The Sublime in Lutoslawski’s Three Poems of Henri Michaux (1961-63)

Marianela Calleja


The sublime in classical aesthetics arrived at a famous formulation with Kant (CPJ, Part I, Section 1, Book 2, §23–29) as a subjective quality more elevated than beauty, linked to commotion and respect followed by reaffirmation. However, a new interpretation of the Schopenhauerian sublime is necessary in its transforming appreciation of the importance of this feeling as a psychological state, which is not yet metaphysical as usually understood, when dealing with struggling situations without resolution (Vandenabeele [2015]: 128). Here the focus will be on a variety of the sonorous sublime in contemporary music, which finds resonances with Schopenhauer’s sublime: Witold Lutoslawski’s Three Poems of Henri Michaux (1961–63) for mixed chorus and orchestra focuses on unpredictability and form-contrariness, “picturing” surrealist texts of uncertainty in Pensées, violence in Le Grand Combat, and resignation in Repos dans Malheur (Michaux [1928], [1938]).


Philosophical sublime; musical sublime; modern sublime; unpredictability; a-synchronicity

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