The 21st Sacrum Profanum: MULTIVERSE
23–24 September and 9–12 November in Kraków
The upcoming edition of the Sacrum Profanum Festival will take the audiences on a journey across the Multiverse! Contemporary art lends itself the best to depiction of the multitude of universes and does so to the greatest extent – at least this is what we believe in. The very name of the Sacrum Profanum Festival combines two polar opposites and makes an attempt at building bridges between them across the chasm. By drawing inspiration from popular culture, we decided to take this mission to the next level, building bridges spanning even wider and bigger can(y)ons. Once again, we are going to try and blur the boundaries between the so-called classical and alternative music by going with absolutely unusual combinations.
The Multiverse – a theme widely explored in the contemporary superhero movies – is a reality characterised by the coexistence of multiple worlds and dimensions. One could say that contemporary music is a perfect example of a multiverse as such, being characterised by heterogeneity, as well as constantly emerging aesthetic and conceptual spaces. Are artists the superheroes of our time? In the day and age of multiple economic crises, social upheavals and war, marked by disappearing public trust and deep divisions in societies, the artists’ works should give us reassurance and guidance for interpreting and understanding the complexities of the surrounding world. But do they? We live in a world that we all see and understand differently, based on the customised information feed that filters through our individual, personal bubbles.
The Multiverse is also an apt metaphor for today’s reality, in which we all live in multiple universes at once – we have our and the digital world, as well as our personal, family, public and professional realities. The multitude of worlds we live in, the faces we wear every days and the social roles that we assume on a daily basis is further multiplied by the mirror dimensions in the digital world, in the ever faster developing metaverses.
The Multiverse holds the secret key to building a programme and embedding it in time and space. That is why we are dividing it into two parts that will take place in September and November, respectively. And that is also why our concerts will be scattered around different locations in Kraków. We find its dimensions in the music, compositions, city and places, as well as among the invited artists.
Let us now transpose these ideas into a cohesive programme. The Festival’s three main concerts will establish the right connections between contemporary music and alternative music in the broadest sense of the word. The starting point for each of these concerts is a different genre – for Mary Halvorson and the Mivos Quartet it is jazz (namely, outstanding material from Belladonna, a 2022 Nonesuch release); for Mats Gustafsson and Ensemble E it is going to be Scandinavian and Polish folk music alongside free improvisation, while for Niels Rønsholdt and the New Music Orchestra it is going to be country music. This is the pillar of our strategy of getting people interested. We hope that new listeners, who rarely venture into the realm of modern music, will take notice and decide to give it a try. At the same time, these popular references will help us normalise new music, which is often pigeon-holed and pushed into a niche all too often.
Minimalism keeps coming back to Sacrum Profanum, with the recent showcases focusing mostly on the meditative and modest aspect of this music, in the spirit of Pauline Oliveros' practice and philosophy of deep listening. This reflection on listening methods continues to gain new followers. This year, the audience will have an opportunity to immerse themselves endlessly in the music of Aleksandra Słyż, in a new composition written for Sinfonietta Cracovia. The orchestra will also play works by prominent Lithuanian composer Justė Janulytė and Poland's first minimalist Tomasz Sikorski to commemorate the 35th anniversary of his death. We will also explore minimalist rhythms with numerous repetitions thanks to one Dutch masterpiece and one of the most popular pieces of the 20th century – Simeon ten Holt s Canto Ostinato in a new rendition by Chain Ensemble will all but guarantee a trance experience for audience and performers. Both varieties of minimalism will be presented by the Polish Radio Choir, which will showcase American and Lithuanian compositions by Julius Eastman (we are looking forward to this return!), John Cage, David Lang and Dominykas Digimas.
Contemporary music, directly inspired by the surrounding reality, sees new technologies that accompany us at every step of our lives as one of the staples. Four concerts will refer to the themes of information flow, novel technologies and a network of connections. Two of them will use small wireless Bluetooth speakers to spatialise and embed the music in space – Wojtek Blecharz’s new piano concerto, as well as the science and video game inspired Open Symmetry for three vibraphones and single-bit electronics by Tristan Perich. The other two are duos. Michal Pepol and Kuba Krzewiński seek to answer one question – what does romance sound like in the 21st century through the ears of contemporary composers? The answers will be found in their performative programme on love spanning Fukuoka, Lucier and Kora. The Duo van Vliet, on the other hand, makes extensive use of multimedia in a programme that combines music with reflections on modernity – the challenges faced by the modern man, distinguishing truth and lies, as well as ugliness in an overly aesthetic reality, using the works by the most interesting Polish composers of the younger generation: Szpyrka, Malinowski and Zapała.
For several years, we have successfully included solo concerts, which are usually remembered the most fondly and get our audiences to talk. We saw this before with the Single Player stream, which gave us a unique opportunity to present uncompromising, original and complete artistic visions. Concerts by Erwan Keravec and Brìghde Chaimbeul will form a kind of framework for the entire programme. We are going to go with yet another unusual instrument in the modern repertoire – how about the bagpipes? The Frenchman will perform works by Goebbels, Glass and Radigue in various parts of the Main Market Square, signalling to the city that the Sacrum Profanum festival has started. Each composition focuses on a different aspect of the instrument – the traditional context of bagpipe playing while marching, the dynamics and rhythms, as well as long drones and meditative nature of the instrument. The Scot will symbolically close the festival with her unique, experimental, yet melodic take on Celtic folk music, playing pieces from Carry Them with Us and performing part of the concert together with Kraków-based saxophonist and improviser Paulina Owczarek. Michał Górczyński is going to bring his latest project Roboty-duety, created with a professional robotic arm. In the later part, the robots will be replaced by Kraków-based artist Wojtek Kiwer and his custom-made synthesizers. The joint improvisation will be interpreted by dancer Dominika Wiak. Jędrzej Siwek will present another syntesizer concert, balancing between contemporary and ambient music. Siwek draws inspiration from the rich heritage of Requiems – funeral masses created in the Classical and Romantic eras by Mozart, Verdi, Fauré and Berlioz.
In these trying times for culture – the final outpost of decency – we value industry solidarity and lasting partnerships. We would like to thank everybody for the trust and support in the organisation of the Festival: The Old Theatre, the Kraków Philharmonic, the Avant Art Foundation, the Chain Ensemble, the Polish Radio Choir and the Sinfonietta Cracovia Orchestra.
The programming collaborations with the Polish Radio Choir and Sinfonietta Cracovia are particularly important to us, as they support and build local potential, boosting the Kraków new music scene. In this context, the initiatives undertaken by Spółdzielnia Muzyczna and the Academy of Music are also important – they are preparing accompanying events for the Sacrum Profanum, including the final Playground concert and the concert commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Electroacoustic Music Studio.
The festival keeps visiting different, often surprising spaces, seeking locations that fit its unique repertoire. This year is no different, but we want to take it to a new level, treating each location from a new, multidimensional perspective. We will play music where no music is usually played, and turn some of the concerts into a journey through time and space.
Join us at this year’s Sacrum Profanum Festival and dive deep into the Multiverse with us to look for multiple versions, variants, genres, spaces, locations, worlds and relationships.
Artistic Director of the Sacrum Profanum Festival