Unseen - Marcin Stańczyk International Festival of Contemporary Music Warsaw Autumn

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Midsummer has for centuries been associated with numerous myths and beliefs. The year’s shortest night was celebrated nearly throughout Europe as a festival of nature, the balance of elements, love, and fertility. The rituals performed during that night were meant to ensure health and good harvest to the participants. Great bonfires were lit, and people would jump over or dance around them, put flower wreaths on the water, drink alcohol, and burn herbs. The partying went on under cover of darkness until the participants became completely immersed in it. The ritual culminated in the search for a magic flower, known in Poland as the fern flower. Whoever found and picked it would win health, wealth, and good fortune, as well as invisibility in case of danger. 

Unseen is a variant of my original concept of acousmatic instrumental music, which aims to stimulate the audience’s imagination by focusing its attention on the sound and excluding visual perception. This allows listeners to locate and recognise the sources of each sound. The composition goes beyond the concept of acousmatics known from electronic music, since acoustic music may also be experienced in an acousmatic manner. In order to trigger this type of perception, one only needs to close the eyes or put a blindfold over the eyes during performance. The closed eyelids then become a screen on which a film is “projected,” unique since it is quite different for each member of the audience. Unseen was commissioned by E-MEX Ensemble, with financial support from the Ministry of Culture and Science of North Rhine-Westphalia. 

Marcin Stańczyk 

Tell me enchanted tales,
o hoary moss-covered ancient wood...
Let my soul quietly fall asleep,
listening to your tale of the day’s end
when twinkling stars light the forest.
Let my soul quietly fall asleep,
listening to your tales, kind wood,
of how dwarves flock to secret glades,
jumping over ferns and fallen trees
to dance and play –
how grass weeps silver tear of dew
for the poor orphan, whose feet are bleeding
from having to walk on sharp thistles...
Tell me how, on that one hot night,
once in a year, those pure of spirit
may find the fern flower and their happiness...
Whisper to me, till I forget the world,
o hoary moss-covered wood, my friend – – –

Jerzy Żuławski, Poetry, Warsaw 1982, p. 227.

Kupala Night, shortest night
burning fires till bright midnight.
Mary did not get much sleep
for she was embroidering kerchiefs.
Midsummer night folksong from the Lublin region

Source: Muzyka Kresów (Music of the Borderlands)
Foundation, Polish Songs [CD]