In the Spirit of Thankfulness

29 August 2022

We talk to Krzysztof Pietraszewski about building communities and overthrowing boomers.

Sacrum Profanum
2–11.09.2022


Bartosz Suchecki: Two years ago we had “Youth”, last year “Maturity”, and this year’s leading motif of the festival is “Endangered Species”.

Krzysztof Pietraszewski: When “Youth” was followed by “Maturity”, I heard people joking that the next theme would be “Death” (laughs). To close the trilogy in a sensible way and to escape reality, we decided to go with “Endangered Species”. It’s a game with rhetoric and an opportunity to use this broad term to express something more.

On one hand, we can interpret it literally: scientists are warning us that we are following an increasingly dangerous path and that a climate catastrophe is almost inevitable. On the other hand, let’s not forget that we are hosting a music festival. I have a feeling that slogans too rarely talk about music in itself – they usually carry additional messages which help us talk about the music. Paradoxically, here we have both. The term “endangered species” doesn’t have to refer to fauna or flora – it can just as easily be applied to music genres, especially those presented at Sacrum Profanum. Without engagement and support they can easily fall into oblivion. The problem doesn’t just concern the festival, but the broader spectrum of contemporary and experimental music.

The festival wouldn’t be what it is without our engagement in social and political issues, so it’s worth mentioning a third layer of meaning. I like to think that the concept of endangered species is a symbol of the passing of the patriarchy and the boomers that embody it. And since boomer culture encompasses “dinosaur rock”, the programme includes a concert for 12 electric guitars performed by an all-male lineup – fortunately not boomers! For me it will be something of a swansong of macho culture and the beginning of the end of this era.

Seven of the twelve concerts have been marked with the mysterious tag Activities.

This year’s edition follows the principle of gratitude. That the event has such a long history is thanks to the support from the city and its residents. To express our gratitude, we have prepared as special free stream Activities running throughout the festival.

The formula recalls the Single Player stream which enjoyed great popularity in 2018 and 2019. It allows us to showcase two different ideas for a particular instrument or genre during a single concert split into two sets. Each programme is named after what the musicians do with their instruments, such as Clicking (synths), Strumming (harp and double bass), Picking (guitars) and so on.

We want to use this invitation to express our gratitude and to build a community around the festival. This year, we want to turn this engagement into something even more valuable: we will hold collections for Ukraine and Ukrainian refugees.

The final element of our celebrations of our 20th anniversary will be a short film produced by the festival. For now I’ll only reveal that its protagonists will be Cracovians, and the context will be themes explored this year.

Sacrum Profanum has a reputation for being a festival of “difficult” music. Is there anything to be afraid of?

Of course we host concerts which require patience or even endurance. But I think they are great experiences which remain with the audiences for longer, change them, teach them something about music or about themselves. And the programme doesn’t shy away from artists who usually perform on “popular” stages. This year we will see Andy Stott, co-composer of the opera NeoArctic who usually produces alternative techno and Michał Jacaszek, one of the best-known Polish producers of ambient electronics. Marek Pospieszalski with his octet explore some of the most important works by Polish 20th century female composers, from Bacewicz to Zubel. The concert Guitar Olympiad features quartets from New York, Belgium and Poland performing classic avant-garde jazz by John Zorn and Fred Frith, the acclaimed drone guitarist Stephen O’Mailey and Julius Eastman whose life and work we have been exploring in recent years. We will also see a solo performance by the Belgian guitarist Kobe Van Cauwenberghe playing music from joint albums by Brian Eno and Robert Fripp. You can see that at least half of our concerts rub shoulders with the mainstream. That’s no accident: we want to show the worlds of contemporary and alternative music as being equals, and we want to encourage new audiences to try Sacrum Profanum.

Do you see this year’s 20th anniversary festival as a kind of summary?

No, I think that would be too limiting. I think the spectrum Sacrum Profanum has moved in over the last two decades has been summarised well during the last three editions. In 2020 we focused on the latest and freshest music, in 2021 we explored tried-and-tested ideas, and this year we are immersing ourselves in experimentation and the avant-garde without looking through the prism of age. Every year we were putting our bets elsewhere so that in the future we can juggle, intertwine and combine the themes and that we can continue our journey from a single point.

Interviewed by Bartosz Suchecki, “Kraków Culture” magazine

Krzysztof Pietraszewski
Curator, cultural manager, music journalist, Creative Scholar of the City of Kraków. Silesian by birth, Cracovian by choice. Artistic director of the Sacrum Profanum festival since 2016. In 2021 he reactivated his radio show “Muzykoteka” on RadioJazz.FM. Together with Bocian and Bôłt Records he co-produced the Sacrum Profanum Archives album series.

Photo: 100 cymbals by Camille Blake (Berliner Festspiele)

The article published in the 2/2022 issue of “Kraków Culture” quarterly.

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