Sound and tone colour were important means of expression for Baird, all the more so given the fact that he had a natural predisposition to colour hearing. When he imagined a new work, he imagined a specific set of instruments, and not only an outline of melody or harmony. His composing by means of sound was an outcome of many elements, especially texture and colour. Baird’s approach to shaping sound was very individual. If he treated sound as a primary category, he did so without resorting to experimentation (the composer never used sonic material generated or transformed electronically), expressing instead various emotional states within a specific musical form. Thus Baird used the full palette of sounds, from gentle and subtle ones, to very violent, rough, even ugly ones. He built the musical tension by means of sonic planes, the variety of which stemmed from, for example:
- expansion of the traditional orchestral line-up to include keyboard instruments (piano, celesta, harpsichord) as well as a rich percussion set;
- use of unconventional combinations of instruments;
- use of a whole variety of traditional ways of producing sounds, as well as (though to a limited extent) unconventional methods (both when it comes to instrument and the human voice).
The group of works characterised by an emancipation of the sound element, most of which were written in 1968-1978, encompasses 14 items:
- 10 orchestral works (Variations without a Theme, Epiphany Music, Four Novelettes, Sinfonia breve, Symphony No. 3, Psychodrama, Concerto for oboe and orchestra, Elegeia, Concerto lugubre, Scenes),
- 2 vocal-instrumental works for bigger ensembles (Etude, Goethe-Briefe),
- 2 chamber works (Play, Variations in Rondo Form).
The most characteristic representative of the group is Sinfonia breve (1968) – full of violent and huge contrasts. However, the first work of this kind was Etude for vocal orchestra, percussion and piano (1961), followed by Epiphany Music (1963), characterised by “sonoristic pointillism”, and the chamber and lyrical Four Novelettes (1967). After 1968 the composer grappled with two tendencies: monumentalism and brutality of sound (Symphony No. 3, Goethe’s Letters, Psychodrama, Oboe Concerto, Concerto lugubre), as well as its reduction and softening (Play, Elegeia, Scenes, Variations in Rondo Form).
Although these works by Tadeusz Baird are not typical, model examples – like Krzysztof Penderecki’s Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima or Henryk Mikołaj Górecki’s cycle Genesis – of Polish sonorism, they are very well characterised by Leszek Polony, who describes sonorist works in the following manner:
[They are] dramatic musical narratives, a quality that stems from a processual approach to the sound course, from its characteristic dialectics of continuity (identity) and change; growth, expansion, completing and thickening; splitting, differentiating, contrasting and transforming, sounding, disappearing, dying out and fading; resulting and emerging; finally, a clear caesura, break, emergence of the new.
- L. Polony quoted after Iwona Lindstedt, Sonorystyka w twórczości kompozytorów polskich XX wieku [Sonotistics in the Works of 20th Century Polish Composers], Warsaw 2010, p. 23.