Petr Kotik

Petr Kotik - Czech Contemporary Composer

See "The Music of Marcel Duchamp" by Petr Kotik.

Petr Kotik was born in Prague, January 27, 1942. He studied flute at the Prague Conservatory, and Academy of Music with Frantisek Cech and at the Music Academy in Vienna with Hans Reznicek. From 1960 to 1963, he studied composition with Jan Rychlik in Prague, and later from 1963 to 1966 at the Music Academy in Vienna with Karl Schieske, Hans Jelinek, and Frederich Cerha. In Prague, he founded and directed Musica Viva Pragensis (1961-1964) and the QUAX Ensemble (1966-69). Kotik has lived and worked in the United States since 1969. He is the founder and director of the S.E.M. Ensemble, which has performed, since 1970, a yearly series of concerts in New York and toured the U.S. and Europe. In 1974, he realized the entire musical work of Marcel Duchamp, which was issued on LP by Multhipla in 1978, and on CD by Renee Block Editions in 1991. Between 1978 and 1982, Kotik toured South America three times as a composer, performer, and lecturer. Kotik has lived in New York City since 1983, where be continues to work as an independent composer, and director of the S.E.M. Ensemble.

Since his early works, Kotik's compositional method has been based on visually graphic material. Using graphs that were created without direct relation to his music, Kotik has determined all of his musical parameters. While be produced his own graphs in the 1960s, in 1971 Kotik began to use new graphic material which be accidentally discovered at his friend Jan Kucera s medical lab at Buffalo University. Kucera s graphs charted the results of experiments on the reaction of the nervous system to alcohol. Kotik used these until 1982, when he developed, with the assistance of Charles Ames, a computer program that produced chance progressions based on Markov s numerical chain process. Kotik applies these computer-generated progressions, like his earlier graphs, to all musical parameters.

Kotik's compositional concept is based largely on the relationship between random occurrence and conscious control. His method can be described as a game in which regulated chance leads to situations that require decisions to be made by the composer. The results, which are often unpredictable, are either left alone or further edited by the composer.
Kotik describes his music in the following manner: "I have been always most itself in a clear and direct way. In my music, I strive to achieve directness, clarity and simplicity. My method of composing is linear: I work separately with each voice and combine them horizontally. Each voice part becomes a layer in the resulting piece. Between 1970 and 1983, most of my compositions consisted of independent parts. These parts can be performed as solos or combined with other parts into ensembles. The overlappings are left to the performers who either plan them in advance or create them spontaneously during performances. Since 1983,a greater concern for tonality led me to a tighter control of the musical material. Each voice/part is still composed individually, but the final form is edited into a fixed score".

All of Kotik s compositions from 1970 to 1983 have an open instrumentation. Although each part was composed with a specific instrument or voice in mind, they can all be transposed and performed by other instruments or voices. His recent scores combine fixed instrumentation with some possibilities for octaves or fifths transposition. This concept of instrumentation is similar to that which was common for Baroque music: only a part of a score requires prescribed instruments, the rest can be adjusted according to the possibilities of each performance situation. Since the mid 1970s, Kotik has been doubling some parts, using perfect intervals: fifths, fourths, and octaves. Even though his recent pieces involve more complex harmonies, the basic structure of the chords it still based on fifths, fourths, and octaves.


  • Kontrapunkt II (1962/63) SrP Alt Fl, EH, Cl, Bsn, Va, Vc Premiere: Museum des 20. Jahrhundert, Vienna, Austria, October 8, 1963 0:11:00
  • Hudba pro tri (Music for Three) (1964) UE Va, Vc, Cb Premiere: Warsaw Autumn Festival Warsaw, Poland, October 26, 1964 0:15:00
  • Spontano (1964) SrP Pf solo, FI/Picc, Alt Fl, Cl, Basset Hrn, Bsn,Cbsn, Trb, 2 Tba Premiere: Baird Music Hall, Buffalo, New York, May 22, 1973 0:18:50
  • Kontrabandt (1967) UE Live electronic music, (2-6 performers) Commissioned by W.D.R., Koln, BRD. Premiere: W.D.R., Konzertreihe Musik der Zeit, Koln, BRD, April 28, 1967 cca 0:20:00-0:60:00
  • Alley (Alej) (1960/70) SrP Free instrumentation Premiere: Carnegie Recital Hall, New York City, March 18, 1971 cca 0:15:00
  • There is Singularly Nothing (1971/73)SrP (21 solos that can be combined in any ensemble: 5 solos for voice(text by Gertrude Stein) Premiere: W.D.R., Konzertreihe Musik der Zeit, Koln, BRD, January 29, 1972 LP "First Record" Cramps Records 5205 114, Italy, 1977 0:20:00-0:60:00
  • John Mary (1973/74) SrP, text by Gertrude Stein, 2 voices, 3 melodic instruments, l percussion- instrument, (performance possible with 2-6 musicians) Premiere: Wittner Tage fur neue Kammermusik, BRD April 27, 1974 cca 0:30:00- 2:00:00 hrs.
  • If I Told Him (1974/75) SrP text by Gertrude Stein undetermined number of voices and instruments Premiere: "Nachtmusik" concert, W.D.R., Koln, BRD, January 18, 1975 cca 0:30:00
  • Many Many Women (1975/78) SrP text by Gertrude Stein (2,4 or 6 voices and 2,4 or instruments) premiere of complete piece) (6hrs.): May 15, 1979, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City: 5 LP Set, Labor Records LAB 6/10, New York, 1981, 1988 Mode Records Distr., Queens, New York cca 0:30:00-6:00:00 hrs.
  • Drums (1977-81) SrP percussion ensemble 2 instruments Premiere: Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York, Januar 12, 1980 durata minimal 0:15:00
  • Explorations in the Geometry of Thinking (1978-82) SrP text by R. Buckminster Fuller vocal ensemble (solo and ensemble singing) min 5 voices cca. 0:30:00-4:00:00 hrs. premiere of complete piece (4 hrs.): The Kitchen, New York City, March 25, 1982 CD Ear-Rational ACD 1007, Berlin, BRD, 1989 (15 min. excerpt)
  • Music for Winds (1981-82) SrP free instrumentation Premiere: Paula Cooper Gallery, New York City, April 10, 1981 0:20:00 min.
  • Commencement (1981) SrP text by R. Buckminster Fuller 2 voices Premiere: Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York, April 4, 1981 cca 2:00:00 hrs.
  • Apparent Orbit (1981/1984-85) SrP (Original version under the title August/October, later also for Alt. Fl and ensemble) Premiere: The Kitche, New York City, March 25, 1982 cca.0:20:00 min.
  • Solos and Incidental Harminies (1983-85) SrP Fl. Vn. 2 perc., brass ensemble Premiere: "New Music America" festival, Real Art Ways, Hartford, Connecticut, July 6, 1984 CD Record, Ear-Rational ECD 1007, W. Berlin, BRD, 1989 0:27:00
  • Integrated Solos I, II, III SrP Fl (I), Fl, Tambourine (II), Fl, Tamb., Trp (III) Fl and Tamb. use l sec. delay Premiere: Diane Brown Gallery,New York City, March 24, 1989 in CR 0:25:00
  • Wilsie Bridge (1986-87) SrP 2 Fl, 2 Trp, 2 keyboards 8. perc. (Commissioned by) W.D.R., Koln, BRD Premiere: Kunsthalle Dusseldorf, Dusseldorf, Germany, February 1, 1987 CD Record, Ear-Rational ECD 1007, W. Berlin, Germany, 1989 0:19:00
  • Letters to Olga (1989-91) SrP text by V clav Havel 5 narrators, 2 Fl, 2 Trp, 2 Electric Gtr, El. Bass Gtr Premiere: Wittener Tage fur naue Kammermusik, BRD, 21. dubna (April 21), (premiere of completed work): Paula Cooper Gallery, New York City, May 7, 1991. 0:48:00