Music is a constant moving target, aided and abetted at times by synergistic collaboration. Along the lines of John Cage there is a collaboration between Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood and composer Krzysztof Penderecki ( “Poland’s godfather of the musical avant-garde”). I happened to read an interview with Jonny Greenwood in Uncut Magazine where he discusses his awe of Penderecki so I thought I’d tune in….
So what is it about Penderecki that Greenwood finds so inspiring? “His pieces make such wonderful sounds. And it is a beautiful experience to hear them live. Of all the composers whose music suffers from what recording does, Penderecki is one of the biggest casualties. I think a lot of people might think his work is stridently dissonant or painful on the ears. But because of the complexity of what’s happening – particularly in pieces such as Threnody and Polymorphia, and how the sounds are bouncing around the concert hall, it becomes a very beautiful experience when you’re there. It’s not like listening to feedback, and it’s not dissonant. It’s something else. It’s a celebration of so many people making music together and it’s like – wow, you’re watching that happen.”
Popcorn Superhet Receiver takes its name from a shortwave radio catalog, and is inspired by “white noise,” a sound that encompasses every audible frequency and often seems like static. Greenwood applied this concept to his composition, which he wrote by layering all of his violin parts on top of each other in a digital-editing program. He then transcribed it all with pen and paper.
The piece is a work of avant-garde romanticism. At its core, Popcorn is atonal, at times bracing, but in the altogether it forms a sweeping and beautiful noise. The Oscar-nominated film There Will Be Blood excerpts two sections of the suite, as well as a full-length score by Greenwood that achieves a great cinematic effect.
Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima and Polymorphia written by Krzysztof Penderecki; Popcorn Superhet Receiver and 48 Responses to Polymorphia written by Jonny Greenwood