As reported by The Hollywood Reporter, influential Polish composer Krzystof Penderecki—whose avant-garde pieces have left a lasting impression in films like The Exorcist, The Shining, and Children Of Men—has died. Penderecki had reportedly been suffering from a “long and serious illness,” and though a caregiver was diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus, his death is apparently unrelated. Penderecki was 86.
Though his name might not be known here in the United States, his work will certainly sound familiar to film buffs, especially those with a certain proclivity toward haunting stories like the ones listed above. The Shining’s soundtrack features six of Penderecki’s pieces, like “The Awakening Of Jacob” and “Polymorphia,” the latter of which can also be heard in The Exorcist (which features several of Penderecki’s compositions).
Other than “Polymorphia,” Penderecki’s other most influential piece in the world of film and television is “Threnody To The Victims Of Hiroshima,” which appears in The People Under The Stairs and Children Of Men, as well as the unforgettable atomic bomb scene from David Lynch’s Twin Peaks revival series in 2017. A threnody, for those who don’t know, is a musical or poetic tribute to someone who has died, with Penderecki’s piece—obviously—being an ode to the people who died when the U.S. bombed Hiroshima during World War II.
In recent years, Penderecki collaborated with longtime admirer Jonny Greenwood from Radiohead, who said in an interview with The Guardian that hearing Penderecki’s music live is a “very beautiful experience” despite how “painful on the ears” it might seem in theory. Greenwood’s 48 Responses To Polymorphia was written as a tribute to Penderecki, and the aforementioned Guardian interview also includes a sweet aside where Penderecki describes asking his granddaughter if she had ever heard of this “pop” band called Radiohead (she had).
Penderecki is survived by his wife and three children.