De natura sonoris No. 1
“De natura sonoris No. 1 resulted from my Passion,” explained Penderecki in Rozmowy Lusławickie [Conversations in Lusławice]. The composition, however, retains none of the climate of that great vocal-instrumental work – only a certain affinity of ideas with regard to sound and textures. The original title was De rebus sonoribus, in reference to Lucretius’ treatise De rerum natura.
It is “about the nature of sound” indeed that Penderecki informs us in this work, summing up his earlier experiences with sonoristic techniques. He begins with impulses of the woodwinds and clusters in the strings, later bringing in the other instrumental groups: brass and percussion including a flexatone,a small metal sheet struck on both sides with metal rods and producing a metallic sound based on glissandi. The blocks of sound change kaleidoscopically, ranging from the highest to the lowest possible tones. At one point (c. 4’10” on our recording), to everyone’s surprise, a solo double-bass enters with a somewhat swinging melody. Against this background we hear phrases provided as a model for improvisation (in the score these are represented by notes placed in rectangular boxes, as in Lutosławski’s String Quartet), taken up successively by a saxophone, an English horn, a flute and then other wind instruments. After an orchestral tutti culmination, the texture becomes sparser, leaving room for another sequence of sonoristic “flavours” presented by instrumental groups, for example a string quintet plucking alla chitarra. Like Lucretius, whose aim was to explain all natural phenomena by means of his atomist theory, Penderecki in his first De natura sonoris seems to create all possible combinations of sound matter out of the atoms of sound.