Krzysztof Knittel is a composer, educator, improviser and co-founder of the KEW Composers' Group. He worked at Experimental Studio of the Polish Radio. Born on 1st of May 1947 in Warsaw.
He studied sound engineering and composition with Tadeusz Baird, Andrzej Dobrowolski and Włodzimierz Kotoński, and computer music (with Lejaren Hiller) at the State Higher School of Music in Warsaw. As from 1973, he cooperated with the Experimental Studio of the Polish Radio. Between the years 1974-75, he studied programming at the Mathematical Institute of the Polish Academy of Sciences. In 1978, he worked in The Centre of the Creative and Performing Arts in Buffalo.
Krzysztof Knittel is probably the most independent Polish contemporary composer. Starting with his debut during the "Warsaw Autumn" in 1975 with Points / Lines for clarinet, tapes and slides, he follows his own road, ignoring the main trends that shape the changing musical landscape of our times. A year earlier, together with Wojciech Michniewski and Elżbieta Sikora - form the KEW Group - he presented an experimental improvisation at the "Warsaw Autumn" Festival entitled The Second Secret Poem. At that time, he was already a well-known song composer, of which theAutumn Concert sang by Magda Umer, made him hugely popular.
He is a co-founder of several artistic groups: KEW Composers' Group – with Elżbieta Sikora and Wojciech Michniewski (1973-76), Cytula Tyfun da Bamba Orkiester - with Andrzej Bieżan, Mieczysław Litwiński and Tadeusz Sudnik (1981), the Independent Studio of Electroacoustic Music – among others with Stanisław Krupowicz and Paweł Szymański (1982-84), Light from Poland - with the poet Tadeusz Sławek, Mieczysław Litwiński and Bogusław Mizerski (1985-87), the European Improvisation Orchestra (1996-98). In 1986, together with Piotr Bikont and Marek Chołoniewski, he founded the Freight Train Ensemble which exists till today, while in 1989 - the CH&K Studio that was transformed into the CH&K&K Trio (with Marek Chołoniewski and from 1999 - Włodzimierz Kiniorski), since 2004, he is the co-founder of the Mud Cavaliers – among others, with Jerzy Kornowicz, Ryszard Latecki and Tadeusz Wielecki.
Apart from his more or less traditional compositions, Knittel is also involved in performances, he creates sound installations and plays improvised music. This is connected with his participation in numerous groups and ensembles, usually of which he is a co-founder. Apart from the above mentioned KEW Group, these were: Cytula Tyfun da Bamba Orkiester, Independent Electroacoustic Music Studio, Freight Train Ensemble, Go-Go Boys, CH&K Studio, European Improvisation Orchestra. It should be noted though, that Knittel is also the author of the String Quartet - a tribute to Father Jerzy Popiełuszko, for which he received the music award of the underground "Solidarity" in 1985, and then later, he also created such works like: Out of the Depths Have I Cried unto Thee, O Lord.. to the texts of Psalms (2000), El maale rachamim - devoted to the memory of the victims of Jedwabne (2001) and the Norwid Songs (2001). Among the most recent compositions by Knittel, it is the opera HeartPiece written in collaboration with American composer and guitarist John King that has stirred the most emotions. Its experimental character "summarizes" well the core essence of Knittel's creative attitudes.
He writes computer and electroacoustic pieces, he composes ballet music, he creates sound installations, he writes musical pieces for orchestra, choirs, chamber ensembles - among them, for the National Philharmonic Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra of the Polish Radio, Amadeus Chamber Orchestra of the Polish Radio, the Sinfonia Varsovia Orchestra, Camerata Silesia Choir, soloists - Elżbieta Chojnacka, Olga Pasiecznik (the Orpheus Prize at the "Warsaw Autumn" in 1999 for his The HeartPiece - Double Opera composed in collaboration with John King), Janusz Olejniczak, Tomasz Stańko and many others.
He cooperated with following musicians in the field of improvised music: Marek Chołoniewski, Axel Dörner, Uwe Dierksen, Uli Fusseneger, Tim Hodgkinson, Carl-Ludwig Hübsch, Pere Oliver Jørgens, John King, Włodzimierz Kiniorski, Martin Klapper, Jacek Kochan, Werner Kodytek, Albert Markos, Laszlo Melis, Ernesto Molinari, David Moss, Victor Nubla, Uwe Oberg, Olga Pasiecznik, Adam Pierończyk, Tomasz Stańko, Raymond Strid, Birgit Ulher, Marcus Weiss, Frank Wingold, Carlos Zingaro, Agata Zubel.
As a journalist and music critic, he cooperated with the Tygodnik Literacki (Literary Weekly), he also collaborated with the TV programme Pegaz and with the Music Department of Polish Public Television, as well as with such journals like Ruch Muzyczny (Music Motion) and Studio. In 1985, Krzysztof Knittel received the Solidarity Award for his String Quartet written as a tribute to Father Jerzy Popiełuszko, and in 1998 - he was awarded by the Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts in New York; in 2003 - he received the Cyprian Norwid Prize and the Prize of the Polish Composers' Union, in 2005 - the Silver Gloria Artis Medal "For Merit to Culture" and the Gold Medal of Guardian of National Memorials.
Since 1986, he lectures in modern music (in Warsaw, Munich, Boston, Philadelphia, Barcelona, Alicante, Budapest, Viitasaari). Since 2001, he is also a lecturer at the Academy of Music in Łódź, and since 2007 - also at the Academy of Music in Kraków.
In 1981, he cooperated with Solidarity's Culture Committee of the Mazowsze Region, he was also one of the co-founders of the Circle for Independent Artists. During Martial Law, he was active in independent culture circles. Between 1989-92, he was Vice-President of the Polish Contemporary Music Association, he was one of the co-founders of the "Audio-Art" Festival in the Centre for Contemporary Art in the Ujazdowski Castle, 1995-98 - he was director of the Warsaw Autumn Festival, 1999-2003 - President of the Polish Composers' Union, between 2000-2005 - Vice-President of the Polish Music Council, and its President since December 2005, from 2003 to 2006 - he was a member of the Supervisory Board of the Polish Public Television. As from 2004, he is member of the Programme Council of the Zachęta National Art Gallery and from 2006 - member of the Council of the Association of Authors ZAiKS.
Author: Małgorzata Kosińska, Polish Music Information Centre, Polish Composers' Union, September 2008.
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