Biography of Bojan Adamič
Born on 9th August 1912 in Ribnica, died on 3rd November 1995 in Ljubljana
Pseudonym: Gregor (partisan name)
Epithet: Mojster (Master)
Schools and education
Primary school in Ribnica and Ljubljana
Grammar school Poljane in Ljubljana, final exam 1931
Secondary music school – National Conservatoire (organ, trumpet and composition)
Faculty of Law – finished first state examination and absolutory
Music Academy in Ljubljana – graduated in piano music on 28th June 1941
Since May 9, 1945, Adamič was head of music department at the Radio and TV Ljubljana, assistant manager of Radio Ljubljana and later on (on his own wish) conductor of the Big Band RTV Ljubljana. Before he retired in 1981/1982 he was the director of musical production.
Profession: professor for piano, pianist, composer and conductor of jazz, popular and symphonic orchestras
Field of activities: all styles of music
Public activity within musical creation
President of the Society of Composers and later member of the chairmanship of the Association of Composers of Yugoslavia (SOKOJ)
President of the Slovene Composers’ Society
Member of numerous panels of judges that worked in the filed of music
Member of numerous panels of judges at music festivals at home and abroad
For his all-embracing musical activities and dedication, he was awarded numerous prizes and awards, e.g.:
a number of Golden Arenas for film scores at festivals of Yugoslav film in Pula,
several federal awards for film and scene scores JRT (Yugoslav Radio and Television),
the Fran Milčinski – Ježek award of the RTV Slovenia (1990),
Silver Liberty Badge of Honor of the Republic of Slovenia for his long-lasting merits in music (1993),
for his life’s work he was awarded with the very first Victor of the magazine Stop (1993),
Župančič Award for his life’s work(1993),
and the most prestigious cultural award in Slovenia – Prešeren Award for his life’s work (1979).
Bojan Adamič in 1934.
To write about Bojan Adamič* and to sum up his rich, long and extremely creative life into an interesting story represents a certain creative challenge to the writer. How to write an interesting biography? What should be pointed out, emphasised, and what should be left aside? How to present, on the one hand, a top musician, composer, conductor, author of almost any type of music including film and theatre, and on the other, expose his poorly known but extremely exhaustive photographic fund of carnival masks and Kurents from the Ptuj plain? And finally, how to conclude the life story of one of the greatest names in Slovene culture, who was always different, curious, innovative, and an extremely brave and stubborn man? These were the questions I wanted to answer while I was thinking of Bojan Adamič. Of a great artist who through his work and life made a step beyond time limits of birth and death, who stepped into space from north to south and from east to west, who bypassed limits dividing professionalism and amateurism, who lived music and loved photography… Simply, he was a man destined for immortality.
With his mother, Marija.
Bojan Adamič was born on 9th August 1912 in Ribnica, where he attended the Public Boys’ School. In 1921 his family moved to Ljubljana, to Bohoričeva street, where Adamič lived until the end of his life (3rd November 1995). In Ljubljana, he continued his education at the Grammar School Poljane. When he was 13 years old, he entered the National Conservatoire to study piano. He continued his studies at the Music Academy where he studied, besides organ and trumpet, also theoretical subjects, and was thus one of Osterc’s pupils. Slavko Osterc had a reputation of an extremely strict professor who employed rather particular teaching methods, and who appreciated and respected original solutions. He exerted a big influence on Adamič’s attitude to music and later on his creativity. Adamič remembers him as “a man who had great esteem for audacity and originality, and who was not too meticulous about exact notes, but much more about the ability to invent something, even if it was absolutely foolish.”1 In 1941, Adamič graduated in piano music under the tutelage of professor Anton Ravnik, in organ (professor Stanko Premrl), and in trumpet (professor Karas) at the Music Academy in Ljubljana. Bojan Adamič was always attracted by the organ as well as by the trumpet, which was the very symbol of the “forbidden” jazz before the Second World War. This type of music then presented the music of “a different world” and was the personification of the free American spirit and “rotten” capitalism. But Adamič just loved jazz. He loved it because in music he considered a challenge everything that was new, different, not experienced by somebody else before, probably provocative, indecent and even shocking in a determined period of time. If it was “bad” for others, it was certainly not for Bojan Adamič, and if it did not fit in certain norms and regulations, it did in music considered as art. He played in the Ronny Ensemble in Bled before the Second World War, and later, he founded his own small band called Broadway. They performed, in particular, in the then fashionable resorts: Rogaška Slatina, Dobrna, Kaštel Stari near Split, and elsewhere.
During the first years of occupation, between 1941 and 1943, he played with a dance band in Ljubljana, and then he joined the partisans. And music accompanied him everywhere. In 1944, he and Drago Lorbek set up the first brass band composed of partisans in Bela Krajina. He was indispensable at the Radio OF (Liberation front), a sort of “genius loci”, where he was responsible for the musical part of a programme, and for which he made new compositions and played the piano. During the war, in 1944, he created first masterpieces of his so-called “partisan opus”, namely: “Mesec na travni gori”, and variations for violin and piano on the theme of “Naglo puške smo zgrabili”; he wrote numerous partisans’ songs, marches, combat songs and mass songs, as well as solos for soloists, piano, choir, orchestra, etc.
Military band of the Slovenian Headquarters – August 1944.
At last dawned so hardly awaited moment of liberation, and of times “only” for music, creativeness and arts. Finally, the time had come, which was described by Bojan Adamič in one of numerous interviews with the following words: “I joined the partisans for two reasons: the first one was absolutely normal in those times and nationally oriented, and the second was to play jazz.”2 He expressed himself metaphorically meaning that those were the times where the freedom of spirit and work would become something absolutely normal. Unfortunately, it was not always so. Nevertheless, Bojan Adamič did not give up and continued living his music as before. Although jazz had marked him much before the Second World War and he had been one of the ideological pioneers of this kind of music in Slovenia, he established only after the War, a professional Dance Band RTV Ljubljana (today’s Big Band RTV Slovenia), conducted it from 1945 to 1980, and took it to the very top in Europe. He led and conducted numerous other orchestras all over Europe; he was a permanent guest conductor of the JLA (Yugoslav national army) orchestra in Belgrade, and of various pop music festivals. Until his retirement in 1982, he was the director of music production at the Radio Slovenia and the president of the Slovene Composers’ Society.
With his daughter, Alenka, at Slovenian Pop Song Contest.
Master Adamič had become the founder and visionary of Slovene pop music, hits and chansons. But the focus of his creativity was on film and scene score. Among other things, he wrote the score for over 200 films of national and foreign production (American, British, French, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Austrian, Italian, German, Hungarian, Brazilian). We can still recall films and music, such as: Ples v dežju (Dance in the rain), Samorastniki (Self-made people), Idealist (Idealist), Maškarada (Masquerade), Valter brani Sarajevo (Walter denfends Sarajevo), Most (The Bridge), Doktor, Veselica (A Party), Dalmatinska svatba (Dalmatian Marriage), Boj na požiralniku (Fight at a swallow hole), Nasvidenje v naslednji vojni (See you in the next war)… And who among us is not overwhelmed by nostalgic memories at the song Žogica Marogica or Žogica Nogica, composed for a marionette show, or at the lively and merry Kekec song from the film of the same title. About his film scores, which unveil his personality, his creative load and innovation, he himself said: “I really like film scores because this is the music which offers many possibilities. And because each film has got its own new context, the score has to be something completely new. But there is something else that has always attracted me: a film demands quick reactions and a lot of improvisation.”3
To young and unknown musicians and creators from different artistic spheres, he generously offered his support and countless pieces of advice. Until the end of his life, he remained curious, creative, innovative, original, and entirely committed to music regardless of its type and form. Different creative approaches and “impossible” combinations of instruments had become a trademark of the musical creativity of Bojan Adamič. In this musical variety he preferred pop music, according to his own declaration and if music was to be divided into “serious” and “popular”, but above all, he loved “good” music, played by small or big bands, by brass bands or a symphony orchestra. he was faithful to the brass band all his life, and probably composed the majority of scores for this kind of music among the Slovenes up till now. His declaration that he “began a project never made before by anybody in the world, that is like the one with chanson and the brass band, and for which they might reprimand me severely”,4 shows in itself the attitude of experts towards something different, innovative and original expressed in the musical poetry of Bojan Adamič; very little can be found about his musical opus for brass band score in the professional literature on composers in Slovenia under the heading Bojan Adamič.5 But the written note remains. What also remains is his knowledge, his work and influence on numerous Slovene orchestras and brass bands. And his name persists through the award named after him by the Slovene Band Society.
With his grand-daughter, Nina Makuc.
His unpublished musical opus goes to the extent which is beyond the life of one single man. “The typical feature of his musical opus resides in the search of support in folklore elements, and not only Slovene, which are in an unobtrusive and modified way projected through the prism of his own personality of composer,”6 says the experts’ definition of his musical opus. He composed a concert for piano and orchestra (1948), two suites for a symphony orchestra (1950), music for the ballet Bela Ljubljana (White Ljubljana, 1957), seven preludes for piano and orchestra (1960), works such as Kiša pada (Rain is falling), Narodni koktajl (National cocktail), both composed for choir and piano (1962), Titov naprijed za baritone, dva recitatorja in orkester (Tito’s march for baritone, two reciters and orchestra) (1979), a musical for soloists, choir and brass band, Sneguljčica (Snow-White, 1993), countless arrangements and adaptations of his own and other musical works for dance and symphony orchestra, for jazz and pop bands. In 1995, he created his last musical score for a short film: Neme podobe slovenskega filma (Silent figures of Slovene film). Everything about him shows the incredible creative energy and grandeur of the Master Bojan Adamič. His friends remember him as someone who thought and created very fast; he liked fast cars; in his youth he was a glider pilot; he was in love with life and with everything that was new to him and represented a challenge in different fields.
For his universal musical activities and dedication, he was awarded numerous prizes and awards (44 altogether). Let me just point out a few of them: a series of Golden Arena for film scores at the festival of Yugoslav films in Pula; many federal awards for film and scene scores JRT (Yugoslav Radio and Television); the award Fran Milčinski – Ježek RTV Slovenia (1990); Silver Liberty Badge of Honour of the Republic of Slovenia for his long-lasting merits in music (1993); the very first Victor for his life work awarded by the magazine Stop (1993); Župančič Award (1993); and the most prestigious cultural award in Slovenia – Prešeren Award for his life work (1979).7
Awarding Victors for lifework: Bojan Adamič with his grand-son, Gregor Makuc.
Bojan Adamič – photographer.
On the other side of the story of Bojan Adamič was photography. No, in fact it was on the same side. It went in parallel with music. It was hidden and unknown for a long time.
Adamič’s photography of masks – Kurents and “runners” – touches the field of the intangible and the imaginary. It is also invaluable because he put into it, besides the moment of reality, his soul. His photographs do not show masks as they are but tell their stories. The photography turns into a story about …. In the powerful figure of Kurent, his elusiveness, mythology and symbolism, we could try to search for parallels and comparisons with life and work of the Master Bojan Adamič, with his vitality and inexhaustible creative energy … till the end, which does not exist.
At the unveiling of a memorial tablet. Left – his sister Antonija Adamič–Levart; right, his wife Barbara Adamič.
Let me finish the article about Bojan Adamič with his own words: “I am a Slovene who has stayed at home and has thus made an enormous, incorrigible foolishness … or maybe not!”8
*Biography is taken with the authors’ permission from the publication: Aleš Gačnik, Stanka Gačnik: Zven maske. Fotografske mojstrovine Bojana Adamiča, Ptuj: Znanstvenoraziskovalno središče Bistra Ptuj, Pokrajinski muzej Ptuj, 2003.
1Miha Zadnikar: Bojan Adamič: “Časi, ko so ljudje poznali note, so že mimo”, interview, Razgledi: 15 July 1994, p. 8.
2Marjan Zlobec: Glasbenik “za vse čase”. Pogovor ob osemdesetletnici Bojana Adamiča (interview at the 80th anniversary of Bojan Adamič), Delo, Sobotna priloga, 14 August 1992, p. 24.
3Miha Zadnikar: Bojan Adamič: “Časi, ko so ljudje poznali note, so že mimo”, interview, Razgledi: 15 July 1994, p. 9.
4Miha Zadnikar: Bojan Adamič: “Časi, ko so ljudje poznali note, so že mimo”, interview, Razgledi: 15 July 1994, p. 8.
5In his late age he wrote Requiem for Fran Milčinski – Ježek. Adamič composed music for chanson and brass band to Ježek’s song about a circus clown. The Requiem has not been performed yet. How he created his musical masterpiece can be found in: Rok Zavrtanik: Bojan Adamič. Obstaja samo glasba, interview. Mzin, revija za kulturo, no. 23/25, December/January 1994, pp. 24–34.
6Franc Križnar, Tihomir Pinter: Sto slovenskih skladateljev. Sodobni glasbeni ustvarjalci, Ljubljana: Prešernova družba, 1997, p. 16.
7Summarized from: Antonija Adamič – Levart: Bojan Adamič (9. 8. 1912 – 3 . 11. 1995), 2000, typescript.
8Simona Furlan, Simona N. Dakić: Trenutek, ko imajo viktorja vsi radi, Stop, XXXV/52, 24 December 2002, p. 4.