The title of Kazimierz Serocki’s piece refers to its distinctive formal-dramatic concept, described by the composer himself as follows:
Several highlighted structural-sonic elements, which are fully distinguishable to the listener, act like a kind of exposition of the ‘dramatis personae’. The way these elements appear subsequently in changed sound forms as well as their mutual relations, nature and development over the duration of the work could be compared to the characters and behaviour of protagonists in a stage drama. There are three closely connected developmental stages in the work leading to a climax followed by an epilogue of sorts.”
[K. Serocki, note in the programme book of the 15th Warsaw Autumn Festival, Warsaw 1971, p. 90]
Despite including “dramatic action” in the work and even allowing a ballet version to be presented on stage (a production was staged, for example, by Conrad Drzewiecki at the Polish Dance Theatre in Poznań in 1979) Serocki was decidedly against Dramatic Story being presented in semantic terms. For the essence of the work is “composing with sound colours”. When compared with other compositions using the same main principle, Dramatic Story places a much greater emphasis on the melodic factor. One of the its themes is a string cantilena – a melody in the highest register of a series of twelve-note chords following one another. Such cantilenas appear in strategic points of the dramatic action of the piece; they remain its most easily noticeable element, although their successive transformations differ considerably from the initial structure.
On the other hand the piece does not lack examples of colour inventiveness – the clarinet part, for example, features a deconstruction of the instrument and playing with the mouthpiece alone (glissandi) or with the reed being pressed with the teeth, which changes the pitch and tone colour. Moreover, a special sonic aura is created by the use of microtones. tIn other words, the emotional or dramatic content of the composition does not push its “colourfulness” into the background.
Dramatic Story is one of few pieces by Serocki composed after 1956 which did not have its premiere in Western Europe. It was performed for the first time by the Hilversum-based Netherlands Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Andrzej Markowski at the 1971 Warsaw Autumn.