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Sacrum Profanum Festiwal

Curatorial text

#17 Sacrum Profanum: Neighbourhood



During the 17th Sacrum Profanum Festival, we are going to take a closer look at our immediate surroundings. We will take a look around, looking for inspiration around us. Let us not be afraid to be close, to form communities. The Sacrum Profanum Festival has never shied away from taking up social, political or world-view issues. This year, however, we are moving the vector of interest in a new direction. We are going to look at the idea of good neighbourhood relations in its various variants: local, national, social and symbolic. A good neighbour - one we can rely on, one we can count on - does not try to out-do us, but instead supports us in our endeavours. Entering a new open community is a very constructive experience. Creating a new group, based on friendship and solidarity, is a great challenge. Tolerance and awakening it in others are still in deficit. Both on a global and local scale, we have achieved such a decomposition and weakening of social ties, such strong social, financial and political divisions that we have come too close to the red line. Will there be a conflict if the critical mass is exceeded? In the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II, it is worth reflecting on this for a while. In times of mass migration, redefinition of alliances and breakups of unions that maintain peace and harmonious development of countries, we must learn to live together, talk to each other and respect each other.

Sacrum Profanum has always been about meeting, combining, adjusting and juxtaposing all kinds of extremes, both on stage and in front of it. In terms of ideas, as well as in reality. Looking for similarities, appreciating differences and blurring boundaries is the creed of this festival. Now we want to emphasise it even more than ever before. Let academic music coexist with popular music on equal terms, without distinction and divisions. We are certain that the artists of the festival will provide us all with strong impressions and starting points for discussion. Aiming at causing some creative ferment, we make an attempt at organising a meeting of artists who normally wouldn’t meet each other. We juxtapose composers in a non-obvious way, striving for programmatic cohesion.

Is the music milieu consolidated? Is the world of academic contemporary music open to that what is new? What is the challenge of being a composer in the 21st century? We want this year’s edition of the festival to be the most focused on humanism – that’s why we put humans in the very centre of it. We continue our efforts to maintain parity among the artists presented at the festival – this year, we were fully successful. In addition, we commissioned 10 works, including 5 created by female composers. We still hope that this trend will be followed by others. In 2019, we are going to see 14 world premieres  and 29 Polish premieres of various works.

Referring directly to the neighbourhood, in the coming years we want to bring the music of Eastern European countries closer to our audiences. After last year's celebration of the centenary of Polish independence, we want to share this common joy with Lithuania, which celebrated its anniversary alongside us. The programme will feature six concerts presenting the achievements of Lithuanian composers in a variety of ways, crossing generational boundaries – including Egidija Medekšaitė, Justė Janulytė  and Rytis Mažulis. Four of the programmes were created as part of an artistic residence, in cooperation with the outstanding cellist Anton Lukoszevieze, who will present himself as a soloist, conductor, musician (of Arthur Bumšteinas’ Works & Days ensemble revived for the festival) and artistic director. The festival will also feature representatives of Fluxus or the avant-garde, composers drawing upon various sources, which are impossible to classify and categorise. I would like to point out the Lithuanian Post-Minimalism, a concert serving as a reference to the 2017 Romanian Spectralism programme and yet another event presenting the most characteristic style from a unique, national perspective. Lithuanians use static form in compositions that emphasise sound and texture.

The programme will also have no shortage of American minimalism. We are returning to Julius Eastman. After the success of an extensive presentation of his oeuvre in 2017, we will once again hear his interesting compositions, in performances prepared in the wake of a return to his works. We also prepared a new version of Evil Nigger – after an enthusiastic reception of the version for three string quartets performed by the Arditti Quartet, we commissioned an arrangement for four accordions. Julius Eastman focused on organic maximalism. We are working on a presentation of Holy Presence of Joan d'Arc for ten cellos – the Polish premiere will be performed by young musicians from Krakow under the direction of Anton Lukoszevieze. The vocal prelude to this song will be performed by Sofia Jernberg (in 2016 she sang Folie à Deux at the festival, she collaborates with Fire! Orchestra). We will also present works by Morton Feldman, a representative of the New York school, who creates music that is quiet, slowly developing, with disorganised rhythm, with blurred tones. The festival is going to showcase his piece for a trio composed in 1978, Phil Niblock – an expert in microtones and drone music, presenting a string quartet from 2017 and Pauline Oliveros with a deep listening exercise prepared by the ICE Ensemble. Once again, we will have an opportunity to listen to the composition of the French musician Éliane Radigue, drawing upon the nature. Polish minimalism will be represented by Katarzyna Głowicka, artist-in-residence in the Netherlands, with a piece commissioned by the festival.

Among the avant-garde Polish artists, the festival will present the works of Lucia Dlugoszewski, an artist active in the United States – composer whose work is completely unknown in our country. Only after last year's efforts was it possible to find the scores of the composer, who passed away in 2000 – they will be published soon. Thanks to this, the Sacrum Profanum Festival will feature three of her compositions, arranged by Hashtag Ensemble, Arditti Quartet and Reinhold Friedl. It is impossible not to mention Studie in Form - an outstanding composition by Roman Haubenstock-Ramati, a Pole of Jewish origin. His pioneering work in the field of graphic scores still call for promotion and publicity. Friedl's solo interpretation presented during the Festival will be a world premiere of the work, which seems even more impressive, considering the date of the score – 1954. The concert will be a tribute to the composer on his 100th birthday.

Going beyond the canon and breaking with academic tradition to blur the boundaries between contemporary and alternative music is the main goal of Sacrum Profanum. We adore artists who create at the crossroads of alternative music – or whose roots are in these genres – and contemporary music, to which they no longer aspire, but fully belong. We will get to know the original vision of music by many extraordinary artists: Tanya Tagaq – an Inuit throat singer, who creates unusual pop music, one of the “instruments” on Björk’s Medúlla; Mario Diaz de Leon, who explores the relationship between electronic and contemporary music in a broad sense – from IDM to noise – transcribed for an ensemble of amplified instruments; Patrick Higgins – founder and frontman of ZS, a band whose music takes American concert halls by storm, performing in Krakow both solo and with music written for Kwadrofonik; Anthony Pateras – Australian musician, who builds on the basis of his experience with free improvised and electroacoustic music, presenting a piece causing sound hallucinations with a group of great musicians, as well as one of his older composition for a trio, performed with the International Contemporary Ensemble; Okkyung Lee – cellist, improviser and composer, using extended performance techniques, fluent in traditional jazz, classical music, Korean music and noise, who has worked together with Arca, Jenny Hval, Ellen Fullman, Ikue Mori  and John Zorn.

Once again, we are going to burden the festival audience with the works by Zbigniew Karkowski. The composer from Krakow, a graduate of the local Academy of Music, was a composer valued for his imagination and uncompromising approach. He was active mainly on the experimental music scene, he also improvised and created sound art. Karkowski willingly used the stochastic procedures, characteristic of Xenakis. Two years ago, at the 15th edition of the Festival showcased the results of his collaboration with Berlin-based Zeitkratzer, and in 2018, the composition Doing by not Doing was interpreted by GGR Betong – Swedish chamber noise orchestra. In a word, these were LOUD concerts and were met with great acclaim. In 2019, we will hear pieces written in cooperation with Anton Lukoszevieze, the Apartment House string quartet, Zespół Wokalny Gęba and Wolfram.

There will also be no shortage of real eccentric musicians, who don’t shy away from bold combinations and experiments. The aforementioned Arturas Bumšteinas, Gailė Griciūtė and Andrius Arutiunian  fit this description perfectly. Just like Artur Zagajewski – one of the most appreciated and distinguished Polish composers, who never ceases in his search for a dialogue of his music with other fields of art and with pop culture in general. The best examples of this are Opera about Poland, created in cooperation with Piotr Stasik and Steel-Eyed for two punk rock voices and a number of other instruments. Sacrum Profanum commissioned Zagajewski to write a piece illustrating fragments of Dorota Masłowska's Inni ludzie. After going with Lem, he once again draws upon great Polish literature. The author is famous for her brilliant observations and insightful analysis of Polish reality, written in an unmistakable language. Ordering music to a literary text every year is already a tradition of this festival, as befits Krakow – UNESCO City of Literature. The composition will be created for an unusual line-up of Małe Instrumenty. Paweł Romańczuk, the founder of the band, keeps looking for unusual sources of sound. According to him, the fundamental sense of building instruments is to develop a wider spectrum of sound, to discover the non-obvious aspects of sounds. In the programme commissioned by the festival, he will refer to two specific sound characteristics – the heritage of the Experimental Studio of Polish Radio and Harry Bertoia's Sonambient sound sculptures.

Wojtek Blecharz treats music as a testimony to his own life and living in general, learning and thinking. He speaks openly about the process of composing as a struggle with the "body" of the instrument. Performance and body are now the focal point of his interests – the role of the physicality of the performer in the production of sound, as well as building relations between the performer's body and how the physical gesture determines sound. The festival commission is an attempt to include autics in writing music, deeply embedded in a wider context. A documentary film by Piotr Stasik will depict the entire creative process supervised by Blecharz, along with the premiere, performed by the ICE Ensemble.

Following the example of last year’s edition, we will continue the single player stream, featuring several solo sets prepared by artists-mentors, including Anja Cheung (who sings, recites, screams against the background of multi-layered drones and pulsating electronic music with ritualistic hints); Heather Leigh (songwriter playing the whiny, sometimes distorted Hawaiian electric guitar, wandering towards similar melismas in her singing); Aaron Turner (guitarist playing a variety of post-metal styles, including drone ambient, known from Isis, Sumac, Mamiffer) and Mick Barr (known for his extremely fast electric guitar playing, including for Krallice, presenting his repetitive minimalist work in a solo concert). The artists would like to invite everybody to learn more about their respective musical disciplines. We also have another new tradition - the whole festival will be presented and commented on in an original and artistic way by Marta Śniady, a composer who was invited for this purpose – in previous years it was Piotr Peszat and Jacek Sotomski. The material will be created in the form of a commissioned audiovisual work using recordings from the festival.

The programme of the 17th will be filled with works by representatives of 10 countries: Poland, USA, Lithuania, Austria, Australia, Canada, France, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and South Korea.

For the first time in history, the festival will feature: Małe Instrumenty, Kwadrofonik, Zespół Wokalny Gęba, Works & Days and International Contemporary Ensemble.

Almost all ensembles have prepared special programmes for Krakow. The festival will also be attended once again by well-known and loved: Arditti Quartet, Apartment House, Spółdzielnia Muzyczna and the Hashtag Ensemble.

We count on your participation!

Krzysztof Pietraszewski, curator of the Sacrum Profanum Festival