What I said back then:
Nothing. We’re in uncharted waters now…
What I think now:
So, cure I feel like I’m in the home straight now, cure and I think I should celebrate by singing the praises of someone who doesn’t exist.
Van den Budenmayer doesn’t even have a first name, more about as far as I’m aware, and yet he’s one of my favourite composers. How, I hear you ask, can this be?
The story goes back to the early 1990s, as far as I can remember – I know that Channel 4 showed the Polish TV series, Dekalog, which I was hooked on in much the same way I would later become immersed in Heimat. I only discovered recently, however, that some of the music in Dekalog was credited to van den Budenmayer, so he had his hooks in me before I was even aware of his existence, which seems appropriate.
I resolved to find out more about Krzysztof Kieslowski, the director of Dekalog, and discovered The Double Life of Veronique, which remains at or near the top of the entirely imaginary list of top ten films which I certainly don’t keep a record of.
Veronique centres, in its first half, around Weronika, an aspiring soprano with a heart condition. She is to sing a piece by the 18th century composer, van den Budenmayer, but is unable to finish it for reasons which would involve giving away the plot of the film. I remember watching the film, entranced by the director’s vision and the subtle allegories being played out, but being absolutely blown away by the music. It seemed impossible that such powerful and compelling music should be unknown, but I had certainly never heard of van den Budenmayer, and I tried to find out more.
I found the soundtrack CD, which gives the game away. The music of van den Buenmayer was, in fact, written by Zbigniew Preisner, and it is he who should have credit for this entry.
But, of course, it’s not as simple as that. Preisner’s music throughout the film is startling and wonderful, but it is the van den Budenmayer piece which soars above the ordinary and takes the breath away, just as his funeral music is perfect in Three Colurs: Blue among the magnificent Preisner score (including another piece which is being written by characters in the film, and I really don’t want to follow that particular thread, because it’s not as straightforward as that, because – oh, go and watch the film. You’ll thank me later.)
I own a lot of Preisner music, including his luminous Requiem for my Friend, which became Kieslowski’s eulogy. For all that I love Preisner’s work in the modern idiom, there is something about the pastiche 18th century van den Budenmayer music which sets it apart, even if that does seem a little too postmodern for some tastes.