Tadeusz Baird was very much interested in the culture of the past; we could say he was fascinated with it. As he said:
We’ve been created by the past and the present and that’s the reason behind the interest in history and art of previous centuries. For artists in particular, getting to know what preceded us – literature, theatre, visual arts, architecture – is absolutely necessary, these are things that shape not only our artistic worldview, but also our ability to experience and understand beauty; they expand our imagination, they make us wiser, i.e. more conscious of ourselves and our actions.
Baird cultivated his love of the culture of the past during his numerous travels. In his free time he would go on a few-week-long trips in order to learn about the past recorded in all products of human activity. He was particularly passionate about art – architecture, painting, sculpture, history of culture, history of religious beliefs, literature, theatre. The composer was in love primarily with Spain and Greece. Getting to know these countries enabled him to understand the principles governing the development, greatness and decline of art. When it comes to Spanish art, he appreciated its two basic properties – seeking the truth, and honour, which for centuries had been preoccupying the Spanish artists. Baird learned about Spain’s past also through its customs, e.g. bull fights, which combined cruelty and beauty. The composer summed up his many experiences and reflections from his travels in the following manner:
[...] Can we really imagine a world without cathedrals and mosques, stained glass windows and figures made by folk artists, without painting, religious sculptures and Bach’s oratorios, without village churches and old Egyptian tomb inscriptions, without carols, without Buddhist or Shinto temples and pyramids, without the toil of medieval Benedictine monks and without totemic masks and movingly artless figurines of animists? A world without symbols left to us by all those distant and close, dead and still living beliefs? Without Elysian Fields, Charon and Lethe, Ptah and Buddha’s intriguing smile, without Apollo and Dionysus, without the sign of the cross, without God and without devil?
Tadeusz Baird’s strong affinity with tradition undoubtedly influenced his work. His awareness of the great cultural heritage of past centuries built his artistic sensibility. Clear references to the musical achievements of the past can be seen in his archaising works (in references to the music of the Middle Ages, Renaissance and Baroque), in his use of the classical principles of composition, but also in his use of more modern forms of expression (twelve-note technique, expressionism and sonorism), and, above all, in his Romantic inspirations. Baird admired the music of many composers from different periods, including Johann Sebastian Bach, Johannes Brahms, Gustav Mahler, Béla Bartók, Anton Webern, but his avowed masters were Alban Berg and Karol Szymanowski. It was in their music that he found a kindred mode of artistic expression.
- “Utrwalić życie czyli siebie” [“Preserving life, i.e. oneself”] (talking with W. Jamroziak), Nurt 1981 no. 11, p. 13.
- T. Baird, I. Grzenkowicz, Rozmowy, szkice, refleksje [Conversations, Sketches, Reflections], Kraków 1998, p. 156.