|3-CD Box reissue of 1981 5-LP box on Labor Records.
Recommended! CD Reissue of the legendary 5LP boxset of Kotik's most famous album "Many Many Women". Essential for fans of minimalism. Petr Kotik's 'Many Many Women' (1978) is a setting of Gertrude Stein's novella of the same name. Actually, it's a performance of the novella, intoned in an elegantly countoured melody sometimes reminiscient of Gregorian chant, always minimal in its expressive simplicity, floating above an occasional instrumental counterpoint. This is the work of an exceptional musical personality. Kotik is also well known for his work with Marcel Duchamp. "You were looking at the score when you came in?" Petr Kotik asked at the end of our interview, holding up the folio of Tristan Murail’s Gondwana. "It’s difficult!" he laughed.
Given that Kotik is conducting Gondwana in August at a new music festival he’s originated, there’s no reason to doubt his judgment. The music in his hands was a new work for full orchestra by Murail, a Columbia professor renowned for spectral compositions.
But difficult? Kotik is precisely the sort of artist who makes a career out of ushering the difficult into being. The words complex and feasible appear regularly in his conversation. For example, in reference to works by Edgard Varèse, John Cage, and Morton Feldman, he says, "I trained myself as a conductor on these pieces, which are some of the most complex scores of the twentieth century"; or, he "was concerned about the feasibility of being able to do it."
While Kotik’s organizational skills are impressive, so is the support he garners. Several years ago he instigated Ostrava Days New Music Institute and Festival in his native Czech Republic, and in August the three-week teaching workshop and concert series has its second incarnation.
"In scope it is probably the largest project of its kind in the world," Kotik says. "It’s certainly the only one which has a professional symphony orchestra (the Janacek Philharmonic) as a resident ensemble, working twice a day every day with us." One focus of this year’s festival is works for three orchestras by audacious composers (Olga Neuwirth, Earle Brown, Somei Satoh, and Kotik)— audacious being another word Kotik resorts to readily. And with just cause, as the realm of his occupations requires it. On the same week as our interview, Kotik and his SEM Ensemble were scheduled for two performances of his Explorations in the Geometry of Thinking, a piece that pairs a ten-piece ensemble with vocalists singing Buckminster Fuller texts, a pairing that lasts four uninterrupted hours.
Another telling instance of this complexity/feasibility comes from Kotik’s career as an instrumentalist. A conservatory-trained virtuoso on flute, Kotik had played Feldman’s three trio compositions for flute, vibes, and percussion: Crippled Symmetry, Why Patterns?, and For Philip Guston, all multi-hour works. So he recognized an opportunity when, in 1987, he was "asked by Triannual Festival in Cologne to do a Feldman concert… I suggested to them that we do an all-day, eleven hours with breaks, of all three trios in one day." Then he did it.
Difficult? Even just in the telling, Kotik’s feat begs distinctions between what’s difficult and what’s artistically necessary.
Kotik leads the SEM Ensemble, a new music group he formed in the early seventies to play his own music and that of composers he admired: Feldman, Cage, Brown, and Christian Wolff are some of the composers he’s presented with SEM. (The ensemble’s press kit makes the declaration that they play music "which should be heard without regard to the opinion of critics and audiences.")