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Sacrum Profanum Festiwal

SACRUM PROFANUM #17: LEARN TO LISTEN!

2019-10-03
The Warsaw-based Hashtag Ensemble is no less inventive than the Krakow Music Cooperative, and their CD with works inspired by Witkacy’s photographic self-portraits is one of my favourites with new music. They performed a retro programme entitled Why Patterns? taken from a composition by Morton Feldman and two works by Lucia Dlugoszewski, discovered at the Festival. It was a challenging programme, to be sure. The ICE International Contemporary Ensemble are not only performers but also co-creators of new music, as we experienced during the premiere of Stimm(i)[u]ung by Wojtek Blecharz (a popular composer, but also, as it turned out, an excellent speaker).

Sound freed from the shackles of patterns and strict methods of composition is not easy to receive. When you listen to Morton Feldman and Lucia Dlugoszewski, you have to get used to the world without a top-down organisation, as postulated by the New York school with which they were both associated. There is no melody, no rhythm, no clear tension and relaxation. Sounds appear and disappear, but they don’t seem to be going anywhere. For a solid two hours, we looked for the key to this music. In the case of Tight Rope, Marta Kosieradzka helped us to find ourselves in this world, taming with dance the alienness of sounds and referring to the choreographic inspiration of many of Dlugoszewski’s compositions. It’s been almost half a century since these pieces were written (Feldman’s Why Patterns? – 41 years, Dlugoszewski’s Tight Rope – 51 years and Openings of the (Eye) – 68 years), and they have gone down in the history of 20th century music. Yet it is still difficult to accept their concept, as expressed by John Cage: “Sound itself is not an idea, a lack of it, or a cry for meaning that another sound could give it. Nothing could be further from it. Sound – busy revealing its properties – has no time for reflection.” It says a lot about us and about the fact that without patterns and schemas, we feel like children in the fog.

On the one hand, we had Feldman and Dlugoszewski and their free sounds, on the other hand we had a spiral, a loop, from which we cannot escape (the title of the concert – Inescapable Spiral). Pauline Oliveiors asks: “Can you imagine you’re a sound?” And how do you get away from that? In her Sound Listening, a comb, a saw, a piece of wood, a sheet of metal are not a manifesto of breaking with the traditional instruments, but they play a didactic role, they teach listening, not hearing – listening allows you to break away from the loop of sounds that you can only hear. In turn, Ashley Fure presents the fight of a healthy mind against a sick body, referring in Therefore I Was to Parkinson’s disease that troubles her grandmother. The piece is jagged, disturbing, full of rasps and sudden falls. Disease was also a source of inspiration for director Piotr Stasik and Wojtek Blecharz, whose Stimm(i)[u]ung is an element of music for a documentary about autistic people. In the title contains the German Stimmung (mood) and English stimming (a set of repeated behaviours, which allows individuals to defend themselves from intense stimuli in their environment). Blecharz talked about this before the performance of the work, but he did not mention Stockhausen and his Stimmung, i.e. over 70 minutes of one chord written for human voices. Maybe such a penetration into the depths of sound has something to do with the collapsing and getting entangled in oneself caused by autism? We would have to ask the composer about that.

Mateusz Ciupka for the Sacrum Profanum Festival