Part one, which is about half of the entire piece, is complete. So a brief summary might be appropriate. As I think I have mentioned before, the idea for Pokora came about when Szczepan sent me the text of his freshly completed novel over a year ago. Siren was then being written, so I didn’t get far into reading, but I got the strong impression that I needed to come back to it. To read carefully, but perhaps also to take up the subject more broadly.
And so I came back. I read it through, I thought about it, and I confirmed my belief that (besides being a great read) this could be part three, the culmination of a trilogy of dramas with texts by Szczepan. The “trilogy-ness” in the set won’t be so obvious, but it will be there. I don’t think I’ll explain it here. I won’t explain it fully to myself either, but I feel it very vividly nonetheless. The characters change, Josef is not Alojs or the (ever)eternal boy-conqueror, Agnes is not Karoline or the (ever)eternal lover-mother, nor is Siren the Drach, or an unstated force manifesting itself in various relations of domination and subordination. And yet – everything and everyone – is the same. He, she, it; you – me.
The libretto of Pokora (Humility), as it was with with Siren and Drach, has three parts, but actually, the first two parts are one whole – the half I have just finished. First Agnes talks about how she sees Alojs, and then the tables turn. In the second half they will talk to each other. Their relationship is not a beautiful romance, although they are close. They need each other, in a sense (in different senses) they cannot live without each other, but a happy ending is not to be expected.
Duality versus triplicity – this is an important theme here. And it may even be an important theme in the entire trilogy. By the way, the juxtaposition of a duple and a triple metres is one of the visible characteristics of Silesian songs. In any case, the double-triple division in Pokora is the starting point for many material and formal decisions: both conscious, and, it seems to me, subconscious. The whole thing starts with a kind of dance on the accordion. This is no stylisation, although it may sound like it. The structure of this ‘prelude’ is strict: harmonically it is based on a quote from a certain important work that is a hundred years old, whose theme fits here well. The four-note quote is given in its basic form and in symmetrical reversal. First as snippets of a melody, and then as chordal accompaniment for another melody, the provenance of which I will not reveal for now (or perhaps ever). The accordion introduction turns into a duet of both soloists (soprano and baritone), still accompanied by the accordion, and then successively into a solo by Agnes and then Alojs, along with the strings. Agnes is in her alcove, Alojs in the trenches. Musically, these solo passages are already different from the introduction. They also differ from one another. They both develop and bring certain themes to several climaxes.
Szczepan shows (as always) the reverse of the world. Gloomy, dark and terryfying. But the reverse must have an obverse. Even if it is only an assumption. Something makes me guess and suggest it. Even if it were to be, in principle and in practice, inaccessible. Truth be told, I cannot help feeling that the reverse equals the obverse, and that is not bad news. Modernism, postmodernism and forward we go.
And now, the second half.
(transl. Magdalena Małek-Andrzejowska)