Niki Zohdi

University of Leeds, UK;


Compositions from 2021 to the present explore the concept of proximity through multiple methods and typologies of collision and combination. Proximity is a loose term that describes many of my approaches – especially when related to my use of early musical material, Renaissance compositional technique, and types of instrumental playing techniques. Another way of describing proximity is through ‘distance’, or the distance of a composition from an original source or general ‘convention’. In the context of my compositional approach, this refers to two primary typologies and one secondary typology: the distance from an original source material; the distance from general conventions of instrumental playing technique; the adaptation of historical compositional techniques within a contemporary musical context. The last typology in this list concerns proximity by exploring how relationships to and applications of historical compositional techniques adapt into contemporary contexts and the distance they have from the original usage of the techniques. Collision, like proximity, is a loose term interchangeable with combination and the levels in which collision or combination work are numerous, from local-level materiality to extra-musical-level combinations of seemingly contrasting practices. In other words, I use methods of collision and/or combination to create pieces that explore proximity through distance. This presentation will analyse the process of my bass clarinet solo Occulta Scientia Siderum (2021) which takes material from John Dunstable’s 15th century motet Ascendit Christus as its source material. I will describe how I use different levels of parametric construction densities and monophonic polyphony to fluctuate and control the level of proximity to the source material, as well as refer to the adaption of and reference to techniques typically used by composers in the English Countenance. Finally, I will go onto discuss whether this approach worked in exploring proximity; the specific limitations of the process; and the more recent avenues that have been investigated using derivations of this process.

Keywords: Collision; Proximity; Middle ground; Superimposition; Palimpsest; Erasure.


Niki Zohdi is a composer, tenor and conductor born in Blackburn, England. He completed his music undergraduate degree and composition master’s degree at Goldsmiths under the tutelage of Roger Redgate. Niki is currently a practice-led PhD researcher in composition at the University of Leeds supervised by Mic Spencer and Martin Iddon, exploring the concepts of collision and proximity in his music. He has also received tuition in composition from Chaya Czernowin. His music has been performed, workshopped and recorded in the UK, Europe and Israel by the Ligeti string quartet, Carlos Cordeiro, and Seth Josel amongst others.