Study for vocal orchestra, percussion and piano (1961)

Study /excerpt/

Performers: „Camerata Silesia", "Warsaw Autumn" 25 IX 2007, Polish Composers' Union


PWM Edition

The work was commissioned by the Committee for Commissions, Purchases of Works of Art and Art Scholarships at the Ministry of Culture and Art. It is a concert version of incidental music to a production of Sophocles’ Oedipus the King directed by Ludwik René at Teatr Dramatyczny in Warsaw (1961). The Study – dedicated to René – was premiered six months after the theatrical presentation. It is scored for a 28-member vocal ensemble (7 sopranos, 7 altos, 7 tenors and 7 basses), percussion (6 performers) as well as celesta and piano (serviced by one musician). The work consists of 12 parts, numbered by the composer: I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, XII. Its progression is clearly in three stages, with an exposition of the material, its transformation and reprise.

In Baird’s creative output the Study is the first composition so unequivocally sonorist. It is based on full twelve-note material as well as unspecified pitches obtained not only from the right percussion instruments, but, above all, thanks to an unconventional treatment of voices and instruments. The vocal part is devoid of any text; the singers hiss, articulate various sounds, use the parlando and Sprechgesang technique, and clap. The instruments, too, sound unconventional – thanks to the use of a rich array of drumsticks (percussion instruments) and non-traditional use of the piano (parts II, X, XII). The title of the composition clearly indicates its nature – it is a sonorist etude (exercise), in which each of the three performer groups is equal. The Study is one of the lesser known compositions by Baird, probably because of its theatrical origins. As Tadeusz Kaczyński wrote:

The Etude cannot be treated on a par with the main concert works of the author of the Four Essays. Also because this type of expression betrays all too clearly the “foreign origins” of the piece.


  • T. Kaczyński, “Etiuda Tadeusza Bairda” [“Tadeusz Baird’s Study”], Ruch Muzyczny 1961, no. 24, p. 22.