talking to Djuro Zivkovic – 24/9/2013

On the 29th of September, we’ll play Djuro Zivkovic’s “On the Guarding of the Heart” at Logen in Bergen (Norway). Djuro will also accompany us on a Bit Lounge, the new post-concert event which is part of the Bit20 season. Here is a short interview with Djuro. For more information on his works, please check his website



> Djuro, we’ll play your “On the Guarding of the Heart” with Bit20 in Bergen on the 29th of September. Where does the title of the piece come from and what was your inspiration for the work?


At the time when I composed the piece, I started to read a book of the old eastern christian masters called “Philokalia”. It is a very large volume, of about 1200 pages, written in greek, spanning between 4th and 14th century. I was amazed how complex, but also beautiful the christian religion is. When reading the book I began to realize how it is a quite opposite of what we use to know about abrahamic religions in general.

The “Philokalia” means a love-for-beauty or love-for-good in greek, and it is exactly what that book is about. However, it is a very hard-reading book. Some meanings took for me months to understand.

The point of the book is very simple but extremely dense. The incarnate God, Christ, teaches us that the love toward the every man and every thing is the only way we have to act in this world. As parents have an endless love for their children, so we should love everyone, every human we can see, even all unknown, died and all future born. We should love them with all our heart, and love endlessly even all who do wrong to us. And to continue – even to love a stone or a tree… all visible and invisible be it alive or not.

To achieve it we should examine ourselves constantly. As it stays numerous times in the Philokalia, we should pay attention to our inner kingdom, the heart. Finally said: we should “guard our heart” and notallowing any wrong things to enter into it.

The piece is a sound painting of the Philokalia and also of a self examination. It consists of numerous layers of emotions, thoughts, soul’s experiences and other inexpressible movements. Technically I tried to paint it by pushing the compositional setting of the music (well, just composing) toward the improvisation. It made me a lot of trouble on the beginning. But it is not improvisation in that meaning, but rather as a time manipualtion, different time dimensions at the same time, or finally a complete frozen time.

I had also idea of having many equalizers, like one found on stereo, so that I push them up and down. Sometimes to the extremes. In a way it is very debussyan.

Some people find my recent music sound like the spectral. I would say I never think in any frames. I just want to write that what I experience, and as more I isolate myself from others I find it sounding better.


> You’re still very young as a composer. Who were your main influences when you started out composing?

On the real beginning, it was Vivaldi and Bach. I am still influenced by them. However, my entrance in to, what we call, the modern music was influenced by Shostakovich. I still believe he is one of the greatest composers of the 20th century.


> Their is a strong microtonal element in your music. Is there some influence of  traditional eastern european music?

On the beginning, it was. Right now the traditional music, which I adore very much, is much more woven and hidden. It is re-packed in other layers.

The microtonality is now a part of – improvisation.


> Apart from composing, you’re also an instrumentalist. Do you still get to play a lot?

I do try, but there are so many things I would like to do in my life. But we can’t manage everything. Of course when an opportunity arises I play in public. I enjoy playing for myself: my favorite happenings at home is playing entire pieces (well, not perfectly). Lately I practiced viola for a concert, and I started up days by playing complete Six cello Suites by Bach. It is really inspiring. I liked playing entires Bach for years…

I played Bartok’s Second concerto, but only the piece I never had nerves in my life is his Solosonata.

Unfortunately, not so many composers are players. Recently I read a biography of Scriabin. It is so fantastic to see how composers and musicians lived in complete – the Music. It is very rare today that a composer says to the friends and family members “hey, come over tonight, we will have a beer and I will play my first symphony on the piano”.


> You’re serbian, but living in Stockholm. What took you to Sweden?

Studies. A friend of mine studied contrabass in Stockholm and recommended the school. I just tried, liked and – stayed here.


> What music do you listen to, at the moment?

Bach is always on my playlist. It is astonishing how it never gets worn. We know how it sounds but we experience it anew and anew.

I listen recently a lot of plain chant from Russia and old folk music from various countries. I enjoy Prokofiev very much at the moment, my old love.



> What are your next plans in terms of composing?

Now I am finishing a cello concerto. Than I have to work on a string quartet for Klangforum and an ensemble piece for a french ensemble.



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