New Voice: Peter Kerkelov

Peter Kerkelov
Peter Kerkelov

Peter Kerkelov describes a recent work ~

Talking about improvisation and chance here I provide a link to my latest composition “Two Symphonies and Postumus” for string quartet. For creating this piece I was inspired by the sound of wind chimes. Not only by their fragile, ringing sound but also by the idea of random continuity. Randomness of course cannot exist for our minds. Just as continuity we can’t grasp their enormous time size, their existential value in that respect. So I wanted to create this sonic world. Then the idea of chimes, that somehow by the wind’s will start to ring in a precisely organized rhythm, came to take place. I found this juxtaposition very interesting because it raises the question of what is order and disorder, strictness and randomness and how that idea can be even applied to our way of existence. So these two ideas shaped two symphonies (from the old Greek meaning harmony, harmonious), thus they are like two worlds of sounds with their own laws and tendencies of unfolding. The main question remains though: what is left after the worlds are gone, is it an end or it opens a door for a new beginning, just as may be death opens to us? Thus posthumous (after one’s death)…

Here is a link to that piece in the great interpretation of the Bulgarian string quartet “Frosch”:


Peter Kerkelov (b. 1984) is a Bulgarian composer.  His composition “Attempt at screaming” is the winner of UNESCO’s 59th International Rostrum of Composers in Stockholm, 2012 in the “under 30: category. Other awards include a scholarship from the British Music Society; a scholarship from the Wagner Society and he is two-time scholarship winner for classical music from the Raina Kabaivanska Foundation.

Kerkelov’s music has been performed in Bulgaria, The Netherlands, Germany, Austria and the United States on distinguished venues such as Konzerthaus Wien, Gaudeamus Music Week (The Netherlands) and the annual New Bulgarian Music Preview in performances by Asko/Schoenberg Ensemble (The Netherlands), “Bang on a Can All-Stars” (USA), Ensemble PHACE (Austria), Ensemble “Musica Nova” (Bulgaria), Ruysdael Kwartet (The Netherlands) among others.

He has been selected for master classes with Louis Andriessen, David Lang and Kaija Saariaho.

Current projects include commissions by Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France and International Music Council; and musical theatre piece in collaboration with the Russian/Israeli director Masha Nemirovsky. Previously Peter Kerkelov has been commissioned by The Royal Conservatoire (The Hague); Duo Cajon and Ruysdael Kwartet on the occasion of Dutch Chamber Music Society’s 100th anniversary.

Currently Kerkelov is working on a PhD in Ethnomusicology at the Bulgarian Academy of Science. He holds as well a Masters degree in composition from The Royal Conservatoire in The Hague, The Netherlands (under Martijn Padding and Guus Janssen); Master’s degree in composition (under prof. Dimitar Tapkov) and Bachelor degree in classical guitar from Academy of Music, Dance and Fine Arts (AMDFA) in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.

Kerkelov has specialized composition with Prof. Dan Dediu at the National Music University in Bucharest, Romania, 2006/2007, graduating with distinction.


What is your earliest musical memory that, in looking back, has proved to be significant regarding  your career as a composer?

My earliest musical memory is when I tried to describe a fairytale that I imagined on the keys of my uncle’s piano in Russia. This was probably my first attempt on composing although it was purely intuitive and frankly quite a lot of fun. But my first vivid memory of hearing something that made me want to compose was when I heard in a live performance Bach’s Passacaglia in C minor for organ. I was probably 14 and I was completely stunned  by the enormously large continuity of the swirling around themselves melodies and this relatively long piece I felt as if it was 5 min. I remember then saying to my guitar teacher that I was at the concert with: “I have never heard anything more beautiful and polyphonic.” without realizing what polyphonic really stays for, but I felt the very strong desire to be able to write something like this in the future. Until present days the organ sound absorbs all my being as a result of that wonderful music.    

Are there composers who have been influential or relevant regarding your own work?  Has this changed over time?

Naturally the understanding of certain music changes with time and thus your affinity to it. For ex. I remember that I hated Mozart’s and Steve Reich’s music but later on I started really to understand what it is about, where on the other hand the music of Chopin that my conservatory teachers made me love later became empty and in a way too sentimental and “chatty”. But it seems that there were composers that I fell in love with from first sight  and my opinion about their music never changed. And indeed this music still influences me. These are the works of Lutoslawski, Berio, Ligeti, Scelsi, Feldman, Purcell, Machaut, Perotinus among many others. Between all that a major influence on me has the folk music especially the one that comes from Bulgaria and the Arabic countries.     

Would you mind speaking a little concerning your working process, i.e., do you have a regular schedule for writing; do you use a computer for composing (either for creating pre-composition materials or notation), if so, do you  find that it inhibits your process?  What other technology, if any, do you use?

I indeed have a regular daily schedule that includes a fixed time to wake up and duration of the composing “sessions”. I usually start working on the piano, I improvise a lot on it with a vague preconception of a type of texture, melodic movement or rhythmical procession. This forms my first sketches. Later on it is very important for me that my poor piano skills don’t affect the material created, so I leave the instrument and I continue developing it either on the computer or on paper. Lately I come to understand that the computer can inhibit the way one composes. Especially in the case of my latest music, which has a lot to do with improvisation and chance factors in its structure.   


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