Poland's post-1956 cultural liberalizations sat uneasily in the midst of a Cold War binary that equated avant-gardism with artistic freedom and socialist realism with aesthetic coercion. During 1960–61, Polish composers and critics debated the seeming paradox of official support in Poland for avant-garde aesthetics. Their disputes arose after the premiere of Henryk Mikołaj Górecki's Scontri (Collisions) for Orchestra, op. 17, at the 1960 Warsaw Autumn Festival; disrupted the General Assembly of the Polish Composers' Union in December 1960; and persisted in the journal Ruch Muzyczny (Musical Movement) during the early months of 1961.

Taken together, the successive stages of debate show how defenses of Polish avant-garde music intersected with competing cultural imperatives of the Cold War. Maneuvers by composers and critics formed a musical corollary to the “Polish road to socialism” that Władysław Gomułka had engineered with the Soviet Union, an agreement by which expanded internal freedoms would be tolerated as long as no serious steps were taken to abandon state socialism in Poland. The amenability of music to such critical moves, paired with the growing international prestige of Polish avant-garde composers and the Warsaw Autumn Festival, suggests why music was spared the reimposition of restrictive governmental oversight as Poland's Thaw came to a close.

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