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Sacrum Profanum Festiwal

SACRUM PROFANUM #17: A MEETING OF VARIOUS SOUNDS

2019-09-29
The second day of the 2019 Sacrum Profanum Festival was a combination of various compositional ideas and ways of using instruments. Two quartets – the piano and percussion quartet Kwadrofonik and string quartet Apartment House – decided to start a dialogue with electronics.

Kwadrofonik joined the line-up of artists performing at the Sacrum Profanum Festival for the first time with not one, but two world premieres of works commissioned by the festival with them in mind. Before we could listen the new material, we had the opportunity to see the Polish premiere of We called it utopia by Laure M. Hiendl. The musicians played with sounds, creating a punctualistic, colourful net that sounded fairly classical, until electronics started interfering with it more and more. According to the composer, “electronics serves as a portal for an instrument to move it to another category and change its capabilities.” Its appearance and subsequent penetration of the structure of the sound introduced distortion, which initially seemed to be a brutal interference in what is classical; however, as time passed, it gave rise to a new quality and showcased the evolution of the relationship, which turned from hostile to symbiotic, linking the old together with the new.

Patrick Higgins’ Three Lines of Flight, the first piece commissioned by the festival presented this evening, required a lot of perseverance and confidence from the musicians, as this three-part piece featured a vast variety of composing ideas, including stubbornly repeated motifs, numerous repetitions and insistent unisons, which lulled the audience into a sense of complacency with the static nature of the piece, only to break this feeling with syncopation or an unexpected series of pauses. Static or slightly swaying sound patches, turned more colourful and vivid by random individual sounds, collided with segments of sharp, point sounds of pianos and drums. If you still need more of Higgins’ music, join us on the third day of the festival at Cricoteka, where you will have an opportunity to listen to the composer as a performer.

The notion of “noise” in the title of Angélika Castelló’s piece could lead to a disappointment of enthusiasts of poignant and physically painful sounds, who might have expected the same from the second commission of the festival, which premiered on that day. In spite of its powerful beginning, Bodies of Noise was definitely more nostalgic and soothing than aggressive. “I find words, texts and events from my life, stories, dreams and fantasies…”, said Castelló about her piece. Various bells and rattles, harmonicas and drums, as well as recorded sounds of nature evoked associations with Mexico and its landscapes. All these elements formed a diverse, yet coherent, rhythmically pulsating structure.

The intimate concert of Apartment House was one of four programmes created as part of Anton Lukoszevieze’s artistic residence. We heard six pieces, each of which was based on a different musical idea. In Egidija Medekšaitė’s Oscillum, composed for Lukoszevieze, the persistent sul ponticello of the cello seamlessly combined in a dialogue with a dense, homogenous, disturbing sound of electronics in a manner similar to the weaves of threads in the fabrics that inspired the composer. In his microtonal Canon Super Slendro, Rytis Mažulis focused on exploring the harmonic potential offered by unevenly tempered instruments. The sharp chords, hurting ears accustomed to the pleasant resonance of overtones, were decorated with raw amplified sound of rosin on the strings. Antanas Rekašius’ Fluorescences from 1981 was a nod to the older generation of composers. In this piece, the majority comprises melodic and classical-sounding cello, entering into a dialogue with a synthesizer. The short frames of musical ideas gave opportunities for various sound experiments, which at times sounded like a race, with the traditional instrument moving away from its classical sounds and electronics attempting to refer to the articulation of the piano. Julius Aglinskas’ piece with its romantically suggestive title – … – allowed the listeners to escape the ubiquitous noise and wild experiments with its harmonic overtones, wide phrases and dense texture, emphasised by a synthesiser. Jurgis Mačiūnas’ Homage to Philip Corner dedicated to the American composer and trombonist required the performing artists to have outstanding coordination – playing on their own instruments, interspersed with imitating trombone sounds is a joke that has been entertaining the audiences since 1962. After this pleasant piece, Karkowski’s music forced the listeners to completely change their attitude as they listened to Field, created in collaboration with Apartment House. The noise created by the musicians was overbearing, like the sounds of a battlefield. The wall of sound was created thanks to a team effort – actual effort, since playing for more than 10 minutes at full blast, with machine gun-like sounds, definitely required a lot of physical effort.

Saturday concerts offered something engaging and interesting for everyone. Castelló’s whistling? The lyrical nature of … by Aglinskas? A humorous piece by Mačiūnas? Or maybe Karkowski’s painfully tempting discomfort? Regardless of whether you found something for yourself or you are still looking, join us for the upcoming concerts.

Maryla Zając for the Sacrum Profanum Festival