Krzysztof Penderecki

Krzysztof Penderecki

Turning History into Avant-garde

"I did not live in easy times," says Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki in this rare interview. Having witnessed Auschwitz and the Stalin-period in the 1950's, Penderecki explains: "I had to react with my music."

Krzysztof Penderecki (b. 1933) - one of the world's most renowned contemporary composers - visited Copenhagen for the premier of his avant-garde opera "The Devils of Loudun" at the Royal Danish Opera. Originally written at the end of the 1960's, the opera was an outright critic of the role of the church in society, and it caused a lot of turmoil in catholic countries such as Poland, Italy and the southern parts of Germany.

Art played a vital role during a period where half of Europe was suppressed by the Communist ideology, Penderecki explains. Young artists defined themselves as being against systems and authorities. Influenced by historic events such as World War II and the occupation of Poland, the young generation of the 1950's chose to look forward and tried to shape something new. The artists who joined the avant-garde movement inspired each other cross borders, listening to each other, recognizing each other - but no more than that. "Artists do not need so much to be connected with a group, we build a group." Penderecki says, and goes on to explain: "All the artists i remember from the past, they were really lonely. Me too." Furthermore, Penderecki explains that his famous compositions, which have been used for Hollywood-productions such as The Exorcist and The Shining, were not written for those films, but was in stead adopted by them. Originally these experimental scores were composed in the late 1950's and early 1960's.

Today though, the borders between avant-garde and mainstream music have become less clear, Penderecki says. Living in a free and open society, culture does not play the same role anymore, that it used to some decades ago. Thus Penderecki has rewritten "The Devils of Loudon" reducing the number of instruments played in the opera. "Which orchestra today is able to play a hundred voices?" Penderecki asks.

Krzysztof Penderecki was interviewed by Marc-Christoph Wagner.

Camera: Martin Kogi
Camera opera: Daniel Bødker Sørensen
Produced by: Martin Kogi and Marc-Christoph Wagner
Music by: Krzysztof Penderecki
Copypright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2013

  • Anna Bjerger

    It's All About Process

    “The painting moves me forward – and I follow.” Meet Swedish Anna Bjerger, who wants to preserve the excitement of painting, and who paints from photographs, feeling that she can somehow rescue images “that would otherwise disappear.”

  • 3 Artists

    On Yayoi Kusama’s Phalli’s Field

    An absorbing installation of mirrors and soft polka dots by Yayoi Kusama. Join artists Lilibeth Cuenca Rasmussen, Astrid Svangren and Alexander Tovborg as they explore what Kusama herself describes as “a sublime, miraculous field of phalluses.”

  • Colm Tóibín

    On Writing

    The award-winning Irish writer Colm Tóibín here shares his meticulous approach to writing, and how a novel can begin with – and build on – just one perfectly shaped sentence: “It moves into rhythm when you least expect it.”

  • David Shrigley

    Advice to the Young

    “You’re on the right track if you’re excited about what you’re doing.” David Shrigley, known for his humorous spin on common situations, here advises his colleagues to be open to learning from mistakes and stresses that being an artist “isn’t for everybody.”

  • Richard Ford

    Politicians are Liars

    “You get the politics that you deserve.” Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Richard Ford here speaks bluntly of the interplay between politicians and the public in America, arguing that people can only blame themselves for being lied to by politicians.

  • Superflex

    Why We Flooded McDonald’s

    What motivates a Danish artists' group to make a movie where one of the most famous American fast food restaurants is inexplicably flooded? Superflex here comment on the content of their “post-apocalyptic movie” ‘Flooded McDonald’s’.

  • Peter Zumthor

    Different Kinds of Silence

    We visited Peter Zumthor – one of the world’s leading architects – in his studio in Switzerland. In this extensive and rare biographical video interview he tells the captivating story of his childhood, his studies in NYC and his parents’ strong influence.

  • Marina Abramović

    Advice to the Young

    Follow your intuition. Have courage. Do what you imagine. And always be completely present in the moment. Marina Abramović on what it really means to be an artist: "A great artist has to be ready to fail."

  • Linn Ullmann

    We All Try to Make Life Work

    ”Literature was a place, where I could recognize things that I thought were only felt by me.” Meet Norwegian writer Linn Ullmann for a conversation about literature, writing and the obligation of the author to be critical of power.

  • Pipilotti Rist

    Color is Dangerous

    Meet the sensuous Swiss video artist Pipilotti Rist, whose work full of colour and playfulness. She here argues that videos can have painterly qualities and tells the story of one of her most famous videos, where a woman smashes car windows with a flower.

  • 6 Artists

    Poetry of Discarded Materials

    In a time where consumerism only seems to be growing, it is inspiring to observe these six artists – such as Tara Donovan and Piet Hein Eek – who have made discarded, everyday materials the centre of their work. Watch their approach to re-using materials.

  • 6 Artists

    On Decisive Moments

    6 acclaimed artists reveal a decisive moment in their life – a strong personal experience which became crucial in their development, and in shaping their work as artists.