Avante-garde composer and conductor Krzysztof Penderecki never worked directly within the world of film, but his compositions still ended up saturating the collective filmic consciousness anyway. The famed Polish composer passed away at his home in Krakow on Sunday, according to The Hollywood Reporter. He was 86 years old, and the death is reported to be the end result of a “long and serious illness,” unrelated to the current coronavirus pandemic.
In the course of his long career, Penderecki composed four operas and eight symphonies, along with numerous other orchestral and choral works, with the best-known being 1960’s “Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima,” as well as operas like The Devils of Loudun—the same material that inspired our best horror movie of 1971, The Devils.
Within the film world, though, Penderecki was known for how preeminent auteur directors repeatedly expressed admiration for his work, which resulted in pieces of Penderecki compositions appearing in numerous films, from The Exorcist and The Shining to the works of David Lynch, including Wild at Heart, Inland Empire and Twin Peaks. The unique, disquieting tone of films like The Exorcist is often accompanied by snippets of his compositions—that film features parts of Penderecki’s String Quartet and Kanon For Orchestra and Tape, along with bits of Cello Concerto and The Devils of Loudon. The Shining, meanwhile, uses no fewer than six different Penderecki pieces, including Utrenja II: Ewangelia, Utrenja II: Kanon Paschy, The Awakening of Jacob, Da Natura Sonoris No. 1, De Natura Sonoris No. 2 and Polymorphia.
Penderecki was also an influence upon Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, which led to elements of Greenwood’s score for Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood in 2007. Greenwood would later go on to collaborate with Penderecki in 2012, telling The Guardian that Penderecki’s pieces were often misunderstood.
“I think a lot of people might think his work is stridently dissonant or painful on the ears,” Greendwood said. “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.”
This announcement comes a few weeks after the passing of The Exorcist’s Max Von Sydow at the age of 90.