S.E.M. Ensemble


Upcoming Concerts




In the complete, six-hour performance of

Petr Kotik’s Many Many Women

Text by Gertrude Stein

Staging and Projection by Jo Fabian


Thursday, September 29, 6pm - 12am

@ Roulette Intermedium

509 Atlantic Avenue / at 3rd Ave

Brooklyn Downtown (one block from BAM)

Tickets available here:

Audience members are free to come and go for the entire duration of the performance


Preview Friday, September 23, 5pm - 11pm

@ Willow Place Auditorium

(26 Willow Place, Brooklyn 11201)

RSVP here

Sopranos: Zen Wu, Ana Caseiro

Countertenor, Tenor: Padraic Costello, Nathan Fletcher

Bass-Baritone, Bass: James Gregory, Nicholas Hay

Flutes: Petr Kotik, Roberta Michel

Trumpets: Sam Jones, Max Morel

Trombones: Will Lang, Jen Baker

Percussionists: Chris Nappi, Juan Herrera,

Sam Lazzara, Russell Greenberg




To open the 33rd season of Interpretations Concert Series, the S.E.M. Ensemble will perform Petr Kotik's six-hour-long, magnum opus Many Many Women (MMW) (1975-78), set to Gertrude Stein's 86-page novella of the same title. After its NYC premiere at The Whitney Museum of American Art and Paula Cooper Gallery in 1979, Richard Kostelanetz called the piece “continually austere and yet engaging”— a classic of underground music in the 1970s. The upcoming concert follows the first staged performance of MMW, produced at the New Opera Festival NODO in Ostrava, Czech Republic this past June. Featuring Berlin director Jo Fabian’s staging and projections, the Roulette production will also include a simultaneous performance of Kotik’s Drums for percussion (1977-80). MMW hasn’t been performed in its entirety in NYC since 2013.


It was the invitation to perform the piece at NODO, that inspired the creation of the staged opera version. NODO festival explores new approaches to opera and this year, it included operas that turned away from the romantic notion of an opera as drama. These new operas could be described as “variable situation spectacles,” such as the monumental Prometeo by Luigi Nono (two conductors, four orchestras, choir, vocal and instrumental soloists, percussion, narrators and extended electronics). – Petr Kotik


MMW will be performed as an opera – a spectacle without a plot or a story. The score consists of 173 sections across 378 pages. The sections are distributed among all the performers, who shape the piece during the performance, improvising their entrances and creating a musical flow of unpredictable configurations. Despite its open form, MMW is traditionally and exactly notated. The twelve musicians – six singers and six instruments – will perform continuously for six hours.


Tickets Available Here: Audience members are free to come and go at will for the entire duration of the performance.


Interpretations Concert Series is produced by Mutable Music. This year's Interpretations series will include major works by Wadada Leo Smith, Tyshawn Sorey, Michael Byron, and Alexandra Gardner, among others.


More about Many Many Women:

In MMW, the audience follows a flow of musical events that have no clear beginning or ending. It is a “situation” instead of “dramatic story.” This notion was eloquently described by Morton Feldman in his comments on Samuel Beckett's libretto to the opera Neither:

"…there's something peculiar about the text. I can't catch it. Finally, I see that every line is really the same thought said in another way. And yet the continuity acts as if something else is happening. Nothing else is happening. What you're doing, in an almost Proustian way, is getting deeper and deeper saturated into the thought."

Kotik began composing for voice in 1971, as a result of his close collaboration with the composer and singer Julius Eastman. From the first piece he composed for Eastman, Kotik was using the writings of Gertrude Stein. Many Many Women is the culmination of the series of Stein-related works.


Kotik's hands, the iron-clad rhythms that drive words and music have weight but are not heavy – they are deliberate and move horizontally with a regularity. George Grella, 2021


...consistently strong and distinctive, Many Many Women is a 20th century masterpiece.  – Christian Wolff, 2022


Many Many Women is an enormously demanding composition... dedication, stamina and concentration of the performers is astounding. The music has an ingenuous effect on the listener...Like watching a river, a sea surf, a fire or the swaying of treetops...  –  Jan Borek, Harmonie magazine, Prague, July, 2022


About the Artists:

Although as a composer, Petr Kotik is regarded as self-taught, he undertook rigorous musical training, studying the flute at the Prague Conservatory and taking private composition lessons with Jan Rychlík, followed by composition studies at the Akademie für Musik in Vienna. Rychlík has been a source of inspiration and admiration for Kotik throughout his life (similar to Philip Glass's admiration for Nadia Boulanger). Rychlík's work and ideas were far ahead of his time. In the late 1950s, he began to work with phase music based on African drumming, similar to Steve Reich's compositions more than a decade later. Rychlík's early beginnings as a jazz player as well as his scholarly research into music practice led him to understand and appreciate the significance of improvisation, almost half a century before it became part of the avant-garde. It is possible that the unconventional openness of Rychlík, together with the writings of Cage, which Kotik discovered at the age of eighteen, may have influenced the composer's way of thinking at this very early stage.

Born in Berlin (East) in 1960, Jo Fabian is an author, director, stage designer, and choreographer. He is the founder and artistic director of the theatre group known today as DEPARTMENT/fabian.dept. Since 1987, Jo Fabian has created more than 40 stage productions for theaters throughout Germany. In 1989 he worked closely with the Bauhaus in Dessau and founded the independent project group ›example dept.‹ that worked under his direction for six years. His unusual theater of images suspends the borderlines between theater, dance, performance, concerts and installation and typically combines polished artificial aesthetics with precision and subtle irony.

SEM is dedicated to the performance and advancement of new music, with a focus on current compositions. Since its inception in 1970, SEM has collaborated with composers who have also often performed with the group. They have included Earle Brown, John Cage, Alvin Lucier, Morton Fedman, Alvin Singleton, Leroy Jenkins, Pauline Oliveros, Elliott Sharp, Jackson Mac Low, Roscoe Mitchell, Phill Niblock, David Tudor and Christian Wolff, among others. 




Petr Kotik receives 2022 John Cage Award


On January 27th, the Foundation for Contemporary Arts announced its 2022 awards, with 20 artists recognized in the fields of dance, music & sound art, performance art & theater, poetry, and the visual arts. Among the grantees is Petr Kotik, who receives the 2022 John Cage Award.

Since 1992, the John Cage Award has been given biannually to a composer, musician, or performance artist who has contributed to challenging cultural horizons in the spirit of John Cage. Past awardees include Toshi Ichiyanagi, Phill Niblock, Pauline Oliveros, Robert Ashley, Earle Brown, Christian Wolff, Takehisa Kosugi, and David Tudor.

Kotik had previously been awarded a Grant to Artists by the Foundation for Contemporary Arts in 1996.  

The Foundation for Contemporary Arts (FCA) was founded in 1963 by John Cage and Jasper Johns with the support of artists such as Robert Rauschenberg, Willem de Kooning, Marcel Duchamp, Alex Katz, Ellsworth Kelly, Roy Lichtenstein, Barnett Newman, Claes Oldenburg, James Rosenquist, Frank Stella and Andy Warhol. More information on the FCA's history can be found here.

SEM congratulates Petr and the other grantees on this achievement.


Recent News

On February 17th, SEM held the 2022 Emerging Composers Workshop and Concert  – See our Instagram for photos.

Petr Kotik has received the 2022 John Cage Award from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts. Learn more here.

New York Classical Review published a review of our recent holiday concert. Read it here!

The Brooklyn Rail published a review of Ostrava Days. Check it out here!

Ostrava Days 2021 took place from August 9 - 28. For more information about the Institute and Festival, click here.

SEM's 2020-21 season concluded in June. Explore it here.

SEM's New Music Outdoors I concert is now available to watch on YouTube.

OCNM has published a video of SEM's performance John Cage's "Song Books I, II" at the NODO 2018 Festival. Watch it here.

Check out the first two segments of "Unfolding the Past" on SEM's history here! More soon.

Contact Us

 S.E.M. Ensemble, Inc.
25 Columbia Place
Brooklyn, NY 11201

Phone: (718) 488-7659

Contact Emma Minges, coordinator,

S.E.M. Ensemble’s 2021-22 season has been made possible with the generous support of the New York State Council on the Arts in partnership with Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, The Amphion Foundation, The Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University, The Aaron Copland Fund for Music, The Fritz Reiner Center for Contemporary Music, The Fromm Music Foundation, The Low Road Foundation, Sheldon Berlow, Stephen J. Deutsch, Virginia Dwan, Martina Forman, Philip Foster, Allegra Fuller Snyder, Beth Greenberg and Jim Wright, Charlotta Kotik, Raymond Learsy, Julian Lethbridge, Rotraut Moquay, and Noni Pratt. Special thanks to Paula Cooper, Jasper Johns, Werner Kramarsky, and Brooklyn District 33 Councilman Lincoln Restler.