Ascetic Discourse

Ascetic Discourse is a chamber music cantata written 2012 for the New European Ensemble from the Netherlands (den Haag), Carina Vinke – mezzo-soprano, and Christian Karlsen – conductor.


The main theme of the piece is penetrating with the reality in a more intimate level trough a deep contemplation – it is about the meditative transfiguration by simplifying our life and removing all the unnecessary, false values and worldly concerns and being in peace closed out from the world:

The music is inspired by contemplative text of Abba Philimon, taken from an old Byzantine spiritual collection called “Philokalia” and it musically mirrors a peaceful unison singing from the Valamo monastery. The principal core of musical ideas lies in a total reconstruction of our comprehension of the sounding world, a deep cognition of all creation. The beauty is found in simplicity, in unison simplicity. This piece is not minimalistic, not drone, not meant to be develop-able, there is not any need to be out in the world. It is a hesychastic hymn of apophatic character, my need to create music that descends deep in to the silence and finds there the sweetness of the hart, music without time.

Text basis

Ascetic Discourse on Abba Philimon, cca. fifth cent. AC. The text is taken from the English version of the Philokalia, published by Faber&Faber. Translation from Old Greek by Timothy Ware.

• You must purify your intellect completely through stillness and engage it ceaselessly in spiritual work.
• Above all, guard the intellect and be watchful, patiently enduring indigence and hardship, and keeping intact and undisturbed the spiritual blessings that you have been granted. Pay strict attention to yourself, not allowing any sensual pleasure to infiltrate.
• You have to divorce your self from the whole world and sunder your soul’s affection for the body. You have to become citiless, homeless, possessionless, free from avarice, from worldly concerns and society, humble, compassionate, good, gentle, still, ready to receive in your heart the stamp of divine knowledge.
• What is the mystery of contemplation?
• When the intellect is completely pure, God reveals to him the visions that are granted to the ministering powers and angelic hosts.
• Pay strict attention to your heart. You will be able to contemplate spiritually the angelic choirs, the splendour of the dominions, the spiritual powers, principalities and authorities, the unapproachable light, and the refulgent glory.
• Let our desire be to attain the summit of the virtues, and not to remain earth-bound and attached to the passions. For the person engaged in spiritual struggle who has drawn close to God, delights in the Lord with a spiritual joy. The radiance of divine beauty is wholly inexpressible.
• A soul purified from the world and free from the defilements of the flesh will win the crown of righteousness and shine with the beauty of virtue.


Ascetic Discourse is awarded by prestigious Mokranjac Prize 2012 – Serbian State annual award as the best work written by Serbian composer in 2012. The motivation is following:

Ascetic Discourse, a cantata for mezzo-soprano and chamber ensemble, is a generously designed and substantially diverse music that is characterized by multi-directional communication, both with the modern trends, as well as the ancient, traditional sources of inspiration and musical thought. The text of father Philimon taken from the old Byzantine collection of spiritual texts “Philokalia” has profoundly defined his colorful, delicate, innovative and emotionally experienced music. Djuro Zivkovic sovereignly rules with the modern musical techniques, which stand deep in the function of his artistic individuality that possesses a finished aesthetic style. Ascetic Discourse is a work of music that establishes a step forward into the new and authentic Serbian and in European contemporary music.

Zorica Premate.

The characteristics

Technical instructions

The music is written spatially. One tick above the system represents one conductor’s beat. It means that only those beats that fall on the tick must be played on the beat. All other notes shall be played proportionally to the reference beats (ticks), as accurate as possible. However, there should always be a feeling of improvisation in the performance. The long line connected to the notes – the beam – represents the continuous sound, without a break (rest).


“Ascetic Discourse” – the first page.

Used techniques

The following special techniques are used in the piece:

  • bariolage
  • multiple trill
  • unison playing (on a single instrument, in two or three voices)
  • byzantine ornaments
  • z-bisbigliando
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