Giorgos Koumendakis speaks about his opera «Fónissa» (=killer) based on the work of Alexandros Papadiamantis
«Papadiamantis’ language was the basic element for me to work on this opera. It is a complex and extremely poetic language, which gave me the opportunity to set it to music. The second element is Fragogiannou, who has an amazing personality, equally complex, very dramatic, reaches extreme situations and overcomes the human nature constantly, so I believe she could be one of the characters of the opera.
I have been working on traditional, byzantine music and ison for ten years. This opera is the end of this period. I found a way to pass the Greek traditional identity to the western music. This brought my own music to its edges so I believe the only way to this fulfillment is through a drama work, as an opera. The elements of the tradition are multiple and very modern at the same time. I set aside small units of very big tension, which you see and understand and hear and feel through a constant repetition. This creates suspense continuously, a thriller of the human being, which you never know where may take you. This may be concerned as a European or American minimalism. It is not! It is a Greek minimalism, a psychobiography, giving me the opportunity to reach the content of it, specifically music itself does what the human mind can’t. It reaches Fragogiannou’s and the other roles’ souls, Papadiamantis’ soul and feeling, what the text wants to give and in the same time I believe it takes off to a globe that, in this moment, I can’t see where it has reached. I know for sure that there has been an overage to my personal language and attitude. I used elements from Cretan music, the Cretan “kontilies”, from Pontos, with those unbelievable repeated units that create a very big elan, almost warrior -meaning the emotion- and also the polyphonic songs from Epirus. In this opera, after each murder, a lament is heard from a polyphonic ensemble of four women and is all based on polyphonic Epirus’ songs. What I want to be clarified is that I have not taken those elements as they are, but I bring them in my consciousness, in the music foresight through their memory, so when they are recreated, when they reach back and come to the surface, they lose what I kind of despise, folklore. So, even if the Greek traditional element is always there, it gives universality simultaneously.»
«All this music, which was passed in me through this hypnotic process, was recorded in my mind and many, dozens of pieces passed by, that I can’t hear anymore. One of those is a “pentozalis”, which was the basic core for me to create “Five more steps to sleep” and was connected to a lullaby I also remember from my grandmother. It brings back my ancestry, which has had a massive role in my music identity in the last years, the whole tradition, not only Cretan. Most of all I hold as a memory what I have felt, what I have experienced from tradition and I carry as something really important. It comes in a very natural way, like the water that flows in the channel with no obstacles, comes up in the surface and writes itself down in a personal way, the way I sense things lately. Those memories become something very modern. Many times I feel that I continue the anonymous creators’ tradition. Their names are not known, but this progression is recorded and this thing, coming from a long time ago, I am trying to let free in time. I honestly don’t care if my name is written in all this process.»
Interview with G. Koumendakis
«I abstract all of the material from Greek traditional music, I can say folk music as well, but through a very personal way. I take the core just as it is and start processing it, without corrupting the basic elements. Of course there are western characteristics when there is an orchestra, but the core, the energy of the music, the beat, all this material, let’s say primitiveness, stays almost clean.»
G. Koumendakis' note about his piece Forget me
«During the last few years, Greek traditional music has been the moving force of my compositions. I re-invent, re-structure and re-compose traditional music themes, preserving their energy and subtlety, the authenticity of their primordial model, their vibration and soul, following the paths of the “anonymous” folk composers; the “anonymous” composers of every kind and without borders, outside any racial self-admiration. As this material swirls in my hands, it inevitably gains something from my personality (the dose being determined by the material itself as well as the innumerable “hearings” of my music, as the sound is being shaped step by step on paper). These large or small doses of personal expression leave no room for returning to familiar ground.
The work Forget Me for solo flute (2009) forms part of the cycle of works under the general title Typewriter Tune, which attempts to decipher musical letters sent to various recipients. Each work offers the next something from its own world and thus a succession is created with a beginning lost in time, a present that is not static and a future looking into the superiority of evolution. In Forget Me for solo flute, the recipient is the “anonymous” creator, whereas the music material is derived from two traditional dances: a Karsilamas from Thrace (a 9/8, face to face dance counted as 2+2+2+3) and a Serra, a Pyrrhic dance from Pontos (a war dance from the Black Sea region in 7/16). »