Music of Poland
Artists from Poland, including famous composers like Chopin or Lutosławski and traditional, regionalised folk musicians, create a lively and diverse music scene, which even recognises its own music genres, such as poezja śpiewana (sung poetry).
The origin of Polish music can be traced as far back as the 13th century, from which manuscripts have been found in Stary Sącz, containing polyphonic compositions related to the Parisian Notre Dame School. Other early compositions, such as the melody of Bogurodzica, may also date back to this period. The first known notable composer, however, Mikołaj z Radomia, lived in the 15th century.
During the 16th century, mostly two musical groups—both based in Kraków and belonging to the King and Archbishop of Wawel—led the rapid innovation of Polish music. Composers writing during this period include Wacław z Szamotuł, Mikołaj Zieleński, and Mikołaj Gomółka, who composed "Melodies to Polish Psalter". Diomedes Cato, a native-born Italian who lived in Kraków from about the age of five, became one of the most famous lutenists at the court of Sigismund III, and not only imported some of the musical styles from southern Europe, but blended them with native folk music.
17th and 18th centuries
In the last years of the 16th century and the first part of the 17th century, a number of Italian musicians were guests at the royal courts of Sigismund III Vasa and Władysław IV. These included Luca Marenzio, Giovanni Francesco Anerio, and Marco Scacchi. Polish composers from this period focused on baroque religious music, concertos for voices, instruments, and basso continuo, a tradition that continued into the 18th century. The best-remembered composer of this period is Adam Jarzębski, known for his instrumental works such as Chromatica, Tamburetta, Sentinella, Bentrovata, and Nova Casa. Other composers include Grzegorz Gerwazy Gorczycki, Franciszek Lilius, Bartłomiej Pękiel, Stanisław Sylwester Szarzyński and Marcin Mielczewski.
In addition, a tradition of operatic production began in Warsaw in 1628, with a performance of Galatea (composer uncertain), the first Italian opera produced outside Italy. Shortly after this performance, the court produced Francesca Caccini's opera La liberazione di Ruggiero dall'isola d’Alcina, which she had written for Prince Władysław three years earlier when he was in Italy. Another first, this is the earliest surviving opera written by a woman. When Władysław was king (as Władysław IV) he oversaw the production of at least ten operas during the late 1630s and 1640s, making Warsaw a center of the art. The composers of these operas are not known: they may have been Poles working under Marco Scacchi in the royal chapel, or they may have been among the Italians imported by Władysław.
The late 17th and 18th century saw a decline of Poland, which also hindered the development of music. Some composers attempted to create a Polish opera (such as Jan Stefani and Maciej Kamieński), others imitated foreign composers such as Haydn and Mozart.
The most important development in this time, however, was the polonaise, perhaps the first distinctively Polish art music. Polonaises for piano were and remain popular, such as those by Michał Kleofas Ogiński, Karol Kurpiński, Juliusz Zarębski, Henryk Wieniawski, Mieczysław Karłowicz, Józef Elsner, and, most famously, Fryderyk Chopin. Chopin remains very well known, and is regarded for composing a wide variety of works, including mazurkas, nocturnes, waltzes and concertos, and using traditional Polish elements in his pieces. The same period saw Stanisław Moniuszko, the leading individual in the successful development of Polish opera, still renowned for operas like Halka and The Haunted Manor.
Polish folk music was collected in the 19th century by Oskar Kolberg, as part of a wave of Polish national revival. With the coming of the world wars and then the Communist state, folk traditions were oppressed or subsumed into state-approved folk ensembles. The most famous of the state ensembles are Mazowsze and Śląsk, both of which still perform. Though these bands had a regional touch to their output, the overall sound was a homogenized mixture of Polish styles. There were more authentic state-supported groups, such as Słowianki, but the Communist sanitized image of folk music made the whole field seem unhip to young audiences, and many traditions dwindled rapidly.
Polish dance music, especially the mazurka and polonaise, were popularized by Frédéric Chopin, and they soon spread across Europe and elsewhere. These are triple time dances, while five-beat forms are more common in the northeast and duple-time dances like the krakowiak come from the south. The polonaise comes from the French word for Polish to identify its origin among the Polish aristocracy, who had adapted the dance from a slower walking dance called chodzony. The polonaise then re-entered the lower-class musical life, and became an integral part of Polish music.
While folk music lost popularity in Poland, especially in urban areas, the tourist destination of Podhale has retained its traditions lively. The regional capital, Zakopane, has been a center for art since the late 19th century, when people like composer Karol Szymanowski, who discovered Goral folk music there, made the area chic among Europe's intellectuals. Though a part of Poland, Podhale's musical life is more closely related to that found in the Carpathian mountains of Ukraine, Slovakia, Moravia in Czech Republic and Transylvania. The people in the Tatra mountains of Poland and Slovakia are descendants of Vlach shepherds who settled there from 14th to 17th century.
Local ensembles use string instruments like violins and a cello to play a distinctive scale called the Lydian mode. The distinctive singing style used in this scale is called lidyzowanie. The lead violin (prym) are accompanied by several second violins (sekund) and a three-stringed cello (bazy). Duple-time dances like the krzesany, zbójnicki (Brigand's Dances) and ozwodna are popular. The ozwodna has a five bar melodic structure which is quite unusual. The krzesany is an extremely swift dance, while the zbójnicki is well-known and is perceived as being most "typical" of Podhale and Northern Slovakia. Folk songs typically focus on heroes like Juraj Jánošík.
Outside of Podhale, few regions have active folk scenes, though there are music festivals, such as the Kazimierz Festival, which are well-known and popular. Regional folk bands include Gienek Wilczek Band (Bukowina), Tadeusz Jedynak Band (Przystalowice Male), Stachy Band (Hazców nad Wislokiem), Franciszek Gola Band (Kadzidło), Edward Markocki Band (Zmyslówka-Podlesie), Kazimierz Kantor Band (Głowaczowa), Swarni Band (Nowy Targ), Kazimierz Meto Band (Glina), Ludwik Młynarczyk Band (Lipnica), Kujawska Atlantyda (Kujawy) and Trebunie-Tutki.
At the end of the 18th century, Polish classical music evolved into national forms like the polonaise. In the 19th century the most popular composers were Józef Elsner, Maria Agata Szymanowska, Franciszek Lessel, Fryderyk Chopin and Ignacy Dobrzyński. Important opera composers were Karol Kurpiński and Stanisław Moniuszko. Famous soloists and composers were Henryk Wieniawski, Juliusz Zarębski. At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries the most prominent composers were Władysław Zeleński and Mieczysław Karłowicz. Karol Szymanowski gained prominence prior to World War II. Józef Koffler was the first Polish twelve-tone composer (dodecaphonist).
Contemporary classical music
Following World War II, some composers, such as Roman Palester and Andrzej Panufnik, fled the country and remained in exile. In the early 1960s, however, a number of composers known as the Polish Composers' School arose, characterized by the use of sonorism and dodecaphonism. The style emerged from the political crisis in 1956, following Stalin's death; that same year saw the Warsaw Autumn music festival inaugurated, from whence came additional popularity for the Polish Composers' School. Composers included Tadeusz Baird, Bogusław Schaeffer, Włodzimierz Kotoński, Witold Szalonek, Krzysztof Penderecki, Witold Lutosławski, Wojciech Kilar, Kazimierz Serocki and Henryk Mikołaj Górecki.
More modern composers include Krzysztof Meyer, Paweł Szymański, Krzesimir Dębski, Hanna Kulenty, Eugeniusz Knapik, Paweł Łukaszewski, Paweł Mykietyn, Maciej Zieliński, Marta Ptaszynska and Agata Zubel.
The Polskie Nagrania Muza was the state recording company, from 1956. Following the fall of communism it was bought by Warner Music Poland. It dealt with the wide range of music tastes, folk, popular, classical and children's music.
Contemporary popular music
Poland has always been a very open country to new music genres and even before the fall of the communism, music styles like rock, metal, jazz, electronic, and new wave were well-known. Since 1989, the Polish scene has exploded with new talents and a more diverse style.
Every year, a huge gathering of young Poles meet to celebrate the rock and alternative music in Jarocin, Żary, at Woodstock Festival Poland in Kostrzyn nad Odrą and at Open'er Festival and Off Festival. These events often attract more than 250,000 people and are comparable to the gatherings in Woodstock and Roskilde.
In jazz music, Polish musicians created a specific style, which was most famous in 60s and 70s. Some famous Polish jazz artists are: Krzysztof Komeda, Zbigniew Namysłowski, Adam Makowicz, Tomasz Stańko, Michał Urbaniak. Some of the most popular Polish vocalists of 20th and 21st centuries are Edyta Górniak, Doda and Maryla Rodowicz.
Black metal in Poland has evolved since the 1980s, although the first bands strictly in this genre appeared in the early 1990s, with the growth of the Norwegian black metal movement. One of the first Polish black metal bands, founded in late 1979, was Kat from Katowice, which was originally classified as thrash, and heavy metal. Kat was big influence on the whole Polish heavy metal music, developing their harsh sound with straightforward satanic lyrics, and later were heavily inspired by the poetry of Tadeusz Miciński. The group has reformed several times over the years, and remains active, with their guitarist co-founder on studio projects. After a naming dispute in the early 2000s Kat & Roman Kostrzewski continue with both their live, and studio legacy.
Other bands, classified as black metal in the 1980s, include Imperator (founded in 1984) with an antichristian approach in their music, and Vader (founded in 1983) with Satan themed lyrics, appearing on stage in leather and spikes. While still active, Vader later developed a death metal sound with occult themed lyrics, Imperator's style of music is disputed; reformed twice in the 1990s, the band eventually dissolved in 2000, with only one studio album released. Minor Polish black metal bands of the 1980s include Fantom (founded 1985), Scarecrow with an origin in speed metal (formed 1987), thrash metal influenced Bundeswehra (1988), Apocalyptic Slaughter (1988), Dethroner later renamed Enormity (1987). All were short lived local acts, who only released demo recordings.
In the 1990s a wide range of black metal bands developed, such as Christ Agony, Mussorgski (both founded in 1990), Behemoth, Besatt, Xantotol (all founded in 1991), Oppressor later renamed Baphomets Throne, Mastiphal, Graveland, North, Taranis, Infernum (all founded in 1992), Hermh, Arkona, Thunderbolt, Profanum (all founded in 1993), Lux Occulta (founded in 1994), Darzamat (founded in 1995), Witchmaster (founded in 1996), Crionics and Vesania (founded in 1997). After its first album, Christ Agony signed to the French Adipocere Records, then to Cacophonous Records, and then to Hammerheart Records. They received a brief period of recognition in the European underground, but later became a minor act. After their seventh album in 2009 Christ Agony eventually signed to Mystic Production and gained nostalgic recognition in Poland with support from European tours.
Behemoth quickly become popular in the underground with support from Gravelands mainman Rob Darken, and later with influentional label Avantgarde Music. Based in Gdańsk, the band eventually developed death metal influenced sound, and gained international recognition. Other bands of the 1990s such as Baphomets Throne, North, Mussorgski, Besatt, Infernum remained active, but were signed to underground labels and never received international acclaim. In later years only Darzamat, after several album releases, were signed to Massacre Records, but their short lived European recognition was broken by lineup changes. Vesania signed to Napalm Records, went on hiatus, but released three albums in 2000s. Later, Poland developed bands such as MasseMord, Mgła (both founded in 2000), Furia (founded in 2003), Morowe (2006) and Blaze of Perdition (2007); though all of these are only known in the underground circuit.
Within black metal in Poland, several National Socialist Black Metal (NSBM) bands developed such as Veles (founded in 1992), Gontyna Kry (founded in 1993), Kataxu (1994), Ohtar (1996), and Sunwheel (1998). All of which attracted the interest of the Anti-Defamation League, and were considered to perform "music of hate". In the early 1990s NSBM was also investigated by the Polish Office for State Protection. Although Graveland were extremely popular among NSBM fans and generally seen as a National Socialist band, Rob Darken rejects this label, and told Decibel magazine: "I do not think Graveland is an NSBM band. Graveland is regarded as a NSBM band because of my political convictions, [which] most people would call extreme right-wing, National Socialist convictions."
Death metal scene
In the 1980s Poland developed an early death metal movement, though at the time many of the bands were referred to as either black metal or thrash metal, many were later classified as death metal. Some of the bands of the period include Vader, which started as a classic heavy metal group (founded in 1983), and others with origin in thrash metal, like Imperator (founded in 1984), Armagedon (founded in 1986), Magnus (founded in 1987), Ghost and Thanatos later renamed Trauma (both founded in 1988), Bloodlust, and Betrayer (both founded in 1989). Many of the groups disbanded in early 1990s after only one album, although several gained an underground following in Europe due to tape trading. Vader became the only one to remain active since its formation, and reached international fan base, with albums charting in Poland, Germany, and Japan, on labels such as Earache Records, Metal Blade Records, and Nuclear Blast among others. While Trauma also remained active since its formation they never reached the same recognition. Since the late 2000s several of the "classic" bands such as Magnus, Armagedon, and Merciless Death have been reformed, and have since remained active.
In the 1990s a second wave of death metal was developed with bands such as Violent Dirge, Lost Soul, Hazael, Hate, Pandemonium (all founded in 1990), Cerebral Concussion later renamed Devilyn, Prophecy, Dies Irae (all founded in 1992), Sceptic (founded in 1994), Decapitated, and Yattering (both founded in 1996). The highly technical music of Violent Dirge became the interest of influential label Nuclear Blast who later released the groups sampler. Although Violent Dirge dissolved in 1995 after the release of several demos, and two underground albums with success remaining only in Poland. Hazael was also subject of interest from eastern record label Century Media Records. But after signing a contract, and recording of the album for the label they were dropped, this eventually lead to the disbanding of the band 1996, they went on to reform in 2014.
Recognition in Europe led bands such as Devilyn to get signed to Listenable Records, Yattering a recording deal with Season of Mist for their second release, and Prophecy signed to Koch International. After losing popularity Prophecy went on hiatus in 1999, and reformed in 2004, but eventually split-up in 2010, while Devilyn, and Yattering disbanded in 2006. Hate after several underground albums reached international recognition in the 2000s after signing to Listenable Records, and later Napalm Records, Dies Irae, reformed in 2000 consisting of members of Vader signed to Metal Blade Records, and released three albums, until the death of there drummer.
In late 1990s Decapitated was signed to Wicked World a subsidiary of Earache Records. The band released several albums, later reaching international acclaim after reforming in 2009, and a new recording deal with Nuclear Blast. After reforming in 1997 Lost Soul signed with Relapse Records to release their debut album, in 2006 the band went in hiatus, and lost their minor popularity in Europe. They once again reformed in 2009 and signed to an underground Polish label, they occasional tour in their home country. In the early 2000s with the release of third album Sceptic signed to Candlelight Records. After only touring in Poland the label eventually dropped Sceptic from their catalogue. Other minor Polish death bands active mostly in the European underground scene include Stillborn (founded in 1997), Azarath (founded in 1998), Deivos (founded in 1999) and Masachist (founded in 2006) among others. Although founded in 1991 as a black metal band Behemoth reached international acclaim from their mixture of black metal with death metal, with one album certified Gold in Poland and three charting on the Billboard 200 in the US.
Thrash metal scene
In early 1980s as response on American thrash metal wave Poland developed their scene. Bands of the period include Kat started as speed, heavy metal group (founded in late 1979), Turbo (founded in 1980) with origins in rock, and heavy metal, and others with strict thrash metal sound like Kreon, Dragon (both founded in 1984), Destroyers, Hammer (both founded in 1985), Quo Vadis, Alastor, Hunter, Wolf Spider, Acid Drinkers (all founded in 1986), and Egzekuthor (founded in 1987) among others. The 1980s is also the biggest activity of thrash metal scene in Poland in around of Metalmania festival based in Katowice, which was startup for several bands. Bands like Destroyers, Hamer, Dragon, Wolf Spider, became subject of interest of national record labels Pronit, and Polton sharing recordings on split albums. Destroyers continued performing till early 1990, with albums released by other national labels Tonpress, and Polskie Nagrania Muza. Wolf Spider after four albums released disbanded in 1991, later to be reformed in 2011. Dragon in later years developed death metal influenced style, and remain active till 2000 with five albums released. While Hamer after reforming several times remain active.
Turbo with their popularity based on protest song "Dorosłe dzieci" came up with thrash metal after two albums released only in Poland. Several attempts to cross over the Polish border have been made with English language albums released by German label Noise Records, Italian Metal Master Records, and British Under One Flag subsidiary of Music for Nations. With problems to receive passports band remain local act, reformed sveral times Turbo released eleven albums, and is still active. With similar approach come up Kat, after several singles released in Poland band was signed to Belgian Ambush Records to release debut album. While unable to tour outside Poland remain local with several Polish language albums released. The group reformed several of times over the years remains active with their guitarist co founder as studio project. While after name dispute in early 2000s named Kat & Roman Kostrzewski act continues with their legacy.
With recording deal form Under One Flag for three albums Acid Drkinkers was another Polish band attempted to tour outside home country. All throughout after Revolutions of 1989 musicians reserved their passport but after problems with visas it occurred to the group to eventually stop their efforts. Remain active only in Poland band received cult status with thirteen albums released, sveral of them noted on Polish Albums Chart. Other bands like Quo Vadis, and Alastor remain active in underground to incorporate in later years to their music groove, death or progressive metal. Egzekuthor splitup in 1992 after one album, reformed in 2002 to be disbanded in 2008 before second studio effort was released. While Hunter have waited till 1995 to release first album reached acclaim in Poland with 2000s albums. Although over the years moving away from strict thrash metal style Hunter received nomination to Fryderyk, an annual award in Polish music, within sveral records on Polish Albums Chart have been noted, with songs to receive regular airplay. In later years sveral thrash metal band heave been developed while not one of them received acclaim similar to those form the 1980s. Some of them include Geisha Goner (founded in 1990), Tuff Enuff (founded in 1992), Flapjack, Myopia (both founded in 1993), Horrorscope (founded in 1996), Virgin Snatch, Alkatraz (both founded in 2001).
Gothic metal scene
Poland developed their gothic metal scene in 1990s, although it was in interfuse with gothic rock movement since the beginning, focused in around of Castle Party Festival founded in 1994. Scene was loosely inspired by Polish bands such as Closterkeller, Pornografia, Fading Colours (all founded in 1980s), and in later years by British acts like Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride, Anathema, and Norwegian Theatre of Tragedy among others. The earliest of the Polish gothic bands developed their sound from various styles like rock, black, death and doom metal, that include Battalion d'Amour (founded in 1989), Neolithic, Moonlight (both founded in 1991), Sacriversum, Sirrah (both founded in 1992), Hermh, Cemetery of Scream (both founded in 1993), Hefeystos, and Tower (both founded in 1994) among others. Most Polish gothic metal bands since 1990s reached recognition only in Poland, or for short time in Europe. Compared with black or death movement, gothic metal is a minor music scene.
Although considered as a rock band, Closterkeller came up with gothic metal sound in late 1990s. With nine both native and English language albums released up to 2011 they became the most influential Polish gothic band. Battalion d'Amour with their poetic lyrics reached popularity with 1990s albums. Witch was lost after change of groups lead vocalist in early 2000s. The band released their last album in 2005. Neolithic signed to French Adipocere Records developed doom and progressive metal influenced sound, with two albums released band was resolved in 2006 with short running recognition in home country. Moonlight active till 2007 released several albums in 2000s gothic metal style for trip hop and rock sound. Reformed several of times of the years, Hermh went to symphonic black metal with vampire themed lyrics remains studio project. Cemetery of Scream with five albums released till 2009 is still active. Hefeystos with progressive rock influenced sound released two albums, eventually split up in 2000, while Tower was disbanded in late 1990s, also with two albums released. Only Sirrah reached short-lived recognition in Europe with a recording deal from Music for Nations. Disbanded in 1998 group was reformed in 2013 and is still active.
The second wave of gothic bands includes Artrosis, Lorien (both founded in 1995), Aion, Desdemona (both founded in 1996), Sator later renamed Delight (founded in 1997), and Via Mistica (founded in 1998) among others. Artrosis quickly reached popularity in Poland with albums released by local label Morbid Noizz Productions. In the late 1990s Artrosis became subject of interest from Tilo Wolffs label Hall of Sermon witch released English version of one of their albums. Band reached its popularity in early 2000s with a contract from Metal Mind Productions. Till 2011 band released seven Polish and four English language albums remaining active. Loriens highlight came with debut album released by underground labels in Europe, USA, and Australia with promotion from Polskie Radio in home country. After several line-up changes and one more album released Lorien split up in 2005. Eight years later the group was reformed and is still active. While Aion gained some European acclaim with two albums released by Massacre Records, and Impact Records. In later years band remained local act with recording deal from Metal Mind Productions. Eventually changing style to modern heavy metal on fifth album, Aion disbanded after its release in 2004.
Although Desdemonas debut album was released in Japan, band became local act with albums released by Metal Mind Productions, eventually dropping gothic metal style for industrial with four album released till 2014, and recording deal from Danse Macabre Records. Delight with sound originating from power metal reached recognition in Poland with support from extensive touring, and several both Polish and English language albums released in early 2000s. In 2005 after performance at Wave Gotik Treffen in Germany Delight was signed to Roadrunner Records, although after one album released group was disbanded with no official statement. While Via Mistica remains a local act with three albums released in early 2000s. In later years several gothic metal band have been developed, most of them remaining mainor part of Polish heavy metal scene, that include such acts like Mystherium (founded in 2001), Ciryam (founded in 2003), UnSun (founded in 2006), and NeraNature (founded in 2009) among others. Only UnSun reached international acclaim with a recording deal from Century Media Records, and albums charting in Japan, although after two albums released the group went on hiatus due to problems with vocalist health.
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- "Virgin Snatch Biography" (in Polish). virginsnatch.net. Retrieved 2014-07-14.
- "Flapjack Biography" (in Polish). www.flapjack.pl. Retrieved 2014-07-14.
- Broughton, Simon. "Hanging on in the Highlands". 2000. In Broughton, Simon and Ellingham, Mark with McConnachie, James and Duane, Orla (Ed.), World Music, Vol. 1: Africa, Europe and the Middle East, pp 219–224. Rough Guides Ltd, Penguin Books. ISBN 1-85828-636-0
- Cooley, Timothy J. Making Music in the Polish Tatras: Tourists, Ethnographers, and Mountain Musicians. Indiana University Press, 2005 (Hardcover with CD). ISBN 0-253-34489-1
- Czekanowska, Anna. Polish Folk Music: Slavonic Heritage – Polish Tradition – Contemporary Trends. Cambridge Studies in Ethnomusicology, Reissue 2006 (Paperback). ISBN 0-521-02797-7
- Grzegorz Michalski, Ewa Obniska, Henryk Swolkień and Jerzy Waldorff, An Outline History of Polish Music. Edited by Tadeusz Ochlewski. Warsaw, Interpress Publishers,1979, (194 p., index of names), + fully illustrated pages (c. 80).
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Music of Poland.|
- (French) Audio clips: Traditional music of Poland. Musée d'ethnographie de Genève.
- BBC Radio 3 Audio: World Routes in Poland (60 mins.)
- Early Polish Music
- Contemporary Polish Composers of Classical Music
- Polish folk musical instruments
- Polish Festivals You Can't Attend Anymore