S.E.M. Ensemble


2016 - 2017 Concert Season

Steve Smith recently published a piece for the Log Journal about Petr Kotik and sundry SEM events of the past season.

S.E.M. Ensemble will travel to Krakow, Poland in late September to present a program of Julius Eastman, John Cage, and Petr Kotik at the Sacrum Profanum Festiwal, click here for tickets and information.

George Grella of New York Classical Review published this glowing write-up of Nothing/Everything Changes at LPR.

  Following the success of the October 1st performance of Yves Klein’s symphony at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, we were invited to perform the piece again in San Francisco on January 12, this time with Bay Area musicians. Click here for The Washington Post's review






Cage, Kotik, and Eastman:

1972 / 2017


John Cage: Song Books I, II (1970)

Petr Kotik: There is Singularly Nothing (1971-72)

Julius Eastman: Macle (1971-72)


Voices: Kamala Sankaram, Jeffrey Gavett, Jake Ingbar, Adrian Rosas, Nathan Repasz;

 Petr Kotik (flute, voice); Christopher McIntyre (trombone, voice); Will Lang (trombone, voice)


December 2, 2017, 2:00 p.m. @ Willow Place Auditorium, 26 Willow Pl., Brooklyn

Free admission with suggested donation


December 7, 2017, 8:00 p.m. @ Paula Cooper Gallery (Manhattan)

Click here to purchase tickets 

Advance: $15, $10 for students/seniors, Door: $20/$15 (cash/check only at door)

SEM performs at Sacrum Profanum Festival, Kraków, Poland, Sept. 2017


This program, originally presented 45 years ago – Song Books I, IIThere is Singularly Nothing; and Macle – demonstrates the vitality of the forward-looking programming of SEM, guided by Petr Kotik, and the intrepid attitude of the musicians that have worked together under the name S.E.M. Ensemble.

The program was conceived for SEM’s first European tour in January and February of 1972, with concerts at WDR Cologne Funkhaus, the Akademie der Künste in Berlin, the Gemeindesaal in Düren, as well as concerts in Aachen and Geneva.

SEM started to study and perform Song Books in 1971, when Petr Kotik received a copy of the piece from John Cage, at that time still in manuscript form. There is Singularly Nothing is the first composition that Kotik wrote for SEM. It was the first time that Kotik composed music for voice, writing specifically for Julius Eastman’s three-octave voice range. It took some time for Kotik to find a suitable text and he decided on Gertrude Stein, whose texts he used for each of his compositions until 1978. Julius Eastman composed Macle for Petr Kotik and the S.E.M. Ensemble’s 1972 first European tour.



Petr Kotik and John Cage, Paula Cooper Gallery, NYC, 1989

Notes by Petr Kotik:

Toward the end of the 1960s, John Cage became increasingly concerned with politics. The Vietnam War radicalized Americans and Cage was not an exception. At that time, he started to dress in denim work clothes, even when he performed. His increasing concern for public affairs (politics) never really entered his music in any significant way as it did in the case of Cornelius Cardew or Frederic Rzewski. Song Books I, II may be a rare exception of a major piece with an underlying political message (even here, it is not an obvious statement and one has to have some knowledge about the piece to understand what is it about).

In 1982, S.E.M. Ensemble gave, to my knowledge, the only complete performance of Song Books – all 90 Solos for Voice performed over three hours with an ensemble of twelve. The performances were at the Whitney Museum in New York and at the Witten Opera House in Germany, with Cage in attendance at the performance and rehearsal. He also wrote a short program note, in which he emphasized the thrust of the content: Henry David Thoreau’s “Essay on Civil Disobedience.” Thoreau’s quote, used in Solo for Voice 35, is really quite central to understanding the piece: “The best form of government is no government at all and that is what we’ll have when we are ready for it.”

Song Books I, II symbolizes Cage’s concept of anarchy – in an artistic, social, and personal way – marked by an idea of noninterference of one individual to another, personal independence, and mutual respect among all involved. This is the kind of politics Cage followed all his life, a utopian, unattainable idea that he was striving for.

In the summer of 1970, eight months after moving from Czechoslovakia to the United States, I traveled with my wife Charlotta and our one-year-old son Thomas throughout the northeast. When we came to New York, I called Cage to get together, as I always did on my previous visits (we lived in Buffalo, NY then). To my surprise, this time Cage could not meet with me. He was fully occupied, explaining that he was working on a deadline. My English at that time was rudimentary at best – eight months before, I couldn’t speak English at all. I hadn’t heard the word “deadline” yet and I assumed that this must have been something to do with war trenches in Vietnam. I was wondering what on earth Cage was doing. When I returned to New York a few months later, Song Books was almost finished and parts of the score were scattered all over his loft on Bank Street. By then I had learned the meaning of the word deadline and realized that he was working on finishing Song Books. I was interested in the piece from the first time I looked at the music. We talked at length about various ways to do various solos. He made sure that I understood his idea – no rehearsals, no influence of one performer on another one, only at the performance should the musicians find out what the others are doing. Everyone does their thing with total independence. The piece was to demonstrate the harmony of this anarchistic situation. The piece was composed for dedicated to Cathy Berberian and Simone Rist.

Cage was planning to perform Song Books with them at the Carnegie Recital Hall (now the Weill Recital Hall). But there was a problem: the singers wanted to rehearse. “If they insist on rehearsing, I will cancel the performance” he said resolutely. And indeed, the performance never took place. For me, at that time, Cage’s directives were beyond reproach. We continued to perform Song Books in various versions with a changing list of performers but one performance was memorable. It was in 1974 in Albany, NY. Among the performers, Julius was the most successful. Months later, when I met David Tudor, he still talked, with admiration, about Julius’ Song Books. When Morton Feldman invited SEM to perform Song Books at the June in Buffalo 1975 festival, I was convinced that one of the main reasons was having Eastman performing it again. Julius already left the group, but I came back to him, and asked to perform it with us. He agreed. The SEM performance of Song Books at June in Buffalo is well known. Julius either misunderstood or sabotaged the piece and it caused a huge scandal. The next day, Cage changed his lecture and instead talked about the performance, screaming and pounding his fist on the lid of the classroom piano.

None of us at SEM, of course, had any idea what was coming during the performance, as we had never rehearsed the piece beforehand. Cage stormed the stage after the performance, coming directly to me, saying, “What was this supposed to mean?” I had no idea, I replied, reminding him that there were no rehearsals and no one had any idea about what is coming. “But you are the director, you are responsible!” he said resolutely into my face.

I was in shock and it took me some time to come to terms with what he said. In the end, I agreed with him. And as a performer, since this fateful moment, I have never been the same. Namely, as a director, conductor, or a leading member of an ensemble, I have to bear the full responsibility for the performance’s outcome. No excuses! Silly ideas by the composer about such things as “no rehearsals” must never stop me from rehearsing if I deem it necessary, ideas about an orchestra performance without a conductor must ever stop me from conducting if I deem it necessary. If I put my name on the program as the one responsible for the performance, I have to bear all the responsibility and act accordingly. This incident helped me to attain independence for the rest of my life. More than five years later, when SEM performed Song Books again, I agreed only under the condition that Cage come to some of the rehearsals. He agreed and this is what happened in 1982.



Petr Kotik at Sacrum Profanum Festival Concert, Krakoów, Poland - Sept. 2017


There is Singularly Nothing is a composition that consists of independent solo pieces that can be combined into ensembles or performed alone. The concept calls for any combination of any instruments, each solo transposed to suit a particular instrument or voice. The form is open; the piece does not have a distinct beginning or end. The duration is variable as well. This sounds like a chaotic jumble, but it is not. There are aspects to the composition, besides the above-mentioned basic instructions, that give the music a distinct character, easily recognizable despite all the variables. The most important is the musical style, and that is not free to individual interpretation, it is given. Next is the steady pulse among all performers that makes it possible to combine various parts into a cohesive ensemble.

My composition process is guided by intuition. In the case of my early works, there is very little that predicts or suggests the way and means of interpretation and only now, more than 40 years later, I can say that we finally know what this music is and how to perform it.

There is Singularly Nothing consists of 22 parts, 10 for voices and 12 for instruments. This material was composed without the idea that it would ever be performed in its entirety (although this is not out of question). Therefore, it offers a wide range of possibilities. This was nothing new and there are other pieces that make possible the same kind of excerpt performances, Cage’s Concert for Piano and Orchestra being perhaps best known. This is where the similarity to Cage starts and ends. A lot of improvised musical decision-making is being done on the spot during the performance, although everything is precisely notated and there are no possibilities to deviate from the score. Musicians listen to the whole and decide when to enter with their parts, stopping and start again, although the singers perform their parts without interruptions. The texts are excerpts from Gertrude Stein's 1926 lecture she gave at Oxford University entitled "Composition as Explanation." The lecture starts with the following words:


 "There is singularly nothing that makes a difference a difference in beginning and in the middle and in ending except that each generation has something different at which they are all looking.  By this I mean so simply that anybody knows it that composition is the difference which makes each and all of them then different from other generations and this is what makes everything different otherwise they are all alike and everybody knows it because everybody says it."




S.E.M. Ensemble, promotional photo, 1973


Julius Eastman composed Macle toward the end of 1971 (with minor changes made in January 1972) to be performed by 4 voices – not necessarily trained vocalists, although there is no reason to exclude real singers. The group that performed the piece then, and for whom it was composed, consisted of only one true vocalist – Eastman himself. The other performers were Petr Kotik (flutist), Jan Williams (percussionist), and Roberto Laneri (clarinetist).


A few words about Julius Eastman:

I met Julius Eastman shortly after my arrival in the U.S. in late 1969. It was at the SUNY Music Department’s building. He was standing by the wall in the corridor, reading some announcements. I didn’t know who he was, but I noticed him immediately—a very interesting looking person in an oversized English trench coat.

Shortly afterwards, I organized a small group of Creative Associates of the Center of the Creative and Performing Arts, of which I was a member. This is how the S.E.M. Ensemble started. Julius’ first performance with SEM was in April 1970, singing as a guest performer one part of Rudolf Komorous’ opera Lady Blanka Rosa. A few months later, he became a regular member of SEM and what followed was five years of very close collaboration between us. In those years, Julius and I were inseparable. Not only did we share ideas about music, performance, and composition, but living near each other made it possible to develop a close personal relationship. Julius’ house was just a short walk from ours, where I lived with my wife, Charlotta, and our children Thomas (b. 1969) and Jan (b. 1972). Julius was almost like another family member, frequently stopping by. His visits were mostly personal. When we rehearsed, it was at his house where he had a workspace in his large living room.

Our friendship was personal, but what really tied Julius and me were our performances and the music we composed. Both of us distanced ourselves from the prevailing post-Webern, Darmstadt-driven new music scene that was the norm in the U.S. at the time (this was the main reason for creating SEM). Arriving from then-Czechoslovakia, I found myself in a double world. On one hand, the musical environment I joined was practically the same as the one I left behind in Prague. From day one, my interactions with colleagues at the Center were no different than what I was used to back home or in my travels to Warsaw, Cologne, Vienna, etc. In this respect, my relocation to the U.S. was seamless and I was able to start working immediately. On the other hand, personally, I arrived in a country with a culture that I knew very little about and mostly didn’t understand. Even the language was a barrier, as I didn’t speak a word of English. Without the soprano Gwendolyn Sims, another Creative Associate who spoke German perfectly, I would have been completely lost.

Meeting Julius Eastman at this point was like coming home. My association with him was not unlike the one I maintained with my friends back in Europe. Julius returned to tonality with a new sensibility and approach. When we started to get to know each other and Julius played recordings of his music for me, I was impressed immediately. I will never forget listening to his piece for (I believe) five trumpets – this score, like most of Julius’ compositions, was lost. It was as inspiring as when I first heard, back in 1964, the Quartet with Accompaniment by Michael von Biel (for myself, this piece is still among the most significant of the 60s). As a composer, there was no one in Buffalo with whom I could have associated myself other than Julius Eastman, and I am sure he would say the same thing. We both struggled on the fringe of the new music scene and neither of us derived from our relationship anything else than mutual encouragement and inspiration. 

S.E.M. Ensemble’s initial success in Europe was in part the residual interest in my earlier activities behind the Iron Curtain in Prague. We both benefited from it, using Europe to get a foothold in America and vice versa. Philip Glass describes his beginnings the same way. In the early 70s, Frederic Rzewski suggested that we all live in Iceland, right between the two continents. Artistically, this is probably what happened anyway.


 Petr Kotik, Prague, October 30, 2017


This performance by the S.E.M. Ensemble is made possible by the generous support of the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; Spyder Institute Praha; The Edwin H. Case Chair in American Music at Columbia University; The Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Inc.; The Phaedrus Foundation; The Low Road Foundation; The Fifth Floor Foundation; The Amphion Foundation; Ronald Feldman Fine Arts; Rackstraw Downes; Noni Pratt; Virginia Dwan; Raymond Learsy; Charlotta Kotik; Martina and Miloš Forman; C. Andrew Reynolds; William and Priscilla Newbury; Julian Lethbridge and Stephen J. Deutsch. Special thanks to  Jasper Johns, Werner Kramarsky, and NYC Councilmember Stephen T. Levin. 



Concert Announcement: September 18


Willow Place Auditorium

SEM Looks Back: Eastman, Cage, Kotik

Monday 9/18 at 8:00 pm
- at -
Willow Place Auditorium, 26 Willow Pl., Brooklyn Heights
2/3/4/5 to Borough Hall or A/C/F/R to Jay St

Suggested donation $15

Julius Eastman, Roberto Lanieri, Jan Williams, and Petr Kotik ca. 1971, photo by Jim Tuttle, SUNY Buffalo 


S.E.M. Ensemble

Petr Kotik, Artistic Director

Petr Kotik - flute, voice

Christopher McIntyre - trombone, voice

Joseph Kubera - piano, voice

Jeffrey Gavett, Charlotte Mundy, Nathan Repasz - voice


Ahead of its September 27th performance at the Sacrum Profanum Festival in Krakow, Poland, SEM will present a free preview concert nearly identical to those from the ensemble’s early days in the 1970s, when founding members Petr Kotik, Julius Eastman, and Jan Williams presented avant-garde performances in Buffalo, Albany, and later New York and began collaborating extensively with John Cage. Included in this program is Cage’s Song Books (1970), the first extended ensemble performance of which was realized by SEM. 



John Cage ---------- Song Books I, II (1970)

Petr Kotik ---------- There is Singularly Nothing (1971 -72)

I n t e r m i s s i o n

Julius Eastman ----- Joy Boy (1972)

Julius Eastman ----- Macle (1971 -72)

Julius Eastman ----- Our Father (1989)


Kotik and Cage, 1979

This performance by the S.E.M. Ensemble is made possible by the generous support of the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; Spyder Institute Praha; The Edwin H. Case Chair in American Music at Columbia University; The Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Inc.; The Phaedrus Foundation; The Low Road Foundation; The Fifth Floor Foundation; The Amphion Foundation; Ronald Feldman Fine Arts; Rackstraw Downes; Noni Pratt; Virginia Dwan; Raymond Learsy; Charlotta Kotik; Martina and Miloš Forman; C. Andrew Reynolds; William and Priscilla Newbury; Julian Lethbridge and Stephen J. Deutsch. Special thanks to  Jasper Johns, Werner Kramarsky, and NYC Councilmember Stephen T. Levin. 


Concert Announcement: JUNE 20


Voices and Instruments

The Music of Petr Kotik and Friends

Tues. June 20, 2017, 7 pm
- at -
Willow Place Auditorium, 26 Willow Pl., Brooklyn Heights
2/3/4/5 to Borough Hall or A/C/F/R to Jay St

Suggested donation $15

SEM performs Many Many Women at Paula Cooper Gallery, 2013


S.E.M. Ensemble

Petr Kotik - Artistic Director
Roberta Michel, Petr Kotik - Flute
Jacqueline Leclair - Oboe
William Lang, James Rogers - Trombone
Robert Boston - Keyboard
Kamala Sankaram, Vivian Yau - Soprano
Jacob Ingbar, Jeffrey Gavett - Baritone


Petr Kotik - Etude 7 for Oboe (1962)
Philip Glass - Two Pages (1968)
Petr Kotik - There is Singularly Nothing (1972)
Petr Kotik - Many Many Women (1975-78) [excerpt]


This performance by the S.E.M. Ensemble is made possible by the generous support of the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; Spyder Institute Praha; The Edwin H. Case Chair in American Music at Columbia University; The Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Inc.; The Phaedrus Foundation; The Low Road Foundation; The Fifth Floor Foundation; Ronald Feldman Fine Arts; Rackstraw Downes; Noni Pratt; Virginia Dwan; Raymond Learsy; Charlotta Kotik; Martina and Miloš Forman; C. Andrew Reynolds; William and Priscilla Newbury; Julian Lethbridge and Stephen J. Deutsch. Special thanks to  Jasper Johns, Werner Kramarsky, and NYC Councilmember Stephen T. Levin. 


Concert Announcement: JUNE 21



Nothing / Everything Changes: Petr Kotik @ 75 

with special guests Philip Glass, George Lewis, and Alex Mincek

(Le) Poisson Rouge

158 Bleecker St, New York, NY 10012

Wednesday, June 21, 6:30 pm

Click here for tickets and more information



The S.E.M. Ensemble

Petr Kotik, conductor


Momenta Quartet

and soloist

Jacqueline Leclair, oboe


(le) poisson rouge commemorates the birthday of Petr Kotik along with friends Philip Glass, George Lewis, and Alex Mincek in conversation and a retrospective performance of Kotik’s iconic works, along with early music by Glass and an improvisation by Lewis and Mincek. A screening of the new film Untamable Kotik, produced by Czech Television will precede the concert. The performance will run 90 minutes without intermission and will be moderated by Pauline Kim Harris.


Petr Kotik and Philip Glass in conversation, Prague, November 2016



6:30pm - Untamable Kotik 

A new film by Czech Television (the national public television network), Untamable Kotik documents Kotik’s performances, rehearsals, travel, and personal life. Switching back and forth between New York, Prague, and Ostrava, it was filmed in the period between 2015 and 2016. It includes musicians from both continents in rehearsals, performances, and conversations. The film features music by Kotik, Phill Niblock, and John Cage. It is in English and Czech w/ English subtitles. Philip Glass, George Lewis, Alex Mincek, and Petr Kotik will be present throughout the evening to comment.


7:30pm - Music and talk

Featuring Jacqueline Leclair, oboe, S.E.M. Ensemble, and Momenta Quartet


Petr Kotik - Etude 7 for Oboe (1962)
Philip Glass - Two Pages (1968)
Petr Kotik - There is Singularly Nothing (1972)
Petr Kotik - Many Many Women (1975-78)
George Lewis - Interactive Trio  – short improvisation for trombone, saxophone, and computer-controlled Disklavier
Petr Kotik - Torso – 2nd String quartet (2013)



Concert Announcement: April 25


Bohemian National Hall

321 E. 73rd St. New York, NY

Tuesday, April 25, 7 pm


Lewis, Kotik, Mitchell, Wolff, Abrams, Bakla, Mac Low

Free preview concert

April 24 - 8:30 pm - Willow Place Auditorium, 26 Willow Pl. Brooklyn, NY

Press announcements: New Music World, New York Classical Review,

The New York Times (scroll down), I Care If You Listen (scroll down)

SEM at Bohemian National Hall, May 2016

The Orchestra of the S.E.M. Ensemble

Petr Kotik, conductor

with soloists

Muhal Richard Abrams, piano

Roscoe Mitchell, saxophone

George Lewis, trombone

Thomas Buckner, voice

Joseph Kubera, piano

Dana Jessen, bassoon

Claire Chase, flute

and special guests

Momenta Quartet

The Orchestra of the S.E.M. Ensemble, founded and directed by Petr Kotik, presents a marathon program which uniquely combines composers from the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) – Muhal Richard Abrams, George Lewis, and Roscoe Mitchell – with those associated with the New York avant-garde tradition – Christian Wolff, Petr Kotik, Jackson Mac Low, and Czech composer Petr Bakla. SEM’s collaboration with AACM began 20 years ago, when Muhal Richard Abrams invited Kotik and his orchestra to perform, and has continued until today with many commissions and recordings. The concert’s program aims to bring forth the proximity of different musical ideas and underlines Kotik’s openness to unorthodox combinations of composers, whose work he has presented at SEM concerts in New York, and in Europe at the Ostrava Days festival.


(L-R) Petr Kotik, Chris Nappi, Dick Higgins, Joe Kubera, Jackson Mac Low, and Anne Tardos perform at S.E.M. Ensemble's Spoken Music concert at Paula Cooper Gallery, 1990



George Lewis - Emergent (2014)
Claire Chase (flute) and 4-channel sound

Muhal Richard Abrams - Trio Things (2016)
Abrams (piano), Tom Chiu (violin), Meaghan Burke (cello)

I  n  t  e  r  m  i  s  s  i  o  n

Jackson Mac Low - Is That Wool Hat My Hat? (1980)
4 Narrators

Christian Wolff - Five Songs (2017) WORLD PREMIERE
Thomas Buckner (voice) and orchestra

Petr Kotik - Music for 3 (1964)
Stephanie Griffin (viola), Meaghan Burke (cello), James Ilgenfritz (bass)

Roscoe Mitchell - Distant Radio Transmission (2017) WORLD PREMIERE
Mitchell (saxophone), Buckner (voice), and orchestra

I  n  t  e  r  m  i  s  s  i  o  n

Petr Bakla - Major Thirds (2017) WORLD PREMIERE
Joseph Kubera (piano), Momenta Quartet

George Lewis - Seismologic (2017) WORLD PREMIERE
Dana Jessen (bassoon) and 4-channel sound

Group improvisation - Roscoe Mitchell, George Lewis, Thomas Buckner, Joseph Kubera, Sara Schoenbeck


(L-R) Chris Nappi, Roscoe Mitchell, Sara Schoenbeck, Thomas Buckner, James Ilgenfritz, Lucie Vitkova, and George Lewis  at Bohemian National Hall, May, 2016


New York events by the S.E.M. Ensemble are made possible with the generous support of the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; The Edwin H. Case Chair in American Music at Columbia University; The Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Inc.; The Phaedrus Foundation; The Low Road Foundation; The Fifth Floor Foundation; Ronald Feldman Fine Arts; Rackstraw Downes; Noni Pratt; Virginia Dwan; Raymond Learsy; Martina and Milos Forman; C. Andrew Reynolds; William and Priscilla Newbury; Julian Lethbridge. Special thanks to Spyder Institute Praha, Paula Cooper, Mark di Suvero, Jasper Johns, Werner Kramarsky, and NYC Councilmember Stephen T. Levin.


Call for Scores


2017 Emerging Composers Workshop

New Works for Small Ensembles

Submission deadline: Jan. 14, 2017

The S.E.M. Ensemble is calling for score submissions of new works for small ensembles for inclusion in its annual Emerging Composers Workshop. Selected scores will be rehearsed and critiqued during the week of February 13 - 16, 2017. Composers will have the opportunity to work directly with the musicians who will read their work. Only composers who will be able to be present during the workshop will be considered. The workshop will conclude with a public performance at Willow Place Auditorium (26 Willow Pl.) in Brooklyn Heights.

Only scores for small ensembles (1-7 players) will be considered, without limitations on instrumentation. Works for small ensemble and electronics, works for small ensemble and voice, as well as solo works are also acceptable.

SEM performs the selected works from the 2016 workshop

Submission Guidlines

Please mail or deliver a package containing:

  • 1 performance-ready copy of your score (no recording necessary)
  • statement about the work
  • personal statement/biography
  • $25 processing fee payable to S.E.M. Ensemble, Inc.

To:  S.E.M. Ensemble, 25 Columbia Pl. Brooklyn, NY 11201

Materials should be POSTMARKED or hand-delivered NO LATER than FRIDAY, JANUARY 14, 2017.

For questions please email or call (718) 488-7659


SEM in rehearsal during the 2016 workshop


Upcoming Concert

The S.E.M. Ensemble presents its annual holiday concert:

Musica Elettronica

Stockhausen, Niblock, Kotik, Spiegel, Schumacher

at Paula Cooper Gallery, Mark di Suvero exhibition

534 W. 21st St. New York, NY

Friday, December 9, 8:00 pm

Advanced sale tickets: $15, $10 for students/seniors

Door tickets: $20, $15 for students/seniors

available here from Brown Paper Tickets

NOTE: There will be a FREE preview concert of this program Dec. 7 at 8 pm at Willow Place Auditorium, 26 Willow Pl. Brooklyn Heights, NY

SEM at PCG, Mark di Suvero exhibit, 2011

Preview Concert:

Wed. Dec. 7 at 8 pm at Willow Place Auditorium

26 Willow Pl. Brooklyn Heights, NY

Free admission


Phill Niblock:                    Praised Fan (2016) American premiere
                                                        Dafne Vicente-Sandoval, bassoon

Karlheinz Stockhausen:   Gesang der Jünglinge (1956)

Petr Kotik:                          Kontrabandt (1967)

Michael J. Schumacher:    Filters and Filtered (2011-present)

Laurie Spiegel:                   A Harmonic Algorithm (2011)  


"SEM continues to play a critical role in New York's musical life."
- The Guardian, May 9, 2016

SEM at Paula Cooper Gallery, October 2016


Program Notes

Phill Niblock: Praised Fan (2016) – American premiere
This 17-minute work is based on microtonal variations around three pitches (G#, A, Bb), played in different octaves. These variations not only affect the pitch, but also the timbre and partial balance, and their layering creates complex melodies of overtones, as well as rhythmical patterns produced by tonal beatings. The work, commissioned by the Adelaide Festival in Australia, will be performed by French bassoonist Dafne Vicente-Sandoval.
Karlheinz Stockhausen: Gesang der Jünglinge ("Song of the Youths") (1956)
Hailed by many as the first masterpiece of electronic sounds, this 13-minute composition for magnetic tape and five loudspeakers integrates electronic sounds with the voice of a boy soprano singing fragments from the Book of Daniel. With it, Stockhausen tested and employed for the first time the idea of “music in space” that would finds its radical expression in Gruppen (1955-57). The work received its world premiere at West German Radio (WDR) in Cologne in 1956.
Petr Kotik: Kontrabandt (1967)
Petr Kotik met Stockhausen for the first time in the spring of 1965 when he visited the Studio for Electronic Music at WDR. In 1966 he received a commission from WDR to compose and realize a piece of electronic music. Scored for musicians and magnetic tape, Kontrabandt is a live electronic music work, in which performers manipulate sound sources, including 80 pre-recorded segments realized at the Studio for Electronic Music and ranging from a split second to one and a half minutes in duration. The work premiered in Cologne in 1967 as part of the WDR concert series “Musik der Zeit.”
Michael J. Schumacher: Filters and Filtered (2011-present)
Filters and Filtered is a 20-minute spatial sound installation originally composed for 8 channels and adapted to 4 for this performance. A "filter" is anything that comes between the transmission and reception of the signal, including equalization, bit reduction, wave-shaping, phase shifting, acoustic treatment, room resonance, masking, as well as other psycho-acoustic effects. The structure is derived from algorithms that combine elements of serial and aleatoric techniques. Filters and Filtered was presented in 14 channel versions at AVA Gallery in New York, iMAL in Brussels and at Ultraschall in Berlin.
Laurie Spiegel: A Harmonic Algorithm 2011
The work is the third incarnation of a computer algorithm that composes music first coded on Spiegel’s Apple II computer around 1980. Instead of creating a finite number of works, Spiegel had the idea to encode in computer software her personal compositional methods, and musical and aesthetic decisions so that new music could be composed and generated long after the biological human had ceased to exist. This particular software, based on the harmonic progressions of Bach’s chorales, merges Bach and Spiegel’s musical selves. The work was commissioned by the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art.


Upcoming Concert

S.E.M. Ensemble at Paula Cooper Gallery

Sol LeWitt Exhibition

534 W. 21st St. New York, NY

Tues. October 11, 2016, 8:00 pm

Tickets: $15 advance, $20 same day

available here from Brown Paper Tickets

Patron tickets: $300

includes reserved prime seating, $285 tax-deductible donation

To purchase, contact SEM directly at (718) 488-7659 or


Sol LeWitt, Wall Drawing #368, Paula Cooper Gallery



Petr Kotik:   William William (2016) American premiere
                                   Choreography by Matilda Sakamoto

Alvin Lucier:   Navigations for Strings (1991)

Alvin Lucier:   Love Song (2016) World premiere


S.E.M. Ensemble

Lucy Dhegrae, Soprano; Jake Ingbar, Baritone; Adrian Rosas, Bass;

Debra Kay Anderson, Narrator; Conrad Harris and Pauline Kim Harris, Violin;

Liuh-Wen Ting, Viola; Caleb van der Swaagh, Violoncello; John Altieri, Tuba

Petr Kotik, Conductor


Matilda Sakamoto, Victor Lozano, Alex Andison, Connor Bormann

"SEM continues to play a critical role in New York's musical life."
- The Guardian, May 9, 2016

SEM at Paula Cooper Gallery, December 2015


I am delighted to present a concert during the Sol LeWitt exhibit. Although Sol and I never met, he has, since the 1980s, regularly supported SEM. The music we perform must have been the reason. More than often, our programs are not in line with the prevailing trends or popular taste of the moment. Together with other artists, composers, and music followers, LeWitt’s support gave us the encouragement to go forward, because one cannot do it alone. That is certain.

Every generation struggles with the impossible task to redefine its art, not for the sake of doing something new – that itself is not interesting. We have to redefine our work because using the means from the past is banal in the view of every day’s new reality. Nothing changes from generation to generation except composition (Gertrude Stein). The meaning of the work continues to be unabated, but the composition has to change as the world around us changes. When one paints, draws, or creates objects, listening is more important than looking. A composer on the other hand must shut his or her ears because for a composer, looking is more important than listening. This may be the reason why music and art have been close companions for generations.

The wall drawings by Sol LeWitt are case in point. They are closer to music than to the way we understand visual art. All the fundamentals of music composition are here in place: there is a score (i.e. instruction for the realization), there are performers (who execute the score), and there is duration for the piece to exist. What has been actually redefined here – art or music?

                                                        – Petr Kotik


SEM and dancers perform Kotik's William William at NODO 2016, Ostrava, Czech Republic


I met Sol first through Andrea Miller-Keller who was his most eloquent and important friend and critic. Andrea suggested that Sol and I exchange works.

Sol was known for his ecumenical taste in art and had a huge collection of works by hundreds of artists. He gave me a wall drawing (#724) and I reciprocated with the hand written score of my quartet, Navigations for Strings. I was doubly honored that he later borrowed a panoramic photograph of part of the Swiss Alps that I had used in Panorama, a duo for piano and trombone, for Zug III, a gorgeous multi-colored wall drawing. More recently he asked me to supply music for his Curved Wall, an enormous sculpture first shown in Graz, Austria, later at Wesleyan. Sol LeWitt was the most kind and generous artist I have ever known.

                                                            – Alvin Lucier


Kotik conducts the premiere of Lucier's Orpheus Variations, November, 2015


past Concerts

S.E.M. Ensemble at NODO

New Opera Days Ostrava

June 27-30, 2016

Ostrava, Czech Republic


World premieres:

Petr Kotik                            William William

Petr Cígler                           Protracted Sinuous Movement of a Longitudinal Object

Idin Samimi Mofakham  

& Martyna Kosecka            At the Waters of Lethe

Richard Ayres                     No. 42 (In the Alps) (staged premiere)


Gyorgy Ligeti                       Aventures & Nouvelle Aventures

Iannis Xenakis                    Oresteia


Members of the S.E.M. Ensemble participated as soloists and members of the international chamber orchestra Ostravská banda:

Bohdan Hilash, Clarinet

Thomas Verchot, Trumpet

Conrad Harris, Violin

Pauline Harris Kim, Violin

Adrian Rosas, Voice

Matilda Sakamoto, Dancer

Colin Fuller, Dancer

Petr Kotik, Conductor (Ligeti, Kotik, Xenakis)


For full program and more information about NODO, click here. 

Kotik's William William at NODO, image courtesy of Ostrava Center for New Music

Xenakis's Oresteia at NODO, image courtesy of Ostrava Center for New Music


Bohemian National Hall

Monday May 9, 2016 8:00


Premieres by Roscoe Mitchell and Petr Kotik

Works by George Lewis, Lucie Vitkova, John Cage, Karlheinz Stockhausen

Following last year’s highly touted AACM@50 concerts, the S.E.M. Ensemble, led by conductor, composer, and flutist Petr Kotik, returns to the Bohemian National Hall for a  concert on Monday, May 9, featuring contemporary works and two world premieres.


Petr KotikString Noise William (2016)

George Lewis - Not Alone (2014-15)

Lucie Vitkova - Places to Meet (2016)

John Cage - Ryoanji (1985)

Roscoe Mitchell - They Rode for Them (2016)

Karlheinz Stockhausen - Zeitmaße (1956)



The Bohemian National Hall is located at 321 E. 73rd St., New York, NY

More info: (718) 488-7659 or


Darmstadt New York: 70th Anniversary

Roulette Intermedium

Wednesday May 11, 2016 8:00

Works by John Cage, Petr Kotik, Morton Feldman,

Alvin Singleton, and Karlheinz Stockhausen

As part of this year’s Essential Darmstadt Repertoire Series, the S.E.M. Ensemble, led by conductor, composer, and flutist Petr Kotik, returns to the Roulette Intermedium for an  evening of 20th century classics on Wednesday, May 11.


Petr Kotik - Music for 3 (1964)

Alvin Singleton - Be Natural (1974)

Morton Feldman - Why Patterns? (1978)

Karlheinz Stockhausen - Zeitmaße (1956)

John Cage - Concert for Piano and Orchestra (1958)



Roulette Intermedium is located at 509 Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn, NY.

More info: (718) 488-7659 or


Preview Concert

Willow Place Auditorium

Sunday May 8, 2016 8:00

Works by John Cage, Petr Kotik, George Lewis, Roscoe Mitchell,

and Karlheinz Stockhausen

Join us for a preview of the SEM Ensemble’s May 2016 offering at the intimate Willow Place Auditorium in Brooklyn Heights. Concert will be followed by a reception.


George Lewis Not Alone (2014/15)

Petr Kotik Music for 3 (1966)

Petr KotikString Noise William (2016)

John CageRyoanji (1985)

Roscoe MitchellThey Rode for Them (2016)

Karlheinz Stockhausen - Zeitmaße (1956)

 Improvisation - featuring Thomas Buckner, George Lewis, Roscoe Mitchell, Chris Nappi, Sara Schoenbeck, and Lucie Vitkova


Free admission. (Suggested donation of $20)

Willow Place Auditorium is located at 26 Willow Place, Brooklyn NY.

More info: (718) 488-7659 or



   Emerging Composers Workshop 2016







The S.E.M. Ensemble, led by conductor, composer, and flutist Petr Kotik, returns to the Willow Place Auditorium for a workshop and reading of new works by emerging artists.



David Louis Zuckerman - Per Diem

Tai-Kuang Chao - a story about an auction/the corners of the world: a      refrigerator that makes people want to stock romance

James Falzone - Helical Cannon

Anthony Donofrio - Piano Trio

Chang Seok Choi - Animus


Willow Place Auditorium is located at 26 Willow Place, Brooklyn NY, 11201. Admission is free (but contributions are appreciated).

More info: (718) 488-7659 or

annual Holiday Concert








The S.E.M. Ensemble, led by conductor, composer, and flutist Petr Kotik, returns to the Paula Cooper Gallery’s main space for its annual holiday concert on Saturday, December 19, 2015 (8 p.m.). A tradition started in 1984, the evening will feature contemporary works, along with rarely heard early music.



Iannis Xenakis - Kassandra (1987)

Eli Greenhoe - Etymology (2015)

Pavel Jan Vejvanovsky - Sonata la posta (1680)

Alvin Lucier - Orpheus Variations (2015) - U.S. premiere

Pavel Jan Vejvanovsky - Serenata in C (1685) - U.S. premiere

Liisa Hirsch - Four Glides (2015) - Premiere

Petr Kotik - Reiterations and Variables (1972 - 2015)


*Additionally, a preview concert will be held at the S.E.M. Ensemble's home and studio at Willow Place Auditorium on Wednesday, December 16, 2015 at 7:30pm


Paula Cooper Gallery is located at 534 West 21st Street, NY. Tickets are $15/10 (advanced sale); $20/15 (at door).

To order tickets:

More info: (718) 488-7659 or

Willow Place Auditorium is located at 26 Willow Pl, Brooklyn Heights, NY. Free



The SEM Ensemble is preparing for a series of performances at the Ostrava Days 2015 Festival. There are several major events that the SEM Ensemble is participating in, including an opening night featuring music for three orchestras, among them Gruppen by Karlheinz Stockhausen and Variations by Petr Kotik.

We are now rehearsing the opera Master-Pieces by Petr Kotik with its entire cast, narrators, and orchestra. The stage director Jiří Nekvasil (also director of the national Moravian-Silesian theater in Ostrava) is in New York, preparing for the performance at Ostrava Days, which will take place on August 28th, 2015.

Want to see the dress rehearsal?


SEM Ensemble Open Studio

An open rehearsal and preview of Petr Kotik’s Master-Pieces will be held at our home and studio at Willow Place Auditorium in Brooklyn Heights. The public is invited to join us as we workshop and perform selections from the opera.





Tuesday, July 28th 4:30-6:00

26 Willow Place, Brooklyn, 11201

Brooklyn, NY 11201


Just missed...


Dr.Faustus: Composers' Project

The concert will feature five world premieres of works for solo instrument and electronic sounds by composers Elizabeth Adams, André Brégégère, Nicholas R. Nelson, Inés Thiebaut, and Red Wierenga, performed by Jen Baker (tbn), Steve Beck (pf), Karen Kim (vn), Liam Kinson (cl), and John Singer (perc); and a performance of Davidovsky’s Synchronism No. 12 by Ben Ringer (cl).

When / Where

Wednesday, May 20, 2015 @ 8:00 PM

The Willow Place Auditorium
26 Willow Place, Brooklyn
Take R to Court Street, or 2,3,4,5 to Borough Hall


$15/$10 (students/seniors)


The grand finale of the celebration of the AACM’s 50th anniversary, presented by the S.E.M. Ensemble in partnership with the Interpretations series, features major works for symphony and chamber orchestra by composers associated with the AACM – Muhal Richard Abrams, Roscoe Mitchell, George Lewis and Henry Threadgill – as well as works by John Cage, Christian Wolff and Petr Kotik. April 28 includes a duo by Mitchell and Lewis (Lewis’ Bound) and on April 29, a rare performance by the distinguished improvising trio of Abrams, Lewis, and Mitchell.

Tuesday April 28, 2015 @ 8 pm
The S.E.M. Ensemble
Ostravská banda

Wednesday April 29, 2015 @ 8 pm
The Orchestra of the S.E.M. Ensemble

Bohemian National Hall
321 E 73rd St
New York


March 22, 2015 @ 6:00 PM
Willow Place Auditorium, Brooklyn
S.E.M. Ensemble Presented:

Ensemble 365

Free Admission

Ensemble 365, with guest artists soprano Sara Paar and violist Eva Gerard, presents "Eastern Currents: Contemporary Music of Asia," featuring works by Bun-Ching Lam, Franghiz Ali-Zadeh, Ramin Heydarbeygi, Ming-Hsiu Yen and Bright Sheng.

Ensemble 365 (Marta Bedkowska (cello), Mary Hubbell (soprano), Alice Jones (flute), Mirna Lekic (piano), Karen Rostron (violin)) is a quintet founded in 2012 at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Its members, who met as doctoral students at their alma mater, perform regularly in concert halls and festivals in the US and abroad. Collectively they have, as individuals and as collaborators, commissioned, premiered, and recorded over 150 new works by living composers. The ensemble presents themed concerts, combining both new and standard chamber and solo repertoire.


Bun-Ching Lam: Autumn Sounds (1982)
(soprano and flute)

Franghiz Ali-Zadeh: Three Watercolors (1987)
(soprano, flute and piano)

Ramin Heydarbeygi: Astvihad (2012)
(soprano and piano)


Franghiz Ali-Zadeh: Music for Piano (1997)

Bright Sheng: Three Chinese Love Songs (1988)
(soprano, viola and piano)

Ming-Hsiu Yen: Kuang Tsao (2012)
(flute and piano)


The S.E.M. Ensemble presents:


Featuring a preview of Ushio Torikai's new work for Baritone and Orchestra

The S.E.M. Ensemble
Thomas Buckner, Baritone
Petr Kotik, Conductor

Monday, February 9 10:00AM – 3:30PM
Tuesday, February 10 2:00PM – 7:00PM
Wednesday, February 11 4:00 – 7:00PM

Wednesday, February 11 @ 8:30PM

Willow Place Auditorium
26 Willow Place, Brooklyn Heights
Free Admission (contributions are appreciated)

About this year's workshop:
The S.E.M. Ensemble’s Reading of New Compositions was initiated in 1997 and has continued, every season, to the present. During the three-day workshop each composer is provided with time and space to work directly with the conductor and musicians. The workshop culminates in a reading-performance, open to the public. This year’s reading includes works by an international group of composers who reside in the New York area and the Midwest: Colin Tucker, Chung Eun Kim, Yang Ming and Tai-Kuang Chao. It also includes an accordion, trumpet and clarinet trio by Australian/Sri Lankan composer Nirmali Fenn. Additionally Ushio Torikai's new work Remember for baritone and orchestra will be performed.

Nirmali Fenn               Through a glass darkly
Colin Tucker                engulfed, constrained in a widening gap
Chung Eun Kim           pieta
Yang Ming                   lapse of time
Tai-Kuang Chao          walking in the mist
Usio Torikai                 Remember

Other Recent Concerts...

A chamber opera based on texts by Gertrude Stein

Directed by Michael Rau
Kamala Sankaram (Soprano)
Marty Coyle (Tenor)
Jeffrey Gavett (Baritone)
Adrian Rosas (Bass)
Pauline Kim Harris (Violin/Viola)
S.E.M. Ensemble; Petr Kotik (Conductor)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014, 7:30 pm
Paula Cooper Gallery, NYC

“There may have been two [masterpieces] among the five works presented [at NODO]. Kotik's was certainly one, proving that he could craft a light and thoroughly entertaining work from Stein's texts while staying true to his rigid sensibilities.”

The Wire, London, November 2014

The S.E.M. Ensemble returns to Paula Cooper Gallery for the American premiere of American/Czech composer Petr Kotik’s Master-Pieces (2014). The staged, 60-minute chamber opera features a libretto by Kotik, based on writings by Gertrud Stein and adapted to the stage by director Michael Rau. Commissioned by the National Moravian-Silesian Theatre in collaboration with New Opera Days Ostrava (NODO), Czech Republic, Master-Pieces received its world premiere at NODO last June. The opera marks Kotik’s return to Stein’s rhythmic, poetic prose, after Many Many Women and There is Singularly Nothing, both composed in the 70’s.

 A meditation on the nature of art and the act of creation,the opera draws from two works by Gertrud Stein – her 1936 lecture, What Are Masterpieces and Why Are So Few of Them and excerpts from The Wars I Have Seen, her diary from the last three years of WWII, published in 1945. For Stein, “the masterpiece has nothing to do with human nature or with identity, it has to do with the human mind and entity, that is with a thing in itself and not in relation.” Kotik’s opera develops this seeming simple idea by asking: Is what one is doing about the self (identity) or the work (entity)?

 “I wanted to go beyond the spectacle of a musical performance to investigate a meaningful subject matter within a theatrical form,” Kotik notes. “The theatrical energy comes from the very questions raised by Stein, as she continuously veers off her subject to contemplate and think about issues of creative process and the relationship between the self and the world.” The opera is a hybrid between theater and music; and the words – sometimes sung and sometimes spoken – strive to retain the poetry of Stein’s language while opening various layers of meanings.

 The premiere will take place at Paula Cooper Gallery, located at 534 West 21st Street, NY, on Wednesday, December 17, 2014, 7:30pm. Tickets: Advance sale $15/10; at the door $20/15. More info: (718) 488-7659 or

November 21, 2014
Huddersfield, UK
Ostravská banda with SEM members
Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival

 2014 opens with a concert honouring Christian Wolff in his 80th year and showing the long and close collaboration between Wolff and Petr Kotik, who, with the Czech Republic’s OstravskaÅL banda, makes his first visit to Huddersfield.

Presenting a cross-section of the music of Ostravska banda and New York’s S.E.M. Ensemble, with an important contribution by Thomas Buckner, the concert includes Wolff’s Trust, premiered by Ostravska banda at WDR Cologne’s 2013 ‘Ensemble Europa’ series, along with new pieces by Cigler, Mincek and Kotik. Smolka’s music further ties the programme to the biennial Ostrava Days, where all the composers have been working since 2001. The programme is completed by John Cage’s previously presumed lost and recently rediscovered version of Wolff’s For Six or Seven Players (1959), given to Kotik in 1964.

St Paul’s Hall 5:30pm
The Orchestra of the S.E.M. Ensemble & Ostravska banda
Petr Kotík, conductor
Thomas Buckner, baritone


Christian Wolff
37 Haiku

Petr Cígler
Uber das farbige Licht der Doppelsterne

Martin Smolka
Autumn Thoughts

Christian Wolff
For Six or Seven Players
(Music for Merce Cunningham)

Alex Mincek
Subito No 2

Petr Kotík
Nine + 1

Christian Wolff

September 11, 2014 at 8:00 PM
Roulette, Brooklyn
S.E.M. Ensemble
Thomas Buckner, Voice
Petr Kotik, Conductor
INTERPRETATIONS: A tribute to Robert Ashley

Thomas Buckner presents a program of pieces written especially for him by Robert Ashley (1930-2014) in their 30+ years of working together. Works include the stand-alone pieces ‘World War III, Just the Highlights’ and ‘Tract’, and three completely re-conceived concert versions of arias from the opera “Atalanta, Acts of God”: ‘The Producer Speaks’, ‘Odalisque’, and ‘Mystery of the River’, in its New York premiere. With Tom Hamilton, Joseph Kubera, Pauline Kim Harris, Conrad Harris, JD Parran and the SEM Ensemble. Co-sponsored by Roulette and Performing Artservices.

September 21, 2014 at 8:00 PM
The Willow Place Auditorium, Brooklyn
The S.E.M. Ensemble Presents: pianist Dante Boon 


The concert opens with two monumental yet extremely poetic pieces by Jürg Frey and Michael Pisaro. After the intermission, Boon will play his own contribution to “John’s Book”: a collection of solo pieces by all Wandelweiser composers, dedicated to pianist John McAlpine on his 65th birthday. Jürg Frey’s opus number 1 in the Wandelweiser catalogue, by now a classic of contemporary piano music “Sam Lazaro Bros.” concludes the program.


Dutch pianist and composer Dante Boon (b. 1973) has been playing and composing new music from an early age. He worked with, among others, Tom Johnson, Samuel Vriezen, Antoine Beuger, Jürg Frey and James Fulkerson on recording projects and first concert performances. His solo CD "cage.frey.vriezen.feldman.ayres.johnson manion" appeared in 2010 at Edition Wandelweiser Records to positive reviews. In the making are CD's with recordings of two of Boon's vocal compositions by German soprano Irene Kurka, Feldman's For John Cage with American violinist Andrew McIntosh and chamber pieces by Jürg Frey. As a concert pianist, Dante Boon has appeared at many concert venues and festivals across Europe and the USA. Boon's compositions are published by Edition Wandelweiser.


September 24 & 28, 2014
Ostrava & Prague
Ostravská banda with SEM members