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Sacrum Profanum Festiwal

Dancing with the Gorgons


The composition should be understood as a kind of psychological portrait of Medusa presented in the musical form of a ballad. In ancient Greek mythology, Medusa, the only mortal of the three Gorgons, is depicted as a feminine flying creature gifted with great beauty. As such, Medusa was Poseidon’s great love and gave birth to Pegasus (the symbol of art!). However, unfortunately, she incurred the wrath of Athena, taking first place in a hair beauty contest, ahead of the goddess. Athena (the goddess of Wisdom!), taking revenge, turned her beautiful hair into venomous snakes and gave Medusa a gaze to turn everything she looked at into stone! The form of the female monster is how Medusa is best known to us today: how cruel has Fate been to her! In our ballad, Medusa – before she wages a deadly battle with Perseus, panting and shouting, which ends in her decapitation – praises the happy times when she loved and was loved. (cited after:

Szalonek became famous in the history of Polish music (and not only!) for his “discovery” of multiphonic technique on wind instruments. It allowed for the simultaneous playing of several sounds and unprecedented tone combinations. In the case of works for a typically monodic instrument, such as the C flute in Head of Medusa, the composer often multiplied the cast. This work about the Gorgon can be performed on one, or even two, or three flutes, of which the additional ones can be played live or from a previous recording or live electronics. The key here is reverberation and echo, which Szalonek associated with the element in which mythological beings live. Strycharski is well aware of the limitations of this instrument, which realizes only one melodic line, and he has bound his work to a straight flute. He is a holistic musician, jumping between different worlds, from noise and punk, through improvisation and jazz, to sonorism and classical music. In Krakow, he will again take on the achievements of the Polish school of composing in Spirit of Medusa, which he has already worked out, among others, in the series Avant-garde for the ear in Warsaw. This is how he recalled his creation at the time:

Me Du(S)zarefers to Szalonek’s “antique” triptych, not only with the name – the eponymous Medusa – but also with the content. Szalonek drew on the Mediterranean tradition – mythology, archetypes and associations. I refer to the flute songs contained in his works: Head of Medusa I and II, Medusa’s Dream of Pegasus I and II, as well as Poseidon and Medusa. I wanted to bring out a kind of audio image from them. Expose a specific musical content. I would like to emphasise the duality of Medusa/medusa [translator’s note: commonly known as the jellyfish, the word for “jellyfish” in Polish is meduza][A1]  – on the one hand, the delicate, translucent and glutinous tissue, and on the other hand, an aggressive, hurtful nature. [...] The flute in my work undergoes a transformation. At the concert it was transformed electronically live, in front of the audience. There was not a single previously recorded element. The electronics that accompanied it gradually created a monster that was in stark contrast to the symbolic gentleness of the flute. (cited after:

The seemingly modest and delicate instrument that appears in this prologue to the Sacrum Profanum Festival, will show its predatory side. Dominik Strycharski, like no one else, can energetically, and sometimes brutally, deal with even such ruthless creatures as the eponymous Medusa. However, both in Witold Szalonek’s programmatic work and in Spirit of Medusa, the bucolic nature of the flute, which he owes to antiquity, will be no less important. Unlike many of his peers and younger colleagues, the Silesian composer, who later lived in Berlin, never gave up searching for new sounds. And since Strycharski is connected with him in radicalism and openness, a fascinating dialogue promises to take place.

Jan Topolski


Medusa ✌ ✌





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