Engaged and full of daring experiments – this is what this year’s Sacrum Profanum contemporary music festival will be like. Together with artists from Poland and abroad we will take part in such unusual events as an eco-opera or a concert for twelve electric guitars. We will also hear rare instruments and maybe even experience musical hallucinations. All this will take place in the interesting spaces of Kraków from September 2 to 11.
Over the past two decades, the Sacrum Profanum festival has gained a reputation of one of the most intriguing cultural events in Poland. Its character is constantly evolving, but its main idea has always been to break boundaries and experiment creatively at the junction of classical and new music. Over the years, festival audiences were offered the possibility to listen to leading artists from many different genres, including modern classic, minimalism, jazz and electronic music. “We are proud that such esteemed artists as the Kronos Quartet, Kraftwerk, Tomasz Stańko, Jonny Greenwood and Mike Patton have performed at Sacrum Profanum. The jubilee, however, does not make think about the past; on the contrary, we look into the future, because it demands urgent involvement,” says Magdalena Doksa-Tverberg, head of the Krakow Festival Office which organises the event.
Idea of the 20th edition of Sacrum Profanum
The slogan linking the diverse programme of this year’s festival: Endangered Species, can be understood in many ways. “Above all, we want to draw attention to ecology, because many people still neglect this subject,” says Krzysztof Pietraszewski, artistic director of Sacrum Profanum. – Lots of animal species are dying every year; the scale of pollution and climate change is increasing rapidly. That is why we are giving the floor to artists whose work encourages the audience to change the attitudes towards our planet.”
Pietraszewski also draws attention to the less obvious meaning of the above-mentioned slogan, i.e. the need to care about niche music genres: “Avant-garde creativity stimulates creative, innovative thinking that has a positive impact on our everyday lives. That is why cultural diversity, just like biodiversity, is an invaluable asset. Meanwhile, contemporary music, especially in its alternative and experimental version, cannot survive without patronage and audience support. This is a task for all of us.”
The last interpretation of the slogan indicated by the artistic director refers to social change. “Is patriarchy and its anachronistic cultural model in endangered with extinction today? Dinosaurs hold up well, for example in rock music,” says Pietraszewski. “Guitar music, symbolising the macho culture, needs to be revised and redefined, same as the model of masculinity it promotes. That is why the festival will feature performers who draw from rock, but treat it with detachment.”
Rich programme in interesting spaces
The Sacrum Profanum festival has accustomed its audience to eclecticism and this year will be no different. The minimalist trend will be reflected in the 100 cymbals concert based on the idea of deep listening. It will feature the work of avant-garde icon John Cage and glitch legend Ryoji Ikeda played on one hundred percussion cymbals. Musical tranquillity will be offered during the concert entitled Kolchida, played by Kwartludium and Michał Jacaszek, who drew inspiration from the Georgian traditional songs.
The Guitar Olympiad concert, announced by the artistic director as “the swan song of testosterone”, will be kept in a completely different style. It will feature an international array of guitarists, playing solo, in quartets and a full twelve-guitar band with an avant-garde-rock repertoire. On the other hand, the Picking programme will show two completely different faces of the guitar: experimental in the music of John Zorn and trance in the works of the Robert Fripp/Brian Eno duo. Both concerts are also targeted at an audience that normally shies away from avant-garde music.
One of the most interesting items of the programme is the NeoArctic performance, in which twelve songs and soundscapes will tell the story and future of one planet. This eco-opera was co-written by the British techno producer Andy Stott and the Latvian composer Krists Auznieks to the libretto by Icelandic poet Sjón (who has worked for example with Björk). Jazz fans, in turn, will undoubtedly be interested in a concert by the Marek Pospieszalski octet. Their latest album, Polish Composers of the 20th Century, has received much critical acclaim. This time the ensemble will reach back to the heritage of Polish women composers of the 20th century. Jazz interpretations of works by Bacewicz, Buczek, Kulenta, Sikora and Zubel will be kind of filling the gaps in herstory.
During the concerts we will also hear rare instruments, such as the electric harp or Serge synthesizer, as well as unusual playing techniques. The aim, as Pietraszewski stresses it, is to expand the boundaries of the audience perception. Thomas Ankersmit’s performance is also likely to be a powerful experience: the artist will perform Maryanne Amacher’s experimental pieces, which are designed to evoke the sensation of hearing the tones from inside the head.
“This celebration of contemporary music has had a permanent place in Krakow’s cultural calendar for twenty years now,” says head of the Krakow Festival Office, Magdalena Doksa-Tverberg. “While during other festivals we celebrate, among other things, early and classical music, during Sacrum Profanum we will immerse ourselves in avant-garde and experimental trends. Let us stress out, that the event will take place in interesting and diverse spaces. On the one hand, we have modern sites of the ICE Krakow Congress Centre and Cricoteka, and on the other, places with a long history, such as Club of the 6th Airborn Brigade and Klub Spotkań Poczta Główna.”
Promotional Inclusivity pass, providing admission to the entire festival at the price of PLN 180, is available only until the end of June. Standard tickets for individual concerts will be launched on July 1. To celebrate the Sacrum Profanum jubilee, free admission has been announced for seven events from the Activities series. They will be accompanied by fund-raising for the struggling Ukraine and the refugees. Free tickets for this series will be available from August 12.