Interview with Spyros Sakkas about I. Xenakis and J. Christou

Spyros Sakkas

–  «…I think the main characteristic I have received from most of these men, some of them being the highlight, as Koun, who was my teacher, as Gkatsos, as Elytis, with whom we were friends· first of all Manos Hadjidakis, Jani Christou, the intimate friendship and association that we had, we initiated in many things and the last of all Iannis Xenakis, who came and put all these things –concerning me of course- in the very strong form of intellectuality, I mean our life, an action that is a stunning part. Besides, when I kept asking him many times, because we were collaborating for thirty-five years, what the art could do towards the human being, then he was answering in repetition that “the rule of the art in the human’s life is to open spaces for human intellectual. Nothing else!

Of course there are a lot of questions about this, I made it clear to myself, I answered the questions “what is the relation between intellectuality and art?”, when we always mean that art is a psychosomatic part. Nevertheless, the human intellectuality acts, exists, realizes, experiences through the psychical world. The mind isn’t something separate. We live in a period that the mind is separated from the heart and the rest of the system. And it isn’t a bad thing if we understand something or not. The bad thing is that the human has become unstable, that the human has become schizophrenic, a lazy guy of neurosis and he has been doing, repeatedly for the last fifty years -perhaps earlier-, the same mistake, providing larger dimension in his mind than in his body and soul. The outcome of this is that the human “travels” more and more, like spacecrafts, which can leave this place and go to another direction. Something like this happened to me! The brain lost its immediacy with the body. For instance the body is burning and transmits the information to the brain, but the brain doesn’t keep any information, as many as you may give it. You can remember at most some things from those that you have read, that you have listened, in order to transmit them to someone else, but it is useless for us, because it has lost its unity with the emotional world, with the human. He can’t understand the damage of this action. He tries to think rationally in order to pass it to his mind, which is “small”, as everyone’s of course. He tries to think rationally in order to bring them into our alignment, to understand them.

You can see the people from Pontus, that if you don’t focus in one person, but you look at them in a general view, then it is something amazing, but you cannot observe what happens through the mind. All these people are experiencing them! […]

Our great teachers, like Gkatsos, withdrew and wrote lyrics only for songs, but each of his lyrics had a great philosophical meaning -always diacritic in order not to highlight that he was philosophizing- and understandable to the people, when he is tells him a story, withdrawn from the encephalitis, without losing the power of his intellectuality. He could -this is the difference with the great persons, like Elytis- understand that this is related to the human -with his world specifically- or not. This is exactly what it was! The same with Manos. Manos was a special figure into the society. He was intuiting what was going to happen in fifteen days for someone, he could see all the upcoming actions. Koun was pent up in the basement, in order to avoid all these things and he was working on the human world. Most of them were common guys, with whom he would like to make theater -both cultured and educated- he was motivating things from their origin, their soul.

The massive performances of Koun were psychism, so deep. In there also was Jani Christou, where amazing struggles were happening. They were fitting together, they had the same subject, but Christou was a very educated man and passed all his life into philosophy and, I could say, in the functional structure of philosophy, because we philosophize on something and later we leave this out from our lives.

I mean that all this part is his dedication to the completion of human, everything that tried to happen in the greek civilization with this part, which is mentioned as anthropocentric civilization. Anything else, music….poetry….insipidity! Related with the natural characteristics of things, with the cosmic event, in any case with the commands, this was Xenakis. A philosopher, explorer, researcher, that through the sounds was trying to find the relation of all these “events”, I mean the science of Physics, which counted to the human, and how the human was reshaping them into himself. This part of experiences, I mean the physical functions and experiences, the physical actions, he was incorporating and restoring a new condition, which we mention to as art. A little more scientifically, a little more clear, a little more concrete.

The same path also followed Jani Christou, with the difference that the psychism of human was coming to Christou. He was putting the human to function to the maximum. It seems that Christou didn’t believe that anyone had the time to change what he lives […] the psychism, the memories, all the things and become a more mental human, a different kind of genius, as Xenakis believed. That was the only difference between them. So Christou, too, – I think these things are important- having studied philosophy and psychoanalysis and Jung and all these things, these great persons, he was using this tool. The other one, who had studied mathematics, electronic music, he learned this stuff. But having known and loved them both, they were searching for the same thing, the human. And the first pieces of Xenakis are songs from Epirus, anastenaria (fire-walking) and the other one the same things, through the dynamic of psychism he tries to discover a new step towards the human. This is what I think! Anything else is useless.»

– Then the referral of them both to traditional elements is related to the deepest human creation? Like a primary material?

– «Only this way! Only this way! We bring a primary material back. Let’s talk about Xenakis. Xenakis brings the primary material back every time. There was no chance for me to behave in his works as an opera singer. He composed four big pieces for my voice, the Aïs, the two monologues for the Oresteia, Kassandra and Athena, Kormoris for voice and piano and Promitheus, which he prepared but didn’t manage to complete. These things are primitive. There is no belcanto, no singing, no music, it is a dimension. Of course this doesn’t need resultants, as we say, “there will be high…there will be wild” […]. When you involve with a poetic text…tribunals, the goddess Athena in Oresteia with the text of Aeschylus…why you have to say it like this and not in another way? Why you should organize to say like this? For what reason? There is no reason. You should understand there is an, authorized by the society and its laws, stupidity! That’s what it’s about. You are authorized by the law of the society to do all these nonsense, because everyone does these.

You make the plan in your mind about how to say this text, instead of -as you also do as a composer, that you get in the mood to compose- to discover what music is, instead of discovering what the poetic text of Aeschylus is. […] These are the concerns with these great men, Iannis and all the others I mentioned before. No one can say something more. All these things, the repeated discussions, I don’t like to doubt them, but I do, because they lead nowhere. We should teach people to exist, think and experience as Xenakis did.

They should experience as Hadjidakis, learn and experience having them as their lead, in order to experience the things with the same sense and also construct intellectual situations, I mean thoughts, which can protect them a little. One thought can protect us, make us stable. So where is the music? What is music? You can say many things, from these that we have listened and read. There is no principle, title about what music is. The sounds, the harmonics, the one connected with the other in order to describe all these…In fact it’s an inner world that is either completely dark or completely colorful.

It’s a thing inside us, which dominates us, unexplained, and from that point for this! Everything that I made right now! From the same place appears a sound, at this moment that I’m talking to you, I can sing something, but we don’t know why. It is unexplainable! It’s the nine Muses, the music. That thing, called inner world, is in fact music, or because of the Muses, and then poetry is created, theater, love, and the outcome of this thing is that music often tells us that we enter this world trying to discover why this thing troubles us so much? Why am I not going to drop in a lake to swim and relax? I go and do that in Thermopiles. I go there, get in and forget. The time I was sitting in the hollow, I felt that at the same point were the 300 Spartans of Leonidas. The night before they died, they bathed, they were washed in this water, maybe also in the same hollows, and I was shocked.

They were purified! They bathed, they braided their hair and the next day they left and went to play “thieves and policemen”, only having left their footsteps, their soles, their marks through their action. Can you transform this into logic? Can you explain this? Instead of trying to understand why this land has so many “heroes”, like Xenakis and Christou. Why do they exist? How it happens? And they had good social status. […]

The ancient Greeks created many gods. Have you ever seen any of them being ugly? There is no one!

The last thing I have to tell you, is that Jani tests out the human by composing these things that can’t be played, but he tasks him to play them. When you attend in the stage and you should complete a long monologue, 20 minutes in duration, with the speed of light, with a wealth of texts and the percussion player should be on time with you and the other way round, the sounds, the scales and all these things, or another musician, like a pianist, you can’t read these, so how can you play them? You are going to see that this is a fight, where Jani puts the player in the stage to assert. The action of fighting is what interested Jani primarily and it comes from his inner world.

The action of fighting for the reconquest of a human attribute, which is almost lost at this moment. So, do you want to be a composer? Do it! In other case you can compose just for fun, for celebrates, songs for the “table”, “tsamika”, for dance, songs about parting and many others. At the recent years there is a classification. I don’t know why sometimes everything seems silly to me. Everything that we do seems as a stupidity to me, a constant “theater”.»

(The interview with Spyros Sakkas took place on 13 of March in Athens)

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