A Funeral Rhapsody in Memory of Bem. Niemen's Rock Suite to Norwid's Poem

Piotr Chlebowski


This paper analyses the musical structure of Bema pamięci żałobnego-rapsodu [A Funeral Rhapsody in Memory of Bem] produced by Czesław Niemen and his group Enigmatic, recor­ded in 1969. We have to point at the careful composition of this rock suite. Its three-part structure and musicians (apart from his rock band, the artist used also a mixed choir) were supposed to correspond not only with the course of lyrical narration in Norwid's text, but also stress its semantic vision. The poetic composition thus became the principal form-making factor – it laid down the foundations for the innovative form in rock music in Poland. The study seeks to show how Niemen interpreted and how he used music to render its sense. Much room is devoted to the vocal aspect: how Niemen coped with hexameter, a fact that in the past raised so much controversy. The vocal singer deliberately frees himself from the metric rigours of the poem and introduces his own interpretation in this respect; the main reason is to concentrates on the semantic properties of the text and his image function. On analysis of the intonation technique and the rhythmic rigour of music we may conclude that Niemen had on purpose introduced a conflict between them. This conflict enhances and makes real the presen­ted reality, the qualities and values evoked by Norwid's poem. This contradiction allows to have an almost direct contact between the recipient and the essence of drama, the greatness and sublimity of General Bem. The whole of the work is constructed as “a speech of sounds,” as a dialogue between word and music.


Norwid; Niemen; rock suite; rondo; march; music

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Studia Norwidiana · ISSN 0860-0562 | eISSN 2544-4433

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