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Sacrum Profanum Festiwal

Sacrum Profanum #17: Lithuanian (post)minimal

Immerse yourself in the world of Last Pagan Rites by Bronius Kutavičius – an ethno-oratorio, which brings back folk songs and spells against the backdrop of wind drones. Let yourself be taken away by the stream of microtonal canon, which bends the boundaries of perception, presented by Rytis Mažulis in ajapajapam.

Follow the two interpenetrating piano parts, which complement each other rhythmically and melodically in the context of Edigija Medekšaitė’s Textile no. 1. You can also swing to the endless loops presented by Antanas Kučinskas, for example the accordion ones featured in Joyful Loops. These are just some examples of Lithuanian minimalism, or rather post-minimalism, since that is the customary name of the second wave of this movement. Join us at the 2019 Sacrum Profanum Festival for a more in-depth presentation.

Global trends often have their congenial local incarnations and embodiments. Would Lithuanian post-minimalism come into being without a breakthrough in American and European music? Perhaps – but that’s unlikely. What would it sound like if it weren’t for the local traditions of singing multi-part sutartinės or embroidering patterns on fabrics? The former were referred to by numerous composers throughout history, but it was Kutavičius, who started the trend of going back to the roots with his Paskutinės pagonių apeigos from the late 1970s.

Sutartinės are characterised by repeating a single, simple pattern in various voices, imitating nature and birds, limited register and rough harmony. The influence of this heterophony can be clearly heard in Mažulis’ music, although he introduced actual sutartine singers on stage only once – in his Non in commotione, only to realise that he could not force them to partake in a foreign practice. On the other hand, in Electronic sutartines Andras Jasenka departs from recording traditional singers, instead showing the traditional songs through faults and noises, with original material being visible only for brief moments.

In addition to composition, Medekšaitė studied industrial design at the Kaunas University of Technology. Inspired by traditional weaves in decorative fabrics and folk costumes, she found an unexpected supporter and mentor in Morton Feldman, the master of American minimalism. Several decades earlier, he compared his simultaneously simple and complex slow music to hand-woven Antalya carpets, characterised by repeated – yet never identical – patterns. Egidija Medekšaitė combines thread patterns with Indian raags – which are also very important for Terry Riley and La Monte Young – and translates them into unique music, such as Oscillum for cello and electronics, composed for Anton Lukoszevieze.

Her art perfectly combines American and Lithuanian motifs, which remain equally important for many of her compatriots, although not always in such a clearly articulated form. It is exactly this combination that gives power to Lithuanian post-minimalism, which introduces new tributaries into the main stream. Some have already bothered to give them a name – for example Daiva Parulskienė, who referred to them as the “machinist generation.” On the other hand, we can decide to simply focus on the enjoyment of listening – at the Sacrum Profanum Festival.

Jan Topolski (“Glissando”) for the Krakow Festival Office