Composition is not simple. The image of a May night, a lark singing and then a composer sitting down at the piano and improvising a beautiful cantilena – is wrong. Writing a piece of music is usually a matter of many, often very many months of hard, painstaking work – said Tadeusz Baird.
He always composed during the day, in absolute silence, in isolation. He rarely used the piano, only to check some chords or the melodic line in the various parts. His creative process consisted of three stages – first an outline of an idea emerged and matured in his mind; the second stage produced a number of drafts, and in the third stage he wrote a fair copy of the score:
Very rarely do I write from the beginning to the end. [I leave] some “blank pages” which I don’t hear yet. I fill them painstakingly. Writing the score itself occurs very late and is relatively quick. [...] Imagining the whole piece is the most difficult stage in the composition process. It irritates me – for me the work is now ready and I still have to write it down.
This is how Alina Baird remembers the external form of the composer’s creative process:
He composed slowly, he wrote when he had already imagined everything exactly. Then he would stand here at the piano and he didn’t really use the piano, because he had already imagined all those sounds, unless there was some note to be tested and – it took a long time – he worked standing and, at the same time, wrote down the notes. This wasn’t a good position [...]. Even in Nałęczów, when we went there, there were some ladies, elderly ladies at the boarding house, who adored him. And they even wanted to “steal” a pulpit from the museum, so that he wouldn’t have to stand [...]. In any case, he really didn’t like writing the score, but when he did all this imagining, he walked through Saska Kępka, in those little streets, where old people still remember him walking, but his favourite place was at the seaside. Then [...] he also walked a lot and imagined everything about a piece [...]. Shortly before his death he said that he already knew everything, the whole instrumentation and composition technique, and he didn’t really need to think anymore but to sit down and write. And he didn’t even have to be standing doing this anymore.
For Baird, composing was a result of inspiration, a nearly physical need to express himself, but at the same time it was an arduous and mentally exhausting work. One of Baird’s students, Jerzy Kornowicz, witnessed the period in which the composer wrote his important, last works. At that time he said to him that “as I get older, it find it more and more difficult to write”.
Kornowicz also stresses that the last period in Baird’s life heralded some significant change:
She showed great respect to Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz, he was deeply affected by his death [...]. I studied with him from Variations in Rondo Form [...] through Canzona till Voices from Afar. So it was a period in which something was changing in Tadeusz Baird’s musical language and this change provokes questions about what would have followed it [...]
However, all elements and stages in the composition process, so vividly described by the composer and his wife, were based primarily on inspiration, some primeval impulse or emotion transformed in some complex process – which cannot be fully followed or realised – into the final work of art. This is how Tadeusz Baird talked about the sources of art – his own and art in general:
I think that [...] the source of all art was, is and probably will be an attempt to capture life, to record experiences, thoughts, attitude to life, attitude to the world that surrounds us. Ms Kuncewicz, our eminent writer, writes about it beautifully in The Phantoms, if I remember correctly [...]. We simply have no other raw material at our disposal than life, which brings us some experiences. And these experiences, thoughts evoke a need to record them, to express them in a poem, a painting, a musical score.
- Interview with the composer [in:] E. Heine, Na warszawskiej fali [The Warsaw Wave][sound doc.], archive recording, Polish Radio, Radio Broadcasting Committee, Programme 1, Warsaw, rec. 1960
- K. Tarnawska-Kaczorowska, Tadeusz Baird, Biblioteka Problemowa Pro Sinfoniki, Ars Nova 1995, p. 39.