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Krzysztof Penderecki, the iconic composer who worked with David Lynch and Stanley Kubrick, has died age 86


Krzysztof Penderecki, the hugely influential Polish composer, has died at the age of 86.

Penderecki, who worked with the likes of David Lynch and Stanley Kubrick, died at his home in Krakow after a long illness according to Andrzej Giza. The news was confirmed by the Ludwig van Beethoven Association, the institution formed Penderecki’s wife, Elzbieta.

“After a long and serious illness, Krzysztof Penderecki – one of the greatest Polish musicians, a world authority in the field of classical music died,” Poland’s Ministry of Culture later confirmed in a post on social media.

Penderecki, who was described as “Poland’s greatest living composer” by many, composed four operas, eight symphonies and many other orchestral pieces during his career. On top of his award-winning creations, the composer successfully transition his work into cinema and his music was used by Stanley Kubrick on The Shining, by William Friedkin on his iconic 1973 horror The Exorcist and, on top that, collaborated with David Lynch on both Twin Peaks and Wild at Heart.

The composer found great success by blending traditional works with his love for the avant-garde and experimental Western music: “The avant-garde gave one an illusion of universalism,” he once commented. “The musical world of Stockhausen, Nono, Boulez and Cage was for us, the young—hemmed in by the aesthetics of socialist realism, then the official canon in our country—a liberation… I was quick to realise however, that this novelty, this experimentation, and formal speculation, is more destructive than constructive; I realised the Utopian quality of its Promethean tone’.”

While Penderecki would influence countless musicians throughout his career, Radiohead’s very own Jonny Greenwood has always remained a huge fan and, on 2012, collaborated with the composer in 2012: “His pieces make such wonderful sounds,” said Greenwood previously. “I think a lot of people might think his work is stridently dissonant or painful on the ears. But because of the complexity of what’s happening—particularly in pieces such as Threnody and Polymorphia, and how the sounds are bouncing around the concert hall, it becomes a very beautiful experience when you’re there. It’s not like listening to feedback, and it’s not dissonant. It’s something else. It’s a celebration of so many people making music together and it’s like—wow, you’re watching that happen.”

Upon hearing the news of Penderecki’ death, Greenwood took to social media to pay tribute: “What sad news to wake to,” Greenwood tweeted. “Penderecki was the greatest—a fiercely creative composer, and a gentle, warm-hearted man. My condolences to his family, and to Poland on this huge loss to the musical world.”