12 November 2021
“Some people choose to see the ugliness in this world. The disarray. I choose to see the beauty” – these are some of the first words in the TV drama Westworld uttered by the character Dolores Abernathy, portrayed by Evan Rachel Wood. The phrase returns many times, and never as an expression of naivety or sentimentality. In April 2020, I watched an interview with Evan Rachel Wood held to coincide with the premiere of the third season. Naturally the interview was on Zoom, and the actress sat at home with an upright piano behind her, explaining she had started to learn to play during the pandemic. The English saying always invokes incredible visual imagery: every time I hear it, I imagine sleek silvery silk lining steel-grey clouds. The metaphor has a deep wisdom to it: beauty can be soothing, inspirational, comforting, perhaps as the power of music bringing hope at dark times of illness, doubt, turmoil.
The silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic, which affected us all to some degree –losing our nearest and dearest, job uncertainty, an ever-present sense of danger, no more freedom to indulge in pleasures such as travel – is the clearer sense of how closely we are all connected. First spontaneous and later organised campaigns sharing groceries, cleaning products, skills, talent; bakeries delivering treats to medical staff working long hours, friends leaving pots of soup or even flowers on one another’s doorstep; online concerts and events... All these examples say something about what it is to be human.
So what does music give us? It helps us dream and explore our emotions; it drives us on and feeds our strength. Nothing can replace the emotions of a live concert, just like nothing can replace the physical aspects of travel – different light, different scents of cities, gardens, seas, harbours, the sound of different languages. But there is also beauty in adaptability and evolution: trees growing through cracks between stones, actions taken in spite of limited resources, cakes baked with margarine when butter isn’t available. It is in the journey I am on as I leaf through an album or listen to a concert on the radio or online. It is in celebrating life to the extent that circumstances allow.
From the Warsaw perspective, Kraków has always been a neverending feast: a cascade of festivals, concerts and meetings with authors. Kraków is the quintessence of the all-familiar fear of missing out. PLAY KRAKÓW – the VOD platform developed during the pandemic to present cultural events at a time of lockdowns – brings us access to Cracovian beauty wherever we are. The cornucopia features the concert by the extraordinary young countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński. His energy and masterful performances are truly miraculous. There is also the FMF concert Cinema Chorale recorded in Wieliczka, including compositions by Arvo Pärt, Ennio Morricone and David Lang. I was lucky enough to see Monteverdi and Teoniki Rożynek’s Il ballo delle Ingrate, directed by Magda Szpecht, performed live at the Opera Rara Festival 2020. The clever, fun and meditative performance is as expansive as the sea – the music and visuals open up an incredible space to the audience. It is a huge privilege to return to this spectacle time and again on PLAY KRAKÓW.
From the Warsaw perspective – and that of other much smaller towns and cities, really from the perspective of anywhere – access to events held in Kraków is incredibly valuable. It is like the best quality lining marking the class of the overcoat.
Agnieszka Drotkiewicz – author of novels, interviews, essays and collections of discussions on topics such as art, literature, social issues, music and cookery. Jointly with Ewa Kuryluk, winner of the Warsaw Literary Premiere. She works with the “Przekrój” and “Kukbuk” quarterlies, and she has been published in “Wysokie Obcasy”, “Ruch Muzyczny” and dwutygodnik.com.
The text was published in the 3/2021 issue of the “Kraków Culture” quarterly.
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