Petr Kotík

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Born 1942 in Prague. 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 Rychlík 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). Kotík 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, Kotík toured South America three times as a composer, performer, and lecturer. Kotík 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, Kotík's compositional method has been based on visually graphic material. Using graphs that were created without direct relation to his music, Kotík has determined all of his musical parameters. While be produced his own graphs in the 1960s, in 1971 Kotík 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. Kotík 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. Kotík applies these computer-generated progressions, like his earlier graphs, to all musical parameters.

Kotík'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. Kotík describe 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 Kotík'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, Kotík 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.

See also