I International Percussion Festival
Cracow has grown richer by a new cultural attraction - the International Percussion festival, the premiere presentation of which took part this year.
Narrow specialization of the festival, already indicated in its name, on one hand gave supporters of percussion instruments hope for a multitude of original events connected with the creation of percussion rhythms and sounds, that is those elements of music that have always been underestimated in the European culture, but could also arouse some doubts concerning primarily the monothematic nature of meetings. The festival's course entitled us to say that percussion music lovers have not been disappointed while the remaining part of the audience, thanks to consecutive concerts, has gained more sensitivity to the sound of percussion instruments and has had a chance to get acquainted with the abundance of opportunities created by those instruments. Percussion sounds arise in the most natural way possible - as a result of hitting and rubbing, so they are an effect of activities performed by each of us every day a hundred, thousand times. The world is filled with sounds of percussion nature. The vast majority of them are not emitted in a completely chaotic manner, but in a more or less orderly way. It is therefore utterly natural that percussion sounds and the rhythm organizing them are the most primitive, the most original elements of music. Rhythm is also, in my opinion, the most important element in music - after all the whole life is a rhythm and not a mechanically "knocked" one but a "played" one, that is "pulsating", smooth, even inflexible but at the same time "elastic". Not only life is a rhythm but also rhythm is the foundation of the whole matter surrounding us. And it is not necessary to refer to the theory of superstrings in order to get convinced about that. Our world is a world of periodic vibrations, so a world of rhythm.
When examining musical cultures of various nations and races it is easily noticeable how significant a role is played in them by rhythm. An instinctive need to create thythm is inherent in Africans, Arabs, Indians and American Indians. However, there is an exception to this rule - the European people. European musical culture, except for the Iberian Peninsula and the Balkans, astonishes with consistent, even virulent marginalising of rhythm. Therefore organising a percussion festival in European culture was a brave and important step.
During three festival days the audience was able to listen to highly varied rhythmical and simultaneously fully artistic music, consecutive concerts proved that it is possible to create valuable and attractive pieces of music using only percussion instruments. Thus perhaps at least a few Europeans were reconciled with the rhythm.
Core artists taking part in the festival were lecturers and students of the Academy of Music in Cracow but several foreign musicians participated in it as well. I would like to mention some concerts from the rich program of I International Percussion Festival that have especially stuck in my mind.
"Marimba nad percussion group concert" and "jazz and percussion set concert" were a chance to present opportunities and skills of a few very young, gifted musicians, capable not only of "knocking" rhythms but also playing with a truly jazz-like quarrelsomeness, nerve and pulse, and the complicated solo part of the drummer in "jazz and percussion set concert" was really powerful. The performance program of one of the festival celebrities, Thomas Weiss from Switzerland, was interesting, though maybe excessively technique-oriented. He has given an impressive demonstration playing percussion instruments that he constructed on his own. Kroke left unforgettable impressions (the only "no percussion" band in the festival, in the music of which rhythm plays yet an important role), reinforced by a drummer coming from Philadelphia but currently living in Germany - Tom Nicholas. A New York drummer Dom Famularo who accompanied Wojtek Groborz's Big Band was applauded enthusiastically. He is the continuator of the lively playing style of Buddy Rich and not only supported the orchestra at the "official" concert, but moreover gave a sample of his fabulous skills during the night jam session that took place in Piec Art club. Dom Famularo's strenghth of influence is based both on purely musical elements, such as phenomenal feeling for rhythm, phrase, swing, impressive ingenuity, almost superhuman technique and vitality, and visual ones - performance with the whole body, gesticulation, facial expression, showy gambits and just circus tricks, but first of all on the ability to derive genuine joy from playing music.
Robert Buczek - Gitara i Bas
I could tell you that there is no music without rhythm, order. That there is no music without percussion. And that percussion concerts are very interesting artistically, very dynamic. But what for? After all no-one who listens to the music can underestimate percussion
interview with prof. Jan Pilch - Gazeta Wyborcza
The festival, in which primarily lecturers and students of the Academy of Music in Cracow have taken part, has proved that there exists a group of mature musicians who not only want to but also are able to play percussion music and who in addition have enough zeal, charisma and pedagogical skills to infect young people with their enthusiasm. (...)
I think that I will not be expressing only my hopes to wish Prof. Jan Pilch, an outstanding drummer and lecturer at the Academy of Music in Cracow, the originator and main organizer of I International Percussion Festival, enough strength and zeal to organize next editions of the festival. And thus to make listeners sensitive to rhythms and sounds of percussion instruments...
Robert Buczek - GAZETA WYBORCZA
The festival, as it seems of unprecedented conception, has from the first moments met with most fervent response from the audience and critics. Percussion and the music composed (or improvised) for percussion instruments do not have too rich traditions in Poland, all the more valuable this initiative is.
Roman Kowal - Jazz Forum