I personally believe that the Sacrum Profanum Festival sits at the intersection of two realities and signals the moment of transition from one universe to the other. Due to its name, from the very first edition, the Sacrum Profanum Festival consciously referred to the ancient genealogy of the festival as a form of celebration of community and a space of condensed social and cultural activity that is beyond time, beyond standards, and beyond our everyday life.
This year, I feel this moment “in-between”, which removes divisions, abolishes hierarchies, and affirms autonomy stronger, I feel that it is decisive and sublime.. It can be situated in one of three places – between the sacred and the profane, between childhood and adulthood, as well as between the pre- and post-pandemic reality.
The Sacrum Profanum Festival turned 18 in the time of deep crisis and a collective trauma of the entire contemporary music community, brought upon it by the COVID-19 pandemic. This moment is particularly difficult for the festival, its organisers, as well as artists and the audiences. The vision of the present and future of contemporary music, festivals and their communities was suddenly put into question. Thus, the crisis caused by the pandemic has given the entire contemporary music community an accelerated course in growing up. The questions that we will ask ourselves now will be fundamental to the post-pandemic recovery of the local and global contemporary music world.
What is going to happen with all the unreleased releases? What are contemporary music festivals going to do with a surplus of material? What is the return of audiences to concert halls going to look like? In what way did the digital solutions change our experience of live music? How did the pandemic change our listening habits? What new communities have formed as a result of moving festivals and concerts to the digital world? What is their dynamics? To what extent did the pandemic crisis change our participation in music life? What will be the future of contemporary music festivals? How long will this form of cultural participation remain at all relevant to our way of experiencing, understanding and functioning in the world? The need to fundamentally confront the experience of the pandemic continues to grow, forcing us to critically reflect on it and work through this trauma in the coming years.
On the one hand, the experience of the pandemic has strongly questioned the legitimacy of contemporary music festivals. There was a moment of hesitation and uncertainty, a fear that the formula of a festival presenting contemporary music might be over now. The thought and realisation that festivals, with their dizzying dynamics of supply and demand, do not provide a sufficiently stable and sustainable model for the production, presentation, distribution and documentation of contemporary became more apparent and painful throughout the crisis. However, the very same experience of the pandemic made us realise how precious is this ability of festivals to quickly react to the surrounding reality and to adapt to sudden changes. We were particularly encouraged by the resourcefulness, flexibility and ingenuity of the festivals, when it came to crisis management. The festival space remains among the most important public spaces where contemporary music is talked about and confronted. If this year of devastating stagnation has made us aware of anything, it is certainly how much contemporary music needs a context of physical proximity, unity of time and space, and a place for a debate, in which its value system that reflects and relates to social and political events in a variety of ways is simultaneously dependent and created by the community of listeners.
Monika Żyła, for the Kraków Festival Office
The Festival is organised by the City of Kraków and the KBF.