In 1956 and 1957 Kazimierz Serocki composed two song cycles – Heart of the Night and Eyes of the Air. In them he combined the discipline and logic of sound progression ensured by the twelve-note technique with sonic finesse emerging also from the use of the pointillist convention.
Eyesof the Air exists in two versions: for voice with piano and voice with orchestra. The former was performed at the 1960 Warsaw Autumn by Josephine Nendick and Richard Rodney Bennett. The latter was presented at the festival in 1964 – the soprano soloist was Dorothy Dorrow, who was accompanied by the National Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Stanisław Wisłocki. The orchestral version of Eyes of the Air can thus be regarded as the ultimate version of the piece, which Serocki thought was worth presenting to the audience even when he had already written compositions (e.g. Segmenti, A piacere or Symphonic Frescoes) representing the next stage of his career.
In Eyes of the Air Serocki set to music poems by Julian Przyboś (Meeting, Lilac, A Moment, Path, Evening). These are poems without exact rhymes, which have been replaced with irregular, distant chords – assonances and consonances, also characterized by varying verse lengths. The composer’s main goal was to musically highlight the mood of the poetry, full of metaphors, with themes associated, on the one hand, closely with nature and on the other – with reflections on human feelings and lost love. This softened the dodecaphonic discipline, with means of musical expression being brought to the fore. These include, for example, an interval leap down and lowering of the pitch register on the words “I shall pull down that rim landscape” (in Meeting,see the text in English here); subtle reproduction of the sensual nature of the poetic text in the delicate, pared-down instrumentation; or support for the changing feelings tormenting the lyrical subject provided by appropriate musical-expressive terms – e.g. sentito (expressively) and deciso (in a decided manner) or dolce (sweetly) and canterellando (singing in a low or subdued voice). The whole cycle could be regarded as a study in the possibilities of combining instrumental colours and the human voice, a task to which Serocki would return in his Poesies composed in 1969.
Eyes of the Air. Text in English
Buried by the horizon like a coffin is the view there While here: one breast of a hillock is suckling yonder little plateau released from your outspread arm's span. At moonrise the landscape itself draws fainter, fainter, even farther. See now how like a rocking cradle it gives itself into your keeping. T'is I who with outstretching hand tempt toward me the distance. Clutching hold of the far edge of the world's rim I shall pull down that dim landscape. The horizon's son shall not disengage his embracing arms around your shoulders: never. Staring at you are the mightly eyes of the air.
Earth tears itself up by the roots from the overheated centre: world storm tossed is training with splitting great tree trunks! Only once did May awhile blow in passing. From the clods of soil a wide wind arose: green grass! But a single fragrant word from tears. And I seized my joy which fluttered off aloft there migrating like a bird's nest formed of earth's flesh high soaring: onwards! Wafting perfumed breath of windblown springtime: lilac
A Passing Moment
I lie amid long grass bespattered with butter-cups. Like ,mayflies over the pond quivering swarm the bright heat sparks. Watching a flower grows from my eyes: a dandelion thrusting skywards. I fade in a gust of perfume and die thus.
Many times this path has been exchanged, the way joining these thickets, which again you hand to me at your parting. You leave me: willows in double rows hide the path's bending. Day is brief as a skirt only kneelength. The swift calves ares still in sight receding though soon the curves's edge wraps itself about your waist. Far from me, where you wander? Just in front at the obstinate slope of a little steep hill you look back searching out the path which your slender long legs standing thigh deep in the evening have strayed from.
That very starlight whispered evening like a faint confession. The lamps drew out of doorways dark in the street and in the air they stopped, hanging silent. Twilight gently transforms the far distance. The gardens have allowed their trees to droop down, greyish riverside houses have flowed on. Grief between low banks' mid alders glides. At the horizon the moon alone shows the sky's rim and far into remembrance leads the roadway. between us your own hands are sowing empty miles.