Born in Czechowice-Dziedzice, died in Berlin. In 1949-56 he studied the piano with Wanda Chmielowska and composition with Bolesław Woytowicz at the State High Music School in Katowice. He continued his studies with Nadia Boulanger in Paris in 1962-63. From 1967 he taught composition at the State High Music School in Katowice, where in 1970-74 he headed the Department of Composition and Music Theory. A DAAD scholarship in Berlin (1970-71) resulted in an engagement at the Hochschule der Künste in Berlin in 1973, where Szalonek succeeded Boris Blacher as professor of composition.
He was the discoverer of "combined sounds," i.e. multiphonics characterised by a particular timbre, which can be obtained on woodwind instruments. From 1970 he conducted courses and seminars on his own composition techniques at music academies and universities in various countries, including Denmark, Germany, Finland, Poland, and Slovakia. His works were performed at many festivals of contemporary music, such as the Summer Courses of New Music in Darmstadt, ISCM World Music Days, Warsaw Autumn, Time of Music in Viitasaari, Gulbenkian Música in Lisbon, Inventionen in Berlin, Alternatives in Moscow, and Contrasts in Lviv.
In 1964 he was awarded the Music Prize of the City of Katowice, and in 1967 the Minister of Culture and Arts Award. In 1990 he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Münster, and in 1994 the annual Award of the Polish Composers' Union.
Selected works (from 1970): Aarhus Music for wind quintet (1970), Concerto for strings (1971-75), Three Sketches for harp (1972), Connections for chamber ensemble (1972), Proporzioni III for violin, cello and piano / harp (1977), Musica concertante for double bass and orchestra (1977), Piernikiana per tuba (1977), Trio for Oboe, Clarinet and Bassoon (1978), Little Symphony B -A-C-H for piano and symphony orchestra (1979-81), Take the Game... for six percussionists (1981), Alice's Unknown Adventures in the Fairy Land of Percussion for percussionist (1981), D. P.'s Five Ghoulish Dreams for alto saxophone (1985), Inside - Out side for bass clarinet and string quartet (1987), Toccata the corale Bolesław Woytowicz in memoriam for organ (1988; version for piano, 1990), Dialogues for Two Hands and Two Legs for piano four hands (1988), Elegy for the Death of a Friend for clarinet and piano (1989), Symphony of Rituals for string quartet (1991-96), Medusa's Head I for 1-3 recorders (1992), Invocationi for two guitars (1992), Medusa's Head II for 1-3 flutes in C (1993), Diptych I for mixed choir (1993), Diptych II for 16 saxophones (1993), Sept épigrammes modernes for saxophone quartet (1994), Ge rard Ho nung's Six Unpublished Drawings for saxophone quartet (1994), Three Preludes for piano (1996), Zakopane Suite for reed mouthpiece (1996), Medusa's Dream of Pegasus I for horn and recorder (1997), Medusa's Dream of Pegasus II for horn and flute in C (1997), Miserere for 12-voice mixed choir (1997), Chaconne-Fantasy for violin (1997), Bagattellae di Dahlem II for flute and piano (1998), Oberek no. 1 for guitar (1998), Drei Liebeslieder for baritone and piano (1998), Hautbois mon amour for oboe, two harps, timpani and string orchestra (1999), Poseidon and Medusa for two piccolos, alto flute, crotales and bass flute (2001).