Commit to a Writing Practice


Writing 101, Day 3.

Today’s suggestion from WordPress Blogging U.

“Today, celebrate three songs that are significant to you. For your twist, write for fifteen minutes without stopping — and build a writing habit.”

Number 1 is

Symphony No. 3 Symphony of Sorrowful Songs’ by Henryk Górecki

Composed in Katowice, Poland, between October and December 1976

Górecki’s Symphony of Sorrowful songs, is very much one of the most important songs in my life. I first heard it in 1993. I was at work and this ethereal voice was on the radio. ‘Oh, that sounds like Górecki’ said my colleague. I had the CD within days. Gramophone magazine had made it their recording of the year, and I could see why.
Initially though I was horribly confused, I had heard the second movement. The first movement and so first track on the CD was really long, some 30 minutes and very very slow. It has words but they don’t appear until halfway through. I kept looking at the lyrics and thinking where are they – I haven’t heard anything yet. It doesn’t help that the entire thing is sung I Polish.

The composer likened the first track to the journey down a great cathedral, you enter from the end of the nave and the movement builds to a crescendo as you pass the crossing. It then works its way back down again. It starts incredibly quietly, with just a rumbling bass line that is barely audible. Then successive layers of music are added almost like a canon. By the time it gets to its peak the whole string section is going flat out. It pauses. The sublime vocalist starts virtually unaccompanied. She too builds to a crescendo and then the music starts its slow descent gradually losing layer and volume as it goes.

The three part symphony is achingly beautiful, the lyrics are three Polish poems or prayers set to music. Each tells it story of death and loss – the whole piece is a lament to those lost or cruelly mistreated in warfare.

For me the centre piece is that second movement. The words are taken from a prayer scratched into the Gestapo HQ by a young girl during World War 2. She prays for hope and salvation. There is little chance she received either, and she almost certainly died in that same building.

There is for me something intensely moving about it and of course it’s intimate relationship to the concentration and extermination camps to the country in whose language it’s written. I once spoke to a Polish friend of mine. Both her parents are Polish she said the Holocaust is almost something you are born knowing of. A form of genetic memory – it is seared into the psyche. If so then this is it outpouring in music.

It is the saddest and simultaneously the most beautiful and affecting piece of music I have ever heard.

This video clip is of the second movement, uniquely permitted to be performed at Auschwitz.


The task is to write about three songs. Numbers 2 & 3 will be written next.


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