Karkowski/Xenakis project

date: since 2015 place: World executed

The idea to perform Zbigniew Karkowski and Iannis Xenakis’ music together during two concerts cropped up in December 2013, after the Polish composer’s death. The choice seemed obvious, although Karkowski’s trademark had been noise music and he had rarely performed outside this scene.

There are plenty of arguments for this juxtaposition. Cracow-born composer Zbigniew Karkowski (1958-2013) was recognized internationally for his imaginative and non-conforming works. After graduating from Cracow Academy of Music, he continued his music studies in Sweden and in the Netherlands before settling in Japan in the 1990s. Karkowski was active mostly in the field of experimental music but he was also interested in improvisation and creating of sound art.

In 1989 Karkowski was a resident at Les Ateliers UPIC, a centre for the development and promotion of computer-assisted composition system, created and applied by Xenakis. He also participated in several of Xenakis’ lectures at the Université de Paris I. Karkowski repeatedly admitted that this experience had been immensely formative for him and called Xenakis “a true visionary” and “a teacher different from all the others”. Many years later he initiated a project dedicated to Persepolis (1971), as part of which remixes of Xenakis’ electro-acoustic epopee were prepared by, among others, Otomo Yoshihide, Ryoji Ikeda, Merzbow and Francisco Lopéz. The project, executed under Xenakis’ patronage, resulted in a double album released in 2002, including Xenakis’ original composition and nine reinterpretations, including Karkowski’s Doing by Not Doing.

Both composers displayed a similar approach to sound: Karkowski used stochastic procedures typical for Xenakis’ work and achieved sound effects that evoked Xenakis’ musical pieces. James Harley, author of the book Xenakis: His Life in Music and the Greek composer’s student, perceives Karkowski as one Xenakis’ successors.

The program of two concerts is structured around two main axes. The first one investigates Xenakis’ influence on Karkowski. The second one is Karkowski’s instrumental music, less known than his electronic pieces.

Towards the end of his life Karkowski returned to instrumental writings. He collaborated with number of musicians, among them Daniel Buess (percussion), Anton Lukoszevieze (cello), Aleksander Gabryś (double-bass), Erik Drescher (flute), Kasper Teodor Toeplitz (bass guitar), for whom he wrote solo pieces and electronic music. He also cooperated with many outstanding ensembles for contemporary music, including Ensemble Phoenix (Basel), Zeitkratzer (Berlin), and Apartment House (London).

In this way the concerts will give a larger view on Karkowski’s music and its esthetical background. The aim is also to investigate how Karkowski’s many years’ experience in the field of pure electronic music has shaped his treatment of acoustic instruments.

The project is curated by Monika Pasiecznik.



Iannis Xenakis – Psappha for solo percussion (1975) 13’
Zbigniew Karkowski – Form&Disposition for percussion and electronics (2008) 30’

João Carlos Pacheco – percussion


Iannis Xenakis – Theraps for solo double-bass (1976) 11’
Zbigniew Karkowski – Studio Varèse for double-bass and electronics (2013) 35’

Aleksander Gabryś – double-bass


Iannis Xenakis – Kottos for solo cello (1977) 8'
Zbigniew Karkowski – Nerve Cell_0 for cello and electronics (2012) 38'

Anton Lukoszevieze – cello


Iannis Xenakis – S. 709 for electronic tape and four speakers (1994) 7'
Zbigniew Karkowski – Fluster for bass guitar and electronics (2010) 40'

Kasper T. Toeplitz – bass guitar and electronics 


17.10.2015 - Göteborg Art Sounds Festival (SE)
21.11.2015 - Nuova Consonanza Festival, Rome (IT)
23.11.2015 - Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (UK)
24.11.2015 - Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (UK) 
16.01.2016 - Mercouri/Xenakis Festival, Wrocław (PL)
20.03.2016 - Poznań Music Spring (PL)
17.10.2016 - Karkowski/Xenakis Extended, Warsaw (PL)
18.10.2016 - Karkowski/Xenakis Extended, Warsaw (PL)
19.10.2016 - Karkowski/Xenakis Extended, Warsaw (PL)
20.10.2016 - A4, Bratislava (SK)
22.10.2016 - Expozice nové hudby, Brno (CZ)
08.11.2016 - Karkowski/Xenakis Extended, Warsaw (PL)
23.09.2017 - Indi Classica Festival, Ulan-Ude (RU)