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Curatorial text

The 19th Sacrum Profanum Festival / Maturity / 29 September – 3 October 2021

2020 – the year, which will be considered dark by many – is finally over. And while we have pinned many hopes on the next twelve months, politics at home and abroad keep instilling fear in our hearts… We have symbolically entered adulthood, maturing at a rapid pace faced with the challenges and circumstances surrounding the pandemic.. We still don't have all the answers, but we have to move forward and do our thing. Reality has shown that believing that it would only last for a while and considering it a temporary thing was the worst choice. The demand of taking responsibility for culture – the last outpost of decency – remains as valid as ever.

Difficult times always show how good it is to have friends. Our festival is no different – just like last year, we decided to focus on long-lasting and proven relationships in the process of making it a reality. We can count on mutual help and support, as well as boundless trust. By joining our forces, we can do amazing things – just take a look at the upcoming concert of the Arditti Quartet – and create exceptional programmes, working together to make the concerts happen. And this is where I would like to thank Kompopolex and Apartment House. We have been building the vast majority of these relationships for years, but there are also cases where we see that we share the same goals and ideals right from the get-go. This was the case with proMODERN – we are proud to have you with us this year!

2021 is the Year of Stanisław Lem, celebrated with the headline I saw the Future. The Sacrum Profanum Festival joins the celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the birth of this outstanding writer. Lem did not shy away from describing music in his prose – always different, experimental, modern – and I found myself wishing to hear some of his futuristic visions of its development. In the year dedicated to this extraordinary writer, we decided to complement the bevy of literary, scientific and philosophical events with something for music aficionados.

Sacrum Profanum is constantly changing. Last year, everything was about online, web, internet, streaming, digital and cyber. What is more, we made the decision to stretch the festival to six weeks, thinking about doing the same thing during the subsequent editions with in-person audience participation. Of course, we decided to use these experiences and learn from them. The main part of the festival will last five days, but we are also launching a series of concerts, about which you will find out more soon. We want to be together with you again . That is why we are getting vaccinated, we take care of our safety, and are responsible. We need to slowly rebuild public trust in public space to reclaim it. Perhaps in a private apartment or in the intimate auditorium on Wesoła Street it will be easier to overcome these fears, to feel comfortable, safe... like at home. At the same time, we are recording and doing post-production work on concerts, and on the anniversary of last year's edition, we will make the new materials available on the PLAY KRAKÓW platform. After all, Sacrum Profanum is one of the staples that you keep looking for. But make sure to watch everything until November! So if you don't feel ready to join us live, you will not miss anything – will be able to do so online, on your own terms.

Last year, we launched something new with Youth. It was the first episode of a trilogy or perhaps the first instalment of a three-season series – that’s right, it’s official now! Time for the second season: Maturity! We are going to interpret this concept in a variety of ways – formally, musically, metaphorically and literally. The main aim for us this season is to include the humanities in the conversation about music. In formal terms, this means the presentation of works by mature composers of contemporary music in performances and programmes developed by experienced ensembles specializing in contemporary music performance. Our Maturity is going to be juxtaposed with the preceding Youth, serving as a response and another part of the continuum – serving to preserve balance and showcase a different face of contemporary music. It is both an attempt to recall some outstanding works of new music and to present established artists in a new light or to prove that they still have fresh ideas and their works are still competitive. We will also bring works by forgotten artists back to life. Metaphorically, Maturity also refers to prudence, stability, thoughtfulness, reflection, experience, recognition, forgetfulness, futurology, metaphysics, detail, science, boredom, dissonance, perception, monochromatics, firmness, gesture, fundamentalism, poetry, truth, and looking inside. All these elements, attributes of maturity, will be reflected in the programme of the 19th edition of our Festival – our tribute to Maturity.

Music develops on a certain continuum. To better understand its end point, sometimes it might be worth your while to take a few steps back – circling around, juxtaposing and combining what the future is going to bring with what is already here. Contemporary music is not going to turn into canon, to be standardized. It will always be stereotyped and seen as the weird thing, until the music community as a whole stops treating it that way. The best way to achieve this goal – popularize modern art – is to keep performing it, including it in repertoires, showcasing it in the context of better-known pieces, as well as showing their origins. I would expect other institutions dealing with music in Poland to adopt these actions and strategies. Works from the second half of the 20th century and the 21st century should have been a part of repertoires of philharmonics, municipal orchestras, schools and music academies – if only alongside the more popular pieces. The claims of the Dutch Aktie Notenkraker Group (L. Andriessen, P. Schat, R. De Leeuw and others) from an open letter to the Concertgebouw in 1966, later voiced during a protest in Amsterdam in 1969 still seem very relevant in Poland after half a century. And this is just about the repertoires! Institutional support for ensembles specializing in contemporary music performance is also still to come. We are not building the right infrastructure, but we dream of having world-class bands and ensembles. We would like to see ensembles promote their patron cities in their names, but we forget to look closely enough at the cultural policies of their countries of origin.

This is not the first time we have taken matters into our own hands and this time we want to actively lead by example. Above all, by consistently supporting the Spółdzielnia Muzyczna contemporary ensemble for the past five years and by launching a regular cooperation with the Polish Radio Choir, we want to develop local potential – without envy and sense of inferiority. We do not forget about artists connected with Kraków – Zofia Dowgiałło, Barbara Buczek, Bogusław Schaeffer, Marek Chołoniewski and Piotr Peszat. We are living in the time of a pandemic and economic crisis – it is time to think local and care for our loved ones.

Our repertoire is – of course – our greatest pride! Young Belgian composer Maya Verlaak alongside Olivier Messiaen? Alternative-avant-garde guitarist, producer and composer Jim O'Rourke and Igor Stravinsky? How about conceptual artist and curator Ryoko Akama and Anton Webern? Can you feel it? In this way - on the basis of three musical traditions: classical, contemporary and avant-garde - we have built the Three Colours programme, which will be presented by Apartment House, which is returning to Kraków. We did not choose this title by accident – it is a conscious and direct reference to the work and symbolism of Krzysztof Kieślowski. We adopted a similar curatorial strategy with Ensemble Kompopolex in ~maturity, where we trace how performance and conceptualism have changed over the years to showcase other sources of today's post-internet turn and a new discipline. The starting point is a new composition by Ole Hübner inspired by times of pandemic isolation, accelerated coming of age in the face of challenges and the soundscape at home. It will be accompanied by pieces by Kelley Sheenan, Neo Hülcker and Marta Śniady – representatives of one generation who offer wildly different styles and approaches to musical matter. We put the works by Pauline Oliveros, Carola Bauckholt, Marek Chołoniewski (as a homage to Krakow's Muzyka Centrum community) and La Monte Young.

Lem is one of my favourite writers, not only because I used to find science fiction and futurology appealing to my imagination, but also because he brilliantly combined poignant thoughts with an immature sense of humour. This balance is important. In our concerts devoted to Lem, we tried to remind our audiences of him both in the titles, as well as in the selection of artists. We have prepared two programmes featuring original compositions interpreting Lem’s literary works by extremely interesting Polish composers of two generations, who create music in very different styles, using various approaches. Summa Lemmologiae will bring together musical interpretations of Lem's important but lesser-known works. In Lo firgai Alek Nowak tackles the short story Maska (The Mask) devoted to the imperfection of creation, transgression and dualism. Żaneta Rydzewska's and Mikołaj Laskowski's works, selected in our Lem contest, were inspired by the Return from the Stars and Fiasco, respectively. The three compositions were commissioned by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute for Klangforum Wien. In Krakow, they will be performed by Spółdzielnia Muzyczna contemporary ensemble together with Joanna Freszel. Additionally, we have included a new piece by member of the ensemble and composer Piotr Peszat. The starting point for Peszat’s Musikalisches Opfer #2 is Lem's reflection on the possibilities of "creating" a reality that is in no way different from the one that surrounds us – Summa technologiae. Lem often engaged in linguistic games with his own name, treating it as an acronym with various iterations. We join in the fun and welcome you to LEM: The Laconic Expression of Modernity. The concert of the proMODERN ensemble will feature works by Nina Fukuoka and Andrzej Karałow, complemented with compositions by Zofia Dowgiałło and Cezary Duchnowski. The composers did not directly refer to Lem – instead, they developed their own concepts and visions, which were in line with his reflections and prose. Karałow was inspired by Solaris – one of its sub-plots, where Andre Berton, searching for his lost companion, sees a phantasmagoric city, which most likely reflects the shards of the psyche of a man who disappeared on the planet Solaris, absorbed by its ocean. The composition serves as an impressionist piece, a vision from a surrealistic dream, symbolizing the loss of a former life. Duchnowski, on the other hand, chose A Perfect Vacuum, referring to the five selected reviews of Lem's non-existent books and apocrypha from the collection published in 1971.

The festival programme includes one more concert with vocal music - Not so early Music , showcasing the achievements of three original Polish artists They do not follow the beaten path of the popular trends – instead, they keep working on their own styles, often creating songs that reverberate in the music communities. They do not even belong to the same generation, yet they have a lot in common – rebelliousness, courage and the eponymous lightness and ease, with which they create, surprise, joke and gain recognition. Paweł Mykietyn is undoubtedly one of the most important Polish composers alive today. This year he celebrated his 50th birthday – and we want to give a nod to this anniversary during the festival. Moreover, we will once again encounter the one and only Agata Zubel, as well as works by Paweł Szymański. The repertoire will include a choral piece, a canon, madrigal and motet – all alluding to archaeology, mystery, history processing, distant inspirations and past eras. Barbara Buczek and her mentor Bogusław Schaeffer also escape any attempts to pigeonhole them and put them in a single genre. With Esoteric Chords, Martyna Zakrzewska will bring all piano pieces by Buczek and three compositions by Schaeffer selected to provide a certain context. For many years, her works were considered impossible to perform due to the enormous amounts of difficult passages, as well as extreme rhythmic and textural variety. Today, they're slowly making their way back into repertoires, though there's still a lot to hear.

Every festival has its finale – and the same applies to the Sacrum Profanum Festival, which needs to have the metaphorical icing on the cake. Join us and the Arditti Quartet for a special Arditti Quartet 47 ½ Anniversary concert! We are celebrating this special occasion with a unique concert programme performed in Kraków, featuring compositions for the Adritti, as well as pieces they consider the most important and the closest to their hearts – all in the best and most outstanding interpretations. The names of the composers alone – Neuwirth, Saunders, Paredes, Ligeti, Xenakis and Lachenmann – serve as the best invitation to an unforgettable evening with the best of the best in the world of contemporary music!
The festival will feature works from Poland, Hungary, Austria, Germany, Italy, France, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Greece, Romania, Lithuania, Russia, the United States, Mexico and Japan. We also keep striving to ensure parity in all areas. The concerts this year will be held on Wesoła Street – in a brand new space for culture, in a private house in cooperation with the Open Apartments Festival… as well as in the well-known halls of the Małopolska Garden of Arts and the ICE Kraków.

Sacrum Profanum has always been a space for bringing together the old and the new; this year, we want to blur those boundaries again.

Keep in touch with us – on a regular basis!

Krzysztof Pietraszewski
Curator of the Sacrum Profanum Festival