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Zykan, Otto M.locked

  • Lothar Knessl

(b Vienna, April 29, 1935). Austrian composer and pianist. He studied at the Vienna Music Academy, where his teachers included Karl Schiske (composition), Bruno Seidlhofer and Josef Dichler (piano). He also attended the Darmstadt summer courses (1958, 1964–6), winning the Kranichstein Music Prize of the international piano competition on his first visit. In 1965, with Kurt Schwertsik and H.K. Gruber, he founded the neo-tonal and ironically intended Salonkonzerte, through which he hoped to counter a view of ‘music as a substitute religion’. After 1967 the group developed into the MOBart & toneART ensemble, whose productions, linking performance, music and language, related to the ‘instrumental theatre’ movement. Zykan's most characteristic works are his ‘total art productions’, in which processes of permutation extend to movement, sounds and linguistic elements alike, sometimes producing compromise and sometimes distortion, and often reducing critical comment to the absurd. As his creative work has been conceived entirely in relation to the present, a number of his works exist only in a sketch-like draft form. He has mostly dispensed with publication, since the majority of his works depend on his personal interpretation. As a result, a number of compositions have been lost. He has also created TV advertisements for well-known firms.


(selective list)


Schön der Reihe nach (ballet), 1966

Singers Nähmaschine ist die beste (op, or Ode, or Opernode, P. van Ostajien and H.C. Artmann), 1966, Vienna, 1966, rev. as Genoveva und die Meistersinger, 1973

Inszene I (H. Heissenbüttel), cond. + actor, 5vv, 1967

Inszene II (Zykan), actor [Zykan], 4vv, 1968

Inkubation und polemische Arie (A. Schoenberg), spkr + actor [Zykan], 3vv, 3 insts, 1969

Symphonie aus der heilen Welt (szenisches Konzert), solo vv, chorus, orch, 1977, Graz, 1977, rev. 1979

Kunst kommt von Gönnen (op), 1980, Stuttgart, 1980

Inszene III, 8 male vv, tape, 1981

Kunst zum Überleben (performance), 1982

Die Orgel der Barbarei (Zykan, J. Prévert), 4vv, insts, 1984

Engels Engel (szenisches Konzert), Zykan, 2 T, 8 female vv, pfmrs, tape, 1988

Wahr ist, dass der Tiger frisst (choral op), Zykan, chbr chorus, str qt, 2 perc, 1994, Berlin, 1994

incid music, TV and film scores


Op.1, pf, 1942

Suite, clvd, 1956–7 Variationen über ein eigenes Thema, pf, 1956–7

Conc., pf, wind, perc, 1958

Str Qt, 1958

Kryptomnemie, wind ens, 1963

Kammermusik ‘für 12 insts und was daraus wird', ens, 1965

O, Santa Caecilia und andere Pechvögel, fl, pf, 1965

4 Nachtstücke, pf, 1968

5 Aphorismen nach Friedrich Achleitner, eng hn, vib, db, pf, perc, 1971

Koloriertes Klavierstück, 6 insts, 1971

Verborgene Erinnerungen, vib, vc, pf, 1973

Nachtstück für ein Schiff, vc, pf, 1975

Conc., spkr, vn, orch, 1977

Conc., vc, orch, 1982

Vibraphonstück, 1982

Pars pro toto (Chbr Music), 6 rec, 1983

3 Str Qts, spkr, str qt, 1984

Pf Trio, 1996–7

5 recht schöne Stücke, pf; 2 Sätze für MOBart, vib, db, pf

Vocal (texts by Zykan unless otherwise stated)

Hymne AEIOU, SATB, orch, 1966

6 Chansons (Prévert), 1v, pf, 1967

3 Chansons (various), 1v, pf, 1967

Chanson (various), 1v, pf, 1968

Kunst kommt von Gönnen I, vv, orch, 1970–77, rev. 1980

Lehrstück am Beispiel Schönbergs, 3vv, orch, 1974

Ausgesucht Freundliches, 2vv, SATB, orch, 1979

Auszählreim, spkr, 1983

Krüppelsprache (W. Bauer), 5vv, 1984

Fingierte Zusammenhänge/Bilder einer Ausstellung, 1v, chbr SATB, str qt, 2 perc, 1997 [compilation of works from 1967]

Wanderers Nachtlied, SATB, str qt, tape, 1997

Miles Smiles, B, cl, hn, vib, vc, perc; Polemische Arie, 5vv, 3 insts; Räsonier-Terzett, 3 T, orch

Principal publishers: Doblinger, Edition Modern, Reimers


  • KdG (N. Fuhrmann)
  • H. Krones: ‘Otto M. Zykan: Inscene II’, Melos, 49/3 (1987), 89–113
  • M. Schmidt: ‘Wovon man nicht reden kann, davon soll man singen: Sprachkomposition der österreichischen Avantgarde um 1970’, ÖMz, 44 (1994), 372–6
Österreichische Musikzeitschrift
Komponisten der Gegenwart, ed. H.-W. Heister and W.-W. Sparrer