A. Biographic Criteria
background, and choices, defined by self and others)
1) “name” – Polish forms of the first and last name
2) “family-of-origin” – Polish family background, typically patrilineal and at times connected to the notion of the “Polish race”
3) “psychosomatic identity” – being the embodiment of Polish traits in the whole person, body and spirit (given, not self-defined)
4) “emotional and patriotic identity” – having a “Polish heart” and displaying a deep attachment to Poland (chosen, self-defined)
5) “official identity” – with a Polish national identity and citizenship
6) “native language” – using Polish as the native language
7) “community” – engaged in the Polish community, through the place of residence, membership in organizations, and charitable activities for Polish causes
B. Musical Criteria
(traits chosen by the composers or ascribed to their works by others)
1) “language” – the use of Polish texts and titles in works
2) “genre” – the use of Polish genres, e.g. the mazurka or polonaise
3) “quotation” – citing from Polish folk music, national songs or anthems
4) “style” – the presence of various melodic and rhythmic elements definable as ‘Polish’, especially originating from Polish dances
5) “content” – Polish subjects in explicit (defined by the composer) or implicit forms, the latter ‘heard’ by reviewers; themes borrowed from Poland’s history, mythology, literature, religion and customs, climate and geography, etc.
6) “spiritual content” – expressions of the “Polish spirit” in general terms, or in the form of a predominant character trait ascribed to the whole nation, such as “sorrow” [żal], or “arrhythmia”
7) “music community” – Polish performance and programming contexts, e.g. festivals of Polish music, concerts for Polish causes; the music being understood by Poles alone
The language of description used by Polish composers and music critics in the 19th and early 20th centuries often employs figures of speech equating folk song with field flowers. The trope that Chopin’s folk-inspired music is, as it were, permeated with “the fragrances of delicate flowers of Polish meadows” first appears in Józef Sikorski’s article of 1849. Sikorski discussed the national traits of Chopin music (seen in the use of genre, style and quotation; Musical Criteria 2-4) and his inspiration with Polish folk songs. For Sikorski, these songs were elevated, charming and simple, while remaining as fleeting and ineffable as the “fragrance of a violet.” This synaesthetic reference articulates a widespread belief that folk music belonged to the utopia of cultivated nature, the idyllic and serene “national garden of Eden.”
Excerpts from Maja Trochimczyk, "Chopin and the Polish Race"
Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004, 278-313.