As I have certainly written already (my plan is not to go back to my earlier posts, so if I’m repeating myself, so be it), working with the text of the libretto, especially when adapting existing prose, means reduction, reduction, and above all, reduction. A series of cuts. Cutting out fragments, themes and characters and sewing together what remains. In fact, this is not so much as cutting and sewing, but eviscerating, skinning, removing parts of the skeleton itself, and putting it back together to form a new structure and screwing it together with nuts, only to fill it anew with fresh connective tissue – that is, with music. I wonder what to do with skin in this metaphor... maybe that new outer layer appears only when the work is performed bublicly. And with subsequent performances, it hardens and gains colours. It gains hair (for some reason, a wild animal appeared now in front of my eyes). Anyway, it is not a sterile process, it is not clean work. It is not very possible to maintain a logical, optimal sequence; for example, sometimes some element of the skeleton turns out to be excessive only when the tissue covers it again. So you need to break and eviscerate the entire work again, and put it together again, to clad the bones with the meat, trimming here and there, waiting for the thing to grow back together.
For a long time I had that feeling that something was off with one of my choices of the excerpts from The Mask. That the form I have envisaged for the entire work (in line with the time requirements – a monodrama about 30 minutes long) will not fit the entire process of the Girl investigating the truth about herself, and, as a result, to her transformation, as it is written by Lem. In the story, the process begins for good in the carriage, when the Girl delves deep into her own memory and consciousness and is ultimately pacified; it continues throughout the development of the relationship with Arrhodes, and ends with the meticulous description of the scene in front of the mirror, when the Girl cuts her stomach. There are two climaxes here: the stabbing in the carriage and the cutting of the stomach in front of the mirror. In terms of music, I believe that these climaxes cannot be too close to each other, or they will sound fake. Like a wave that is gaining momentum and naturally breaking down into a white crest, and then, instead of rolling over and calming down before the next one arrives, it would suddenly go up again. Waving is a process that has its dynamics and its inertia limited by certain external conditions. In music, these conditions are obviously not as clear and unambiguous as in the case of water movement in the field of the Earth's gravity, but I deeply believe that there must be some. So, I didn’t know what to do with that two-climax process, until I had a little revelation: that the sharp item in the carriage and the lancet in front of the mirror is one and the same figure. That it is possible to combine all these scenes and everything in between them into one climax, after which – the chase begins. Then, in turn, the “weight” of the romance moves from the period in the story that takes place after the ball to the ball itself, to the first meeting of the Girl and Arrhodes, to their first conversation and the dance. And here came one more revelation – I used a quote. From the music to one film – TV series. A TV series of all time that, in a visionary way, set the standards when the format of TV was still in its infancy, only to come back after several decades in a stunning, resplendent retrospection to refresh these standards – at such a moment in time when this format seems to have solidified. I wonder if this quote will be clear to anyone... Here is a part of it:
This week ended with the last premiere surviving that very weird year – a quartet written for the (fantastic!) Royal String Quartet. One more concert in an empty hall (this time, radio S1 hall), for the imaginary audience, listening to the music – perhaps, somewhere else, and at another time. The programme also included all three quartets by Penderecki. The entire concert sounded like a goodbye. For me, that impression was intensified by the fact that I wrote my work just before the “end of the world” – last winter. In a world that no longer exists. I finished it literally on the eve of the official announcement of the global pandemic.
After the concert, in a completely empty and quiet hotel, I started once again to deconstruct, with blood, the scene in which the Girl meets Arrhodes and I came across the quote I mentioned above.
(transl. Magdalena Małek-Andrzejowska)