A significant feature of Panufnik’s approach to composition was the uncommon degree of discipline in the shaping of the structure of his consecutive works. This discipline can be discerned already in his early compositions, in the careful and precise planning of their structure, from single motifs and chords, through the development of the melodic and harmonic layers, to the form of the whole. Or rather, the procedure was applied in reverse, since Panufnik composed by starting with a general concept, and gradually turning his attention to the smallest detail.

That early stage in the creation of a new work is for me the hardest. Everything has to be imagined and worked out in my head before a single note is put on to paper.

Thus, he would think through the shape of the future composition, its architectural framework, which he would then consistently fill with sounds and feelings. At the same time he admitted that the emotional content, the spiritual message and the atmosphere of a work were of great significance for him. He needed first to feel an impulse, an inspiration which would indicate the general climate of the composition and channel his thinking in the appropriate direction. Only then would he take the next step of planning the structure of the work. The aim of the structure, always built up with great precision and discipline, was to facilitate the free flow of emotions, not restraining them but also not allowing them to dominate. For this reason the transparency of musical language was equally important to him – in the area of harmony, texture and form. This purpose was served by dividing the timbral layer of his works, especially orchestral ones, into a number of harmonic-melodic planes (usually three), each with a slightly different instrumental setting. At the same time he used the full sound of a symphony orchestra really only at climactic moments of the composition, transferring the leadership of the musical action to selected groups of instruments, sometimes solo ones, in other fragments. This enabled him to avoid dense texture and superimposing layers of melodic convolutions, which might dim the structural and emotional picture of the composition.

For myself, I continue my quest for clarity and transparency in my scores. I never was tempted by the trend to construct music of such density and intellectual complexity that even the finest musical ear cannot discern inaccuracies in performance. And just as I bypassed the now eclipsed fashion for dodecaphony, I also felt no urge to leap on the bandwagon of aleatoric music: the element of chance is contrary to my passion for order, which in my eyes is the intrinsic core of a viable work of art. For me, economy of means and my responsibility over each and every note I put on paper is crucial.

Camilla Panufnik