Joanna Grotkowska “What connects”

Sep 23, 2018 · 2 min read
Almost 130 years ago Claude Debussy first heard the Indian gamelan being played at the world’s fair in Paris and the experience greatly inspired his characteristic impressionistic music style. Despite orientalism having been fashionable in Europe in epochs past, the 20th century brought an actual revolution in the perception of otherness as much as in everything else. In the end, this progressiveness led to transgression.
FESTIVAL TRAILER        Looking for a new sound, experimenting with the structure of music, toying with scales, harmonies, rhythms, sound material, form, and the very definition of artist and work of art, composers ended up desacralising art, which had been considered a separate area of culture, and dematerialising the work of art, which had been seen as an object that belonged in a museum. Having done that, they challenged the boundaries separating different genres, artistic disciplines, art and life. The greatest revolutionary of all, John Cage, ‘let sounds be themselves rather than vehicles for man-made theories or expressions of human sentiments’. Thanks to these transgressive processes, 20th-century composers, glancing towards other musical cultures, focused on new parameters, such as sound, rhythm, timing, silence, and ‘silencing the mind’. Just as mimesis, the idea of mimicking nature in a creative manner, was replaced with the concept of representing the workings of the world as science rather then stereotypical assumptions saw them, the approach to otherness, strangeness, became more serious, mature, and insightful. These processes can be traced back to Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring (1913), an apotheosis of brutal rhythm, vivid instrumentation, and primeval ritual. The piece was both prophetic and timeless, tackling the fundamental and the universal. It brought about a fascination with what was real rather than an aestheticised  product of fancy, as well as rapid development of ethnomusicology and on-site research (Béla Bartók). European music was burst apart by quarter and micro tones, following the discovery of other scales or speech melodies (Alois Hába), atonal music (Arnold Schoenberg), and music inspired by actual Middle Eastern interactions and sources (Karol Szymanowski, Konstanty Regamey). The new music idiom and its fundamental parameters rightly inspired references to the Buddhist and Hindu philosophy and spiritual system (John Cage, Olivier Messiaen), or attempts to find a common denominator between European medieval compositions and the polyphonic rhythms characteristic for African drum music (Steve Reich and American minimalists). Living in the 21st century, an era of deepening globalisation, the Internet, and modern technologies, we are able to follow the most far-flung cultures. Still, one question remains open: Are we mature and serious enough now to appreciate the fact that the artistic freedom we gained in the 20th century to create and transgress the boundaries of what is officially acceptable (by political, religious, and social powers) cannot be taken for granted? After all, as Marina Abramović said, ‘We’re all in the same boat’. Text from the festival newspaper 17. Ciało/Umysł, September 2018

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