Last week was the awful anniversaries of the Atomic Bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.
“Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima (Tren ofiarom Hiroszimy in Polish) is a musical composition for 52 string instruments, composed in 1960 by Krzysztof Penderecki (b. 1933), which took third prize at the Grzegorz Fitelberg Composers’ Competition in Katowice in 1960. The piece swiftly attracted interest around the world and made its young composer famous. The piece—originally called 8’37” (at times also 8’26”)—applies the sonoristic technique and rigors of specific counterpoint to an ensemble of strings treated unconventionally in terms of tone production. 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’. Tadeusz Zielinski made a similar point, writing in 1961, ‘While reading the score, one may admire Penderecki’s inventiveness and coloristic ingeniousness. Yet one cannot rightly evaluate the Threnody until it has been listened to, for only then does one face the amazing fact: all these effects have turned out to serve as a pretext to conceive a profound and dramatic work of art!’ The piece tends to leave an impression both solemn and catastrophic, earning its classification as a threnody. On October 12, 1964, Penderecki wrote, ‘Let the ThrenodyHiroshima will never be forgotten and lost.’ express my firm belief that the sacrifice of
The piece’s unorthodox, largely symbol-based score directs the musicians to play at various vague points in their range or to concentrate on certain textural effects, and they are directed to play on the wrong side of the bridge, or to slap the body of the instrument. Penderecki sought to heighten the effects of traditional chromaticism by using ‘hypertonality’—composing in quarter tones—to make dissonance more prominent than it would be in traditional tonality. Another unusual aspect of Threnody is Penderecki’s expressive use of total serialism. The piece includes an “invisible canon,” in 36 voices, an overall musical texture that is more important than the individual notes, making it a leading example of sound mass composition. As a whole, Threnody constitutes one of the most extensive elaborations on the tone cluster.
The Welsh rock group Manic Street Preachers sampled a portion of Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima for the introduction to their 1991 single ‘You Love Us.’
Below is the only video I could find. It runs about 9 minutes. The video has images for about the first half, and then none. Be warned some of the images are graphic, but how else can one see the true horrors of war.
May their memory be with us forever, and we never do something like this again