Alexander Shchetynsky: Know Yourself

April 30, 2022 / ISCM

Alexander Shchetynsky (b. 1960) is a Ukrainian composer born and based in Kharkiv. At the age of about 30, he developed his personal post-serial style based on combination of quasi-serial procedures and special attention to attractiveness of sound material and to melody as a source of expression. Another fundamental feature of his music is its rhythmic, structural and formal flexibility, which provokes feeling of “self-development” of initial micro-thematic patterns. The idea of modern spirituality became an impulse for many his vocal and instrumental compositions. Since 1989, his compositions have been performed at numerous concerts in Europe and North America, presented at such festivals as Almeida in London, Fribourg Festival Of Sacred Music (Switzerland), Tage Fur Neue Musik in Zurich, Lerchenborg Music Days (Denmark), Bonner Herbst, Internationales Festival fur Neue Musik in Heidelberg, Sacro Art in Loccum (Germany), International Gaudeamus Music Week in Amsterdam, Presences in Paris, Musikforum Viktring-Klagenfurt (Austria), Warsaw Autumn, Moscow Autumn, Contrasts in Lviv (Ukraine), Melos-Ethos in Bratislava a.o. His music was broadcasted by Radio France, BBC, Radio Suisse Romande, Danmarks Radio, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Austrian TV and Radio Service, Polskie Radio 2. Naxos has issued a portrait CD devoted to his choral music. A graduate of the Kharkiv Art Institute, Shchetynsky later taught there, teaching composition and instrumentation as well as a special course in techniques of contemporary music. He was also among the organizers of several contemporary music festivals in Ukraine and Russia. Since 1997, he has a member of the Art Council of the International Contemporary Music Festival Contrasts in Lviv, Ukraine.

Shchetynsky describes his 2003 composition Know Yourself (Usnay Sebe) as a “Symphony for Unaccompanied Mixed Choir.” The piece is a setting of texts by the 18th century Ukrainian poet and Christian mystical philosopher Hryhoriy Skovoroda (1722-1794). According to the composer, “Skovoroda’s philosophical writings strike not only with their universality and profundity but also with their emotional and intellectual tension. In his texts lofty philosophical abstraction is intimately related to everyday life. Out-of-body mysticism is shaded in warm and sincere love for the human being. This gave me the chance to search for the sound equivalent to the meditations of the philosopher. It turned out that his scientific texts proved an inexhaustible potential for musical images.” Know Yourself was first performed on 5 May 2006 at the 4th Festival of Contemporary Sacred Music in Uzhhorod, Ukraine, with the Cantus Chamber Choir of Uzhhorod conducted by Emil Sokach, the performers involved in the recording embedded below.




The International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM) is a premier forum for the advancement, dissemination and interchange of new music from around the world. Through ISCM, our members promote contemporary music in all its varied forms, strengthening musical life in their local contexts and making their music and its creators known to world.