“String Quartet” for lyra of Istanbul, two violins and cello, was composed in 2009 during my undergraduate studies. It constitutes the first piece in which I tried to combine greek traditional music with the knowledge, I was gaining at this time, in modern music.

[AUDIO] String Quartet

[SCORE] String Quartet 

The reasons I chose this piece as a reference recording are the following:

i) I am trying to go back at the beginning of my composing period and understand better what was happening with my music language.

ii) I believe that, until 2011, when I composed my last piece, I had kept the same aesthetic, so String Quartet is able to represent my past composing period.

iii) “Vrysfos” (2011, for bayan, soprano, tenor, string orchestra and percussions) has never been played and none of the four players, having tried to perform “Askavlos” (2010, for solo soprano saxophone), ever succeeded.



I believe that String Quartet constitutes a characteristic sample of a composing exploration, which lasted from 2007 to 2011, when I finished my undergraduate studies. I first started composing in 2005, some simple melodies, based on structures and elements from my knowledge on greek and other south-european traditional music. Even then I had an inner tendency to search for options and outlets through the narrow limits someone may create, working on traditional music –when music itself never sets limits on a musician. Important part in the following course of my composing approach was the parallel start of my studies on bayan and modern music. After time has passed, I can now detect much influence from Scandinavian school of the ‘70s, which leaded in the composing of prototype works for accordion, many of which constituted my first basis of understanding and decoding modern music. Meanwhile, I started exploring some national schools created in the early 20th century in Europe, such as Bartok (Hungary), Skalotas (Greece), De Falla (Spain) and I remember the good impression Alban Bery’s works gave me, without having analyzed any or even seen any scores. My technic was based on removing musical instruments and other elements from their physical geological place and integrating them into a more classic, modern environment, with some elements pointing to greek traditional music.


Communication with NETWORK’s members was done through personal e-mails, which concluded the whole recording and score, while I suggested a feedback in two sections:

i. Comments and observations on the piece

ii. Proposals and ideas corresponding to my artistic research question

The two sections of the feedback, and not a series of questions, were chosen on purpose, as I wanted to profit from each one’s spontaneity and instinct, without any affection of preconceived questions.


The choice of the members was done in three levels:

i) Greek composers, having used elements from greek traditional music in their compositions:

ii) Composers from Atlas Ensemble (Amsterdam), who focus on studying on combining modern music with original traditions around the world:

iii) Composers which they don’t have any experience and relationship with greek traditional music

  • Peter Jan Wagemans [dutch composer and teacher of Codarts]
  • Robin de Raaff [dutch composer and my main subject teacher]
  • Christoph Blum [swiss composer and my college in Codarts]

iv) Sokratis Sinopoulos -from Greece- is the lyra of Istanbul performer in the recording and the reason why the instrument was added in the piece. He is a special addition, as his opinion will be really interesting, supposing that he has a deep knowledge on the role of the instrument in its physical environment and also is in a procedure of finding new ways on the expression of the instrument, working with some composers and composing himself.


(The following part consists of the main parts of the voice message I received on 26.11.2015)


He really likes the piece, finds it rich, with a nice form and not boring at all. He also observes a mixture of north-greek melody and the use of asymmetrical rhythms, combining with Bartok’s harmony. However, he doesn’t think it is a piece with greek tone quality, but a classic work, which profits from some greek sources.


While I have found the elements I need, I use them solid, without processing them, so they don’t integrate into my music language. This is why I need to filter more the greek elements (rhythm, melody, pattern, sound, arrangement), -for example a space, a small rhythm, a tone color- and hold a very small part of that, so small, that it can’t be noticeable, but exist in a second level, that only reminds one of something. I should also listen to/search for what gives a greek feeling in a work, without using a clear, solid melody, but add my own piece as Stamatis.



(The following part consists of the main parts of our conversation through Skype on 27.11.2015)


He finds the piece well-written, clean and understands, through the use of lyra and some modality, that it comes from the Mediterranean/South-West Europe. He asked me about the way I worked with the instruments, especially the lyra, and I answered him that I worked more independently with the classical instruments than the lyra, as they had more common elements and parts, and that I wanted them to hold strictly at the classical way of performing. As for the lyra, I answered him that I gave Sinopoulos the freedom to use the idiomatic elements of the instrument, as much as to stay between East and West, and that the relationship we already had, created a background of trust in his management of the material. In conclusion, he mentioned that the whole image of the work shows an effort for the greek elements to be lead into the classical music and not the other way round, reminding of something from the 20th century as well.


-He mentions that, even if I have the knowledge on greek tradition as much as on classical music, I exclude many of the technics that could be used in the frame of any traditional music. The classical performers should come closer to that kind of music and not the other way round, as there are many efficient performers that could work through a difficult score.

-There are two ways of creating a score: i) the detailed record of all the elements from traditional music and ii) the more simple record, but only when I work with musicians who understand my way of thinking and use the elements needed at will and knowingly. So I can choose between those two ways or combine them. He also referred to the  matter of how much freedom I give to a musician of a different culture.

-He suggests: i)to explore my own background, ii) to observe greek traditional music from a distant field of view, having experimentation tendencies, considering that this kind of music has a three-dimensional nature and is a living soul that still exists, iii)  side use of my knowledge on ancient greek music and iv) to isolate some technics and make a new acoustic place.


(The following part consists of the main parts of his e-mail on 28.11.2015)


“The general impression I have is that the piece, despite the youthful freshness, the spirited structure and the obviously pure intentions […], it probably has not decided what it is, culturally.

I underline one or two points:

-The use of asymmetric rhythms does not necessarily mean polyrhythmic. Despite asymmetric rhythms give you handles to utilize the rhythmic part, you don’t, you just stay in the pedant reading of the rhythm.

-Modality means modality, a way to approach things. Its light chromatic enrichment sounds to me as a beautification and not its utilization. Of course there is Bartok’s example, but don’t forget the background of the creation of his music. The more inner features of the music (grace notes, tonal deviation, rhythmic variation, macro –and micro- polyphonic substances) are not detected in the piece. Briefly, I don’t recognize your dialogue with tradition, on the contrary I listen to an orchestrated and decent, artistic, but kind of misplaced, version of some of its elements.


“I suggest a deeper penetration in this music (greek traditional music). Make it abstract, as Xenakis would say, see and experience it beyond its national-ethnological frame, as a clean, autonomous sound. Analyze its ingredients and then reformulate all those with particular aesthetics and acoustic targeting. [..] It is my advice to let go of your folk and performing profile and approach things as for the first time, outside of any prejudices. This way you will shape, firstly in your mind and then in/with your music, a universe, in which a music that brings your sign will be legalized and have a  meaningful existence. […] Write as yourself and not as a derivative of a trend or an ethno-cultural group. Clearly technical: Many tutti and unison do not convince me, nor support the potentially monophonic character you want to give. Nor the polyphonic either… As soon as you chose to give a third dimension in a two dimensional music, take care of this dimension. Your melodies are really interesting, but you are unfair to them. A beautiful melody does not necessarily need “development”, so check the decoration, the change in the tone color and the registers. Transposition: see its meaning in every aspect of music, not only the phonetic (for example tone color, dynamic, rhythmic transposition),  giving purpose and clarity at what your telling. Mainly decide if you are interested in the “greekness” as an inner feature of your music, or a superficial ethnic school decoration. Obviously the one does not exclude the other.”

“It is a big problem that folk music is strophic and mainly of a small form. How will you include it in the frame of a big form without falling in the kitsch contradiction of ethnic school?”

“I would recommend paying attention to the work of different people having dealt with the matter, in order to realize the many different ways to approach it like: i)Michalis Adamis: piece for intoner, oboe, tuba and magnetic tape,  ii) Iannis Xenakis: Dmaathen, Psappha, Cendrees, Charisma, Horos, iii) Dimitris Terzakis iv) Kyriakos Sfetsas v) George Koumentakis (his works from the last 15 years) and other works of modern Greeks.”

“Look at Ligeti’s music, in comparison with Bartok’s as well. There are many tendencies, compartments and prejudices in general, some of which I detect in the piece you sent me.”



(The following part is the original copy of his e-mail on 29.11.2015)

“I have been and still am really hesitant about the inclusion and “use” of traditional musical instruments into modern music.

Composers usually cannot understand the singularity and the historic character of those instruments. For example, I don’t find the reason why a lyra should perform a piece with every possible sound effect, but not its own sound. A violin can do it better. Same when things that convict with the “nature” of those instruments are asked, such as extreme technical passages, that just don’t sound well.

In your Quartet the above do not appear. On the contrary, even if you work in the limits of the instrument’s tolerance (technical and musical) in some passages, you keep the  balance by releasing the tension with some more familiar for the lyra parts. As a musician performing a traditional instrument, I felt that working with the piece helped me, since some technical issues, as well as the cooperation with a quartet, were a challenge for me.

I would also pleasantly welcome a more improvisational part, closer to the “nature” of the instrument, as I meant above. In my opinion, this should be one of the parts needed in the inclusion of traditional instruments into modern music, without any prejudice from the composers. An improvisational part, of course, can be “composed-premeditated-organized” in many levels (through given theme, notes, rhythm, images etc.).

Coming back to the piece, I still find it really good in the composite part, with meaningful melodic and rhythmic phrases and not at all pretentious. It is a meaningful combination, through the vision of modern music creation, western polyphony and greekness.”


(The following part is the original copy of his e-mail on 30.11.2015)


“In general I like the energy of the piece, I think there’s a good balance between high leveled and low leveled sections. But I think the timing and duration of the single sections can be developed, I’m missing the surprises. The only surprising moment was in the very beginning the sound of the lyra. Maybe also a reason for that is the very homogeneous sound of the piece in general. The different movements could be more distinguished in my opinion (energy-wise, sound-wise, atmosphere-wise). For me the development of material is too much sticking on pitches instead of the logic of energy. This makes me listening too much on harmonic progressions which then sometimes are not giving enough substance. (By the way, I hear a  kind of melted language between folkmusic (modes and rhythms) and Berg (chromaticism), which I like). On the other hand the treatment of the rhythmical possibilities is always very fresh and keeps my attention. But I often have the feeling that the rhythmical  progression is only secondary  behind the harmonic progression.

The structure of the ensemble looks in the score well balanced in the different possible combinations but  it doesn’t sound as colorful as it looks.  I think the treatment of the lyra should be more expanded and there are more possibilities to  handle this special color. In my opinion it’s now too much the principle lyra against/with string trio.


I think the use of traditional meters is already well developed, also the treatment of pitches.

The following points could be a topic.

  • Ornaments (a very interesting gap between the classical and traditional treatment has already some core in this piece but can be developed  much further. Here it seems to be more by accident because the lyra-player is used to do so and the strings aren’t)
  • Microtonality
  • Roles of single instruments in the ensemble
  • Treatment of colors
  • Distortion of traditional characteristics
  • confrontation with totally different musical  languages (I mentioned Berg, but it could also be, let’s say, German Schlager)
  • Think about different possibilities in instrumentation an how the single instruments are connected with expectations and prejudices and to which genre they usually belong



During the first intervention cycle I collected my data using the method of Literature research, why I think that I need more knowledge on specific fields of my research which are the following:

i) knowledge on the works of other composers which they have used from greek traditional music and specially to Ianis Xenakis





ii) knowledge on ancient greek music and relation between this music and greek traditional

  • About the ancient greek music we have only studies around the period 400 B.C.-300 A.D. -like Aristoteles, Aristoxenus, Pythagoras etc.-  so it’s impossible to know how the music performed. In my personal opinion the best way to clarify someone this music is through the greek traditional music and mainly through the original staff which exist in isolated places like in mountains or small islands; and before 1970, when the people in province still lived in an “old” way of life. This similarity there is also on the whole of these two cultures (theater, dance, relationship with supernatural etc.). Following the opposite direction we can analyze much better the greek traditional music using ancient studies and also to add some elements which disappeared  or changed over time. In any case we should not forget that the mother of nine Muses in ancient Greece was “Mnemosyne”, which means “Memory”. Memory for every one I think that is all the personal experiences of his life but also the datas before life. These datas come through genealogical way (DNA) and also from the instinct or imagination for example: the images which can illustrate somebody when he listens a song from his origin’s place.


(so far you can see below a structure from the study of Quintilanus)


iii) Also I want to learn the extensions of ancient greek music (as you see below), because for example in the greek traditional culture there are a lot of elements from ancient greek theater and the devotion of Dionysus although the long time of the religion of Christianity.










Fields of my intervention:

  • to learn in focus and deeper in the using elements which come from greek traditional music
  • to find more technical, expressive and rhythmical possibilities in the instruments using the knowledge of greek instruments
  • to experiment much more with the possibilities which the contemporary music can offer to me