Petr Kotík

Petr Kotik (b. 1942 in Prague) is an independent composer and musician (conductor and flutist). He studied flute and composition in Prague and Vienna and has lived in the United States since 1969. From his beginnings, while still a conservatory student, Kotik has focused on new music – as a composer, he started in the field of electronic music in 1959. Kotik's skills and determination, along with his association with some of the best musicians, has enabled him to realize projects that have often been considered unrealistic. In the Czech Republic, he is known as the founder and director of the ensembles Musica viva pragensis (1961–64), QUaX Ensemble (1966–69), and Ostravská banda (2005–present); in New York, he is known as artistic director of the S.E.M. Ensemble, which he founded in 1970. In 1992, SEM expanded into The Orchestra of the S.E.M. Ensemble with a concert at Carnegie Hall. Today, SEM is the oldest new music ensemble in America still performing. In 2000, Kotik founded the Ostrava Center for New Music, which organizes the festivals Ostrava Days (since 2001}, and NODO – New Opera Days Ostrava (since 2012). Kotik's best-known compositions include Music for 3 in memoriam Jan Rychlík (1964), the six-hour Many Many Women on text by Gertrude Stein (1975–78), the four-hour Explorations in the Geometry of Thinking on text by R. Buckminster Fuller (1958-80), the symphonic compositions Music in Two Movements (1997–2003) and Variations for 3 Orchestras(2003–2005), two string quartets (2009, 2011) and the opera Master-Pieces on the libretto by Gertrude Stein (2014–18). Kotik lives and works in New York and Ostrava. In Ostrava, he works as the Artistic Director of the Ostrava Center for New Music. He has been closely associated with number of composers over the course of his career, including John Cage, Julius Eastman, Alvin Lucier, Rudolf Komorous, Morton Feldman, Muhal Richard Abrams, Christian Wolff, Bernhard Lang, Roscoe Mitchell and many others. Kotik’s programming strives to eliminate ideology, which he equates to the concept of aesthetics, and his attitude toward choosing the music he performs follows a few simple guidelines: is the music real, or is it a fake? Is it about the work itself, or about the career of its author? Is it authentic, or is it trying to impress someone, striving for success? In March 2020, Kotik wrote down the following thought:

“Beauty is economy. A piece of beauty does not have a trace of redundancy – nothing unnecessary or superfluous. It does not have a simple, small portion that is not needed. This is why the ultimate struggle in every creative process is to avoid superfluous redundancies (the redundant nature of imitation is the reason for its failure). Not to economize turns the work into kitsch. Kitsch is an ornament, full of redundant parts. It is often regarded as beautiful, and it is this kind of ‘beautiful kitsch’ that makes a true piece of art look ugly.”  

Photo by Tomáš Vodňanský



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