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Sacrum Profanum Festiwal


The fifth day of the Sacrum Profanum Festival brought a shock. Finally! It was getting a little too polite, and yet in the programme text, Łukasz Orbitowski wished that the festival would “turn its back on Piwnica pod Baranami and Bracka Street, spit on Wyspiański and show the middle finger to the great ones buried on Skałka”. Something more than that happened.

At the end of the concert day, the Małopolski Garden of Art hosted Julius Eastman’s Evil Nigger in an arrangement by Piotr Peszat for four accordions (two multiplied electronically; the original from 1979 is for four pianos). Rafał Łuc and Maciej Frąckiewicz played the piece with fierceness and virtuosity, the politically controversial title of which does not directly refer to what is in the notes. Yes, it is ecstatic and emotional music, but it does not speak directly about discrimination, racism or homophobia. There is no text (apart from the battle cry of “one-two-three-four!” preceding the seven-note “theme” resembling the ostinato of Bach’s passacaglia), vocal samples or performance. At the end, when the pace began to slow down, the texture became thinner, the volume weakened, playing from the tape produced by Peszat, we heard Archbishop Jędraszewski’s words, so alien to the festival, from the infamous sermon about the “rainbow plague”, and as if at once their fruit: the shouts of “Boy, girl – a normal family” from the street demonstrations.

And to think, it started so innocently. We had previously attended a long concert by the contemporary ensemble Music Cooperative with the title of Lithuanian Post-Minimalism, which I foresee will be as famous as Romanian spectralism. I wonder, who among those sitting in Cricoteka and later in MOS at that time thought that somewhere far away (actually quite close), there is a world completely different from that of our festival, thoughtful and absorbed in listening.
We can argue whether Justė Janulytė’s choral, stable compositions, lengthened to their limits, become repetitive, or whether they reveal something and to what extent they were inspired by Dominykas Digimas’ Reflections. It is worth discussing how different the rhythm each of us heard was in Juta Pranulytė’s F, when Martyna Zakrzewska hit one piano key for eight minutes, in machine gun rhythm. Finally, we can discuss with experts whether there is such a thing as Lithuanian post-minimalism at all.

However, it is worth remembering that the world choking on (any) ideology and (every) fanaticism couldn’t care less about any of it. Its inhabitants do not ask themselves questions about musical aesthetics, they are not interested in what happens to the sound of the instrument when it is accompanied by electronics, they don’t care if the noise music is noise or music. Indeed! They don’t care about music at all. Not even about the one at Piwnica pod Baranami. In this world there are “chains of tautologies, a couple of concepts like flails [...] no distinctions in reasoning, syntax deprived of beauty of the subjunctive”. I think that’s the kind of world Eastman used to grapple with. We are lucky that our heads are steaming from all the thinking, that we ask ourselves questions that no one cares about, but which allow us – the madmen listening to Lithuanian post-minimalism – to remain normal.

Mateusz Ciupka for the Sacrum Profanum Festival