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‘We are inside the Cosmos and the Cosmos is inside us’ – thus ends maestro Kamdzhalov his TV appearance on Stoycho Kerev Show. ‘We are within Time and Time is within us’, ‘We are in God and God is in us’… a felicitous coincidence? Or a sense of unity, born of the flowering of a very particular mental model?
Maestro Kamdjalov’s success in the art of conducting evokes respect, despite his tender years. London, Zurich, Lucerne, Bonn, Berlin, Paris, Tuscany, Boston, New York, Hamburg, Helsinki, Tokyo – these are a few of the international scenes where he performs. After completing his education in Bulgaria he studied conducting in Berlin and then, only 30 years old, was selected unanimously from amongst dozens of experienced candidates, receiving the posts of Primary Musical Director and Primary Orchestral Conductor of Heidelberg’s musical institutions. And it’s not just the formality of technical perfection that fascinate us, it is the striving to go beyond these distinguishable limits – into the realm of the omnipotent invisible side of reality. That is the reason why his performances captivate unconditionally our hearts and minds. His extraordinary visionary zeal finds expression in various projects, such as an entire concert season at Heidelberg called Evolution. Set up in collaboration with Heidelberg’s Institute of Astronomy, it emphasizes a unique dramaturgy, unfolding in an ascending spiral pattern. His latest project bears the emblematic name Genesis Orchestra and has been established, as he states, with the mission to “create pulses in cultural space”. Pulses which unfold deeper or higher layers inside man – the inner power of Spirit, as we are given to believe. And since Bulgaria is a ‘kingdom of Spirit’, as the prominent Russian culturologist Dmitry Likhachev concludes, it is no wonder that once again such impulses spring from its deepest seams towards the world.
About his personal development, conceptual worldview and social relevance Maestro Kamdzhalov shares with us the following lines.
Your surname is a little hard to remember. Can you tell us more about its meaning and origin?
There are numerous interpretations of that name. Some of them even lead to associations with Proto-Bulgarian traditions, but I don’t think I’m qualified enough to give a precise answer. Whatever I say would be fragmentary.
You often talk about the desire of the human soul to create. About the inner fire which accompanies man in all of his activities, giving him motivation to invest the full potential of heart and mind. What were your creative longings as a child? And are they different today or just more specific?
My longings are one and the same, there hasn’t been any change for the last twenty years. I long for the force that resides inside man – to manifest itself and to be put to service. When I was a child I had no actual plans and, accordingly, no creative goals to accomplish. But there came a moment, when I was 13-14 years old, when a feeling of compassion towards people awoke in me. And that new perception made me spur myself on, gave me a new level of organization. Because, it was such a painful burden for that young man to observe all the imbalance around and it turned into the fuel which drove me back then. The only thing I ever wondered about the future was how I could do something useful and if I had the potential to do it in the first place. Something that has meaning. Something that would reduce, at least minimally, suffering in the world.
Did school education, with its modern trend towards memorizing data instead of developing creative thinking, cause you any troubles or could you easily make your way even in such circumstances?
I do not recall having any troubles before the age of 13 and afterwards I was too busy to think about it since I had so many other tasks on my mind. I spent every spare minute playing the piano. I loved my teachers, I loved my subjects – school was the place where I used to relax. Yes, school was a rest for me, hard work began at home. I never experienced any sort of stress or tried to memorize information. I had my own goals to achieve; becoming a musician, learning, growing as a person. I used to read a lot of books outside school. All types of literature, including classics, because I realized the immensity of the road I had chosen and how many gaps in my knowledge and comprehension I needed to fill alone. I never expected to acquire it from school and therefore never had any disappointments. All the expectations were directed towards myself only. So, there were no disappointments at all. The one thing that burdened me, and continues until now, is that it took my time. I felt admiration for the entire set of subjects at school, with special affinity for chemistry, physics, astronomy. My teachers knew this and showed understanding of the fact that I was very busy and did not always have the time to attend classes. My close friendship with these people continues to this day. They realised they had before them an extraordinary, bizarre young man who needed extraordinary conditions. I was lucky to come upon such educators, who stood up for me and realized that this man wanted to write history rather than just get good marks.
How does a mind expand from the confines of our tiny homeland to become a world-class conductor? What were the stages you went through? And your driving force?
Life is like a track that climbs upwards. And though it seems there are stages that’s merely a deception. Actually, everything is gradual and from time to time we notice the leap which has been made. But you can call it a leap only if you’re not familiar with its background. Behind each leap lies extremely solid preparation, work, dedication, purposefulness, ideal, self-criticism, an exacting attitude towards oneself, an endless interest in the world, in the specificity of things… All was initially fueled by that compassion we talked about and which we need to gradually fine-tune and turn into Love. Love is the highest stimulus. Love is the greatest power in the world. And this way – from compassion to love – is a way that has been trodden symbolically in both cultural and historical terms from Buddhism to Christianity.
How was your unique mathematical system for transforming the musical works you conduct into structures of eighths born and shaped? How do you visualize mathematics in music? And how does that help you in conducting?
The system started to develop in 2007. It has been developing ever since. Yes, such mathematical interpretation of a musical form is something of exceptional value in gaining an overview of a certain work. In order to be a true pilot, a true mountain guide, one must know the paths perfectly. One should be able to recognize them from above, flying on board a helicopter, recognize them from the inside and in the dark as well. And without this total view of shape and content this cannot happen. The conductor has a leading function – he directs. You cannot lead others if you haven’t walked the road yourself.
The motivation is to strengthen and intensify communication with people. I found out that as this contact gets stronger and more intensive, the results get better. The moment I discerned this truth I started thinking about what could be done in order to increase communication. How can you be entirely with people instead of just with the score? How can you inspire things just as they happen? How can you outrun events? How can you possess that bird’s eye view from above and at the same time this super-precise view of details? The combination between a spectacular helicopter panorama and close examination with a magnifying glass as an organic whole was the goal I needed to pursue so that I could allow myself to completely focus on communication during the musical process. That was the driving force behind the quest for a brand new learning system.
As a methodological basis the system isn’t so distant and unfamiliar, but I’m grateful for the extreme degree to which I was able to exploit it over the years. It appears that the conception of shape and numerical ratios – the numerical equivalent, is something that optimizes itself in parallel with human mental development. Looking at my own translation code a year, two years or five years later, I see almost every time the imperfections in it and optimize it accordingly.
Your latest project, Genesis Orchestra, apart from its emblematic name also has quite a meaningful abbreviation – GO. What do you wish to initiate in the public arena via this project?
An impulse for a new type of communication, for a new stage in cultural space, an impulse for movement, for development, for bringing people together, so they can feel, think and act in unity. Genesis orchestra and The Musical Laboratory of Man have been created with the purpose of producing new pulses in public and cultural space. They have been created to serve and to take their positions on the frontline where the battle for Man’s elevation is being fought.
Why did you choose Wagner and Beethoven for the beginning? What made them stand out in your consciousness?
They are two absolute multi-geniuses of humanity – ultra idealists, hyper conceptualists. The cathartic beginning and liberation via love of Wagner and that struggle, that overcoming of human nature on the way to the superhuman, ecstatic in Beethoven – these are the cornerstones to which I have always been attracted.
You often underline the issue of trust in human relationships as a key to creating an environment in which the inner person is able to thrive. Are we heading in that direction as a society or will ‘the Left and the Right’ continue to exclude one another? And for how long?
Yes, trust takes a central place in any form of communication, in any interaction. The best ways to test it are collective processes and especially music – in that vast collective singing or playing. Society is divided into two polarized positions; hyper trust from one side and hyper distrust from the other. That matches many other aspects and motions in society. It’s the natural order of things, at least for the current stage, simply because we can’t have polarization on so many planes and not have it in regard to trust. Creating trust is a reflection of the spiritual processes between people. It’s impossible to achieve it by extrinsic pathways. Trust is an inner process and its dilemma will be resolved as soon as we are able to see people’s other side.
What is it like to look through the eyes of a man who sees the bigger picture in which science and religion aren’t opposed, for instance? Or rulers and ruled, conductor and orchestra, USA and Russia?
That’s a fundamentally natural point of view which is quite fruitful in itself. Because it does not throw you into controversy, which is a function of a certain level of dogmatism, if we can put it that way. Including when it comes to time – with respect to past and future. Perhaps this is a great joy, perhaps it is a special privilege for man not to comprehend that things, which are fundamentally connected can also be in unnatural disunity. We simply need to learn from all the geniuses known to mankind, from all that history has to offer and try not to follow clichés blindly. We need to turn our sight towards the reality that surrounds us – there, everything connects to everything else.
This image is beyond wonderful. The thing is, it’s about to become even more wonderful, because we’re just getting started in linking, in integrating so many pieces of the puzzle – both within us and outside us. I believe the actual integration is yet to begin. We are far away from it, but it is we, and not the fields mentioned, who are entirely to blame for the fact that it is not happening immediately. These fields are related, it is we who have divided them artificially and that’s why we must assemble them again in a natural way.
How do you overcome the unavoidable difficulties and limitations of our existence here?
What difficulties?… I accept them as temporary. Yes, we are truly subject to permanent, 24 hour restrictions. The fact that we need to feed, drink water, get dressed – these are also limitations. But life here on Earth offers great compromises in many ways. Perhaps limitations are a lavish gift, a precious school for us. I think we should be grateful for them and that’s the only way to get rid of them actually. And I think they can be overcome in one fell swoop – by a single thought, a single feeling, a single expansion. Subjecting ourselves to restrictions and shaking them off are entirely up to us. Maybe it is an occasion to test ourselves, to understand more. The great test of overpowering gravity… The striving towards light is the opposition of that restriction. Service, duty, ideal, light, beauty, truth, the great, the mighty, the superhuman…
What guides you with such passion towards Bulgarian themes and the spirit of Bulgaria through the centuries and what makes you return here over and over again?
It’s what Bulgaria is – and not because I’m Bulgarian. What people are – here and now. The people that were born in these lands. The huge historical layer, the huge spiritual layer, the huge cultural layer, the huge number of superhuman phenomena. The force that lived and still lives here. And the conviction that it can somehow contribute to the world. I believe the world needs Bulgaria as much as Bulgaria needs the world. It would be an enriching experience for the world to come to know Bulgaria. And we have the duty to make it happen, even more for the sake of the world than for that of Bulgaria.
My perceptions and searches are one and the same everywhere. I search for the same thing in people, including myself, and in nature and anywhere else. I do not have the right to make a difference. When I’m in Japan, America, Europe or Bulgaria I do not have the right to arrive with less energy, less training, less ideal. I keep returning to Bulgaria, because we need to help each other, because the country has a hyper-ultra-mega potential which lies dormant and because there are new pressing developing waiting here to emerge. The reason I return to Bulgaria is what Bulgaria IS!
In conclusion, what would you wish our readers?
The same I would wish for myself. Let us have the strength and will to learn, to grow as personalities, to create conditions that will allow us to be grateful, to be givers. To be understanding, to be able to cope perfectly with the whole of reality and may our spirits never fall!
 Well known words of the most notable and beloved Bulgarian revolutionist, dubbed the Apostle of Freedom Vassil Levski (1837 – 1873), known as well as Deacon Ignatius (editor’s note). ‘The idea of God, as Kirchev rightly notes, lies deep in Levski’s nature. Faith, in his case, is not something learned or acquired, but originates in the depths of his spirit and is penetrated by all the elements of evangelical preaching. We may discover the religious spirit in all of the Apostle’s subsequent actions, which for him had always been a kind of public act of worshipping God. It’s precisely in this that his impeccable purity of character, the mysticism of his self-denial and likewise the puritanical strictness of his life find their basis.’ (Ivan Undjiev in his book about Levski)
 The premiere concert of Genesis Orchestra, together with the choir of Music Laboratory of the Man, opened with Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde: the prelude and death of Isolde, followed by Symphony №9 by Beethoven. The date was 6 of April 2016, the venue Bulgaria Hall, Sofia – a place that has become traditional for such events (editor’s note).
Yordan Kamdzhalov in Other Bulgarian Media – Highlights
Translation: Neil Scarth
‘To be able to direct the process without suppressing it, that is the highest form of conducting and indeed of leadership in general.’ (‘Eight’ magazine, 2010)
‘Everything in my life happens with a great deal of work, with an exceptional degree of willpower, a great many dreams and a great sense of direction… and with a great longing to make a contribution. Because each and every form of activity which fails to make a contribution to the whole strikes me as somewhat besides the point.’ (BTV: ‘Before Noon’, 05.01.2015)
‘The truth is that I gain neither professionally nor financially from whatever I do in Bulgaria. My desire to work here has an entirely different source of motivation: the urge one has to give, to share. That is what being involved in the arts means in principle. The moment you realise that you have something to give, a great desire is born within you to actually do it and you are able to muster the strength to work.’ (‘Eight’ magazine, 2010)
‘The way lies in a fundamental transformation of the person. We need to learn what to be inspired by and we need to learn to distinguish the essential from the non-essential – which priorities can show us the way out and those which will never show us the way out.’ (TV7: ‘Direct Democracy’, 06.06.2015)
‘From within this circle of contemporary Bulgarian enlighteners, I consider Teodosii Teodosiev to be one of the leading figures (TRANSLATOR’S NOTE for non-Bulgarian readers: Teodosii Teodosiev is a secondary school teacher of Physics and Applied Mathematics in the small town of Kazanlak who has achieved remarkable success in inspiring and training several generations of youngsters for international science competitions where they have garnered a series of gold medals, all this despite lacking any great financial or material resources; many of his students are nowadays successful scientists all over the world – NASA and CERN included). He is a person who has shown that enormous success can be achieved via an inner striving without any significant external resources. If I may quote him: ‘Great achievements are an expression of a high level of spiritual intensity.’ It is where this high level of spiritual intensity exists, which is something that always springs from within, that we find the preconditions for hyper-achievements. Teodosii exemplifies the fact that this formula works.’ (TV7: ‘Direct Democracy, 06.06.2015)
‘We sit at home waiting for someone to hand us a new life on a plate: nice, easy, comfortable.
In the first place I don’t know any serious person who dreams of a life like this. If we look at what the life of Schubert or of Mozart was like, or how Mendeleev or Van Gogh lived, or the young Wagner, who literally starved to buy paper to write on… But these are people who have left their trace in history. Our model of and criteria for what is essential are absolutely mistaken and worthless.’ (TV7: ‘Direct Democracy’, 06.06. 2015)
‘No great achievement is possible without a minimum level of difficulty. We have this essential level of minimum difficulty in Bulgaria in abundance. Why has Teodosii’s school of science garnered more gold medals than both England and France together? Don’t they live better than us, don’t they enjoy better conditions, don’t they experience fewer difficulties, don’t they enjoy more state support, don’t they have more educators? Why then do they have fewer successes than us? Difficulties are a blessing. Bulgaria has always experienced difficult conditions and it has always borne great fruits. I think we have paid an honourable price for these fruits and under no circumstances should we slide into preferring comfort to these devastating successes our nation has endowed us with.’ (TV7: ‘Direct Democracy’, 06.06.2015)
‘The era of dictators has passed, now is the era of communicators.’
‘The unity of science, art and philosophy. Where there has been this equilateral triangle of science, art and philosophy, there great civilisations and cultures have been born. The loss of this connection leads inevitably downwards. We need to believe in the great and the divine in a human being.’ (BNT: ‘Panorama’, 03.05.2015)
‘Bulgaria has always been a source of culture and spirituality. Bulgaria has always been a catalyst. Bulgaria has been a centre of culture and civilisation or rather she IS and will continue to be so. It is an utter mystery why she has produced such fruits. There is no (external) basis: after all, we are no bigger than a medium-sized Chinese village. Bulgaria’s achievements are colossal in an almost random range of fields: chess, chemistry, physics, mathematics, gymnastics, music. And there is no rational explanation for this, neither in terms of the size of population nor the level of funding nor the standard of education. Therefore the reasons for these achievements are to be sought somewhere deep within human beings.’ (Radio FM+, 16.10.2014)
‘Bulgaria and Bulgarians are something colossal. We have an enormous intellectual, cultural and spiritual elite, resource and potential: part of this is here, another part is abroad, but it’s my view that the key to the future of Bulgaria lies precisely within this circle of people because I cannot imagine any meaningful future for a people or indeed of human civilisation as a whole without spirituality.’ (BNT: ‘Panorama’, 03.05.2015)
‘It’s precisely in this that our goal, and the goal of art, lies: to prove that Heaven may live on Earth. Because the inspiration for these works of extreme beauty comes from worlds far, far away, but also from worlds deep within ourselves, within Man. The Earth is a very beautiful place and our task is to see the beauty in every single phenomenon. My ideal and the ideal of us as musicians is to enter into and discover the uniqueness of each and every tone, of every note. And bowing before each note’s potential, to show its greatest power.’ (BTV Radio: ‘For Sofia’, 03.06.2015)