Krzysztof Knittel

(b. 1 May 1947, Warsaw).

Polish composer of mostly stage, chamber and electroacoustic works that have been performed in the Americas, Asia and Europe; he is also active as a performer.

Mr. Knittel studied sound engineering at the Fryderyk Chopin University of Music in Warsaw from 1966–70, where he also studied composition with Tadeusz Baird, Andrzej Dobrowolski and Włodzimierz Kotoński from 1970–74, as well as computer music there with Lejaren Hiller in 1973–74. In addition, he studied programming at the Institute of Mathematics of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw in 1973–74 and attended the Ferienkurse in Darmstadt in 1974 and 1976.

Among his honours are the Solidarity Award in Music (1985, for String Quartet '84–'85), the Foundation for Contemporary Arts Award in New York, New York (1998, for his œuvre), the Cyprian Kamil Norwid Prize in Music (2003, for Norwid Songs), and the Prize of the Związek Kompozytorów Polskich – Polish Composers Union in Warsaw (2003). Portrait concerts have been given in Brazil, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Russia, and Spain.

As a performer, he co-founded with Wojciech Michniewski and Elżbieta Sikora the group of composers KEW in 1973, which was active from 1973–75; co-founded with Andrzej Bieżan the Cytula Tyfun da Bamba Orkiestra, which was active in 1981; co-founded the Independent Electroacoustic Music Studio, which existed from 1982–84; co-founded the improvisational ensemble Light from Poland, which was active from 1985–87; co-founded the interdisciplinary group Pociąg towarowy – Freight Train in 1986, which remains active; co-founded with Marek Chołoniewski the CH&K Studio in 1989, which remains active; co-founded the European Improvisation Orchestra, which was active from 1996–98; and co-founded with Marek Chołoniewski and Włodzimierz Kiniorski the trio CH&K&K in 1999, which remains active.

He is also active in other positions. He has worked at the Experimental Studio of Polskie Radio since 1973 and worked at the Center of the Creative and Performing Arts at the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York in 1978. He served as vice-chair of the section in Poland of ISCM from 1989–92, as director of the festival Warszawska Jesień – Warsaw Autumn from 1995–98 and as vice-president of the Związek Kompozytorów Polskich from 1995–99 and as its president from 1999–2003. He wrote criticism for the magazine Tygodnik Literacki in 1990–91 and worked as a freelance contributor to the music department of Telewizja Polska from 1992–94. Moreover, he served as vice-president of the Polska Rada Muzyczna – Polish Music Council in Warsaw from 2000–05 and has served as its president since 2005.

He has taught computer music at the Grażyna and Kiejstut Bacewicz Academy of Music in Łódź since 2001 and has served as director of its studio for computer music since 2001. He has lectured on contemporary music throughout the Americas and Europe.

In addition to the works listed below, he has composed music for stage and TV productions.


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detour (instrumental-theatre work, text by Theodor W. Adorno), speaker, cello, piano, percussion, fixed media, 1974

Glückspavillon for Cathy (instrumental-theatre work, text by the composer), tuba, fixed media, 1978

Woman's Voice (ballet, scenario by the composer, after Rafał Wojaczek), 4 percussion, fixed media, 1980

Light (monologue, text by the composer), female actor, 1981

Satan in Goray (ballet, scenario by the composer, after Isaac Bashevis Singer), flute, violin, cello, piano, fixed media, 1993

Der Erwählte (ballet, scenario by Marek Wortman, after Thomas Mann), bagpipes, soprano recorder (+ alto recorder, tenor recorder, bass recorder), Baroque trombone, lute, violin, viola da gamba, harmonium, synthesizer, 2 percussion, 1995

Awakenings (ballet, scenario by Piotr Bikont, after Oliver Sacks), speaker, soprano saxophone (+ tenor saxophone, percussion), synthesizers (+ samplers) (1 player), interactive light–sound installation, 1998

The Heartpiece – Double Opera (opera, libretto by John King, the composer, after Heiner Müller), soprano, electric guitar, synthesizer (+ sampler), drum kit, string quartet, performance space (by Krzysztof Zarębski), 1999 (collaboration with John King)

Spiegelverkehrte Reise (text by Piotr Bikont), soprano, male actor, fixed media, 2000

Der Zirkus ist gekommen (text by the composer), soprano, dancer, flute, cello, piano, prepared piano, fixed media, 2003

A Memoir of the Warsaw Uprising (scenario by the composer, after Miron Białoszewski), 5 actors, female chorus, cello, piano, orchestra, fixed media, 2004

Sonata da camera No. 16, 3 actors, ensemble, fixed media, 2006

Meetings (ballet in 2 unfinished acts, scenario by Ewa Wycichowska), 2011


Lipps, tenor saxophone/trumpet, double bass, drum kit, large orchestra, 1974, revised 1978

29 Staves, small orchestra (29 players), 1980–81

Nibiru, harpsichord, string orchestra, 1987

Concerto, harpsichord, orchestra, 2004

Toccata, 2007


~440, violin, piano, fixed media, 1973

form A, form E, flute, oboe, clarinet, French horn, bassoon, 5 spotlights, 1973

à la Santé, clarinet, trombone, cello, piano, 1974

dorikos, string quartet, fixed media, 1976–77

sketches I, any number of players, 1978

low sounds, tam-tam, fixed media, 1979 (version of work for fixed media; also versions for synthesizer, fixed media, 1990; electric guitar, synthesizer, fixed media, 1991)

Five Pieces, cello, piano, 1979–80

Man-Orchestra I, any number of players, fixed media, 1982

Starry Sky, 5 percussion, 1982

Black Water, White Water, Old Stream, any number of players, fixed media, 1983

It's time now, piano, any 5 players, 1983

Nora, harp/any keyboard instrument, 1983

String Quartet '84–'85, 1984–85

Three Cassettes, any 3 players, fixed media, 1986

Brother John's Struggle, flute, trombone, guitar, violin, percussion, 1987

Histoire II, clarinet, piano, synthesizer, fixed media, 1988

Man-Orchestra II, synthesizer (+ kitchen utensils), computer, 1988

Borders of nothing, synthesizer, computer, 1990

Homage to Charles Ives, flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, viola, double bass, piano, percussion, 1991–92

Negev, synthesizer (+ sampler, percussion), 1993

Sonata da camera No. 1 (for Tomasz Stańko), improvisational trumpet, live electronics, 1993

Sonata da camera No. 3 (for Władysław Kłosiewicz), improvisational harpsichord, live electronics, 1995

Sonata da camera No. 4 (for László Melis and Albert Márkos), improvisational violin, improvisational cello, live electronics, 1997

Homage to Barbara Zbrożyna, synthesizer (+ sampler), 1997

Sonata da camera No. 5 (for Iwan Monighetti), improvisational cello, live electronics, 1997

Sonata da camera No. 6 (for Kazimierz Pyzik and Marek Mietelski), improvisational viola da gamba, improvisational prepared piano, live electronics, 1998

Sonata da camera No. 7 (for Ed Bogaard), improvisational tenor saxophone, live electronics, 1999

Sonata da camera No. 9 (for Włodzimierz Kiniorski), improvisational soprano saxophone (+ improvisational tenor saxophone), live electronics, 2000

Sonata da camera No. 10 (for Andrei Smirnov), improvisational theremin, live electronics, 2000

Trio, any 3 melody instruments, 2001

Sonata da camera No. 11 (for Aleksander Gabryś), improvisational double bass, live electronics, 2002

V2R Trio (Grand River Trio), clarinet, violin, piano, fixed media, 2003

First episode, violin, piano, percussion, 2006

sketches II, any number of players, 2007

cheap imitations, flute, clarinet (+ bass clarinet), piano, string quartet, fixed media, 2008

Cimochowizna, any number of players, 2009

sketches III, any number of players, 2010

Second episode, 2 violins, fixed media, 2010

Free for Windows, guitar, live electronics, 2011

About something which doesn't exist, electronic instruments, ensemble, 2012


Out of the Depths Have I Cried unto Thee, O Lord... (texts from Psalm 23, Psalm 51, Psalm 102, Psalm 103, Psalm 117, Psalm 130, Psalm 150), mixed chorus, fixed media, 2000

El maale rahamim... – O God, Full of Mercy (text from a prayer in Hebrew), mixed chorus, large orchestra, 2001

St. Matthew Passion, soloists, mixed chorus, 2 percussion, string orchestra, fixed media, 2004


low sounds (text by the composer), 2 speakers, tam-tam, fixed media, 1980 (version of work for fixed media)

14 Variations by Piotr Bikont and Krzysztof Knittel on 14 Variations by Edwin Morgan on 14 Words by John Cage, voice, electric guitar, 2 synthesizers (both + sampler, any one + voice), 1986, revised 1992

Three Songs without Words, soprano, fixed media, 1987

Etwas aus Leben (text by the composer), voice, piano, live electronics, 1988

Jingle-Jangle (text by Piotr Bikont), 2 voices (both + synthesizer), 1989

Instant reactions (text by Charles Baudelaire), soprano, trumpet, guitar, synthesizer, percussion, 1992

Sonata da camera No. 8 (for Andrzej Chłopecki) (texts by Andrzej Chłopecki, random sources), improvisational speaker, live electronics, 2000

Norwid Songs (text by Cyprian Kamil Norwid), soprano, piano, 2001

Live from CNN, voice, trombone, synthesizer, fixed media, 2003


Three Studies, 1980

Four Preludes, 1983

Between, piano, fixed media, 1993


Histoire III, harpsichord, fixed media, 1989


The Conqueror Worm, fixed media, 1976

low sounds, fixed media, 1978 (also versions for tam-tam, fixed media; 2 speakers, tam-tam, fixed media; synthesizer, fixed media; electric guitar, synthesizer, fixed media)

odds and ends, fixed media, 1978

three studies for tape, fixed media, 1979

polygamy, fixed media, 1979 (collaboration with Andrzej Bieżan)

norcet 1, fixed media, 1980

norcet 2, fixed media, 1980

Old Style Pieces, fixed media, 1985

Lapis, fixed media, 1985

Poko, fixed media, 1986

Histoire I, fixed media, 1988

Man-Nature, computer, 1991

legs (sound installation), 1993

passage (sound installation), 1994

radio sculpture (sound installation), 1994

Sonata da camera No. 2 (for Marek Chołoniewski), improvisational live electronics, 1995

Surface en rotation, fixed media, 1997

to touch a snake from the inside (sound installation), 2003 the opposite direction..., fixed media (4 tracks), 2004

Electronic waves, fixed media, 2005

Homage to J. C., fixed media, 2006

four seasons (sound installation), 2008

Chopin Air (sound installation), 2010

free for(m) macwin No. 1, live electronics, 2011

free for(m) macwin No. 2, live electronics, 2012


Social / unsocial (performance–film installation), 2005

scratches of memory I, computer, film, 2006

scratches of memory II, 2 pianos, computer, film, 2006


Amator – Camera Buff, 1979 (Krzysztof Kieślowski)

The Phantom, 1984 (Marek Nowicki)

Bird of Paradise, 1987 (Marek Nowicki)

Bird Science (Jerzy Kalina)

Double Stumble (Piotr Bikont)

Fingers on Fire (animation; Daniel Szczechura)

Flying Hair (animation; Piotr Dumała)

Tie (Krzysztof Lang)

SCORES FOR SILENT FILMS (collaborations with Pociąg towarowy):

Schatten – Eine nächtliche Halluzination, 1993 (for Schatten – Eine nächtliche Halluzination by Arthur Robison)

Orlacs Hände, 1996 (for Orlacs Hände by Robert Wiene)

Faust – eine deutsche Volkssage, 1998 (for Faust – eine deutsche Volkssage by Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau)

Aelita, 2000 (for Aelita by Yakov Protazanov)

Eden, 2001 (for Eden [animation] by Andrzej Czeczot)

Master exercises, live electronics, 2009 (for What Shall We Do with Our Old?; The Girl and Her Trust; Those Awful Hats; The Mothering Heart; A Corner in Wheat; The Country Doctor; and The Painted Lady, all by D. W. Griffith)