Sergej Tchirkov

Co-Creating Virtuosity

University of Bergen, Faculty of Fine Art, Music and Design, The Grieg Academy - Department of Music

Who or what is responsible for the emergence of meaning in a musical work? Despite the paradigmatic shift towards an expanded creative role for performers, supported by substantial body of research on collaborative practice (Lüneburg 2013; Östersjö 2008; Torrence 2018; Roe 2018; Taylor 2016), the creative responsibilities of composers and performers are frequently viewed from a hierarchy-based perspective.


The motivation behind my research is to reassess the notions inherent to power relations within the Western classical musical canon (De Assis 2018; Rink et al. 2018; D’Errico 2018; Goehr 1992) and to develop a methodology for approaching music as a shared creative activity – “a shared framework for moment- to- moment experience” (Cook 2018, 21). Specifically, my project aims to explore the role and relevance of virtuosity within the context of co-creation1.


Is virtuosity simply a reference to technical prowess and the ability to provide “error-free” performance? Or it is a force that is implied by the structure of a composition and informs the performers corporeal-performative experience and their embodied knowledge of their instruments? And if so, how does this force affect the composer's experience embodied in the score and how does it inform the performer's strategies at the moment of performance?


Based on my review of relevant theoretical studies, as well as on my experience of working collaboratively with composers, I argue that virtuosity is not merely an indication of technical proficiency, but a co-creative agency that allows the performer to develop their “music-instrumental knowledge” (Dogantan-Dack 2015, 171). Thus, the notion of virtuosity is inherent in every performance. In other words, virtuosity is for the benefit of the many, not a privilege reserved for the few.

The questions that I refer to in the abstract could be exemplified with the following video of my performance (credit: Francisco Corthey, Estamos bien, pero tiemblo, 2022).

Sergej Tchirkov (*1980, St. Petersburg) is accordion performer, curator and researcher based in Bergen.

His interest in new music has led him to numerous collaborations with composers, such as Pierluigi Billone, Hanna Eimermacher, José María Sánchez Verdú, Ivan Fedele, Tamara Friebel, Klaus Lang, Dmitri Kourliandski, Elena Rykova, Dieter Schnebel, Alfred Zimmerlin, Gérard Zinsstag, Ida Lunden, Sergej Newski, Thomas Kessler and more. Around 300 works for accordion have been premiered by Tchirkov.

Sergej Tchirkov has performed with leading European orchestras under Teodor Currentzis, Titus Engel, Wladimir Jurowski and Susanne Mälkki, and has been a guest musician of Collegium Novum Zürich, musicAeterna, ensemble Garage Köln, ensemble Interface Frankfurt, KNM Berlin, United Berlin, ENMZ, Batida Genève a.o.

Tchirkov has lectured at many universities of music in Zurich, Geneva, Lucerne, Oslo, Gothenburg, Astana, Kuopio. In 2013 - 2021 he was deputy artistic director of the Studio for New Music ensemble and university lecturer in contemporary music at Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory.

He currently works as a PhD research fellow in artistic research at the University of Bergen, Department of Fine Arts, Music and Design, the Grieg Academy.

His most recent curatorial and artistic activities include anti-war concerts in support of refugees and others trapped by wars and conflicts.



Artistic Research Autumn Forum 2023

“And where is the body?”

This presentation focuses on one of the six case studies of my artistic research project. In 2021-23 I collaborated with composer Alfred Zimmerlin. Our co-creative sessions resulted in a large-scale composition “Akkordeonbuch” which was premiered in May 2023.


One of the central aspects of this work is the concept of body. It encompasses the body as a human body, the body as an instrument (a sound body or Klangkörper), as well as the body as a sounding or silent object, and even the body as the absence of a physical presence.

In his article on the role of the body in computer music, Bob Ostertag (2002, 11) suggests that 'the measure of a work of art is whether one can sense in it the presence of the artist's body.' He further relates this to the notion of virtuosity, which he sees as 'what happens when one acquires such facility with an instrument, or with anything physically manipulable, that intelligence and creativity are actually inscribed into the artist’s muscles, bones, blood, skin, and hair.'

Comparing to my previous case studies, in “Akkordeonbuch”, there was a greater emphasis on the body, embodied knowledge, and the role that my body played in the creative process. The concept of this work required research through my own practice, viewed through the lens of a personal relationship with the instrument and an awareness of the co-creative role of the body. Through these reflections, I discovered that, under certain conditions, my embodied knowledge of my instrument can contribute to the formation of composition materials and parameters in advance of the performance.



Ostertag, Bob. 2002. “Human Bodies, Computer Music.” 12: 11–14.

Tchirkov, Sergej. 2023.  “Co-Creating Virtuosity”, Research Catalogue [accessed 04/10/2023]

Artistic Research Autumn Forum 2023

My PhD project “Co-creating Virtuosity” challenges historically problematic notion of virtuosity in music from performer’s perspective and reproposes its concept in the context of non-hierarchical approach to music practice. It aims to explore the social mechanics of interaction between composer, performer, instrument, and score, by bringing forth co-creative model of collaboration.


This presentation focuses specifically on the methodological challenges, and on how they inform the reflections on my project. Initially, my main methodological concern was to identify the set of relationships that frame the performance in real-time. By doing this I intended to create the context for investigation of the role and dialectic nature of virtuosity in this process, seen not as an elitist notion or set of extraordinary skills, but as a force intrinsic to every performance, which is a result of our own instrumental knowledge.


However, in course of my work, I have developed “The Shares Space Model” which allows for an analysis of how my artistic practice intersects with the divergences that arise between what I intended to do within a specific composition and what I actually did. The Shared Space has become my main method and I will briefly illustrate its development based on examples of my co-creative work with composers.


I further would like to outline the challenges related to the reflection and presentation of the results. The compositions developed under the Shared Space model are presented in different environments, different concert situations. The notion of context- and site-specificity is essential for reflecting through own practice on the emergence of musical meaning in the real time. At the same time, it is challenging to present the artistic results in one “final” performance, which raises questions about what aspect of my work counts as reflection and what is limited to mere documentation. This poses a challenge for me, and I would welcome any feedback that my colleagues and peers may provide.