'It is notionally about peace and war and violence in a world of rapid change but, let's be honest, it is mainly drumming, very loud music and tonnes and tonnes of fireworks," Festival director Jonathan Holloway says. "It is about everyone knowing the Festival has started."
Holloway is speaking about the opening weekend spectacle BPM Bombs Per Minute at Langley Park, to be performed by the French company Les Commandos Percu.
The BPM sound and fury signifying the start of PIAF 2013 follows the success of this year's opening act, Place des Anges, and Holloway hopes to draw similar crowds of 30,000 to 40,000 to this percussive fire show on February 9.
The artistic brains behind the company, Raymond Gabriel, began his performing life in the 1970s and 80s beating sticks on drums in the streets of Toulouse. He explains the Les Commandos Percu philosophy thus: "It's very simple why we do this. Percussion makes boom, fireworks make boom too."
With echoes of recent PIAF opening acts Panoptikum and La Fura dels Baus, BPB marshals the forces of accelerating drums, music and pyrotechnics to drown the audience in noise and rage before reaching peace and quiet at the end.
Production manager Lisa Trouilhet said the company made many of its own instruments - a 2m rolling drum, a drum hit 800 times a minute by a customised drill, chimes and aircraft fuselage sheets - to create its distinctive sounds.
"It is important for the musicians to make their own instruments because if you start playing on African drums, you are going to start playing African music," Trouilhet said. "If you create your own instruments you can create your own language."
Gabriel tells a story of the day in April 1986 as he was making rhythm with a box of matches when he first heard the news of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
"The next day this innocent rhythm produced by a box of matches became a massive sound of drums accelerating, culminating in a final explosion. I wanted to describe a fine and complex molecule of life, when accelerating it became overheated, it turned into an absurd and destructive smash, then it became deathly quiet. Chernobyl became a part of Les Commandos Percu's repertoire."
The company will bring a small core of technicians and performers to work with about 20 local percussionists who will feature in the show.
Les Commandos Percu recently performed as part of the opening of the 2012 London Cultural Olympiad.
BPM Bombs per Minute will be free at Langley Park on February 9. Picnickers welcome from 6.30pm for an 8pm start.