This special event is presented with the acclaimed SACRUM PROFANUM, Unsound Festival’s sister festival in Krakow, which regularly blurs the line between contemporary classical music and ambitious pop. The Krakow Festival Office is the co‐organizer of the event while the Adam Mickiewicz Institute acts as an additional partner for this special large‐scale opening night. Unsound Festival New York is presented by Fundacja Tone, the Polish Cultural Institute in New York and the Goethe‐Institut New York.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of Krakow writer, Stanislaw Lem’s novel Solaris. It’s a book about people lost in the cosmos and obliged, whether they like it or not, to take one more step up the ladder of knowledge. Lem uses the novel to explore what happens when our unending quest for knowledge becomes a source of impossible tension. Reflecting on the time in which the novel was written, the characters in Solaris are dogged by disappointments, and the way out offered to them by Lem is illusory – through dreams. Unsurprisingly, given its universal themes, the novel continues to have a large following to this day, both on its own account and as a result of highly regarded film adaptations by Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky and American director Stephen Soderburgh.
The seed for Music For Solaris began simply enough during a casual conversation between Australian composer Ben Frost, who lives in Iceland, and Unsound Festival Director Mat Schulz about Eduard Artemyev’s score for the Tarkovsky film. Ideas were planted and Schulz seized the moment and decided to commission a new work from Frost for Unsound Festival 2010 – based in the very birthplace of Stanislaw Lem’s novel – Krakow.
Within the last five years, Reykjavík‐based Ben Frost has made a worldwide reputation for himself with two albums for the Bedroom Community label “Theory of Machines” (2007) – inspired in part by Soderburgh’s Solaris and “By The Throat” (2009), as well as his work with artists such as Tim Hecker, Amiina, Björk and label mates Sam Amidon, Nico Muhly and Valgeir Sigurdsson. Following work for contemporary dance productions by Wayne McGregor/Random Dance, Chunky Move and the Icelandic Dance Company, Frost has also increasingly worked in film music. In 2009 he composed the score to “I Am You” and a series of short films by Gael Garcia Bernal and Marc Silver for Amnesty International called “The Invisibles”. This year his music will also grace the Australian film “Sleeping Beauty.” This work has led to Frost becoming more and more engaged with orchestral music, so it’s fortunate that within a short time of receiving the Solaris commission from Unsound, Frost was also presented with the opportunity to work with one of the most exciting orchestras in Europe – the Krakow‐based Sinfonietta Cracovia.
This exceptional orchestra emerged from an initiative of young musicians at the Music Academy in Krakow. Thanks to the artistic leadership of violinist Robert Kabara, Sinfonietta Cracovia has grown and transformed into an ensemble renowned throughout Europe. Sinfonietta Cracovia is characterized by outstanding spontaneity and exceptional professionalism. Their artistic achievements have opened doors to collaboration with the most remarkable composers and conductors including Krzysztof Penderecki, Antoni Wit, Jerzy Maksymiuk, Christoph Eschenbach, Lorin Maazel, Valery Gergiev and American John Axelrod. Sinfonietta Cracovia have also appeared at Unsound Festival many times, performing music with artists like Stars of The Lid, Jóhann Jóhannsson and others.
Realizing the potential for this collaboration, Frost also smartly recruited Icelandic composer / conductor Daníel Bjarnason to join the mix. Bjarnason is also a member of the Bedroom Community collective. His debut album for the label “Processions” (2010) saw him work with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra and illustrated to a larger audience his skill with modern chamber music. Composed for twenty‐nine string players, two percussionists, prepared piano, guitars and electronics, We don’t need other worlds. We need Mirrors ‐ Music for
SOLARIS is a re‐imagined soundtrack for a film so still as to become almost absent, a story in sound, and an exploration of an interior cosmos. You could call it both strange and unique but you’d only be describing part of the picture. It is filled with ideas and borne of concepts, not the least of which is a series of “film manipulations” that are integral to the project. Brian Eno and Nick Robertson specially created these images. Brian Eno is currently mentoring Frost in the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative. The dialogue in that mentorship led to this collaboration, which sees Eno and Robertson drawing on moments from the original Tarkovsky film to create a visual parallel to the music of Frost, Bjarnason and Sinfonietta Cracovia.
A recording of “Music For Solaris” will be released on CD later this year by Iceland’s Bedroom Community label. This project has received strong support from the Adam Mickiewicz Institute, as part of the Polish Presidency of the EU, which starts on July 1st 2011.
Music for SOLARIS will be preceded by a selection curated by the highly respected SACRUM PROFANUM festival in Krakow. Sacrum Profanum is devoted to acclaimed ensembles performing the music of the 20th and 21st centuries. Firstly Sinfonietta Cracovia will perform music from Krzysztof Penderecki, one of the most recognized Polish composers of our time. His 1960 composition “Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima” has received acknowledgement far beyond the boundaries of contemporary classical music – even Johnny Greenwood from Radiohead has cited it as a key influence on his own writing for strings. To this day “Threondy…” clearly demonstrates a distinctly unique language for strings.
Additionally, his work with Don Cherry brought him exposure in other fields. But Penderecki is held in the most high esteem within classical music circles and has received many prestigious prizes including Classical music Grammy Awards in 1987, 1998 and 2001. Sinfonietta Cracovia, having collaborated and performed with Penderecki in person many times, will open this evening with the lush harmonies and emotional intensity of his Serenade For String Orchestra followed by Sinfonietta per Archi and Chaconne in memoria del Giovanni Paolo II.
Following these three pieces by Penderecki, Sinfonietta Cracovia will give the audience a taste of a New York composer whose music will be featured extensively later this year at the Sacrum Profanum Festival in Krakow ‐ Steve Reich. In September 2011 Krakow celebrates Reich’s 75th birthday by featuring five concerts of his work with the composer’s participation. Steve Reich is perhaps the most well known modern composer in America. His own form of minimalist music, or at least the reverberations from it, have influenced almost everyone working in music today – whether they realize it or not. Sinfonietta Cracovia will perform the rarely heard 1995 Reich composition Duet for Two Violins and String Orchestra, which is dedicated to Yehudi Menuhin – an appropriate selection since Sinfonietta Cracovia’s Robert Kabara has been building a reputation as one of Europe’s great violin soloists. This will be followed by a performance of Reich’s 1999 composition Triple Quartet for three string quartets and pre‐recorded tape. Steve Reich will be in attendance.
Sinfonietta Cracovia will also be featured during Unsound Festival New York the following night Thursday, April 7th, performing the music of Polish composer Henryk Mikołaj Górecki.