Word Songs for voice and piano (1921), and their version for voice and orchestra (1928), constitute a turning point in the evolution of Szymanowski’s style; they initiate a new period of creativity, later referred to as “Lechitic” (Z. Jachimecki) or “nationalistic”. In these five “strange songs to Tuwim’s strange words” the composer attempted to crystallise and produce an artistic generalisation of proto-Polish, “racial” – as he put it – elements in music. He aimed at some kind of reconstruction of the most ancient (imagined) manifestations of musical gestures, which would originate from calling ((Zielone słowa [Green Words], Kalinowe dwory [The Guelder Rose Orchard]), wailing (Wanda), shouting out (Green Words), or imitating nature (Słowisień). Apart from the primary elements, Word Songs absorbed certain features of folk songs – both from the highlands and the valleys – and national elements which had been transformed to such an extent that they indeed may be described in the words used by the composer as a “reflection of the soul of the Polish race.” In Św. Franciszek [St Francis] Szymanowski used two Highland melodies: one of Sabała’s (Tatra) melodies (bars 1-2), used later in Harnasie (No. 1, bars 1-4), which provides melodic material for all the parts of the cycle op. 46 bis, and the second, (bar 12), also used in Harnasie, in the part of the chorus at the beginning of the second scene (No. 6, bars 8-11).
An interesting detail in Word Songs is the substantive bond linking the individual parts of the cycle. Each of the five songs is based on one motif common to the whole, which Łobaczewska calls the “leading” one, distinguishing in it two phases: the melodic phrase descending by steps, and the ornamental phrase, revolving around one of the lower notes (S. Łobaczewska 1950, p. 467). In songs 4 and 5 the two segments of the leitmotif have become independent and appear separately, the melodic phrase in Wanda, and the ornamental one in The Guelder-Rose Orchard, which are being repeated, thus integrating the whole, a device often encountered in Word Songs. Numerous melodic and harmonic ostinato figures are also built out vertically, sometimes creating a number of sound planes (Słowisień). The interdependence of the two dimensions – melodic and harmonic – is aided by the pitch material, created from selected fragments of the twelve-note scale. Although these are generally rows which go beyond the heptatonic scale, and the 11-note row becomes predominant, there are also more confined rows, for example, the 6-note (Wanda, bars 1-10) or 4-note (The Guelder-Rose Orchard, bars 1-9) ones, which define both the melodic shape and the relationships of vertical structures. In the repetitions of these melodic phrases, made similar to the narrow-range folk melodies, in the repetitions of the harmonic structures, in the manipulating of the consonance of the fifth (Green Words) or the triads (St Francis), we can discern not only useful devices for timbral integration, justified by the lack of unified tonal base, but also the search for an idiomatic formula of sound. Reaching down to the deepest levels of his native culture, Szymanowski tried to model and appropriately equip the “Polish” style of musical statement.