Prokhor Protasoff


My name is Prokhor. I am a Russian-born composer and conductor currently based in Toronto. After studying conducting and composition at the Tchaikovsky Moscow Conservatory, I was appointed as a conductor-in-residence for the Vyatka Symphony Orchestra in my hometown from 2015 to 2018. During that period, I arranged performances of two of my major compositions at that time: a Concerto for Violin, Piano, and Orchestra, and a ballet, Town in a Snuffbox. After receiving a Fulbright Scholarship in 2018, I went on to study orchestral conducting with James Bagwell and Leon Botstein, and composition with George Tsontakis at the Bard College Conservatory of Music.

Several of my compositions have received awards, including at the St. Romanos Melodos International Composers Competition in Saint Petersburg. Most recently, I was named one of the finalists in the World Soundtrack Award SABAM Young Composers’ Competition.

I currently reside in Canada, where I am pursuing a DMA degree at the University of Toronto under the guidance of Christos Hatzis.

This website features an hour-long compilation of video recordings showcasing several of my compositions from recent years. It serves to fulfill a requirement of the DMA program in composition.

In my compositions, I blend modern and classical music elements, often combining electronic with acoustic sounds. Recently, I became interested in visual arts and the techniques that can be adapted for music. My next major composition will explore the relationships between chords and colors, drawing parallels not only accessible to those with synesthesia but to everyone, akin to the concept of relative pitch.

Some of my works are a reflection of my personal experiences and capture the challenges and drama of our times. Others are an attempt to escape into an imaginary world. I draw inspiration from a variety of sources, including travel, poetry, nature, and the sounds of everyday life. My hobbies, such as programming and web development, also fuel my creativity.

The design of this web page is greatly influenced by the works of Lawrence Weiner (fonts and general ‘brutal’ aesthetics) and Kazimir Malevich’s Suprematist Composition (colors), and is deliberately made to resemble an art exhibition.

— Prokhor Protasoff,
composer, conductor, web developer

Four Poems of Emily Dickinson

2024 | Song Cycle for Mezzo-Soprano and Piano
Recorded live at Knox Presbyterian Church in Toronto.
Ariana Chris, voice.
Suna Smith, piano.

The song cycle brings to life four of Emily Dickinson’s poignant poems, assembled to mirror a cycle of life. It begins with If I Can Stop One Heart from Breaking, symbolizing birth and the inherent purpose of life. The song concludes with a musical question mark represented by two notes, E and D. This acts as a monogram for the poet’s initials, a motive that recurs throughout the cycle. I believe that this meaning of art—to communicate, but also support and comfort—was very important to her, as it is to me.

Could it be Madness?—originally titled by its first line, The first Day’s Night had come—explores the chaos and complexity of the world. The composition features interrupted bars and unconventional time signatures, such as 5/12, combined with an intrusive waltz-like melody, illustrating the relentless madness that hammers at human existence.

The Saddest Noise, the Sweetest Noise juxtaposes the loss of loved ones with the rebirth of the nature. Its melodic line, reminiscent of a hymn, builds to an exclamation, set against a musical backdrop that weaves together motives of birds and church bells.

The cycle closes with Vanished, a reflection on the inevitable end of life, anchoring the thematic arc of the song cycle.

This video features two songs from the cycle:
1. If I Can Stop One Heart from Breaking
3. The Saddest Noise, The Sweetest Noise
Duration: 12 minutes.

Escape Room

2021 | Opera (excerpt)
Michael Patrick Albano, libretto.
Sandra Horst, conductor.

Escape Room is a student opera project recorded at the University of Toronto. Written by Michael Patrick Albano, the libretto blends the stories of real and fictional characters, from Vlad the Impaler to Doug Ford, who find themselves caught in a virtual reality. Trapped and disoriented, they don’t know where they are, how did they get there, and if they are alive or dead.

The opera’s music was written in segments by four different composers. My contribution includes the overture and the first three scenes. To evoke the opera’s surreal setting, I used microtones and electronic sounds. A specially programmed software sampler plays a variety of pre-recorded sounds and instruments, all controlled from a single MIDI keyboard. For example, the microtonal harp feature divides the keyboard into two sections, with one half tuned a quarter-tone higher than the other. Another instrument, used in the Overture, triggers prerecorded orchestral sections resulting in a loop making a background for a percussion improvisation, a technique influenced by Lutosławski’s aleatoric writing.

The software used includes Apple MainStage and Apple Logic Sampler.

Excerpts: Overture, Scene 1, Scene 2, Ruth’ Aria.
Duration: 13 minutes.

Noxious Cadences

2023 | Audiovisual Electronic Composition
In 2022, I became a dissident. I opposed the war initiated by my country’s government and was persecuted by the authorities. They sentenced me to 5 years in prison, which I managed to escape by paying the high price of leaving my home and my previous life. This was not enough for some people. I have been receiving threats since. Some of them were less serious, and the others were saying that they would kill me.

One particular person, whom I had not seen since my childhood, has taken it upon himself to erase me from this world. He might have thought that I was a disgrace to our common city of birth, given that I was also the author of the city’s official anthem. Fortunately, he has no chance to do anything. But he called me and left numerous threatening voice messages. He told me he would eventually find me. He told me he would hang me.

I had never experienced anything like this before, and I had no experience in dealing with it. So I decided to channel my emotions into music. I took these messages and composed an experimental electronic piece that reflected the dark state of my mind at that time, but also, strangely, through the very act of creating art—hope.

The four movements of the composition exist in four different tempos portraying the inner conflict and the feeling of having no escape. The last movement (starts at 6:50) combines all tempos simultaneously through modulation: an arpeggio, played in one tempo, accompanies Bach's melody in another tempo, it is also altered by a step-sequenced filter in the third tempo and interrupted by accents in the fourth tempo.

There is an immersive version in spatial audio (Ambisonics) and a 360 degree video available on Youtube (see the link below). The audio works properly in Google Chrome, but not in Safari or YouTube mobile app.

Software used: Apple Logic Pro, Apple Final Cut Pro, Apple Motion, Waves B360 Ambisonics Encoder, Blender.

Duration: 12 minutes.


2022 | Opera (excerpt)
Livestreamed from MacMillan Theatre on January 22, 2023.

Michael Patrick Albano, libretto & director.
Spencer Kryzanowski, conductor.

Disobedience is another collaborative operatic project written by composers at the University of Toronto. Michael Patrick Albano’s libretto unites characters from various literary works, spanning different eras—from Iphigenia and Ophelia to Anna Karenina. These characters, originally from classic plays and novels, are brought together in a new narrative that seeks to reimagine their stories.

In my contribution to the score, I introduce The Chorus of Antiquity and three Apprentices, while also following the story of Iphigenia. Her aria, a centerpiece of my section, highlights the timeless struggle and sacrifice inherent in her story. Although Iphigenia’s tale concludes differently in the opera, I chose to retain a lingering sense of melancholy and sadness. This decision was made to add emotional weight to the character. In contrast with Escape Room (see above), the score features only acoustic instruments—a string quintet and a piano—mostly in minimalistic texture, creating a very intimate feeling. This acoustic setup enhances the personal and emotional resonance of the narrative, drawing the audience closer into the characters’ internal worlds. The descending ‘Katabasis’ bass line in the aria further contributes to the feeling of sacrifice and draws parallels to similar arias, notably Dido’s Lament.

Excerpts: Scene, Iphigenia’s Aria.
Duration: 10 minutes.


2024 | Microtonal Piece for Piano Duo
Composed for the SOUNDSTREAMS/RBC Bridges program.
Recorded live at the Keyed Up! Festival #2 Concert (Toronto).

Jackie Leung, Gregory Oh.

What is the place of music in the modern world torn apart by conflicts and saturated by meaningless noise? In this piece, I am trying to find the answer. I imagine myself in a dark room, playing the piano. The sound originates from hammers hitting strings, travels to the void, and returns as a distorted echo of overtones. Can it transcend the walls to reach the world hidden in darkness? Could it be that the void and darkness are not as unshakable as they seem?

Invention is a form of contrapuntal musical composition particularly loved by J.S. Bach. I quote his Invention No. 2 (BWV 773) in my work: Bach’s motives are placed within a surrealistic microtonal environment, deconstructed, reconstructed, and re-invented multiple times in stretched-out and squeezed intervals, becoming whole-tone and microtonal scales. The piece, just like human lives, starts from nothing... and returns to dust.

Duration: 5 minutes.


2023 | Audiovisual Composition Featuring Violin
Anne Protasoff, violin.

Murka (Rus. Мурка) is a famous song from the early 20th century, often associated with criminals and prisons. I took the first three notes of that song and created a composition dedicated to all political prisoners—heroes who stand against opression—and their persecutors—dictators—who are true criminals.

The sounds of modern pop music are interwoven in complex time signatures, such as 7/8, layered upon each other with accents occurring at various places to create a polyrhythmic texture. The goal was to write something that sounds like an EDM track while being a classical music composition in nature. This is reflected in the harmonic progression, which starts with typical repeating chord sequences and transitions into a free modulation through 12 different keys at the climax. Making Violin compete with 808-like instruments was particularly challenging!

The central part of the video—a huge TV set playing propaganda—and the hymn that occurs at 3:09 are influenced by the Michael Radford's 1984 movie after George Orwell's novel.

Software used: Apple Logic Pro, Apple Final Cut, Blender. The sequence of a castle transforming into a Vasily Vereshchagin's painting Apotheosis of War made possible by Kaiber AI.

Duration: 9 minutes.