary.

Let us first review the texts of his choral songs, including Marian Songs (1985) and Church Songs (1986), as well as Under Your Protection (1985). The last work on this list is a setting of a popular prayer addressed to Mary, the "holy Mother of God" who is the Mediatrix between the people and her divine Child. This prayer, and the remaining Marian songs, present an image of Mary as a Mediatrix, Protectrix, and Queen of a status equal to her Son. She was removed from this elevated position by the subsequent documents of the Church, including the texts of Vatican II. In Siedlecki's Songbook, the source material for many of Górecki's choral songs, Mary is the addressee of 80 songs (plus 20 other chants constituting parts of specific services and 8 texts without melodies). In comparison, the Songbook includes 40 songs addressed to the Most Holy Sacrament (Eucharist), 27 Lenten songs, 16 Easter songs, 15 Advent songs, and only four songs each for the Pentecost and for the Holy Trinity.

Two songs from Górecki's Marian collection (op. 54) are addressed to "Mother of God, the Refuge of Sinners" in Siedlecki's Songbook; the third song is a version of "Hail Mary," the fourth expresses the pilgrim's sorrow at leaving the sanctuary in Częstochowa, and the last one is a contemplation of her Immaculate Conception. The twenty one unpublished Church Songs include seven texts to and about Mary who should "be praised a thousand times" (no. 11) as the "Lady of the World" (no. 6) and the "merciful Mother" of all the faithful (no. 10, no. 2). She is "all-powerful in heaven and on earth" (Marian Songs, no. 1); she is worshipped for her purity exemplified in her Immaculate Conception, and for her assumption to heaven (Marian Songs, no. 5).[42] Her maternal genealogy extends to the previous generation; Górecki's Church Songs include a setting of the only song in praise of St. Anne included in Siedlecki's Songbook, "Welcome Lady, Mother of the Mother of Lord Jesus" (no. 5). The images of Mary appearing in these texts fuse into the figure of a powerful Queen-Mother.

The Church Songs begin with an Advent song from Siedlecki's collection[43] (an expanded version of Hail Mary; no. 1) and continue with an explicit celebration of Mary's motherhood which is extended, after the death of Jesus, to all believers (no. 2, "Let us go hugging, like children"). The latter song, addressed to Mary's "heart, goodness itself" enumerates the features of her perfect motherhood: her concern for all her children, her unbounded love and forgiveness, her patience and sweet gentleness. While focusing their attention on the heavenly mother the believers express a child-like simplicity and trust in Mary's all-embracing protection; similar feelings underlie another of Górecki's favourite religious texts, "Already it is Dusk."[44] According to Shari Thurer, the Blessed Virgin Mary may be described as "one of few female characters to have attained the position of archetype [. . . She is] the perfect nurturer. She stands for maternity itself."[45] Mary 's right to universal motherhood is based on her suffering at the bottom of the Cross where her "heart has been pierced by the sword of sorrow" (Marian Songs, no. 2, "Most holy Mother!"; a similar phrase appears in Church Songs, no. 2, "Idźmy, tulmy się, jak dziatki"). It is her grief and co-suffering with Jesus that endows her with redemptive powers. This important image of mater dolorosa emerged in the Middle Ages; the phrase itself comes from a sequence, Stabat Mater which has been set to music by many composers, including one of Górecki's favorites, Karol Szymanowski. Number 15 of the Church Songs, "Witaj Jutrzenko" [Hail, Morning Star], remains incomplete, probably because of its allusions to the political power of the icon of the Black Madonna of Częstochowa, an image to which all monarchs of the world were supposed to bow down.

However, the victorious Lady of the Bright Mount is a subject of Górecki's important "public" work: O Domina nostra (Meditations on Our Lady of Jasna Góra), op. 55, for soprano and organ (1982, 1985). This composition was conceived as a celebration of the 600th anniversary of the Black Madonna. The 35-minute work is an enormous supplication and mantra-like recitation of the holy names (see Ex. 2: Text of O Domina nostra with all the repetitions). The three-part piece begins with a quiet invocation to "Our Lady" whose immense power and transcendent glory provide inspiration for the revelatory climax of the central section ("Claromontana Victoriosa Regina nostra MARIA").[46] The overall formal outline could be described as a symmetric ABA' form which includes an abbreviated return of the initial segment of the piece; there are eight repetitions of "Domina" in section A and five in section A'. The musical setting highlights the textual meaning by repetition: eight successive occurrences of "Domina" in the first section are followed by two repetitions of "Maria," five of "Domina" and fifteen of "nostra." The composer affirms the sovereign authority of Mary before naming her "our" Lady; his text also alludes to Christ-centered prayers, often beginning with the word "Domine."

EXAMPLE 2: Text of Górecki's O Domina nostra with all the repetitions. See its larger image.

After the outburst of exultant joy in the dramatic center of the piece, the music features a prayer-like section of monotone quasi-recitation ("Sancta Maria—ora pro nobis") followed by the tranquil, plaintive invocation, a repeated call upon the "Domina." By its insistent recurrences the last word becomes less an assertion of the fact, than a humble request to Mary to be truly "ours" and to extend her maternal protection to all of her children. Górecki's spelling of MARIA with upper case lettering (used in the central, dramatic section of the piece), places a special emphasis on her name; he uses similar differentiation of upper and lower case in other works, such as Totus Tuus. In this extended meditation on the mystery of the Black Madonna, her only attribute is that of victorious Queen. It is interesting to note that this attribute is assigned twelve invocations in the closing segment of the Loreto Litany, the textual model for O Domina nostra. In Górecki's piece she is described neither as a mother (twelve invocations in the Litany), nor as a virgin (seven invocations). The final phrases quote the Loreto Litany and allude to its Polish version which includes a petition to the Queen of Poland. The connection to the Litany is established by the use of a direct quotation ("Sancta Maria—ora pro nobis" appearing twice) and the symmetrical layout of the text mirroring the responsorial form of the Litany. In the composer's original text, printed on the first page of the score, Mary's royal attributes are paired: "Claromontana—Victoriosa." As in other works with brief texts, especially Totus Tuus and Ad matrem, the many symmetries in the textual source are obbliterated in the musical setting. Here, the composer highlights Mary's sovereign ladyship, her royal power, her strength; our childlike dependence on her protection is suggested through the quiet, melodic repetitions of the word "nostra."

Mary, our Queen, becomes Mary, the Mother of the World, in another "public" choral work, Totus Tuus [All yours], op. 60, for mixed chorus a cappella (1987), dedicated to Pope John II on the occasion of "his third pilgrimage to his homeland." The text consists of a five-line Latin miniature by Maria Bogusławska:

Totus Tuus sum, Maria, I'm all Yours, Maria,
Mater nostri Redemptoris. Mother of our Redeemer.
Virgo Dei, Virgo pia. Virgin of God, Pious Virgin.
Mater mundi Salvatoris. Mother of the world's Saviour.
Totus Tuus sum, Maria! I'm all Yours, Maria!

The phrase Totus Tuus is the motto of Pope John Paul II to whom this work has been dedicated. Górecki focuses attention on "the Name of the Mother"—to paraphrase Julia Kristeva—that is, the dyad Maria/Mater (see Example 3: Textual repetitions in Totus Tuus). The forty repetitions of "Maria" and twenty of "Mater" are irregularly distributed through the piece.[47] The remaining words assure her of the caller's complete, unconditional devotion: "totus tuus sum."

EXAMPLE 3: Text of Górecki's Totus Tuus with all the repetitions. See its larger image.

Górecki tellingly alternates dramatic exclamations of the name MARIA (in upper case letters; see Ex. 4: Invocations to Mother/Mary in Totus Tuus and Ad matrem), with tender settings of descriptive phrases, defining her characteristics: "Mater nostri, Virgo Dei." The Pope's motto, Totus Tuus, appears in slow rhythmic figures, with the pace evocative of relaxed breathing, and with consonant harmonies of traditional hymn settings.[48] The block chords of these tranquil, pensive sections of the work contrast with folk-inspired incantations of the holy name of MARIA that begin both sections of the work (see Ex. 4). The textual repetitions highlight her maternal rather than her virginal features: she is "Mother of our Redeemer," but primarily the "Mother of the World." Górecki's choice of repeated phrases pointedly focuses the listener's attention on Mary's universal motherhood. In each appearance of the phrase "Mater mundi Salvatoris" [Mother of the world's Savior], "Mater mundi" is repeated three times before the word "Salvatoris" shifts the meaning. This musical interpretation of Bogusławska's text could be translated as: "Mother of the world, Mother of the world, Mother of the world's Savior." The maternal appeal of Mary, who is the surrogate, perfect mother of all the faithful, knows no bounds. The work disappears into silence with twelve repetitions of her name: "Maria, Maria, Maria..."

EXAMPLE 4a: Invocation to Mother/Mary in Ad matrem, op. 29. © Copyright 1972 by PWM Edition, Kraków, Poland. Used by permission in all the countries listed below, except the United States. Transferred 1998 to Chester Music Limited. U.S. Renewal Right assigned to Boosey & Hawkes, Inc. © 1998 by Chester Music Limited for the World except United States, Poland, Albania, Bulgaria, China, Croatia and the Rest of the Territory of Former Yugoslavia, Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam, Romania, Hugary, The Territories of Former Czechoslovakia and The Whole Territory of the Former U.S.S.R. Sub-Published for North America excluding the USA by Boosey & Hawkes, Inc. Reprinted by permission. See its larger image.

EXAMPLE 4b: Invocation to Mother/Mary in Totus Tuus, op. 60. © Copyright 1988 by Boosey & Hawkes Music Publishers Ltd.
for the World except Poland, Albania, Bularia, China, Yugoslavia, Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam, Romania, Hungary, Czech Republic,
and the former territories of the U.S.S. R. Reprinted by permission of Boosey & Hawkes, Inc.
© Copyrigh 1988 by PWM Edition, Krakow, Poland for the territories listed above. Used by permission. See its larger image.

The endless recurrences of the Holy Name in both works, Totus Tuus and O Domina nostra, bring existential associations of a two-fold nature, connected to religion and maternal behaviour. The first type of gestural similarity relates the two works on "sacred" subject matter to their cultural context, that is, the use of repeated textual patterns in prayer, including the Litanies (especially the Loreto Litany as mentioned above, but also the Rosary), and the mantra-like "Prayer of Jesus" recited in the breathing rhythm of "IN—Jesus Christ, Son of God" and "OUT—Have mercy on me, a sinner." The recitation of prayers on one tone (as in plainchant's psalmody) is directly quoted in the section "Sancta Maria—ora pro nobis" in O Domina nostra and with the words of Hail Mary ("Zdrowaś Mario, Łaskiś Pełna") in the second movement of Symphony No. 3.

The second type of cultural association refers to the use of repetition in the linguistic practice of very young children and in the childhood genre, the lullaby. There is an urgent need for the reassurance of love in a child's repeated calls on mother's name; there is a soothing tranquility in the redundancy of the excessive recurrences of the same word, nonsense syllable, or phrase in her responses, which include comforting gestures and the singing of the lullaby. It is the repetitiveness and simplicity of lullabies, noted by researchers, that distinguishes them from other types of songs.[49] Górecki's repetitions share certain traits with the genre of the lullaby, and serve to evoke similar emotional responses. I will elaborate on this point at the end of this paper.

V. "To My Dear Mother": Three Songs and Ad matrem

So far, we have briefly examined some of Górecki's music with religious themes, addressed to the heavenly Queen and Mother, Mater dolorosa. These works arise from the composer's commitment as a religious man, a son of the Catholic Church; his basic existential position, that of a son, is reflected in two compositions dedicated to his own mother. He kept an old photograph of her next to his writing desk and for years refused to repaint the studio because there was an image of a heart accidentally created on the old walls right under the mother's portrait.

FIGURE 4: Portrait of Górecki's mother in his Katowice studio.
Photo by Maja Trochimczyk, April 1998. See its larger image.

It is my contention that Górecki's representations of motherhood in general, have much to do with his relationship to his mother, Otylia Górecka (née: Słota, 1909-1935): he was exactly two years old when she died at the young age of twenty-six.[50] According to psychological studies, an early loss of a parent, mother or father, has an irrevocable effect on the child, causing life-long suffering but also giving rise to profound insights.[51] The research of Hope Edelman suggest that, even if the mother died in labor and the child never knew her, there is a feeling of loss, emptiness, and longing, often not for the real person but for the idealized, perfect parent.[52] Such feelings underlie the texts of Górecki's works dedicated to the memory of his mother.

The early Three Songs, op. 3, for medium voice and piano (composed in January 1956), express filial grief in a straightforward manner. Górecki selected two mournful texts by a Romantic poet, Juliusz Słowacki (1809-1849), "Do Matki" [To Mother] and "Jakiż to dzwon grobowy" [What Was This Sepulchral Bell], and concluded the cycle with "Ptak" [The Bird], by Julian Tuwim (1894-1953).[53] It is a surprising choice of texts, for the composer juxtaposes the darkest despair of Słowacki's fragments with the whimsical joy of Tuwim's charming miniature (see Appendix 2: Three Songs: Texts and translations). The two excerpts from Słowacki's poetry, written after the death of the poet's mother, Salomea Słowacka, describe the son's ominous dreams of being left alone, his nightmare of a last farewell fixed in the memory (no. 1), and the horrid reality of the funeral, when the son carrying the coffin is "tormented by black despair; covered by black mourning" (no. 2). In contrast, Tuwim's "The Bird" portrays a fleeting moment of nature's capricious beauty: a bird alighting on a twig, then flying away with song; "the swinging twig / still shudders with joy / that the bird made her dance so."

EXAMPLE 5: Descending "death" motive in the second song from Three Songs, Op. 3. © Copyright 1972 by PWM Edition, Kraków, Poland. Used by permission in all the countries listed below, except the United States. Transferred 1998 to Chester Music Limited. © 1998 by Chester Music Limited for the World except United States, Poland, Albania, Bulgaria, China, Croatia and the Rest of the Territory of Former Yugoslavia, Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam, Romania, Hugary, The Territories of Former Czechoslovakia and The Whole Territory of the Former U.S.S.R. See its larger image.

The Słowacki songs are filled with traditional musical gestures of sorrow and mourning. These symbols of grief include slow tempi, low registers, descending melodic patterns, and a preponderance of minor chords, dissonances, and, especially, "weeping" motives of descending minor seconds. One of the sorrowful gestures in the second song is of particular interest because of its subsequent prominence in the oeuvre of Górecki's older colleague, Witold Lutosławski. While researching Lutosławski's portrayals of the topos of death I have noticed that, from the Funeral Music onwards (1956-58), the motive of a descending minor second coupled with a tritone can be understood as Lutosławski's preferred musical symbol of death and mourning.[54] Górecki's song, "Jakiż to dzwon," presents an unequivocal association of the descending tritonal motive with the mournful subject matter, made obvious in the work's opening measures. (Ex. 5: Descending "death" motive in Three Songs, no. 2).

According to Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, the emotional state of someone who lost their loved one (or someone facing their own death) evolves through the stages of disbelief, anger and rejection, grief and despair, and, finally, reconciliation with the inevitability of this personal loss.[55] A similar trajectory towards a sublimation of grief and acceptance of life "as it is" underlies the emotional framework in several of Górecki's works, beginning with the Three Songs. After the heavy chords, slow tempi, and descending patterns in the first two of these songs, portraying the moment of the mother's death, the finality of her departure, and the despair felt during the funeral, the delicate textures and faster tempi of "The Bird" bring a fleeting moment of comfort.

Tuwim's lighthearted poem is well-known in Polish elementary schools, since it is required reading in the course of Polish literature, and students have to memorize it and recite it in class. As such it may serve as a symbol of a happy childhood and the development of a child's abilities. However, since in Christian iconography the bird is a common symbol of the soul,[56] it is not difficult to interpret the protagonists of Tuwim's poem as symbols of the beloved mother (the bird) and her abandoned child (the twig). The contagious excitement of the little bird made the bush dance and swing with joy long after the bird flew away. Similarly, the young, happy mother shared the joy of living with her child until she disappeared. The sudden end of her brief, intensely-felt presence left a gaping wound in the child's psyche. The orphaned child's loss will never be reversed, but it is possible to find comfort in remembering past joys.

This absent, beloved, mother is Górecki's third main image of motherhood, again associated with sorrow. The conceptual connections between the maternal imagery and the sorrowful subject matter are an important element in Górecki's music, especially in two works to which I would like next to turn attention, Ad matrem and the Symphony No. 3.

Ad matrem/Do Matki, op. 29, for soprano solo, mixed choir, and orchestra (1971), was composed very quickly over a period of five days in June 1971. While its dedication to the memory of his mother resembles that of the Three Songs, a brief comparison of the two pieces reveals Górecki's growing capability to sublimate and transcend his painful experiences, his ability to transform sorrow into art. In the Three Songs Górecki relies on the conventional, rhetorical means of musical expression; the textual repetition is scant and the texts are not yet pared down to the essentials. Two decades later the composer is able to reach the level of archetypes with simplicity and stark sonic contours of Ad matrem, a work using extremely brief textual excerpts from the medieval sequence Stabat Mater. Górecki selected only two attributes of Mary from the first lines of the sequence, framing them with invocations addressed to his mother: "MATER MEA LACRIMOSA DOLOROSA LACRIMOSA MATER MEA" [My mother, full of tears, full of pain, full of tears, my mother]. All the words are in upper case lettering, without punctuation signs; this typographic choice suggests the vocal mode of calling or screaming, loudly and breathlessly, without end.

EXAMPLE 6: Text and its presentation in Ad matrem, op. 29. See its larger image.

The written out textual repetitons of "MATER MEA" emphasize the axial symmetry in the layout of this sparse text (See Ex. 6: Text and voices in Ad matrem). This perfectly symmetrical text resembles the ternary design of the Kyrie of the Pre-Vatican-II Latin liturgy: "Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison," each section having three repetitions. In both texts, the frame of calling upon the omnipotent power surrounds the invocation of suffering. In the text of the Kyrie, the opening prayer of "Lord, have mercy" is addressed to Kyrios [The Lord; Pantokrator]; similarly, Ad matrem begins by calling upon the maternal power of "MATER MEA." The central position in the Kyrie is taken by the prayer for mercy to the anointed Christos, who was chosen to undergo the redemptive experience of passion, death, and resurrection. In a close analogy, the central portion of Górecki's text for Ad matrem consists of two adjectives describing the suffering mother's unique features, her "oil of anointment." She is tearful and filled with pain, she is the "Mater dolorosa" of the Stabat Mater sequence, she is the "sorrowful Benedictrix" portrayed in medieval paintings with the sword of sorrow piercing her heart.

It is a stroke of Górecki's genius that his musical setting does not mirror this tripartite symmetry; the composer divides the work into two main parts, based on the expressive modes of what could be dubbed invocation and contemplation. The short, repeated choral cry of anguish, suggestive of the extreme intensity of pain ("MATER MEA"), that appears in the first part of the work gives way to a quietly recited prayer in the conclusion. Górecki articulates this contrast by means of vocal setting and dynamics: in the first part the full choir sings massive chords forte fortissimo (ffff); in the second, the delicate voice of the solo soprano dissolves into silence (see Ex. 7). It would be easy to categorize this work as yet another religious composition on a Marian theme, a piece of interest solely for Catholics and historians of the music of the Catholic Church. Yet, the startling instrumental textures of this work create images reaching beyond Catholic dogma, into the realm of universal, human experience.

EXAMPLE 7: Fragment of Ad matrem, op. 29, rehearsal no. 5. © Copyright 1975 by PWM Edition, Kraków, Poland. Used by permission in all the countries listed below, except the United States. Transferred 1998 to Chester Music Limited. U.S. Renewal Right assigned to Boosey & Hawkes, Inc. © 1998 by Chester Music Limited for the World except United States, Poland, Albania, Bulgaria, China, Croatia and the Rest of the Territory of Former Yugoslavia, Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam, Romania, Hugary, The Territories of Former Czechoslovakia and The Whole Territory of the Former U.S.S.R. Sub-Published for North America excluding the USA by Boosey & Hawkes, Inc. See its larger image.

What are we to make of the work's opening, with its extended, fast-paced bass drum beats culminating in a brutal dissonance of "screaming" woodwind and brass (see Ex. 7: Fragment of Ad matrem, rehearsal no. 5)? The harsh tritone sonorities are repeated four times before a moment of silence. Soon, the relentless drumming resumes its steady pulse.[57] Again, two momentary silences punctuate the unidimensional texture of pulsating crescendi which lead to startling explosions of nightmarish, dissonant sonorities (See Ex. 8: Sectional formal outline of Ad matrem). The loudest instrumental paroxysm is transformed into words: with one voice, with one anguished outburst, the choir calls upon "MATER MEA" (rehearsal no. 12). All the voices in unison, at the maximum dynamic level, sing a plaintive motive based on the mournful interval of the minor second (E—F—E); this outcry is startling and almost too short to be fully grasped and appreciated. As it is heard against the tritone-based brass interjections, the coupling of the semitone and the tritone (that I pointed out in the Three Songs) again suggests the presence of the musical language of death and suffering. This exclamation is followed by a silence (a general pause of three successive fermatas) from which a new texture soon arises, permeated by the gentle sonorities of the flute, harp and strings (rehearsal no. 13). The tenderness and tranquillity of the new material is captured in the justly famous extreme markings of "tranquilissimo—cantabilissimo—dolcissimo—affettuoso e ben tenuto e LEGATISSIMO," which provide a polar opposition to the "ritmico—marcatissimo—energico—furioso—con massima passione e grande tensione" assigned to the opening drum patterns.

EXAMPLE 8: Sectional formal outline of Ad matrem, op. 29
(details measured in quarter notes). See its larger image.

This is, though, not the only expressive contrast in Ad matrem. Throughout the central segment of the work, gentle moments of respite alternate with sombre sections marked molto lento. In the latter fragments, voluminous, dark sound masses (based on a sustained harmonic interval of a major second, D-flat—E-flat, in the double basses) support a sinuous, lamenting cello melody. The emotive textures shift between these two modes of tranquility and sorrow until the reappearance of the drum pulsation with dramatic brass tritones at the climax of the work. As before, the drumming leads to the poignant choral exclamation; this expressive apex is followed by a pause of five consecutive fermatas. In the final segment of Ad matrem a sustained pitch C slowly arises from nothingness, first at the dynamic level of ppppp, then pppp, ppp, pp, to become truly audible when the solo soprano intones her plea. The vocal part seems to be very easy since the melody is built from only one rhythmic value, the half note, and it circulates in the narrow range of just three distinct pitches, A-flat—G—F. However, this simple melodic recitation calls for a touch of magic to be truly effective in performance.[58]

The text of Ad matrem articulates the existential position of the child addressing the mother. This mother, though, is simultaneously "my mother" and "the Mother of God" described in the Stabat Mater, the Latin source of Górecki's text. Both images, of the human and the heavenly motherhood, blend: is the tearful mother the one that suffered and died? Is she the one at the bottom of the Cross? The expressive power of Ad matrem relies, in part, on this ambiguity. I will take this polyvalency of meaning one step further by interpreting the opening, startling instrumental and vocal gestures of Ad matrem in the light of several maternal metaphors, all linked to suffering.

The first of these images is the representation of the birth process. The quick pulsation of the bass drum evokes a rapid heartbeat, the sudden tritone interventions—with their high levels of sensory dissonance—mirror stabbing pain, the overall temporal envelope of successive waves of sound interrupted by moments of silence resembles the pattern of pain and rest experienced in labor. A mother while giving birth alternates between feelings of an unbearable, throbbing pain of contractions which overwhelm her whole body, and moments of relief where the pain recedes into the background and she gathers strength for another onslaught of suffering. She rests and experiences the ultimate release mixed with joy only after the birth of the child.

But what about the drum pattern of over 260 beats per minute? This rapid pulsation is a homology to the terrible, pulsating pain in the woman's body, and to the intense fluttering of the baby's tiny heart, at birth highly exceeding its normal rate of 140-160 beats. The introductory instrumental passage of Ad matrem would then suggest the qualitative elements of the experience of the birth process by the newborn child, whose stressful emergence into consciousness is a birth into language. It is hard not to hear the choral exclamation "MATER MEA" as an image of the first cry of a newborn child, of every human child. This is a collective cry coming from all of "us." Simultaneously, yet another metaphor arises from this simple sequence of stark percussive sounds. The fast-paced, heavy pounding of the bass drum may be heard as suggestive of the stifling breathlessness of a nightmare. The dramatic outcry, "MATER MEA," could then express the painful shock at the realization of the mother's death, a cry of despair followed by a silence pregnant with meaning, filled with tender memories and tearful recollections of the past . . .

I believe that Ad matrem's expressive power rests on its simultaneous reference to birth and death; the work celebrates the sorrowful confluence of both ultimate events of human life. The experience of motherhood is, in Ad matrem, suspended between the extremes of stabbing pain and tranquil joy, the poles of agony and internal gladness. The melody of the solo soprano in the final segment of the piece arises from the silence "after the pain," and dissipates into the tranquillity of motionlessness (the final annotation in the score reads "Absolutely no movement in the orchestra"). The composer interlocks all these images in one sequence of linearly juxtaposed sound blocks, carving their contours with utmost care.

Górecki's works suggest, as no other music composed in Poland after World War II, an understanding of motherhood that draws upon the basic experiences of human life. His emphasis on sorrow more closely approximates the real-life experiences of mothers than the flowery descriptions of blessed motherhood encountered in so many of the texts criticized by feminist writers.

VI: Mater Dolorosa and Maternal Thinking: Symphony No. 3

The best-known appearance of the image of Mater dolorosa in Górecki's music occurs in Symphony no. 3, Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, op. 36 (1976).[59] This work is Górecki's most powerful essay combining the themes of motherhood and death, images of human and heavenly motherhood. The texts of this work juxtapose the image of eternal suffering (of crucified Jesus and His Mother in the first movement) with two embodiments of this transcendental Passion in human history: the torment of a young prisoner during World War II (second movement), and the lament of a mother grieving the death of her son (third movement). The temporal framework of during—before—after death, coupled with the symmetrical design of the suffering mother—child—mother, unites the work beyond the superficial similarity of slow tempi and quietly sorrowful expression of the three movements.[60]

FIGURE 5: Folk sculpture of "Mater dolorosa" on the cover of Górecki's Symphony No. 3.
Copyright 1977 by PWM Edition, Kraków, Poland. Used by permission. See its larger image.

In the first movement, a frame of two monumental canons for strings surrounds the plea of the Mater dolorosa addressed to her dying Son. She reminds him of her love, of their closeness in the past, and breaks off with the words "you are leaving me now, my dearest hope"—set to a slowly ascending melodic line in the Phrygian mode, a mode traditionally associated with grief. Her text comes from a fifteenth-century Polish Lenten poem belonging to the textual tradition of Stabat Mater, the locus classicus of the "dolorosa" imagery. A Polish poet, Halina Poświatowska, described this sorrowful image of Mary in her Lenten Legend, concluding with the words:[61]

then—it is said— she ascended into heaven
but equally well she could have descended into pain
it was so deep.

The profundity of Mary's pain is suggested in Górecki's Symphony by musical means—quietly intense sonorities, relentless pulsation of slow meters, huge dimensions of repetitive material. Her voice appears in the music in a monumental frame of two instrumental canons, the sheer span of which suggests the abyss of eternity. The enormous scope of the design, the persistent repetitiveness and austere restraint of the music—arising from silence and darkness, then receding again, after the brief and sorrowful apparition—point beyond the realm of temporality. Although the representation of eternity in time is, strictly speaking, impossible—for, to quote St. Augustine, in eternity "all is at once present, whereas no time is all at once present" (Confessions, Book 11, Chapter 11)—musical portrayals of timelessness often feature vast dimensions, extreme slowness of tempo, repetitiveness, canonic designs, and so forth. Here, Górecki's Symphony no. 3 draws from the rich Western heritage of musical symbolism. His objective is to create a sphere of "sacred time"—as he explained to student musicians during rehearsals for the first North American performance of Symphony no. 3 conducted by the composer himself (during the Górecki Autumn at the University of Southern California, October 1997).[62] As the composer said, he would like to take his listeners from "the basement of everyday life, filled with noises, distractions and anxieties, to the tenth floor, or even to the sky of timelessness." This sacred sphere is dedicated, in the Catholic universe, to the contemplation of the divine mysteries, a prime position among which is taken by the suffering and glory of Jesus and his holy Mother.

The second movement of Symphony no. 3 brings the spiritual matter down to earth; the text reverses the dialogic orientation, as it is directed from the child to the mother. After much searching the composer selected an inscription scribbled on the prison wall in 1944 by the eighteen-year old Helena Wanda Błażusiak, a young Gestapo prisoner from Zakopane. During rehearsals at the University of Southern California the composer explained to the soprano, Elizabeth Hynes:[63]

I would like to add something here about this inscription. In prison, the whole wall was covered with inscriptions screaming out loud: "I'm innocent" "Murderers" "Executioners" "Free me" "You have to save me" —it was all so loud, so banal. Adults were writing this, while here it is an 18-year-old girl, almost a child. And she is so different. She does not despair, does not cry, does not scream for revenge. She does not think about herself; whether she deserves her fate or not. Instead, she only thinks about her mother: because it is her mother who will experience true despair. This inscription was something extraordinary. And it really fascinated me: "Mother, do not cry, no. The purest Queen of Heaven, you always support me. Hail Mary." Here the inscription ended and I added: "You are full of grace." Not "Full of grace" as it is in the prayer, but "You are full of. . ."

I would like to comment on two aspects of this explanation: (1) Górecki's sensitivity to the young girl's "maternal thinking," and (2) his emphasis on Mary's maternal perfection, her "fullness of grace." Helena's words are a testimony to the maturity of her "attentive love" (See Ruddick's theory mentioned above) reflected in her concern for the well-being of others. The maternal thinking of the young daughter makes her share the pain suffered by her mother; she is mature enough, maternal enough to be that compassionate.

The inscription on the wall included only the first phrase of Hail Mary. Górecki's addition continues the prayer with "Full of grace." There is one difference between this phrase in the original prayer and in the Górecki quote: the composer makes the text more symmetrical by adding "ś" to the ending of the word "Łaski" [grace, second case]. This one-letter change, an archaism and an abbreviation, is of great significance for Górecki representation of Mary as the source of existence:

Zdrowa(jeste)ś Mario
Łaski(jeste)ś pełna
Healthy you are, Mary
Grace, you are full of

This condensed play on words emphasizes "the fullness of being" as an important attribute of Mary. The musical setting focuses on the contemplation of this mystery by the prayerful girl: this is why the text is divided into individual words, separated by pauses in the vocal part. By doing so, explains Górecki,[64] the music mirrors the inwardness, the hesitation of someone lost in thought, of someone hoping to receive at least a little of Mary's "fullness" in order to survive the ordeal.

Helena's initial words, "Mamo, nie płacz" [Mama, don't cry], seem to supply Christ's response to the unanswered plea of Mary at the bottom of the Cross. Yet, the girl's beseeching is initially addressed to her own mother, not Mary. After calling upon her mother several times, Helena shifts her attention to the heavenly Queen. The closeness of the natural and the heavenly motherhood is articulated by the music. The singer makes the transition from "Mamo" [Mommy] to "Niebios przeczysta Królowo" [The purest Queen of Heaven] on the same pitch, as smoothly as possible. Only the shift of the underlying harmony highlights the change.

The repeated invocations constitute gentler variants of the calling motives ("wołanie") addressed to Mother/Maria in O Domina nostra, Ad matrem, and Totus Tuus. In all these works the calling is followed not by an answer from the being that has been called, but by a shift in the mode of utterance, from invocation to contemplation, from an expression of an urgent need to tranquil prayer. The model for these dialogic formal designs can be seen in the responsorial dialogues of actual Church prayers, litanies, and so forth. I have already pointed out that the text of O Domina nostra is designed as such a dialogue, though the symmetries are destroyed by the musical setting. I have also compared the distinction between "MARIA"—"Maria" phrases in Totus Tuus (1985) to responsorial forms of litanies, and to the breath-based, mantra-like "Prayer of Jesus." It is remarkable, in the latter choral work, that the dramatic "MARIA" does not return in the final segment: there is no reason to return to its emotional intensity after reaching the equilibrium amidst the repetitions of the same name, uttered quietly, fading away into stillness. In Totus Tuus the invocation serves to introduce both parts of the work, which then concludes in prayer. Beatus vir, op. 38 (1979) has a similar dramatic opening addressed to "Domine," but its form is much more complicated. In O Domina nostra (1982), the prayerful call upon "Domina" permeates the whole work, with dramatic exclamations of "Claramontana—Victoriosa" and prayer fragments "Sancta Maria—ora pro nobis" embedded in this layer of beseeching.

All the mature "maternal" works by Górecki (excluding the Three Songs) contain versions of similar, paired gestures of calling out—contemplating within, of an invocation answered by a prayer. Górecki also uses this bipartite model as a basis for large-scale form, starting with Ad matrem (1971). Here, the "invocation" appears in the first, massive part of the work while the "contemplation/prayer" is assigned to its smaller concluding section. In the Symphony of Sorrowful Songs this asymmetric design appears in the second movement, with its textual transition from the calling to the mother to reciting a prayer, intended to heal the pain and anxiety felt by the young prisoner. This model of invocation and prayer carries emotive associations with a shift from tension and longing to rest. As such it can also be seen as underlying the general outline of the large-scale form in Górecki's Symphony no. 2, Copernican, op. 31 (1972). Its two movements outline a trajectory from maximum dissonance in the initial sections of the work, permeated with violent outcries, towards a resolution of tension in the lengthy consonant chords of the coda.[65]

The text of the final movement in Górecki's Symphony no. 3 is a strophic folk song from Poland's south-western Opole region, written during the Silesian Uprisings against the Germans (1920s). The song, "Kajze mi sie podzioł mój synocek miły" [Where did he go, my dear little son] describes the feelings of a sorrowful mother in "terse, simple words. It is not sorrow, despair or resignation or the wringing of hands: it is just the great grief and lamenting of a mother who has lost her son."[66] Embittered accusations are followed by expressions of the mother's profound sadness at her loss leading to a resigned acceptance of her fate (see Appendix 3: Texts of Symphony No. 3). However, Górecki understands this text as the image of an unchanging grief; to strengthen this interpretation he repeats one reproachful strophe at the end: "Oh, you evil people... why did you kill my son?"

After the loss of her child the sorrowful mother becomes an altogether different person: she now belongs to a group which was recently called "the mothers of the disappeared" (desaparecido). According to Jean Bethke Elshtain, this existential category came into being (and was given a distinct name as a group) in Argentina after the 1976 military coup, when many young people, especially young men, were kidnaped and murdered by the agents of the secret service.[67] Alejandro Iglesias Rossi, an Argentinian composer, testified how frightening it was for him to go to school in Buenos Aires: every week, every day, another friend was missing, another seat was empty.[68] And one could not talk about it, one could not mention their names for fear of sharing their fate. Only the mothers could do that. That was the sole privilege of hundreds of mothers who kept walking around the main plaza of Buenos Aires sporting white scarves or strings with attached photographs of their lost ones. "They wore necklaces of despair and grief as others might wear pearls or brooches" writes Elshtain ( p. 77). A silent circle, walking along very slowly, lost in thought.

EXAMPLE 9: Symphony No. 3, op. 36, third movement, 79. © Copyright 1977 by PWM Edition, Kraków, Poland. Transferred 1998 to Chester Music Limited. © 1998 by Chester Music Limited for the World except United States, Poland, Albania, Bulgaria, China, Croatia and the Rest of the Territory of Former Yugoslavia, Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam, Romania, Hugary, The Territories of Former Czechoslovakia and The Whole Territory of the Former U.S.S.R. Reprinted by permission of PWM Edition in these territories. See its larger image.

This painful dragging of feet is the source of the pulsating slow tempo in the third movement of Górecki's Symphony. The main orchestral gesture of two alternating chords originates in the introduction to Chopin's Mazurka op. 17 no. 4 (Ex. 9: Symphony no. 3, third movement, p. 79). The chords have to be repeated with a broad bow, with a stubborn relentlessness and a quiet intensity. "Play it rhythmically, very slowly but rhythmically" said the composer during the rehearsal at the University of Southern California (on October 2, 1997). "It's like rocking a baby in your arms" added the singer, Elizabeth Hynes, illustrating her words with a silent gesture. It is like that, but it is also like rocking back and forth, back and forth, without end, without a pause for thought, after receiving a terrible blow, recoiling from the shock in a trance of sorrow. That is the essence of this movement: the slow walking, the rocking slowness of pain, mirrored in the repeated gesture of comfort — "there, there, there. . ." The Polish equivalent of these "comfort" phrases, "cicho, cicho, cicho" [quiet, quiet, quiet], is pronounced on a fixed intonation level. There is a slight descent and decrescendo at the end of each word which may be shortened to a softly whispered sonority of "ćśśś" [soft version of "chshshshsh"]. These comforting words and sounds may be addressed to a child, but also to the sorrowful mother and to every suffering person.

Anne Fernald's cross-cultural research into the prosody of exaggerated speech patterns (commonly known as "motherese") suggests that the patterns carrying simple emotional connotations, such as approval, prohibition, attention, and comfort have similar pitch contours in five Western languages (British and American English, German, French, Italian; See Figure 6: Comfort patterns in Fernald, op. cit., p. 63). In her diagram, the "comfort" phrases consist of repeated words with narrow intonational range and descending direction. The steady pitch and slow tempo of these repeated expressions of compassionate, maternal love (representative of "maternal thinking" in general, not just in reference to children) are echoed in repeated sequences of chords which end the Symphony No. 3.

FIGURE 6: Examples of pitch contours from Approval, Prohibition, Attention, and Comfort vocalizations
in British, American, German, French and Italian mothers' speech to twelve-month-old infants.
In Fernald, 63. From The Adapted Mind: Evolutionary Psychology and the Generation of Culture,
ed. James H. Barkow, L. Cosmides et al. Copyright 1992 by Oxford University Press,
Used by permission of Oxford University Press, Inc. See its larger image.

Again, as in Ad matrem, a basic musical gesture carries multiple connotations that imbue the music with layers of meaning. The slow rhythm of the two paired chord˙ is a homology to the slow walking pace of a suffering mother who contemplates her memories and her fate as "a mother of the disappeared" which has transformed the realities of her daily life. The composer himself used and imitated this physical image when explaining the interpretative changes needed to be made by the student orchestra at USC. Moreover, his own conducting technique, described by Mark Swed in the review of the October 3 concert, was very physical, with gestures of his whole body expressing the music and inciting the performers to follow:[69]

He conducted without baton and without guile. An open right palm gently marked the meter until he approached climaxes. But then it was as if he roared. His whole body would tense up to the breaking point. With shaking fists, he exhorted the players to dig deeper into the sound of their instruments than they ever had before, but he seemed also to entreat God with the same gesture.

This comment captures primarily the gestural aspects of the first movement, featuring powerful, prayerful climaxes. The repeated chordal segments of Górecki's Symphony no. 3 allude simultaneously to three interlocking gestural patterns. The first gesture is the slow walking pace discussed above, the second pattern stems from the vocal utterances of comforting words and phrases. The narrow pitch range and oscillating, flattened contours of the repeated chords throughout the third movement resemble the repetitive vocal intonations associated with expressions of comfort. Finally, the steady repetitive patterns also evoke the rocking motions, the swaying of the body while putting a child to sleep. This soothing repetition of movement is meant to induce a numbing, comforting feeling in the baby, safely resting in the mother's arms. These maternal gestures, the third type of motion alluded to in Górecki's Symphony, are the source for the steady rhythms of the lullaby, a domestic art form that has inspired an art-music genre practiced by many composers, including Górecki's favorites, Franz Schubert (Wiegendlied) and Fryderyk Chopin, whose Berceuse, op. 57 (1845) is often considered the paradigmatic musical lullaby.[70]

The repetitiveness and slowness of the real lullaby has a soothing effect on the listeners; according to one psychological experiment, listening to lullabies over extended periods of time induces a slower breath and heart rate in subjects (no doubt, a similar effect is desired for these songs's primary addressees, little children).[71] Some researchers claim that a remnant of ancient pagan magic incantations survives in the lullabies to "charm away" the evils of the night.[72] Interestingly, the lullabies' repetitive patterns and their sing-song monotone recitation are also of importance in the process of language acquisition.[73] By listening to repeated strains of initially strange sounds that through repetition acquire meaning, infants enter the world of human language. Their linguistic skills grow from their mother's voices. The lullabies are sung/recited by mothers who, thus, provide sources of human identity for the newborn child. It is through their "maternal thinking," through their attentive love and focus on the children's needs that the mothers create conditions for their children to grow mentally and emotionally.

Górecki's published lullabies ("Uśnij, że mi uśnij" [Sleep, Sleep, For Me], "Kołysz-że się kołysz" [Rock, Rock], and "Nie piej, kurku, nie piej" [Rooster, do not Crow], from Three Lullabies, op.49 for choir) preserve the rhythmic features of folk lullabies serving as their models. In this short collection, the composer sets two songs in duple meters and one in triple meter. Anna Czekanowska's study of Polish folk music cites one of the songs used by Górecki, "Uśnij, że mi uśnij" (it is in duple meter), as an instance of a typical Polish lullaby.[74] The "Mazowsze" volume of the Oskar Kolberg collection of Polish folklore ( 26) shows a similar distribution of patterns and includes an equal number of lullabies in duple and triple meters.[75]

The chordal repetitions in Górecki's Symphony no. 3 do not share the conventional compound triple meters with the "artistic" instrumental lullabies; instead, they have more in common with the repetitiveness of the actual bedtime songs, such as "Uśnij, że mi uśnij" or a popular Polish lullaby, "Aaa, kotki dwa . . ." [Ah, Two Little Cats] (See Ex. 10: A Traditional Polish Lullaby). This lulling chant hovers between speech and song, and is intoned in a tender, humming voice over two interlocking minor thirds, G—E—G, F—D—F, without any cadences or closures. The melody is gradually flattened out and transformed into rhythmic humming which accompanies the sleep-inducing rocking motion. The song disappears into silence when the child falls asleep. The lullaby's duple meter and simplicity of rhythmic patterns consisting of alternating quarter notes and paired eight notes are mirrored on many pages of Górecki's Symphony No. 3, for instance in the rhythms of the canonic subject in the first movement of the work.[76] More importantly, the rhythms of the lullaby contribute to the mosaics of comforting gestures evoked in the Symphony's final movement. The repeated chordal patterns simultaneously allude to the slow walking of someone lost in thought, to the rocking movement of pain-stricken people, to the comforting gestures that soothe this pain. It is the peculiar simplicity of this work, a simplicity marked by an abundance of musical references that distinguishes this work from many other compositions of "holy minimalism."

EXAMPLE 10: A traditional Polish lullaby. See its larger image.

VII. Conclusions

The subjects of motherhood or birth are rare in contemporary Polish art music: such prominent composers as Lutosławski and Penderecki, Bacewicz and Ptaszyńska have very few "maternal" works in their outputs. Some of Górecki's younger colleagues have focused on the darker and more disturbing aspects of motherhood, such as, for instance, those explored in Hanna Kulenty's The Mother of Black-Winged Dreams (1996). Among Eastern European religious works, Arvo Pärt's Stabat Mater, with its graphic representations of weeping by "streams" of descending violin melodies, is the closest counterpart to Górecki's sorrowful meditations. Pärt's work shares with Górecki's music an absence of irony and distance.

Górecki's imagery of motherhood juxtaposes poignant representations of maternal sorrow, captured in the symbolic icon of "Mater dolorosa" with subtle representations of maternal power, as in the glorious O Domina nostra, and the echoes of the humble genre of the lullaby. His maternal imagery is distant from the conventional myth of a good mother who finds perfect fulfillment in her child. The human mother is tearful (Symphony no. 3, third movement, Ad matrem) and full of sadness (Three Songs, Symphony no. 3, second movement). The heavenly mother is an all-powerful Queen (Symphony no. 3, first and second movements; O Domina nostra), primarily a mother (Totus Tuus), but also a suffering mother (Ad matrem, Symphony no. 3, first and second movements). References to the absence of the natural mother and to the eternal source of maternal grace are often juxtaposed (Ad matrem, Symphony no. 3, second movement). The repeated rhythms draw simultaneously from cultural modes of expression of grief (slow walking, crying, lamenting), comfort (lullaby, repeated vocal phrases and gestures), and religious belief (invocations and prayers, responsorial patterns).

Górecki's portrayals of sorrowful motherhood have nothing in common with the national myth of the heroic Polish Mother, Matka-Polka. Instead, he draws upon certain topoi from the Catholic tradition (Mary as victorious Queen and Mater dolorosa from the Stabat Mater sequence) and alludes to basic emotive behavioral patterns as his contexts and inspirations. Notice that, by filling his music with expressions of longing for the perfect mother, by constructing passages of maximum drama juxtaposed with total tranquillity, Górecki disruptively places into one category ideas traditionally associated with contrasting emotive realms: "suffering" has a negative valence while "mother" or "ideal/perfect mother" is often associated with total goodness.[77] The tension arising from this mixture of negative and positive emotive values (that is,"suffering" and "mother" respectively) adds a layer of expressive richness to his works. The exploration of the theme of motherhood in the Polish composer's output, following threads that appear in Western feminist writings, suggests that close readings of well-known pieces such as Symphony no. 3 can benefit from unconventional methodologies and from situating these works in their cultural and conceptual contexts.


Appendix 1: List of Górecki's "Maternal" Works (jpg).

Appendix 2: Texts of Three Songs. With English translations by Maja Trochimczyk (jpg).

Appendix 3: Texts of Symphony No. 3. With English translations by Maja Trochimczyk (jpg).


[1]. The first version of this paper, "Górecki and the Paradigm of the 'Maternal'," was presented during a symposium, "The Górecki Phenomenon," held on 5 October 1997 at USC within the "Górecki Autumn" festival. An expanded version of the text appeared in Musical Quarterly 82, no. 1 (Spring 1998): 82-130. The current version features additional iconographical material and some textual revisions, in particular, the removal of the expression "the paradigm of the maternal" which has been replaced by a variety of what the author now considers to be better sounding phrases. [Back]

[2]. Henryk Mikołaj Górecki and Maria Anna Harley, "About Life and Music: A Semi-serious Conversation," The Musical Quarterly 82, no. 1 (Spring 1998): 68-81. For studies of maternal bonding and maternal love see Władysław Sluckin, Martin Herbert and Alice Sluckin: Maternal Bonding (Oxford: Blackwell, 1983); Elisabeth Badinter: Mother Love: Myth and Reality. Motherhood in Modern History (New York: Macmillan, 1981). For a thorough examination of motherhood mythology in general see Shari L. Thurer: The Myths of Motherhood. How Culture Reinvents the Good Mother (Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1994). [Back]

[3]. Meryle Mahrer Kaplan: Mothers' Images of Motherhood: Case Studies of Twelve Mothers (New York: Routlege, 1992), p. 5-7. Kaplan writes: "Social studies literature, practical child-rearing manuals provide an image of the mother who is submerged in the mother/child dyad, and lost to the world" (p. 5). [Back]

[4]. Adrian Thomas: Górecki. Series: Oxford Studies of Composers (Oxford and New York: Clarendon Press, 1997). [Back]

[5]. Górecki's main source of church-related musical material is a songbook by Jan Siedlecki: Śpiewnik kościelny z melodjami na 2 głosy [Church Songbook with Melodies for 2 Voices] (Lwów, Kraków, Paris: Ks. Misjonarze, 1928). This is the 50th anniversary edition of a volume first published in 1878 and initially designed for Catholic school-children. [Back]

[6]. Thomas, op. cit., p. 9, 87. He lists also Muzyczka IV, Two Little Songs op. 33 no. 1, and Three Lullabies, No. 3 as containing references to Bogurodzica. See Hieronim Feicht: "Bogurodzica" in Studia nad muzyką polskiego średniowiecza [Studies in Polish music of the Middle Ages] (Kraków: PWM Edition, 1975, p. 131-185). For a recording of Bogurodzica by a female choir, see Marian Meditations: Polish Hymns in Praise of the Blessed Virgin Mary, CD recording, The Lira Ensemble. [Back]

[7]. Simone de Beauvoir describes women's capacity for bearing children as a liability when she states that "woman's misfortune is to have been biologically destined for the repetition of life." Quoted from The Second Sex, trans. H.M. Parshley (New York: Vintage Books, 1974), p. 72. Shulamith Firestone writes that "the heart of woman's oppression is her childbearing and childrearing roles." Quoted from The Dialectic of Sex (New York: Bantham Books, 1971), p. 72. Martha E. Gimenez describes motherhood as "one of the key sources of women's oppression" in her article "Feminism, Pronatalism, and Motherhood" (International Journal of Women's Studies 3, no. 3 (1980); reprinted in Trebicot, op. cit., 287-330). Jeffner Allen considers the state of motherhood as "the annihilation of women" and postulates "women's collective evacuation from motherhood" as a radical solution to what she perceives as an abuse of women's bodies to reproduce the patriarchal order of "the world of men." Quoted from "Motherhood: The Annihilation of Women" in Joyce Trebicot, ed. Mothering. Essays in Feminist Theory (Totowa, NJ: Rowman and Allanheld, 1984), p. 315-330; phrases quoted from p. 328, 315. In a similar vein, Andrea Dworkin states that mothers "were the most expendable of people—no one had a good opinion of them, certainly not the great writers of the past, certainly not the exciting writers of the present." Cited from Dworkin: "Feminism, Art and My Mother Sylvia," lecture delivered at Smith College in 1994, published in Karen J. Donnelly and J.B. Bernseit, eds.: Writers and Poets Celebrating Motherhood (Westport, Conn. and London: Bergin and Garvey, 1996), p. 140-148, quoted from p. 142. However, Dworkin's essay is written to affirm motherhood and served as an expression of gratitude to Dworkin's own mother—whom she came to appreciate quite late in life—and to mothers in general, for their invaluable contributions to human culture. The quoted statement refers to Dworkin's background and cultural conditioning that she attempts to overcome and criticize. [Back]

[8]. Nancy Chodorow: The Reproduction of Mothering: Psychoanalysis and the Sociology of Gender (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978). Chodorow questions the possibility of breaking the circle of role-reproduction by an individual, conscious effort; nonetheless, she posits the need for a heightened awareness in order to transcend the destructive patterns. See also Chodorow and S. Contratto: "The Fantasy of the Perfect Mother" in B. Thorne and M. Yalom, eds: Rethinking the Family: Some Feminist Questions (New York: Longman Press, 1982, 54-75). In a more recent work, Chodorow focuses on defining the sexual roles, as explained by Freud and post-Freudian psycho-analysis; See Feminities, Masculinities, Sexualities: Freud and Beyond (Lexington, Ky.: University Press of Kentucky, 1994). [Back]

[9]. According to Shari Thurer, who traced the convoluted cultural history of this myth, in the traditional Western embodiment the perfect mother is "properly married, faithful, subservient, modest, a woman who puts aside her own desires to rear and inspire her children. She is part of our mental furniture: the doormat." (Thurer, op. cit., p. 141). Mary Jakobus's writings about the "maternal imaginary" focus on "the fantasmatic mother who may or may not possess reproductive parts, nurturing functions, and specific historical or material manifestations; but who exists chiefly in the realm of images and imagos (whether perceived or imagined), mirroring and identifications, icons and figures; who is associated sometimes with feminist nostalgia, sometimes with ideological mystification. . ." Quoted from First Things: The Maternal Imaginary in Literature, Art, and Psychoanalysis (New York: Routlege, 1995), p. iii. [Back]

[10]. Kristeva's approach is discussed by Susan Rubin Suleiman: "Playing and Motherhood; or, How to Get the Most Out of the Avant-Garde" in Donna Bassin, Margaret Honey, and Meryle Mahrer Kaplan, eds., Representations of Motherhood (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1994), p. 272-282. See also Domna Stanton: "Difference on Trial. A Critique of the Maternal Metaphor in Cixous, Irigaray, and Kristeva," in Nancy K. Miller, ed., The Poetics of Gender (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986). [Back]

[11]. Julia Kristeva: "Stabat Mater," in Kristeva: The Kristeva Reader, Toril Moi, ed. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986), quoted from p. 162. The capitalized "Name" refers to "the Name of the Father"—the primary symbol of patriarchal order and patriarchal religion. [Back]

[12]. Meryle Mahrer Kaplan describes Kristeva's approach as suggesting that "women as mothers might distance themselves from existing images that do not give voice to that experience, create new images of motherhood, and in the process, transform the symbolic order of culture." (Kaplan, op. cit., 20). Kristeva's call for the subversion of the traditional maternal image affirms women's freedom of self-definition, but her language is strongly dualistic. If "femininity" is essentially unnameable and subversive for the patriarchal logocentric order, how does one explain the importance of "motherese," that is infant-directed speech patterns, as well as maternal vocalizations and lullabies, in the process of acquiring language? Studies reveal that in teaching children how to speak mothers use a range of cross-culturally identical patterns, which join expressions of emotions and meaning. See Anne Fernald: "Human Maternal Vocalizations to Infants as Biologically Relevant Signals: An Evolutionary Perspective," in Paul Bloom, ed., Language Acquisition: Core Readings (Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 1994), p. 51-94. See also Sandra E. Trehub, Anna M. Unyk and Laurel J. Trainor: "Adults Identify Infant-directed Music Across Cultures," Infant Behavior and Development 16, no. 2: 193-211; and, by the same authors: "Maternal Singing in Cross-cultural Perspective," Infant Behavior and Development 16, no. 3 (July-September 1993): 285-295. Mothers play an indispensable role in language acquisition; female children are more capable linguistically than males. How could "the Word" be understood as solely masculine, as a basis for an oppressive "logo/phallocentric" culture? [Back]

[13]. Barbara Love and Elizabeth Shanklin: "The Answer is Matriarchy," in Trebicot, op. cit., 275-286; first published in Our Right to Love, ed. Ginny Vida (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1978), quoted from p. 279. [Back]

[14]. Quoted from Sara Ruddick: "Preservative Love and Military Destruction: Some Reflections on Mothering and Peace," in Trebicot, op. cit., 231—262; cited from p. 250; see also Ruddick: "Maternal Thinking," in Trebicot, op. cit., 213-230; and a full-scale treatment of both themes in Sara Ruddick: Maternal Thinking: Toward a Politics of Peace (Boston: Beacon Press, 1989). [Back]

[15]. Ruddick quotes Simone Weil: "Human Personality," in Weil's Collected Essays, selected and transl. by Richard and Rees (London: Oxford University Press, 1962). [Back]

[16]. Ruddick in Trebicot, op. cit., 216, 223.[Back]

[17]. The composer was present at the Music History Symposium: The Górecki Phenomenon at USC (Sunday, 5 October 1998) and listened to all the presentations translated for him by Joanna Niżynska. [Back]

[18]. Thurer, op. cit., p. xv. [Back]

[19]. I have examined some of these issues in my postdoctoral research project, "Women Composers in the Polish People's Republic (1945-1989)" conducted in 1995 at McGill University, Montreal (in association with the University of Warsaw, Poland) and supported by a postdoctoral fellowship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Some findings of this project have been reported in "The 'Woman Composer' Debate from a Polish Perspective" at the Annual Meeting of the Canadian University Music Society (Brock University, St. Catharines, May 31, 1996). A brief summary, entitled "Notes on Polish Women Composers" has been published in the Bulletin of the Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences in Canada and the Polish Library 13 (1996): 36-40); reprinted in IAWM Journal 2, no. 2 (June 1996): 13-15); and posted on the PMC Home Page (section: Essays). URL for the site: ../essays/essays.html. [Back]

[20]. Since the late 1960s, many news reports (TV, popular press) in the Polish People's Republic ridiculed Western feminists' demonstrations while pointing out that only in the socialist system do women have full equality. Until now, for many women "feminism" was a dangerous, if not outright evil word; the rejection of feminist theology by Pope John Paul II has not helped its acceptance. [Back]

[21]. The exclusion is revealed by the scarcity of women's voices in Church-sponsored publications, such as a collection of essays about the future of the Catholic Church in Poland, published in 1987 with a preface by Card. Józef Glemp (the leader of the Church in Poland). Forty authors were invited to contribute to this volume, including five priests and only three women. See Kościół polski na przełomie 2000 roku [Polish Church at the Turn of the 2000th Year] (Warsaw: Wydawnictwo Pallottinum, 1987). [Back]

[22]. The government's publications presented its achievements in creating gender equality in the areas of education and the workplace. In 1969, Krystyna Wrochno published statistical tables comparing the number of female students in the areas of mathematics, natural sciences and technology in Poland and the U.S. See Krystyna Wrochno: La femme en Pologne Populaire (Warsaw: Edition Interpress, 1969), p. 11. During the academic year of 1966/67 Poland had 39.2% of women studying at these "male" faculties, while the U.S. had only 6%. Since the end of the nineteenth century, in contrast to North America, Polish universities have not been sex-segregated, women and men studied together, and many women chose to study science or medicine. See M. Cole: "Gender and Power: Sex Seggregation in American and Polish Higher Education: A Case Study," Sociological Forum 12, no. 1 (June 1997): 205-232. However, fulfilling the maternal duties poses an obstacle for women's careers after they receive their degrees. Maria Strykowska's study attributes the low number of women in management positions to conflicts between women's biological and social roles (motherhood) and professional aspirations, and to the traditional attitude of many women "for whom the family is usually more important than an occupation." See Maria Strykowska: "Women in Management in Poland," Women's Studies International Forum 18, no. 1 (January-February 1995): 9-12. [Back]

[23]. I base this statement on reactions from women and men I interviewed while working on my postdoctoral research project, often marked by hostility towards and ignorance about Western feminism. [Back]

[24]. See Maria Ciechocinska: "Gender Aspects of Dismantling the Command Economy in Eastern Europe: The Polish Case," Geoforum 24, no. 1 (February 1993): 31-44. Ciechocinska writes: "It appears that women are paying a higher price than men for the restructuring of the Polish economy." [Back]

[25]. Some sociological studies of the role of women in Polish culture include: Bianka Pietrov-Ennker: "Women in Polish Society. An Historical Introduction" in R. Jaworski and B. Pietrow-Ennker, eds., Women in Polish Society (Boulder, Colorado: East European Monographs, 1992), p. 1-30; Elżbieta Pakszys: "The State of Research on Polish Women in the Last Two Decades," Journal of Women's History 3, no. 3 (Winter 1992): 118-125; Renata Siemienska: "Polish Women and Polish Politics since World War II," Journal of Women's History 3, no. 1 (Spring 1991): 108-125; "Women in the Period of Systemic Changes in Poland," Journal of Women's History 5, no. 3 (Winter 1994): 70-99; Anna Titkow: "Political Change in Poland: Cause, Modifier, or Barrier to Gender Equality?" in Nannette Funk and Magda Mueller, eds.: Gender Politics and Post-Communism: Reflections from Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union (New York and London: Routledge, 1994), p. 253-256; Ewa Hauser, Barbara Heyns, and Jane Mansbridge: "Feminism in the Interstices of Politics and Culture: Poland in Transition" in Nannette Funk and Magda Mueller, op. cit., 257-273; J. Heinen: "Polish Democracy is a Masculine Democracy," Womens Studies International Forum 15, no. 1 (1992): 129-138. [Back]

[26]. An exception is Bianka Pietrov-Ennker who points out "the tendency to integrate rather than to segregate" women from their social environment (Pietrov-Ennker, op. cit., 11). Polish culture could be dubbed "patriarchal," especially if language were to be taken into account. According to a study by Adam Jaworski, A Linguistic Picture of Women's Position in Society. A Polish-English Contrastive Study (Frankfurt am Main: Verlag Peter Lang, 1986), in Polish, the male form, as in the generic "man," stands both for the male and for the whole group. Jaworski believes that this linguistic practice reflects "the traditional way of treating male as the norm and female as a deviation" and observes: "Despite often seen and heard clichés that females have attained full equality (educational, professional, legal, etc.) the average Pole remains Jan Kowalski ('John Doe')" (Jaworski, 38). Nonetheless, it is worth noting that discriminatory features of Polish, which is a language with grammatical gender, are much weaker than those of the English language. For instance, the English practice of referring to "the baby" as "he" in older child-rearing manuals does not have a Polish counterpart: "niemowlę" (infant) and "dziecko" (child) are both neuter nouns, the counterparts of "it." Moreover, it is worth noting that the word "słońce" (sun) is neuter and "księżyc" (moon) is masculine in Polish. Therefore, the stereotypical association of maleness with sun-light-day-rationality and femaleness with moon-darkness-night-irrationality (as in Mozart's Magic Flute), common in German, French or English, does not exist in Polish. [Back]

[27]. Pietrov-Ennker, op. cit., 11. [Back]

[28]. The loss of statehood has simultaneously aggravated the relations of Poles to ethnic and linguistic minorities living on Poland's territory. See Norman Davies: God's Playground (New York: Columbia University Press, 1982). [Back]

[29]. At the same time, the women's presence in the public spheres of higher education, journalism, publishing, etc. was gradually increasing on a par with their political emancipation. For detailed studies of the role of women in the various strata of Polish society of the 16-20th centuries see the special issue of Acta Poloniae Historica 74 (1996). The volume contains articles on peasant women, women of the landowning class, working-class women, the emancipation of women in Polish territories in the nineteenth century, women in Polish towns, women and politics. See also R. M. Ponichtera: "Feminists, Nationalists, and Soldiers: Women in the Fight for Polish Independence," International History Review 19, no. 1 (February 1997): 16-31, and A. Zarnowska: "Social Change, Women and the Family in the Era of Industrialization — Recent Polish Research," Journal of Family History 22, no. 2 (1997): 191-203. [Back]

[30]. See Mieczysław Gogacz: Dzień z Matką Bożą [A Day with the Mother of God] (Warsaw: Wydawnictwo Sióstr Loretanek, 1986). This tiny book contains prayers, meditations on the Rosary, the Way of the Cross, and a "Litany of Flowers" praising the Mother of God. The author is a well-known professor of theology at the Catholic University in Lublin (KUL). [Back]

[31]. A radical feminist Polish writer, Manuela Grotkowska, has stated that many Polish lives are locked up and destroyed in the "Bermuda Triangle" of one's own mother, the Heroic Polish Mother and the Mother of God. [Back]

[32]. For a popular account of the history of the icon, as well as the history and treasures of the Pauline Monastery in which it is held see The Cultural Heritage of Jasna Góra (Warszawa: Interpress, 1974). [Back]

[33]. The title of a recent book by a Polish theologian is quite telling in its gender dynamics: Wejrzał na nicość swojej służebnicy [He Looked at the Nothingness of His Handmaid] by Krzysztof Kowalik (Lublin: Wydawnictwo Katolickiego Uniwersytetu Lubelskiego, 1995). See Auguste Nicolas and Eugeniusz Dąbrowski: Życie Maryi Matki Bożej [The Life of Mary, the Mother of God] (Poznań, Warszawa, Lublin: Księgarnia Św. Wojciecha, 1963); Joseph Pohle: Mariology. A Dogmatic Treatise on the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God (St. Louis, Mo., London: B. Herder Book Co., 1914, 1935, 1943); Gabriele Maria Roschini: La Mariologia di San Tommaso (Roma: Angelo Bellardetti Editore, 1950); St. Bernard of Clairvaux: L'Oeuvre mariale de Saint Bernard (Juvisy, France: Editions du Cerf). An online search of book catalogs reveals that only about 5% of mariological texts are written by women, and even these theses and dissertations discuss the "mariology" created by male theologians and saints. See also the collection of Women's Voices cited above, esp. Sarah Coakley's "Mariology and 'Romantic Feminism': A Critique." [Back]

[34]. Thurer, op. cit. 81, 107-109. See also Teresa Elwes, ed.: Women's Voices: Essays in Contemporary Feminist Theology (London: Marshall Pickering, 1992) and Maurice Hamington: The Re-negotiation of Religious Imagery: Mary and Catholic Feminist Ethics (Ph.D. Diss, Los Angeles: University of Southern California, 1994). [Back]

[35]. The fact that the cult of Mary does not lead to the acceptance of gender equity may be seen in the discriminatory hierarchical structure of the Catholic Church: women cannot be priests and, as such, are excluded from the decision-making processes. See, for instance, Carmel Elizabeth McEnroy: Guests in Their Own House: The Women of Vatican II (New York, Crossroad Pub. Co., 1996); M.J. Nunes: "The nineteenth-Century—A Turning Point for the Catholic Church and for the Lives of Women in Brazil," Social Compass 43, no. 4 (December 1996): 503-513; C. E. Gudorf: "Women and Catholic Church Politics in Eastern Europe," Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 11, no. 2 (Fall 1995): 101-116. In addition, sociological research suggests that, in general, Catholics are less supportive of gender equity than non-Catholics; C. Wilcox and T. G. Jelen: "Catholicism and Opposition to Gender Equality in Western Europe," International Journal of Public Opinion Research 5, no. 1 (Spring 1993): 40-57. [Back]

[36]. Piotr Taras reports that in the 1970s 93.4% of Poles belonged to the Roman Catholic Church by virtue of baptism; but 21% of Poles had serious doubts about faith and did not participate in religious services of any kind. See Piotr Taras: "Problemy Oceny Polskiego Katolicyzmu" [Problems of Evaluation of Polish Catholicism], in Kościół polski, op. cit., p. 175-200. [Back]

[37]. See J. Kelley and N. D. Degraaf: "National Context, Parental Socialization, and Religious Belief—Results from 15 Nations," American Sociological Review 62, no. 4 (August 1997): 639-659. [Back]

[38]. See Tadeusz Marek and David Drew: "Górecki in Interview (1968) - and 20 Years After" Tempo no. 168 (March 1989): 25-29. See also Thomas, op. cit. (p. 99-100, 106-107); as well as the composer's statements and images from his studio filled with religious folk art captured in a Dutch TV documentary, Master Composers: Henryk Mikołaj Górecki (VPRO, 1994). [Back]

[39]. The composer discusses this issue with Adrian Thomas, op. cit., 94. See also his words in Bernard Jakobson, op. cit., 184. For an analysis of religious symbols in Beatus vir see Dorota Dywańska: "I wszystko jest zawsze teraz: Archetyp-symbol-sacrum w Beatus vir Henryka Mikołaja Góreckiego" [And everything is always now: Archetype-symbol-sacrum in Beatus vir by Heryk Mikołaj Górecki], in Inspiracje w muzyce XX wieku: Filozoficzno-literackie, religijne, folklorem [Inspirations in Twentieth-Century Music] (Warszawa: Związek Kompozytorów Polskich, 1993), 177-183. [Back]

[40]. Quoted in the interview "About Life and Music," op. cit. [Back]

[41]. Quoted in Thomas, op. cit., 107. [Back]

[42]. Anna (Anne) is the patron saint of married people, mothers and miners. She receives prayers of intercession especially for women in labor. It is interesting to note that there are no songs addressed to her husband, Mary's father, and that there are few songs to St. Joseph and the Holy Family in Siedlecki's Songbook (11 and 2 respectively). The maternal success of both women is the source of their power and the fathers are not subject to similar praise. [Back]

[43]. The Advent services focus on waiting with pregnant Mary for the delivery of her heavenly baby; the faithful are waiting with her for the "Sun of salvation" (she is "the morning star" in the pre-redemptive darkness). [Back]

[44]. This 16th-century hymn by Wacław z Szamotuł is properly entitled "Prayer. When Children are Going to Sleep;" Górecki quotes it in Old Polish Music, op. 24, for brass and strings (1969) and in Already it is Dusk, Music for String Quartet no. 1, op. 62 (1988). [Back]

[45]. Thurer, op. cit., 82-3. [Back]

[46]. The vocal part begins after a lengthy organ introduction lasting for eight minutes. [Back]

[47]. There are 5 repetitions of "Maria," followed by 7 of "Mater," then 20 of "Maria," then 1 of "Maria," and 13 of "Mater," then, at the end, 14 of "Maria." [Back]

[48]. The expression "Totus Tuus" is used on the title page of a Polish edition of a mariological treatise by St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, adorned by the picture of the Black Madonna in full regalia: Królowa Polski, Totus Tuus [The Queen of Poland. Totus Tuus]. The full title of de Motfort's work appears inside the booklet: Treatise on the True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary (Turyn: Centro Mater Divinae Gratiae, 1982). [Back]

[49]. Anna M. Unyk, Sandra E. Trehub and Laurel J. Trainor: "Lullabies and Simplicity: A Cross-Cultural Perspective," Psychology of Music 20, no. 1 (1992): 15-28; Sandra E. Trehub, Anna M. Unyk, Laurel J. Trainor: "Adults Identify Infant-directed Music," op. cit., Bernard Lortat-Jacob: "La berceuse et l'epopee: Questions de genre" [Lullaby and epic song: Questions of genre], Revue de Musicologie 78, no. 1 (1992): 5-25. [Back]

[50]. Adrian Thomas considers it such an important fact in Górecki's biography that the first sentence of his book reads: "Otylia Górecka died on 6 December 1935; it was her son's second birthday." (Thomas, op. cit., xiii). [Back]

[51]. Maxine Harris examines the irreparable changes in the psyche of children who have lost their parents; a deep attachment to the mother, and a symbiotic relationship of unity with her, gives way to anxiety and anger when separation is experienced, and to sadness and depression when the loss becomes final. See Harris: The Loss that is Forever: The Lifelong Impact of the Early Death of a Mother or Father (New York: Penguin, 1995). See also John Bowlby: Attachment and Loss (New York: Viking Penguin, 1991, copyright 1969). [Back]

[52]. See Hope Edelman: Letters from Motherless Daughters: Words of Courage, Grief, and Healing (Redding, Mass.: Addison Wesley Publishing, 1995). [Back]

[53]. For a brief discussion of the connection between the notions of motherhood and death in Górecki's music see Luke B. Howard: "A Reluctant Requiem": The History and Reception of Henryk M. Górecki's Symphony no. 3 in Britain and the United States. (Ph.D. Diss., Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1997), p. 45-47. Howard further articulates his point of view in "Motherhood, Billboard and the Holocaust: Perceptions and Receptions of Górecki's Symphony no. 3" published in this issue of the Journal. [Back]

[54]. Maja Trochimczyk: "'Dans la Nuit:' The Themes of Night and Death in Lutosławski's Oeuvre," chapter in Lutosławski Studies, Zbigniew Skowron, ed. (London: Oxford University Press, 2001): 96-124. [Back]

[55]. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross: On Death and Dying (New York: Macmillan, 1970); Death: The Final Stage of Growth (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1975); Living with Death and Dying (New York : Macmillan, c1981); Death is of Vital Importance: On Life, Death and Life after Death , ed. Göran Grip (New York: Talman Co., 1995). [Back]

[56]. See Andre Grabar: Christian Iconography: A Study of Its Origins, trans. Terry Grabar (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969). [Back]

[57]. The pulse is of ca. 264-288 beats per minute. The sixteenth-note pattern could easily be misread for a tremolo but the score contains an explanatory note about its clearly rhythmic character. [Back]

[58]. Stefania Woytowicz's histrionic interpretation of this part (on the Olympia CD), replete with huge portamenti and vibrato, completely ruins the effect envisioned by the composer. This work badly needs a new recording. [Back]

[59]. The "Stabat Mater" sequence names the "suffering mother" in its first strophe: "Stabat Mater dolorósa / Juxta Crucem lacrimósa, / Dum pendébat Filius" [At the cross her station keeping, / Mary stood in sorrow weeping / When her Son was crucified]. [Back]

[60]. As Adrienne Rich tellingly admitted: "I was haunted by the stereotype of the mother whose love is 'unconditional' and by the visual and literary images of motherhood as a single-minded identity. If I knew parts of myself existed that would never cohere to those images, weren't' those parts then abnormal, monstrous?" See Adrienne Rich: Of Woman Born (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1986/1976), p. 23. See also Stephanie Brown, Judith Lumley, Rhonda Small, and Jill Astbury, Missing Voices: The Experience of Motherhood (Melbourne and New York: Oxford University Press, 1994). [Back]

[61]. For the work's genesis, material, form, and program see Thomas, op. cit., 81-94; Luke Howard's dissertation, op. cit., provides a detailed overview, including additional source materials and analytical insights, as well as a richly illustrated reception history. For an overview of mystical aspects of the Symphony (confluence of suffering and love in "passion," human and Divine union), see Maria Anna Harley [Maja Trochimczyk], "To be God with God: Catholic Composers and the Mystical Experience," Contemporary Music Review 12, part 2; "Contemporary Music and Religion," ed. Ivan Moody (1995): 125-145. [Back]

[62]. Halina Poświatowska: "Wielkopostna Legenda," in Poświatowska: Wiersze Wybrane [Selected Poems], ed. Jan Zych (Kraków: Wydawnictwo Literackie, 1997). [Back]

[63]. Text in Polish: "Chciałbym tu dodać coś o tej ścianie. W więzieniu cała ściana pokryta była napisami krzyczącymi głośno: "Ja jestem niewinny" 'Mordercy', Oprawcy', 'Odbjcie mnie', 'Niewinny jestem', 'Musicie mnie uratować'— takie to wszystko rozwrzeszczane, takie banalne. I to dorośli pisali, a tu 18-letnia dziewczyna, dziecko przecież. I taka inna. Nie rozpacza, nie płacze, nie przeklina... Nie myśli o sobie, czy zasłużyła na to czy nie. Tylko myśli o swej mamie: bo prawdziwą rozpacz to właśnie jej mama przeżyje. Ten napis to było dla mnie coś niezwykłego. . . Tak to mnie zafrapowało: 'Mamo, nie płacz, nie. Niebios przeczysta Królowo, ty zawsze wspieraj mnie. Zdrowaś Mario.' Tekst się tu kończył i ja do tego dodałem: 'Łaskiś pełna'. Nie 'Łaski' tak jak jest w modlitwie, tylko 'Łaskiś." [Back]

[64]. In his conversation with Elisabeth Hynes during the break in the rehearsal, USC School of Music, October 2, 1998. [Back]

[65]. I discuss the Symphony's transition from a maximum of sensory dissonance to a consonant conclusion, parallelled by a change in spatial sound location, in "Spatiality of Sound and Stream Segregation in Twentieth-Century Instrumental Music," Organized Sound 3, no. 2 (1998): 147-166. [Back]

[66]. Henryk Mikołaj Górecki: "Powiem państwu szczerze..." [I will tell you honestly. . .]. Tape transcript of Górecki's talk on his music given in 1977 in Baranów, Poland; cited in Thomas, op. cit., 81. [Back]

[67]. Jean Bethke Elshtain: "The Mothers of the Disappeared: Passion and Protest in Maternal Action," in Donna Bassin, Margaret Honey, and Meryle Mahrer Kaplan, eds., Representations of Motherhood (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1994), 75-91. [Back]

[68]. Private conversation, Kazimierz Dolny (Summer Courses for Young Composers), September 1986. [Back]

[69]. Mark Swed: "Górecki's Third Is All His Own: Music Review," Los Angeles Times, 6 October 1997. [Back]

[70]. The Chopin lullaby is in compound duple meter, 6 /8, with the rising and falling arpeggio figure serving as an image of the rocking cradle. The "lullaby" entry in the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians defines the genre as associated with triple meter. For a study of lullabies in opera see Gerard Loubinoux: "Le chant dans le chant: A la recherche d'une memoire mythique" [Songs within songs: In search of a mythical memory], in Opera, theatre, une memoire imaginaire (Paris: Herne, 1990), p. 77-89. See also Susan Youens: "Metamorphoses of a melody: Schubert's Wiegenlied, D. 498, in twentieth-century opera," Opera Quarterly 2, no. 2 (summer 1984): 35-48. [Back]

[71]. Johannes Kneutgen: "Eine Musikform und ihre biologische Funktion. Über die Wirkungsweise der Wiegenlieder" [A musical form and its biological function. Concerning the effects of the lullaby], Zeitschrift für Experimentelle und Angewandte Psychologie 17, no. 2 (1970): 245-65. [Back]

[72]. Breandan O Madagain: "Echoes of Magic in the Gaelic Song Tradition," Celtic Languages and Celtic Peoples (Nova Scotia, Canada: St. Mary's University, 1992), 125-140; Yoshihiko Ikegami: "The Lullaby as Magic: A Textual Analysis of Traditional Japanese Children's Songs" in The Oral and the Literate in Music (Tokyo: Academia, 1986), p. 96-109. The texts of lullabies range from soothing to frightening, the incantations may have served to "charm" the horrors of the night; see Yael Nov: "Trost und Schrecken im jiddischen und hebraischen Wiegenlied" [Consolation and terror in Yiddish and Hebrew lullabies], Polyaisthesis 3, no. 2 (1988): 120-130; Ana Lucia Cavani Jorge: O acalanto e o horror [Lullaby and horror] (Sao Paulo: Escuta, 1988). [Back]

[73]. Luisa Del Giudice: "Ninna-nanna nonsense? Fears, dreams, and falling in the Italian lullaby," Oral Tradition 3, no. 3 (October 1988): 270-293; see also Anne Fernald: "Vocalizations," op. cit. [Back]

[74]. Anna Czekanowska: Polish Folk Music: Slavonic Heritage—Polish Tradition—Contemporary Trends (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992), p. 136-137. [Back]

[75]. Oskar Kolberg: Dzieła Wszystkie [Collected Works] 26, "Mazowsze," Part III (Warszawa: Ludowa Spółdzielnia Wydawnicza and PWM Edition), 1963. Reprint, orig. publ. 1887, p. 336-337. [Back]

[76]. The theme of the canon is derived from two religious songs, "Oto Jezus umiera" from Jan Siedlecki's Śpiewnik Kościelny (in triple meter) and "Niechaj bendzie pochwalony" from Władysław Skierkowski's Puszcza kurpiowska w pieśni (in duple meter). See Thomas, op. cit., p. 84-85. [Back]

[77]. See Rozsika Parker: Mother Love/Mother Hate: The Power of Maternal Ambivalence (New York: Basic Books, 1995). [Back]


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Copyright 2003 by Maja Trochimczyk.
Editors: Maja Trochimczyk and Linda Schubert.
Editorial Assistance: Krysta Close.
Publisher: Polish Music Center, Winter 2003.
Design: Maja Trochimczyk & Marcin Depinski.
Comments and inquiries by e-mail: polmusic@email.usc.edu