EVENTS. Polish-Lithuanian Dialogues

The 10th conference of Lithuanian and Polish musicologists will be held in Cracow on December 14-16 2006. This year, in addition to a rich musical programme focusing primarily on the Lithuanian composer Onutė Narbutaitė, the main topic of the conference – 'Involvement of Music in the Ideology of Socialist Realism' – implies a promise of intrigue.

The Lithuanian-Polish musical links have a rich history. In different historical periods their intensity was determined by various factors – a common statehood or, conversely, similar forms of political oppression, geographical proximity and cultural exchange. There were also periods of cultural alienation and lack of mutual understanding, further intensified by geopolitical circumstances. However, these general factors are a mere background to the history of cultural collaboration of the musicians of both nations, as the real events always occurred on the level of micro-history, where creative personalities and musical communities collide.

Paradoxically, particularly productive collaborative initiatives took shape during one of the most complicated historical periods of Lithuania and Poland – the Communism years. It was not an exchange promoted by official culture functionaries; on the contrary – it was a creative dialogue of nonconformist musical environments. The period's musical activity in Poland (particularly the contemporary music festivals and publications) was one of the basic sources of information on the global musical culture to quite a few Lithuanian musicians. Polish music scene became a springboard to international career for many Lithuanian composers in the 1970s and 1980s. In the meantime, Polish composers regarded Lithuanian music as a source of inspiration and cultural discussions, and its promotion – as confirmation of the status of Poland as a cultural centre.

Krzysztof Droba
photo: Izabella Firek

Lithuanian-Polish conferences emerged from this spirit of partnership and resistance to the imposed political and cultural regime: symptomatically, the first conference took place in the year of significant political changes – 1989. The organisation of the conferences was undertaken by the section of musicologists of the Lithuanian Composers' Union and the Department of Musicology of the Cracow Music Academy, but the spiritus movens of these events has been and still remains the Polish musicologist Krzysztof Droba – a consistent promoter of Lithuanian music in Poland. His critical mind and musical intuition helped to shape the form and character of this cultural happening, which crossed the boundaries of a traditional academic event considerably. The topics of the conferences embraced problematic aspects that would allow to diagnose the state of contemporary culture and its development; the same critical approach was applied to re-thinking the tradition. The exploration of innovations in contemporary music was not only theoretical: during the conferences were organized composers' forums and wider presentations of featured composers, their music was played in the concerts during the conferences, new works by Lithuanian composers Osvaldas Balakauskas, Feliksas Bajoras, Onutė Narbutaitė and Mindaugas Urbaitis were commissioned by the Polish partners and premiered.

A traditional multi-faceted cultural event, the 10th anniversary conference of Lithuanian and Polish musicologists will be held on December 14-16 in Cracow. Its featured musical figure will be Onutė Narbutaitė, one of the most original voices of Lithuanian contemporary music. Musicians of the Cracow Music Academy will perform one of her most distinct recent works – Tres Dei Matris Symphoniae for choir and symphony orchestra. The forum dedicated to the composer's work will be supplemented by analytical readings of her compositions (organised by the students of the Cracow Music Academy). Frequently representing Lithuanian music abroad in the recent decade, Narbutaitė's work is quite a unique phenomenon: it is closely related to the deep-rooted Lithuanian traditions, but at the same time it transgresses the boundaries of any national stereotypes and clichés. Her music is both local and universal, and is distinguished in the context of Lithuanian contemporary music by its focus on the country's multicultural tradition.

Another dedication of the conference is a special session devoted to the Lithuanian pre-war avant-garde composer Vytautas Bacevičius (1905–70). The session continues the cycle of events commemorating his 100th anniversary held in Lithuania last year. Such attention to one of the most controversial figures of Lithuanian music is not merely occasional. In a way, the life and work of this composer, who bravely charted new ways of Lithuanian music and decidedly rejected political compromises, illustrates the challenges and turning points that Lithuanian musical culture had to experience in the 20th century. The Bacevičius family, whose members lived both in Lithuania and Poland (the famous Polish composer Grażyna Bacewicz is Vytautas Bacevičius' sister), has already been the focus of musicological conferences in Vilnius and Łódź. The forthcoming event will allow to assess the reception of a wider presentation of Bacevicius' work encouraged by the anniversary programme.

One more musical emphasis of the conference is a concert of the piano duo of Rūta and Zbignevas Ibelhauptas. Along with the works by Onutė Narbutaitė, Vytautas Bacevičius, Algirdas Martinaitis and Eugeniusz Knapik, the musicians will perform two premieres – compositions by the young composers Wojciech Ziemowit Zych (Poland) and Justė Janulytė (Lithuania), commissioned by the Polish organisers.

The most fascinating, however, is the key theme of the conference – 'Involvement of Music in the Ideology of Socialist Realism'. Reconsideration of the Soviet cultural heritage was a particularly frequent topic in the first years following the restoration of independence. Today this subject is addressed once again from a certain historical distance – and a new critical perspective. According to Krzysztof Droba, the aim is not to denounce or humiliate someone, but, on the contrary, to review the situation in the Lithuanian and Polish music scene during the years of Stalinism without any biases, trying to find answers to the following questions: what was the doctrine of socialist realism? What did the sovietisation of music mean? How was it expressed in culture? These are open questions encouraging various critical interpretations and discussions, which are essential for a cultural dialogue.

© Rūta Goštautienė

Lithuanian Music Link No. 13