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April 2015
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WATCH: Sneak Peek at World Premiere Work by Agnieszka Stulginska


Composer Agnieszka Stulginska shares a sneak peek at her world-premiere piece Dance with My Breath, the 2015 Composer Alive commission for Access Contemporary Music’s Palomar EnsembleDance with My Breath was developed and recorded in three installments between January and March 2015.

The world-premiere will be unveiled in an upcoming concert at the Copernicus Center in Chicago on Friday, April 10, 7:00 pm. Agnieszka and her new composition will be featured on WFMT’s Relevant Tones with Seth Boustead Saturday, May 23, at 5:00 pm.

Read Agnieszka’s notes about the work and check out the video below to sample her piece as she was developing it with Palomar earlier this year.

When I start working on a new piece, I come up with a concept and sketch. I study instruments, meet with performers to look for new possibilities. Then it’s time to write down the notes. This period is a part of my life and everything that happens in it affects the narration of the piece. The creation process often goes beyond my initial concepts and I enter new and previously unknown areas.

The starting point for my piece Dance with My Breath was a return to my roots, which are in the Kurpie region [of Poland]. While traveling around the villages I found the old people who still naturally sing and dance in traditional, unchanged ways.

In the first part of the composition I focused on the voice, its special color, power, detuning and tuning in the singing group, accents, white voice.  I decided to concentrate on everything but the melody (no melody) and express it by the instruments.

In the second part the number of defined pitch sounds has been even further reduced in favor of the new exploration of color. When searching for color I discovered this special effect which is created by circular movements of a bow when playing the cello.  The sound reminds me of the old analogue record after a finished song. This effect combines again with my concept of cyclical waves and passing, depth and wisdom in all things old and good. These effects are also used in the first and third part.

For the third part, I had only the words of an old traditional Polish folk-religious song to work with, especially the following text: “Oh sweet healing for my troubled heart.” I found the words in the notebook of an old man from the village. I was desperately trying to find somebody who could sing this song for me. Unfortunately, there was nobody who could remember the melody. Although the melody has been lost, it still works as the central idea of my piece.  Keep in mind that a “lost melody” has a universal meaning.

In composing this piece, I also realized that each region of the world perceives the rhythm a bit differently. I decided to focus on the search for differences and similarities. At the same time I was trying to find what makes each person unique and find the characteristics common to all. As a result the factor combining the whole piece has become a breath, pulse, and heart rate as well as internal tides and the cyclical nature of life.


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