Sacrum Profanum 2020

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  • Sunday, November 1, 2020 - Sunday, November 29, 2020

Youthful Energy

“What if…?” is a timeless question, and when you’re 18 years old, you’re ready for anything!

The Sacrum Profanum festival is difficult to categorise: in its early days it contrasted sacral and secular music, later veering towards contemporary music while not shying away from ambitious pop. It continues to surprise audiences with its choice of artists, repertoire and even concert venues. And although the 18th edition (1-29 November) means the festival comes of age, it’s certainly showing no signs of stagnation. All events of this year’s festival are held online, and the organisers stress that the formula will be no less ambitious than in previous years – in fact they see it as an opportunity to break stereotypes. “We want to surprise you, delight you, engage you, inspire you, and maybe even irritate you a bit. We are delighted that the festival will take place – you need it, the artists need it, the industry needs it, and we need it, too! It’s our celebration of new music – we cannot and will not surrender it!” says Krzysztof Pietraszewski, festival curator.

This year’s motto Youth is approached from several perspectives. In a literal sense, young composers prepare contemporary music for young performers; in a metaphorical sense, attributes associated with youth (lustfulness, endurance, rebellion, mutiny, bravado, arrogance, mistakes, improvisations, carelessness, fun) will be reflected in the programme. We will hear nine premiere concerts streamed on the PLAY KRAKÓW platform (Wednesdays and Sundays), texts and podcast cycles by Krzysztof Pietraszewski and journalists Bartek Chaciński and Jan Topolski, and accompanying events (Fridays).

The festival kicks off with a trip to the Middle Ages. On 1 November, the programme Ars antiqua presents a cycle of songs From 1 to 7 written for soprano Yeyoung Sohn and guitarist Marcin Dylla. Stefan Węgłowski’s composition pays homage to the composer’s mother, the acclaimed artist Dorota Grynczel, recalling the painful process of saying goodbye and her death. Although his music is imbued with disquiet and gloom, it is also punctuated with light and even romanticism.

Music and Sport (4 November) is an unconventional attempt to capture the links between the disciplines, with composers Dominik Strycharski and Karol Nepelski translating their personal experiences in sport into the composition process and performance techniques. Strycharski approaches his new work from the ring (the kickboxer is the fifth guest performer of the composition), while Nepelski from the swimming pool. The repertoire also includes Jennifer Walshe’s work, in which learning to skateboard is an immanent element of the process of learning this conceptual text composition. The programme is presented by the Kwartludium ensemble.

Before our homes were filled with computers and gaming consoles, fans of journeys to fantasy lands reached for playbooks. Inspired by the idea, Piotr Peszat attempts to write an Interactive Composition. The piece PEnderSZATch features autobiographical elements, with the online audience deciding on the course of the career of a “young, promising composer from Kraków”. On 8 November, we get to decide how long Spółdzielnia Muzyczna contemporary ensemble plays for, and make sure Peszat’s career isn’t over before its time.

In the programme Streamforms (11 November), Ewa Liebchen explores sounds many flautists haven’t even dreamed of. Dominik Karski’s composition features secondary ways of creating sound (hitting keys, overblowing) or even “human physiology” of the instrument (slurping, grunting, snorting). Sławomir Kupczak’s Halny is a captivating composition for electronics and improvised flute in an attempt to translate one of Poland’s most distinctive and fascinating weather phenomena into music, even including a pressure differential! Marta Śniady’s composition features an excerpt from a Justin Bieber song and explores the phenomenon of popularity and frenzied devotion to idols of popular culture.

What’s easier – holding a lecture in a concert hall or a concert at a lecture hall? Performed Lecture combines music and the spoken word, intertwining elements of a lecture and a live music concert. On 15 November, Matthew Shlomowitz – a master of the genre – reveals that commentary during classical music concerts doesn’t have to centre around amusing anecdotes. The programme also features two compositions: Solucja by Jacek Sotomski, leading Polish composer of and commentator on contemporary music, and CARBON IS THE NEW BLACK prepared by socially-engaged composer Monika Dalach. The music will be performed by Ensemble Kompopolex.

Singer Barbara Kinga Majewska and pianist Marcin Masecki take us to an exercise hall. During the programme Adonis Gamut (18 November), they will play scales and arpeggios, ornaments, trills and intervals… Their return to the repertoire practiced by all musicians in their youth is a nostalgic look back at a body which is yet to learn to play music and serves as an opening point of a discussion on the significance of practice in building an artist’s identity. The concert is rare opportunity to hear a selection of 18th, 19th and early 20th-century music (including songs by Richard Strauss and Joseph Haydn) at a contemporary music festival.

Music therapy, relaxation with sound, sonic experiences – even the sound of these terms is soothing. The programme ASMR (22 November) presents an even wider range of sounds serving as an auditory massage. It comes courtesy of knocks, rustling and whispering in Mikołaj Laskowski’s Do It to Yourself, followed by Wojciech Blecharz’s hypnotic study of our emotions, culminating with a meditation on Alvin Lucier’s string quartet. Performed by the Royal String Quartet, the evening opens with Krzysztof Penderecki’s Quartetto per archi, paying homage to the Maestro who passed away earlier this year.

In the project Female Forms (25 November), six composers and five performers bring their voices to the debate on parity in music.

Sacrum Profanum regularly explores graphic scores. This year’s festival closes on 29 November with their latest iteration: a combination of music scores with the language of architecture. The programme #archi-solos features soloists from the Hashtag Ensemble following the rhythm, order, texture and forms of buildings and translating them into music: Marta Grzywacz performs the Administrative Centre of Nowa Huta (known as the Doge Palace), Wojciech Błażejczyk brings to life the Way of Four Gates, Krzysztof Kozłowski – Cricoteka, while Hubert Zemler the Płaszów Locomotive Depot.

And of course the festival features an array of accompanying events. On 6 November, kids and parents learn to play with sounds and bring them into their own compositions during the online workshops What Does Kraków Sound Like? In Robert Piotrowicz’s Opera for the Deaf (13 November) and Kuba Krzewiński’s Ep, the composers explore sign language, culture, communication and identities of deaf people. Founder of the Małe Instrumenty ensemble Paweł Romańczuk demonstrates how to build instruments out of nothing during his workshop Do It Yourself (20 November), while Random Check (27 November) presents eight audiovisual compositions prepared by students, graduates, PhD students and lecturers at art schools in Wrocław.

All concerts will be available on the PLAY KRAKÓW platform, with some events free. Further details and the full programme can be found on the festival website and social media. (Bartosz Suchecki, „Karnet”)

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