Boguslaw Schaeffer (b. 1929) has created some 550 works in 23 different musical genres, 44 plays (translated into 17 languages), performed with great success at home and abroad.  He has also created about 400 graphic works. His scores have appeared in many exhibitions worldwide as works of art in their own right.


The works presented here are a small fraction of Schaeffer’s graphics alongside samples of his music.





Jazz Concert - Boston Symphonic Orchestra 1986

Conductor Gunther Schuller. I have written this piece for twelve jazz musicians and a Symphony Orchestra. It is very unusual for
a jazz piece as it is very precisely scored. Even the drummer is scored. Most jazz musicians prefer to improvise and don’t like to (or can’t) read and follow a precise music score. That is why this piece was never recorded in Poland. All these jazz musicians were black professors at The Boston Conservatory.








For sixty years Schaeffer has shown a pioneering approach to the creative process, exploring untouched, untapped and even unimagined areas of music. His artistry as playwright, composer, musicologist, graphic artist and his extensive interest in other arts disciplines, makes it wholly unsurprising that his visual work mixes ideas and techniques from many areas of visual arts practice including sfumato, sgraffito, collage, found objects, Surrealism and live art works.


The essence of Schaeffer’s practice is his multilevel interdisciplinary and non-conventional artistic activities combined with his inexhaustible creativity.


An analysis of Schaeffer’s theatrical works shows the impact of his compositional experience. Perhaps the phenomenon of Schaeffer-esque theatre lies in its construction as a piece of music.  The formal structure, the pace and course of action, multiple  layers of threads, simultaneously acted scenes, polymorphic language, selection and accumulation of different ways of expression, and the ways of that tensions are built, are all musically inspired.


Quattro movimento with Claude Aelffer

This is one of my early works (1957) in four different parts (hence the title).The pace is different in each part and the piano texture is different as well. My intention was to attempt a synthesis of a new type of music and I tried to use different techniques such as twelve-tonal (duedeciplet), changing time signatures, a new polyphonic counterpoint and even a new percussion ‘bruitism’.











Extract from Jadwiga Hodor’s soon to be published biography Boguslaw Schaeffer (translated by Ewa Gabrys), reproduced with thanks.


In the world of contemporary music, Schaeffer is regarded as the most controversial figure. Some people look on him as a genius of great musical ability, others regard him as an enthusiastic experimentalist, a creator who can produce order out of the chaos prevailing in contemporary music.


The sixty years of Schaeffer’s creative work has resulted in more than 500 compositions, which means more than 250 hours of music. This huge number sounds incredible considering Schaeffer’s literary output (books, textbooks, studies, essays, articles, features, reviews etc.), his dramatic productions (44 plays) and his other activities such as teaching, performing, organising and publishing and, finally, his duties as husband and father.


Schaeffer’s innovations in contemporary music are: music without notes, music presented in diagrams, scores diagrams, scores based on typescript, ideological programmes, decompositions, emotivographs, assemblages prepared in minute detail by the composer himself, time unlimited music, topophonic music, music based on collages of whole sections composed in advance, multidimensional music (as a combination of many co-existing independent lines) automatic music, idiomatic music, algorithmic music, open symbol music, super-parametric music, theatrical ideas, music based on philosophical ideas, music with text functioning as acoustic material, music of varied instrumentation, action music, conceptual music, jazz music (composed in all its parameters) and music for actors.


V Klavierkonzert fur klavier und 15 solisten (V Piano Concerto With Piano & 15  Soloists)

This very unusual composition was created around the year 2000. I assembled 15 soloists creating a kind of soloists’ choir which accompanied the piano. This soloists’ choir sang from the mixed score of conventional and graphical notations. No one had previously attempted this kind of music and in the sound can be discerned an aura of “Concrete Music”.










Schaeffer is entirely devoted to art and fascinated by its so far undiscovered possibilities. When he is on the trail of a new idea, he remains under its influence and tenaciously pursues it. He works out a typical problem in many different ways and tries to multiply it in different versions so as to achieve, now and again, some unexpectedly new effect differing from that at the start.


Schaeffer’s output may be defined as a series of obsessions and his composer’s gift – as the ability to get rid of them. In trying to concentrate his mind on the tasks he undertakes, Schaeffer operates as a ‘mental orderliness’ fanatic. He does not bother himself with anything that might spoil his vision of music. All is subordinated to the compositions he is working on. His subconscious acts more attentively than his consciousness; the composer likes to understand his activities ex-post – never in the course of his compositional work.


III Klavierkonzert (III Piano Concerto)

I wrote this concert for myself. In the score I used both conventional and graphical notation as I am also a graphic artist.
The full length of this piece is about 60 minutes.





Symfonia elektroniczna (Electronic Symphony)

Completed in 1964 at The Studio in Warsaw this work propels beyond the sphere of music, which we typically know from recordings and concerts. The piece is based on 140 themes, partly written in graphical notation. But each thread is represented by an exact range of tones, rhythm and dynamics. This score can only be performed by someone who is capable and willing to take on a very difficult and complex recording session.




This exhibition is produced by Universal Arts. We wish to thank Krystyna Gierlowska of Fundacja Aurea Porta and Piotr Gidlewski for all their assistance.