Petr Kotík was born in Prague in 1942. He studied flute at the Prague Conservatory and AMU with František Čech, and composition privately with Jan Rychlík and Vladimír Šrámek, and at the Vienna Music Academy with Karl Schieske and Hans Jelinek. From the time of his studies at the conservatory until now, Kotík has been composing and performing new music. In 1961, he founded the ensemble Musica viva pragensis, which performed works by composers such as Pierre Boulez, Cornelius Cardew, Wolff, Morton Feldman and others, for the first time in Prague. In 1966, after returning to Prague from a trip to Vienna, Kotík founded the QuaX Ensemble. In 1969, he left for the USA, where he still lives and works.
In the United States, Petr Kotík actively participated in New Yorks avant-garde music scene (known as the "downtown" scene). Since his earliest days in New York, Kotíks music and musical activities have been supported by personalities in the art world such as Robert Rauschenberg, Rackstraw Downes, Sol LeWitt, Leo Casteli, Virginia Dwan, Paula Cooper, Mark di Suvero, Werner Kramarsky, and Jasper Johns.
In 1970, Kotík founded the S.E.M. Ensemble, which is now the longest continuously performing new music group in the US. In 1992, SEM was expanded into a large orchestra and debuted at Carnegie Hall. At this show, Kotík conducted the premiere of the complete Atlas Eclipticalisby John Cage with David Tudor at the piano. Kotík and John Cage first collaborated in 1964 (in Vienna, Prague and Warsaw) and their close cooperation lasted until Cages death in 1992.
Petr Kotík is known as a composer, conductor, and organizer of important events. Along with the founding of OCNM, Ostrava Days, and NODO, Kotík has also founded the international chamber orchestra Ostravská banda, which has been described by domestic and foreign critics as one of the foremost large-scale ensembles for new music in Central Europe. He has also founded ONO, a large new music orchestra composed of students and young musicians, which has been the house orchestra for Ostrava Days since 2017.
Among Kotíks best known compositions are the six-hour Many Many Women on text by Gertrude Stein, and the four-hour Explorationsin the Geometry of Thinking on text by R. Buckminster Fuller. His string quartets (No. 1 and 2), and orchestra pieces – the hour-long Music in Two Movements and Variations for 3 Orchestras – deserve mention. Kotík has written two operas: William William (2016) and Master-Pieces (2014-15), which had its New York premiere in April 2018 (directed by Jiří Nekvasil, stage design by David Bazika). In the spring of 2018, Atrium Žižkov in Prague hosted a piano recital by Daan Vandewalle, who premiered Kotíks composition for piano No-End (2018).
The Washington Post wrote on October 2, 2016 as a comment on Kotik’s conducting the the New Orchestra of Washington and the 18th Street Singers: “Was it the authority with which Kotik led the performers? The answer: both, and more… I have little hope of hearing the piece again done as well.”
Photo by Tomáš Vodňanský