Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival 2015

20th to 28th November 2015, Huddersfield, UK

The 2015 Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival was partly devoted to the extremely lively Polish scene. The Polish music showcase was co-organised by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute as part of the Polska Music project. The event launched a partnership programme between the institutions for the next few years.

During the first evening (Friday 20th November 2015) at hcmf//, the audience was given a chance to listen to pieces by Agata Zubel and Jagoda Szmytka. Agata Zubel, a composer and a singer, performed at the opening with the Austrian super-group Klangforum Wien. Zubel's performances are full of deeply emotional expression, with her voice resting somewhere between guttural and heavenly soulfulness, all multiplied into polyphony using electronic devices. That same evening at the festival's most fashionable stage, Bates Mill, a young British group called The Riot Ensemble presented a multimedia presentation of works by Jagoda Szmytka, whose music refers to the virtual landscapes of social media. Her works were also performed by the Ensemble Interface from Frankfurt. 

Special events were devoted to music of two Polish “classics”: Tomasz Sikorski and Zbigniew Karkowski, who represented radically different approaches towards creating music. Sikorski, with his minimalist philosophy, was interested in the meditational attributes of music. Karkowski (whose works were presented to HCMF audience as a part of "Karkowski/Xenakis" project curated by Monika Pasiecznik) was one of the noise pioneers who, if you believe the legends, would break toilets and blow speakers in their search to find the highest possible pitch. British pianist John Tilbury performed together with Noszferatu XL, a contemporary music band, at a concert fully devoted to Sikorski for the late-night programme at Bates Mill (Saturday 21st November). The concert was broadcasted live on BBC Radio 3. Karkowski's music, meanwhile, was first presented by Kasper T. Toeplitz, a composer and performer (Monday 23rd November), and then by the drum-and-double-bass duo of Daniel Buess and Aleksander Gabryś, in a concert devoted to Karkowski and his collaboration with Xenakis (Tuesday 24th November).

The Polish sound artist, composer and improviser Robert Piotrowicz performed together with Ensemble Phoenix (Switzerland) and presented two of Piotrowicz's own works (Sunday 22nd November). His music is a mix of vivid, complex structures created with computers and analog synthesizers, enabling the composer to create high dynamics and dramatic forms. 

The delicate and sinful music made by psychedelic-folk group Księżyc (Monday 23th November) briought the festival a completely different quality. Their works are full of Medieval echoes and sounds rooted in Slavic tradition, inspired by folk vocal techniques from Ukraine, Lithuania and Bulgaria, enriched by minimalist elements and vocal experiments.

The festival presented also an opportunity to listen to experimental musician Tomasz Mirt and Norwegian vocal virtuoso Maja S. K. Ratkje (Saturday 28th November), who interpreted compositions by Arne Nordheim and Eugeniusz Rudnik created in famous Polish Radio Experimental Studio.