THE PROBLEM OF ORIENTALISM IN THE MUSIC OF KAROL SZYMANOWSKI
A close reading of studies to the composer's 'oriental' works as well as of his own published writings and notes, including his Arabistic notes held in the University of Warsaw Library, permits to question the widely accepted interpretation of Szymanowski's connections with the Orient. The analysis of the notebooks, permits to state that the composer's main source of knowledge was the book by Le Bon and other French scholars. The way he approached Arabic culture reveals an original, independent mind, resistant to facile stereotypes of the oriental exotic. It is clear that the composer did not seek neither any precise information about Oriental music, nor was he searching for artistic inspiration. He wanted to avoid all stereotypical formulas symbolising the Orient and - as the authoress of the article points out - the linking of an 'oriental'-like technique with any actual musical tradition of the east raises justifiable doubts. A more promising source of musical 'exoticism' was the traditional folk music, although Szymanowski was again well aware of the danger of incorporating it into a professional musical language, which could give rise to an 'academic' folklore devoid of artistic depth.
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