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Tibor Szemző (born 1955, Budapest, Hungary) is a Hungarian composer, performer, media artist. His pieces often include spoken texts, film and other media. He creates installations and composes music for his own and others’ films. Ever since the beginning of his career, he has been performing actively and widely in Hungary and abroad as well.
Szemző was born in Budapest, into a middle class family, declassed as a result of World War II and socialism. His family originates from former Upper Hungary. His musical training was conducted in accordance with the Kodály method. He attended an elementary school that specialised in music. Originally he studied fine mechanics at high school that he abandoned at the age of 17 to dedicate all of his time to instrumental studies. He completed the Bartók Béla Conservatory in two years and later studied at the Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music (1976–79). He earned a Media Design degree at the Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design (2014) and pursued a DLA from the Hungarian Academy of Fine Arts (2017).
Group 180 was founded in 1979 and was active until 1989. It was started by Szemző and his fellow students, friends (László Melis, András Soós, László Gőz). Group 180 played a prominent role in the distribution of international contemporary repetitive music in Hungary and disseminated Hungarian contemporary music abroad. The group achieved a remarkable domestic and international career. (During the ten years of its existence, the Group worked with such major figures of the genre as Frederic Rzewski, Steve Reich, Terry Riley, Alvin Curran, Phill Niblock, Arnold Dreyblatt, Peter Kotik or László Vidovszky.)
In addition, Szemző began his solo career in 1983. Besides his pieces composed for Group 180 in this period, he created Water Wonder, a piece involving live electronics.
From 1987 to 2003, London-based Leo Records  released his recordings, occasionally in co-operation with Hungary-based Bahia Records. His first solo release was Snapshot from the Island in 1987.
His interest in cinematography was inspired by his ever-lasting collaboration with media artist Péter Forgács (Group 180’s former narrator) and started with the compositions written for Forgács's films. Szemző began to create individual, music-based films in 1985, which is constantly present in his activity.
In 1986/87 he founded Fodderbasis, an open music ensemble.The group's projects were partly multimedia events. They produced some publications, in connection with Forgács’s films.
In 1996, Szemző launched the Gordian Knot Creative Music Laboratory, which operated until 2007.
His highly successful and award-winning film was made about the life of Sándor Kőrösi Csoma, pilgrim, linguist and tibetologist. The film, titled A Guest of Life – Alexander Csoma de Kőrös (1999-2006) is a intermix animation film and 8mm footage. Both the movie and its stage version are starred by actresses Susannah York and Mari Törőcsik. The direct antecedents of the film were the Invisible Story (1996-2000) based on Béla Hamvas’ prose and The Other Shore (Japan, 1996). Other prominent pieces in Szemző’s oeuvre are Tractaus based on Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1991-1995), the film Free Fall (1996), the Free Fall Oratorio (CD, 1999), and »K«Engravings, a multimedia-series on Franz Kafka, covering the ten-year cycle between 2008 and 2018.
His regular co-operating partners include the Agon Orchestra from Prague, the Moyzes Quartet from Bratislava, Jenő Oláh’s and János Sándor’s Folk Ensemble, the Amadinda Percussion Group, the Moving House Company, the Moments Notice Trio, the Danubius Quartet, the Polish Teatr Ósmego Dnia association, the Opus Posth from Moscow and the Polish Camerata Vistula chamber music ensemble.
Since the early 80s, according to the typical art practice of the era, Szemző's musical activity has been open to other arts (especially literature and fine arts, besides cinematography and theatre), often experimented with the boundaries of different art forms. He has taken part in or created numerous performances. He also creates installations. He regularly worked together with the members of the Vajda Lajos Studio of Szentendre, and with János Szirtes, with whom he was also a member of the New Modern Acrobatics performance group (1987-1991). Szemző often worked with fine and oboe artist Gábor Roskó, as well as with fine artist Tamás Waliczky in the early 90s. In his creations, verbality, speech sound, multilingualism, and motion picture play an essential role in a close unity.
Music Compositions, Multimedia Pieces
- »K«Engravings 2008-2018 Nineteen Multimedia Composition for human voices, various instruments, and films (text by Franz Kafka)
- Earth Time 2017 installation for film and video projectors, human voices, and music (text by Danilo Kiš)
- Early Sorrows 2015 piece for radio, text by Danilo Kiš, script: Gábor Németh, requested by the Hungarian Radio
- Hourglass 2014 text by Danilo Kiš, for instruments and human voices
- Stonewall Cake 2013 cinematic music performance
- The Message – dr Kafka’s Last Love 2013 cinematic theater performance script: András Forgách, requested by the Palace of Arts Budapest
- An Imperial Message – 2010/11 piece for radio, text by Franz Kafka, script: András Forgách, requested by the Hungarian Radio
- CSOMA – a cinematic opera 2008 for human voices, storyteller and chamber orchestra, with film screening, text by László Sári, requested by ERA New Horizons (Wroclaw, Poland) and Palace of Arts Budapest
- Hamlet 2007 chamber opera for three voice and small ensemble (text: W. Shakespeare) requested by National Theater, Szeged, Hungary
- What Do You See? 2005 for chamber ensemble and the voice of Géza Ottlik, requested by the Hungarian Radio
- Csoma-Legendry (script by László Sári) 2004 for chamber ensemble and human voices (requested by the Hungarian Radio)
- Danube Exodus: The Rippling Currents Of The River 2002 with Péter Forgács, Getty Museum, Los Angeles
- Arboretuum 2002 for chamber ensemble and voices (requested by Off Dance Company)
- South Of No North – The Children of the Kosovo War 2001, ten movements for various instruments and human voices
- The Invisible Story 1996-2000 7 sketches for the text of Béla Hamvas 1996-2000 for mixed ensemble and human voice
- The Other Shore 1997 multimedia performance for narrators, chamber ensemble and films (shooting of The Other Shore)
- Free Fall with Péter Forgács 1996 video-oratorio
- Way Through? 1996 for 8mm phone, voice and bass flute, with moving pictures
- Symultan 1995-96 for human voices and various sounds
- Tractatus 1991-95 for human voice, musicians and narrators
- 33 Movements For String Quartet And Other Instruments 1994 for string quartet and various instruments
- Snap Two 1993 for bass flute, voice and electronics
- Gull 1992 choral variation for string quartet and tabla
- Quintet 1992 for table acrobat and string quartet
- Wittgenstein Tractatus 1991-92 with Péter Forgács 7 video movements
- Doppelkonzert 1989-91 installation-concerto for two performers, computer-driven synthesizers and radios requested by Soros Center/Budapest, Museum Moderner Kunst/Vienna
- Skullbase Fracture No.2. 1989 music / installation for 5 performers, Gypsy band, narrator and TV, cameraman and video (requested by Ars Electronica Festival ’89)
- Private Exits 1988-89 soundscapes for six performers and home movies, premiered at the Wiener Festwochen ’89 / Töne und Gegentöne, Vienna
- Private Hungary 1988 for 8mm phone, voice, flute and electronics, and home movies premiered at the Ars Electronica ’88 Festival (Linz Austria) with Péter Forgács
- Optimistic Lecture (In Memoriam Miklós Erdély) 1988 concertino for record-player and mixed ensemble
- Poisoned Idyll 1987 music installation for five Gypsy band
- Snapshot From The Island 1986 for bass flute and voice, tapes and electronics (with the home movies of Private Film Archive, Budapest)
- Watermusic 1985 installation for Gypsy band in small rowboats on the City Lake of Budapest
- Skullbase Fracture (text by P.Havliček) 1984 for narrator and TV, chamber ensemble and Gypsy band
- Traintrip 1983 for 21 instruments
- Water-Wonder 1982-83 for flutes and tape delay
- The Sex Appeal Of Death (In Memoriam T. Hajas) 1981 for chamber ensemble and child narrator
Music/Soundscapes for Films
- 1945 2017 (Ferenc Török)
- We’d Laugh Together, Fool Around And Go Swimming – Mr. Kafka’s Last Smile 2014 (Tibor Szemző)
- The Tip of the Iceberg – sketch 2011 (Tibor Szemző)
- The Sex Appeal Of Death 1990/2010 (Tibor Szemző)
- Invisible Story 2009 (Tibor Szemző)
- Another Planet 2007 (Ferenc Moldoványi)
- A Guest of Life – Alexander Csoma De Körös 2006 (Tibor Szemző)
- Shonenko – Emerald Horizon 2005 (Shuhei Fujita)
- What There Is 2005 (Tibor Szemző)
- El Perro Negro 2002 (Péter Forgács)
- Children – Kosovo 2000 (Ferenc Moldoványi)
- Heroine 2000 (Mona Mechler)
- Sunset On Left 2000 (András Fésős)
- Angelos Film 1999 (Péter Forgács)
- Paragraph 175 1999 (Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman)
- Danube Exoduses 1998 (Péter Forgács)
- Kádár’s Kiss 1997 (Péter Forgács)
- Maalstroom 1997 (Péter Forgács)
- Class Lot 1997 (Péter Forgács)
- The Way 1996 (Ferenc Moldoványi)
- Free Fall 1996 (Péter Forgács and Tibor Szemző)
- The Land Of None 1996 (Péter Forgács)
- Uran 1995 (László L. Lugo)
- Polio / The Last World 1995 (Ádám Csillag)
- Meanwhile Somewhere/Unknown War No. 5. 1994 (Péter Forgács)
- Notes Of A Lady 1993 (Péter Forgács)
- Simply Happy 1993 (Péter Forgács and Alfred Wulffers)
- CUBA 1993 (Tibor Szemző)
- Civil Diary 1992 (Péter Forgács)
- Wittgenstein Tractatus 1992 (Péter Forgács)
- D. Film 1991 (Péter Forgács)
- The Sons Of The Sun 1991 (Yussuph Antal)
- Diary Of Mr.N. 1990 (Péter Forgács)
- Either-or 1990 (Péter Forgács)
- Meteo/The Dreams Of Eckermann 1989 (András Monory M.)
- About The Pictupes Of The Light 1989 (Miklós Peternák)
- Siberian Summer 1989 (András Dér)
- Dusi & Jenő 1989 (Péter Forgács)
- Father And Three Sons 1988 (Péter Forgács)
- Skullbase Fracture 1987 (Tibor Szemző)
- K. Venus 1985 (Miklós Peternák)
- Traintrip 1983 (Miklós Erdély)
Music/Performances with Others
- The Hobby of The Woodcutter 2015 with József Tasnádi and Gábor Roskó, Budapest
- SZJ60 2014 with János Szirtes, László feLugossy, Beatrix Simkó, Zsolnay Quarter, Pécs, Hungary
- Barrels 2013 with András Böröcz at Vylyan Cellar, Villány, Hungary
- Stone-Bread 2009 with András Böröcz, Petőfi Literary Museum, Budapest
- Sunyi 1992 with Károly Minyó Szert at Ujlak / Budapest
- Trio 1992 with László feLugossy and János Szirtes at Helsinki / Finland
- Conversations / Interactive Sound And Picture 1991 with Tamás Waliczky at Etampes/France, Szkéné/Budapest (1992)
- Bones 1990 with János Szirtes and Péter Magyar at Hungarian Institut Sofia/Bulgaria
- Deathful Delay 1989 with Iván Angelus at Budapest, Salzburg, Berlin East/West
- Private Hungary 1988 with Péter Forgács at Ars Electronica ’88/Austria
- Comecon 1985 with Péter Forgács
- Iron Age 1985 with Péter Forgács at Ernst Museum
- Echo 1985 at Műcsarnok/Budapest, with Wolfgang Ernst and János Szirtes and 5 violin players
- Wonder Stag 1984 at Planum Festival, Budapest with János Szirtes and Jenő Menyhárt
- Free Style Swimming 1984 Kossuth Klub/Budapest with János Szirtes
- Plant 1983 with János Szirtes at Budapest and Breitenbrunn/Austria
- Avanti 1983 with János Szirtes
- Passing Sickness 1981 with János Szirtes at KEK/Budapest
Music for Theatre
- Hamlet 2007 chamber opera for three voice and small ensemble requested by National Theater, Szeged, Hungary, directed by Péter Horváth)
- Arboretuum 2002 for chamber ensemble and voices (requested by Off Dance Company)
- Cekhov: The Gull 1992 theater piece (dir. István Bálint)
- Another Snap 1988 for dance performance (Elisa Monte Dance Company / NYC)
- Let’s Go Out And Dance 1985 for shadowplay (Iván Angelus)
- Mirrors 1982 for dance theater (Iván Angelus)
- »K«engravings LP + films, 2018 Fodderbasis FOB 62
- A Guest of Life-Alexander Csoma de Körös DVD 2008, Fantasy Film
- South Of No North CD 2003, Leo Records/Kbazovsky House CD LR 361
- The Danube ExodusCD 2002, Leo Records/Kbazovsky House CD LR 352
- Invisible Story CD 2001, Leo Records CD LR 311
- Sunset on Left CD 2000, Bahia Music CDB 071
- Another Shore CD (Angels as Pilots Anthology) 2000 Angel Lab, Austria
- Free Fall Oratorio CD 2000, author's edition, Fodderbasis FOB 021
- The Other Shore CD 1999, Leo Records, London/Bahia Music CD LR 281
- Snapshot from the Island CD 1999 Leo Records/Bahia Music CD LR 277
- Tractatus Lullaby 1999 Schrattenberg Anthology, Austria
- Water Wonder CD (Gergely Ittzés: Solos) 1999 Hungaroton HCD 31785
- Relative Things CD 1998, Leo Records, London CD LR 250
- Symultan CD 1997 (Hungarian Soundscapes) Hungarian Radio, HEAR 101
- Tractatus CD 1995, Leo Records, London CD LR 227
- The Sex Appeal Of Death/Airy Wedding CD 1994 (Musicworks Magazine insert) Toronto, Canada
- The Last Hungarian Vinyl SP 1994, Takarmánybázis (Fodderbasis)
- Duo with Martin Groeneweld CD 1984 (Growthrings Anthology) Hermit Foundation, Czech Republic
- The Conscience: Narrative Chamber Pieces CD 1993, 1999 Leo Records/BBS/Bahia Music, London/Budapest CD LR 185
- Ain't Nothing But A Little Bit Of Music For Moving Pictures CD 1992 TomK Records/BBS, Prague, Czechoslovakia
- Sub-Carpathia CD (Looking East/Electronic East) 1981 Erdenklang, West-Germany
- Meteo/The Dreams of Eckermann LP 1990 Hunnia (with János Másik)
- Private Exits LP 1989 HPS
- Snapshot from the Island LP 1987, CD 1999 Leo Records, London
- Water Wonder No.1. LP,CD (Group 180) 1983 Hungaroton, SLPX HCD 12545
- Tiszta lap / Clean Slate – Lord's Voice (directed by László feLugossy, János Szirtes, 2002)
- Aranymadár / Golden Bird – Narrator (directed by István Szaladják, 1999)
- Önuralom /Self-Control (directed by László feLugossy,1988)
- Festival d'automne à Paris 1981
- New Music America '86, Houston
- Wiener Festwochen '88
- Ars Electronica '88 and '89, Linz, Austria
- Music Now from Hungary '94, Yokohama, Japan
- Warsaw Autumn Festival '95, Poland
- Unsung Music '96 and 2000, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London
- Prague New Music Marathon ’96,’98, 2000
- Angelica 2000, Bologna, Italia
- San Francisco Jewish Film Festival
- Alternativa 2001, Moscow
- Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 2002
- Tribeca Film Festival, NYC 2007
- Kolkata International Film Festival 2007, India
- Buddhist International Film Festival 2009, Barbican Center, London
- Palace of Arts Budapest 2009, 2013
- "TIBOR SZEMZŐ". szemzo.org. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
- Members of Szemző Quartet were János Kálnai, Gábor Kölűs, Ferenc Körmendy, Tibor Szemző and later Tamás Tóth
- Members of Group 180 included Béla Faragó, Péter Forgács, László Gőz, László Hortobágyi, Ferenc Kovács, János Kálnai, Ferenc Körmendy, István Mártha, László Melis, Éva Posvanecz, Klára Schnierer, Ferenc Simon, András Soós, Kinga Székely, Tibor Szemző, Gellért Tihanyi, Tamás Tóth, László D. Vörös
- "I CARE IF YOU LISTEN MAGAZINE – TIBOR SZEMZŐ". szemzo.org. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
- leorecords.com, Copyright (2001-2018) by. "LEO RECORDS: Artist List, keyword Szemzo". www.leorecords.com. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
- "Bahia Music". Discogs. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
- "Tibor Szemző - Snapshot From The Island". Discogs. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
- Tamás Korányi, "Taking the Part for the Whole: Some Thoughts Inspired by the Film Music of Tibor Szemzö", translated by David Robert Evans, in Bill Nichols; Michael Renov, eds. (2011-12-02). Cinema's Alchemist: The Films of Péter Forgács. U of Minnesota Press. pp. 222–28. ISBN 9780816648740. Retrieved 25 June 2012.
- "index". www.forgacspeter.hu. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
- Gábor Gelencsér: Film Island: The Music Pictures of Tibor Szemző. In: Benjamin Meade (ed.): Experimental Film: The Missing Frame. Avila University Press, Kansas City, 2010, 118–140.
- "Avila University Press publishes book on experimental film". www.avila.edu. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
- The members of Fodderbasis included Péter Forgács, László Gőz, László Hortobágyi, Kinga Székely, Gellért Tihanyi, Tamás Tóth
- The group originally operated as a trio with Péter Magyar, Tibor Szemző and Tamás Tóth as members. Later it transformed and expanded to a larger ensemble with Ildikó Fodor, Mihály Huszár, Szabolcs Keresteš, László Kéringer, Péter Magyar, Tibor Szemző, T. Bali, Tamás Tóth as members. The group often performed with guest artists.
- A Guest of Life: Alexander Csoma De Körös, retrieved 2018-11-11
- Horyzonty, Stowarzyszenie Nowe. "17. MFF T-Mobile Nowe Horyzonty - Gość życia". www.nowehoryzonty.pl. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
- "A Guest of Life (2007) - Tibor Szemzo | Synopsis, Characteristics, Moods, Themes and Related | AllMovie". AllMovie. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
- "Szemzó Tibor* - Hamvas Béla, Gordiusi Čomó* / The Gordian Knot Company* - Láthatatlan Történet / Invisible Story". Discogs. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
- "Tibor Szemző, The Gordian Knot Company*, Moyzes Quartet, Péter Szalai - The Other Shore - Various Compositions 1992 - 97". Discogs. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
- "Tibor Szemző - Tractatus". Discogs. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
- "Films - Free Fall". www.forgacspeter.hu. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
- "Tibor Szemző, Péter Forgács / The Gordian Knot Company* - Örvény Oratórium / Free Fall Oratorio". Discogs (in Japanese). Retrieved 2018-11-14.
- "K.engravings – Szemző/Kafka project". kafka.szemzo.hu. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
- "Franz Kafka and the emperor's new clothes". www.hlo.hu. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
- Members of New Modern Acrobatics included István efZámbó, László feLugossy, Tibor Szemző, János Szirtes, László "Gazember" Waszlavik and on some occasions, Péter Magyar
- "Tibor Szemző: Tractatus | 25 January 1996 – TIBOR SZEMZŐ". szemzo.org. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
- "Sex-Appeal des Todes | September 1993 – TIBOR SZEMZŐ". szemzo.org. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
- "On the edge – Less is the new more | 24 January 2003 – TIBOR SZEMZŐ". szemzo.org. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
- Tiszta lap, retrieved 2018-11-14
- Aranymadár (in Hungarian), 1999, retrieved 2018-11-14
- bbsarchiv.hu. "BBSARCHIV". bbsarchiv.hu. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
- "Live Music at Jewish Film Festival | 19 July 2000 – TIBOR SZEMZŐ". szemzo.org. Retrieved 2018-11-14.