Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima

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Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima
by Krzysztof Penderecki
Krzysztof Penderecki 20080706.jpg
Full titleOfiarom Hiroszimy: Tren, na 52 Instrumenty Smyczkowe
EnglishVictims of Hiroshima: Threnody, for 52 String Instruments
ISWC T-905.954.212-0 [1]
Year1961 (1961)
Genre Threnody
Style Sonorism
Form Orchestral piece
DedicationVictims and Hibakusha of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima
Publisher Polskie Wydawnictwo Muzyczne
Date22 September 1961;59 years ago (22 September 1961) [2] [3] :565
Location Warsaw Autumn Festival
Conductor Andrzej Markowski [3] :565
Performers Krakow Philharmonic
Symphony Orchestra

Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima, also translated as Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima [5] [6] (Polish : Tren Ofiarom Hiroszimy), is a musical composition for 52 string instruments composed in 1960 by Krzysztof Penderecki. Dedicated to the residents of Hiroshima killed and injured by the first-ever wartime usage of an atomic weapon, the composition won the Tribune Internationale des Compositeurs UNESCO prize in 1961. [7] [8] [lower-alpha 1] [lower-alpha 2]


The piece's written length is about 8 minutes and 37 seconds. [11] [12] Originally called 8'37", [13] the piece applies the sonoristic technique which tends to focus on specific characteristics and qualities of timbre, texture, articulation, dynamics, and motion in an attempt to create freer form, and rigors of specific counterpoint to an ensemble of strings treated to unconventional scoring. Penderecki's stated intent with the composition was to "develop a new musical language". [14] Penderecki later said, "It existed only in my imagination, in a somewhat abstract way." When he heard an actual performance, "I was struck by the emotional charge of the work ... I searched for associations and, in the end, I decided to dedicate it to the Hiroshima victims". [15]

The piece spans 52 string instruments, [16] :93 melding them together in sonoristic manipulation and counterpoint in a manner which, according to reviewer Paul Griffiths, makes the listener "uneasy by choosing to refer to an event too terrible for string orchestral screams". [17] The vertical component of the score is varied, with 24 violins divided into four sections, 10 violas divided into two sections, 10 cellos divided into two groups, and 8 basses in two sections. [11] Threnody's sustained tone clusters and various extended techniques – including a riot of varying vibrato, slapped instruments, playing on the tailpiece and behind the bridge – are matched by an optical notation full of thick black lines. [18] [16] :94 At times Penderecki takes an aleatoric approach, offering the players a choice of techniques or demanding irregular degrees of vibrato. The piece is also marked by a considerable rigor in its timing indications, notated in seconds, as well as specific note clusters and the use of quarter tones, clustered pitches and sound mass which accumulates in a reservoir of hypertonality. [16] :93

Usage in media

In film, excerpts from Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima are used in Alfonso Cuarón's 2006 film Children of Men , [19] [20] Wes Craven's 1991 film The People Under the Stairs , [21] [22] David Lynch's 2017 television series Twin Peaks , [23] [24] and Gerry Anderson's 1969 film Journey to the Far Side of the Sun . [25] In music, excerpts from Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima are sampled in one version of Manic Street Preachers's 1991 song You Love Us [26] and in SebastiAn's 2010 release Bird Games. [27]

See also


  1. 1 2 The UNESCO prize is not restricted to choosing a single winner, rather, the Rostrum may choose a variable number of winners ranked in a specialized order of selection. [4]
  2. While referred to informally as the UNESCO prize, UNESCO is not involved with the selection of winners, who are instead chosen by the Tribune Internationale des Compositeurs (Rostrum of International Composers, or Rostrum). [9] The Rostrum is organized by the International Music Council, an NGO which was created in 1949 as UNESCO's advisory body on matters of music. [10]

Related Research Articles

Krzysztof Penderecki Polish composer and conductor

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Threnody Song, hymn or poem of mourning

A threnody is a wailing ode, song, hymn or poem of mourning composed or performed as a memorial to a dead person. The term originates from the Greek word θρηνῳδία (threnoidia), from θρῆνος and ᾠδή, the latter ultimately from the Proto-Indo-European root *h₂weyd- that is also the precursor of such words as "ode", "tragedy", "comedy", "parody", "melody" and "rhapsody".

Warsaw Autumn(Warszawska Jesień) is the largest international Polish festival of contemporary music. Indeed, for many years, it was the only festival of its type in Central and Eastern Europe. It was founded in 1956 by two composers, Tadeusz Baird and Kazimierz Serocki, and officially established by the Head Board of the Polish Composers' Union. It is an annual event, normally taking place in the second half of September and lasts for 8 days.

Sound mass

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<i>Polish Requiem</i> Catholic funeral mass

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