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)

The Poetics of Aristotle

Fragments from the study of Aristotle in English translation, which I consider that they are important for my research and  some of those from which I inspired.

THE POETICS OF ARISTOTLE
BY S. H. BUTCHER,
LONDON, MACMILLAN AND CO., LIMITED,
1902

«I propose to treat of Poetry in itself and of its various kinds, noting the essential quality of each; to inquire into the structure of the plot as requisite to a good poem; into the number and nature of the parts of which a poem is composed; and similarly into whatever else falls within the same inquiry» [1447a]
«So in the arts above mentioned, taken as a whole, the imitation is produced by rhythm, language, or ‘harmony’, either singly or combined» [1447b]

«People do, indeed, add the word ‘maker’ or ‘poet’ to the name of the metre, and speak of elegiac poets, or epic (that is hexameter) poets, as if it were not the imitation that makes the poet, but the verse that entitles them all indiscriminately to the name» [1447b]

«There are, again, some arts which employ all the means above mentioned,-namely, rhythm, tune and metre. Such are Dithyrambic and Nomic poetry, and also Tragedy and Comedy» [1447b]

«Since the objects of imitation are men in action» [1448a]

«The same distinction marks off Tragedy from Comedy; for Comedy aims at representing men as worse, Tragedy as better than in actual life» [1448a]

«Hence, some say, the name of ‘drama’ is given to such poems, as representing action» [1448a]

«First, the instinct of imitation is implanted in man from childhood, one difference between him and other animals being that he is the most imitative of living creatures; and through imitation he learns his earliest lessons» [1448b]

«Be that as it may, Tragedy -as also Comedy- was at first mere improvisation. The one originated with the leaders of the Dithyramb, the other with those of the phallic songs, which are still in use in many of our cities» [1449a]

«Once dialogue had come in, Nature herself discovered the appropriate measure» [1449a]

«For the iambic is, of all measures, the most colloquial» [1449a]

«For the Tragedy endeavors, as far as possible, to confine itself to a single revolution of the sun, or but slightly to exceed this limit; whereas the Epic action has no limits of time» [1449b]

«Tragedy, then, is an imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude; in language embellished with each kind of artistic ornament, the several kinds being found in separate parts of the play in the form of action, not of narrative; through pity and fear effecting the proper purgation of these emotions» [1449b]

«Now as tragic imitation implies persons acting, it necessarily follows, in the first place, that Spectacular equipment will be a part of Tragedy. Next, Song and Diction, for these are the medium of imitation» [1449b]

«The Plot is the imitation of the action» [1450a]

«Every Tragedy, therefore, must have six parts, which parts determine its quality -namely, Plot, Character, Diction, Thought, Spectacle, Song» [1450a]

«The separate parts into which Tragedy is divided -namely, Prologue, Episode, Exodos, Choric song; this last being divided into Parodos and Stasimon. These are common to all plays: peculiar to some are the songs of actors from the stage and the Commoi» [1452b]

«A well constructed plot should, therefore, be single in its issue, rather than double as some maintain. The change of fortune should be not from bad to good, but reversely, from good to bad. It should come about as the result not of vice, but of some great error or frailty, in a character either such as we have described, or better rather than worse» [1453a]

«He ought to show invention of his own, and skillfully handle the traditional material» [1453b]

«In constructing the plot and working it out with the proper diction, the poet should place the scene, as far as possible, before his eyes. In this way, seeing everything with the utmost vividness, as if he were a spectator of the action, he will discover what is in keeping with it, and be most unlikely to overlook inconsistencies» [1455a]

«Again, the poet should work out his play, to the best of his power, with appropriate gestures; for those who feel emotion are most convincing through natural sympathy with the characters they represent; and one who is agitated storms, one who is angry rages, with the most life-like reality» [1455a]

«Hence poetry implies either a happy gift of nature or a strain of madness. In the one case a man can take the mould of any character; in the other, he is lifted out of his proper self» [1455a]

«As for the story, whether the poet takes it ready made or constructs it for himself, he should first sketch its general outline, and then fill in the episodes and amplify in detail» [1455b]

«A letter is an indivisible sound, yet not every such sound, but only one which can form part of a group of sounds. For even brutes
utter indivisible sounds, none of which I call a letter. The sound I mean may be either a vowel, a semi-vowel, or mute. A vowel is that which without impact of tongue or lips has an audible sound. A semi-vowel, that which with such impact has by itself no sound, but joined to a vowel sound becomes audible, as G and D» [1456b]

«A newly-coined word is one which has never been even in local use, but is adopted by the poet himself» [1457b]

«As altered word is one in which part of the ordinary form is left unchanged, and part is the re-cast» [1458a]

«The perfection of style is to be clear without being mean» [1458a]

George Hadjinikos speaks about the work of Jani Christou “Enantiodromia”

George Hadjinikos | Jani ChristouEnantiodromia

«There was a deep evolution in the whole music world and basically the commonality was an effort to dispense with the fetters of an ossified academic art, which wreathed our music life, starting from music education and reaching to the concert halls, succeeding to convert what used to be a place of sacrament and high concepts, into a place of pedantic repetition of works with no meaning at all –when I am talking about it, I mean the international music atmosphere in the whole western world, which is characterized of a superficial perfection, deprived of a meaning, of humanism and most importantly an obligation feeling or better, the privilege of the mission to do this holy thing, called music.
This effort was made in a dual way: a) we consciously break the academic limits we are facing, when b) we subconsciously dig deep to obtain the past from eras and values that are now lost.»
«The characteristic in Christou and Xenakis is that, every other composer in Europe and America needs to go out of Europe in order to find something similar, to the traditions of Japan, India, Indonesia, when Greeks don’t need to do that. We have our own past, which is basically the European past, and this is where Xenakis and Christou dig.
The work originates from the idea of Heraclitus, who says that what stands against something is the dual form of unity.»
«With those deep thoughts, Christou tried to express the subconscious worries of modern human, who, as we know, feels as if the primitive awe awakens inside him in the new form of personal stress.»

 

«Christou, in this map, opens new horizons […] but, on the other side he regains the feeling of something we had lost, because we cannot understand the music of Bach, if we don’t have the feeling of the patterned nucleus, not even classical music.
Today, as we said, with the academic ossification and the imitation of an empty perfection, we take each note and try to count it up in an imitative way, when it basically seems as if we want to express, to find the meaning of a big text, not even by spelling, but itemizing the letters. When basically the feeling of the letters should be lost into the feeling of the word, which grows the sentence, and the sentence grows the period and the period grows the general meaning. Same happens in music. Bach started with the improvisation on themes.»

 
«Shapes that are calculated with the most unbelievable geometrical mind and creates a feeling in the infinity, which he had calculated in its tinniest detail, awakens primitive feelings and relieves us, because it makes us understand the stress.
Every musical instrument is totally free, as we are in life and have the feeling we can do whatever we want and time passes by, and as we have the feeling we are absolutely free, there is this tragic question of drama: where does the free will reaches? And where are the limits between will and destiny?»

 
«Destiny is organized in the general plan of the work, leading in fluctuations and to a feeling that wakes through a sound we don’t know… it starts from outside or inside us? In the beginning we are trying to conceive it, to make what happens accurate. By the time we become conscious, it is so big in size and depth that is really threatening.»

 
«“Metapraxis”: a philosophical meaning in which we are led to do something beyond what we would normally do, we are doing it because of a need coming from inside or outside […] A superior need we have not predicted.»

 
«…it reaches this point where it creates awe and you see how alive it is presented [in the score] … Until we end up in panic.»

 
«The conductor should have an entirely different (unusual) movement perception.»

 
«…as I have said in Heraclitus, it is something that, maybe for us, is consciously the end, but in the cosmic meaning it is nothing but a station for the eternal flow, which the conscious part of human cannot understand just through thought, but needs to obtain, or better admit the wisdom of the subconscious.»

Giorgos Koumendakis-fragments from his speeches and notes

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.»

From the tribute about G. Koumendakis: Melodies and Isons

«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). »

Interview with Nikos Ioakeim about I. Xenakis

«Xenakis’ use of microtones is a way of a graphic view of elements from the Greek traditional music. Having sang in the Oresteia I come to the conclusion that, if you are not familiar, you have never listened to byzantine or traditional music, if you don’t know how the byzantine music works when you are reading the byzantine notation and how the “not in tune” tones work in singing, then Xenakis’ score for chorus’ voices is a puzzle. There is an innate problem when the western singer tries to sing going from the one note to the other and appreciate the quarters of the tone that Xenakis marks, when he does not see the general model at all, specifically what Xenakis wants to present -he does not “catch the sound”. I believe that a possible transfer of the chorus of Oresteia in byzantine notation would be revealing, as Xenakis had followed the reverse road: he had “caught” them in “byzantine” and then wrote them in “western”. We cannot even imagine how extreme what Xenakis wrote was at that time for the western world. Nonetheless, listening to the recordings of the ‘60s, I have to confess that they were performed in a high level in general.»
«If Xenakis was writing those works nowadays, they might seem even folklore, as all this international shuffle of traditional elements (world-fusion) is “in” now, when back then it was about entering unknown elements, non-European, in a music that was much more in the limits of the western tradition of classical music. But Xenakis was not a composer of classical music, because it was not his start point and he didn’t deeply know it (he did way later). He had another origin, his roots were unknown to the European audience back then.
An origin element is his notation for the voices, which is really connected to the byzantine music, but to the music of Epirus as well (which he had already pointed out). Another element is his notation for the percussion, where it seems that, what he wants to transfigure is music from Thrace and Macedoniadavul playing is an experience for him, an earlier knowledge. In the notation for percussion this transubstantiation was easier, because the percussion players have a passion for the technic, their instruments and their limits -but in this case too Xenakis’ references may not be perceived (whatever it might be, they would play it). Even nowadays it is possible that percussion players, who have already performed many of Xenakis’ works, are not familiar with their reference points, of course not necessarily. But in the case of the vocal works, not knowing the reference points is a problem, as it happens in Oresteia.»
«In his works for ensembles, Dmaathen for oboe and percussions is indicative, where an appreciator of Greek traditional music can easily detect the way of notation and use of instruments such as a “zurna-davul” ensemble. It is a subsequent work, from ’70, and the Americans, for whom it was composed (Nora Post & Jan Williams) might not understand this connection. The title, “Dmaathen” (“Δμάαθεν»), means “they are tamed/defeated” (“δαμάστηκαν/”νικήθηκαν»), and it comes from one of Pindaros’ lyrics which refers to the Gigantomachy («δμᾶθεν δὲ κεραυνῷ τόξοισί τ’ Ἀπόλλωνος») -a sample of the thematology of his works and the origin of the titles, where the logic of reference to “agonies” of his research is pierced and, very often, without explaining the background· the performer or the auditor should discover it. For this reason many other references remain unknown, too. The field of knowledge and his references were so wide, that in order for someone to understand and “decode” it, he should necessarily approach this width of the field.»
«Xenakis’ big drama was that he left when things in Greece were still really virgin. He lost his contact as he couldn’t visit Greece, and when he came back a big mutation had come, which he rejected. He generally had a completely rejective attitude for Greece’s evolution in music, as well as many other fields, because he believed that Greece had lost the mood for something new, for exploration- Greece had lost it’s the boldness.»
«The first decades in Paris he wasn’t talking about politics, as his idiosyncrasy made him afraid of the populist complexion of this -he didn’t want to promote himself as a hero and justify his art based on his experiences from the war. After the ‘70s, the fact that his biography was released (1981) and that he came back to Greece (1974) brought on a change to his references to political facts of the past, as his “exile” was an existential problem for him. This is when he started connecting elements of his sound with primary experiences that were about Greece before he left (and were not connected to traditional music).
He had spoken, for example, for the experience of the demonstration that was originally led in total organization, proceeding to total chaos when the gunshots started· this transition was something that had haunted him and is related to the handling of the massive phenomena in his music. He had also declared that the handling of the light in Polytopa, the impression he wanted to create, was the image of night Athens while bombing during the Occupation. The chaos he was watching in the sky from the anti-aircraft headlights and, at the same time, the flashes from the airplanes and the explosions were marked on his mind.»
«He was deeply related to the nature since he was young, so he had related the massive phenomena to his experiences with nature as well. He had spoken about cicadas, flies and mosquitoes in the countryside, the buzzing that insects make when flying all together, things that connect with the Greek countryside.
The period of Xenakis’ life in Greece, especially Athens, structured him in all levels, because those were his adolescent experiences: these are the moments that enter deep inside someone, the revelations that happen, and this is where someone should backtrack to interpret what he did later, because these were the elements he took with him. When he went to Paris in ’47 he was about 25 years old, so all these had already happened. Also, because of this very dramatic period of his life, the experiences were marked in the most rough way.
Even though Xenakis had taken an upscale upbringing in Roumania, someone needs to include how Athens and the suburbs were in the 30’s, when you could still intensely experience the feeling of countryside. So Xenakis had also experienced this in Athens, as much as out of it, as, being a lonely person, he would often make excursions with his bike· of course in Spetses too, where he lived in his school years.»

 

(The interview with Nikos Ioakeim took place on 8 of March in Utrecht)

ANALYSIS OF “MYTHOS Ξ “

 
ANALYZING THE PROCESS OF CREATION
OF
“MYTHOS Ξ”

I. STRUCTURE OF THE PIECE

The structure of the piece is based a lot on the study of Aristotle “About Poetics”, where he is mentioned about the elements, the way and the purpose of tragedy.  More specific, the things which I used inspired from this source are:

Creation of my own myth
«αὐτόν δὲ εὐρίσκειν (μύθους) δεῖ καὶ τοῖς παραδεδομένοις χρῆσθαι καλῶς» [1453b]

Use of mimicry with music, body movements and lyrics
«Ἐπεὶ δὲ μιμοῦνται οἱ μιμούμενοι πράττοντας» [1448a]

Improvisation, as the departure point of ancient greek theater
«γενομένη δ᾽οὖν ἀπ᾽ ἀρχῆς αὐτοσχεδιαστικῆς -καὶ αὐτὴ (τραγῳδία) καὶ ἡ κωμῳδία, καὶ ἡ  μὲν ἀπὸ τῶν ἐξαρχόντων τὸν διθύραμβον, ἡ δὲ ἀπό τῶν τὰ φαλλικὰ ἅ ἔτι καὶ νῦν ἐν πολλαῖς τῶν πόλεων διαμένει νομιζόμενα» [1449a]

Emotional release (catharsis) as the final goal of the myth
«ἔστιν οὖν τραγῳδία μίμησις πράξεως σπουδαίας καὶ τελείας μέγεθος ἐχούσης, ἡδυσμένῳ λόγῳ χωρίς ἑκάστου τῶν εἰδῶν ἐν τοῖς μορίοις, δρώντων καὶ οὐ δι᾽ ἀπαγγελίας, δι᾽ἐλέου καὶ φόβου περαίνουσα τὴν τῶν τοιούτων παθημάτων κάθαρσιν» [1449b]

Use of parts of tragedy (prologue, episode, exit and “kommos”)
«Μέρη δὲ τραγῳδίας […] τάδε ἐστίν, πρόλογος ἐπεισόδιον ἔξοδος χορικόν, καὶ τούτου τὸ μὲν πάροδος τὸ δὲ στάσιμον, κοινὰ μ῀εν ἀπάντων ταῦτα, ἴδια δὲ τὰ ἀπό σκηνῆς καὶ κομμοὶ»  [1452b]

Categorizing of letters of alphabet
«στοιχεῖον μὲν οὖν ἐστιν φωνὴ ἀδιαίρετος […] ταύτης δὲ μέρη τό τε φωνῆεν καὶ το ἡμίφωνον [οἶον τὸ Σ καὶ τὸ Ρ] καὶ ἄφωνον [οἶον τὸ Γ καὶ τὸ Δ]» [1456b]

Change from happiness to misery during the myth because of a human error
«ἀνάγκη ἄρα τὸν καλῶς ἔχοντα μῦθον ἁπλοῦν εἶναι μᾶλλον ἤ διπλοῦν, ὥσπερ τινές φασι, καὶ μεταβάλλειν οὐκ εἰς εύτυχίαν ἐκ δυστυχίαν ἀλλά τοὐναντίον ἐξ εύτυχίας εἰς δυστυχίαν μὴ διὰ μοχθηρίαν ἀλλά δι᾽ ἁμαρτίαν μεγάλην» [1453a]

Elements of greek ancient theater someone can find in the numerous of rituals which still happen in Greece and connected a lot with the music.They are an early kind of improvisational theater, most of them started from the devotion to Dionysus and Orpheus.
«From already prehistoric societies man in his attempt to understand and interpret the world and the mysterious forces of nature, to express their fears, joys and desires to be protected from imaginary or real dangers,  used fiction and imitation. Thus, through this need for expression unconsciously created his first shows, spontaneously and homemade creations.»
[From the devotion to Dionysus to theatrical act, 2015]

Considering the improvisation as one of the most important elements in Greek traditional music, the ensemble split in three groups on the way to be worked without conductor. Between these three groups there is a kind of free improvisation but the deeper meaning of this is to be every group (or layer as is mentioned in the score) one scene of the same story, where all of them happen in a parallel direction.  Also in this way achieved stronger spontaneity of the players and most direct contact as between the players as the ensemble’s with the audience, which are physical elements in any traditional music.

More specific there are the following layers:
A: supernatural and natural
B: humanity
C: myth of Syrinx
So, the created myth is the B (being the smaller and placed between the two bigger layers) declares the containment in which humans might be found trying to understand the A (which mainly represents divinity) through the C (having on mind that Greek mythology was the human way of understanding and approaching the divine) and finally this process doesn’t work.

As in the existed rituals of Greek culture all the participants have a specific role, also in this case every performer his own role which are:
A: Harp: Goddess Dimitra, one of the 12 basic Gods in ancient greek religion
(connection with fertilization and Eleysinian Mysteries)
Piano: Movement of the universe
Percussion: The natural environment where human lives
B: Violin-Double bass: The size difference of two “common” instruments declares
the difference between people considering the external
characteristics, as well as the inner perspectives and ideas
C: The instruments match the characters participating in the myth of Syrinx:
Flute: Syrinx
Cor anglais: Panas
Bass clarinet: Jupiter

I would like to mention that in the early period of ancient Greece the music was related completely with the theater and the poetry and later they started to separated as independent sciences and arts.

II. ELEMENTS FROM GREEK TRADITIONAL MUSIC

The rhythmic and harmonic used elements of Greek traditional music are related with the studies of Aristoxenos  “Harmonic elements” and “Rhythmic elements” and of Plutarchus “About music”.   Concerning the rhythm, it’s clearly that the informations which both to Aristoxenos and to Plutarchus are mentioned, they are still be used in Greek traditional music and most of the times without any difference, like the rhythmical “genders”, the way of using and the relation generally with the field of harmony. About the harmonic elements, a part of those exist until this time but another part needs further research for two reasons: a) the translator of the ancient Greek text should have a good knowledge about the Greek folk music and b) during of the long time, some elements were removed or they have stopped to be in use.

• Addition of the technique of tapan (daouli in Greece) on bass drum:

1-page-001• Analysis of inner structure of a rhythm:

2-page-001

• Use of Greek rhythms in poly-rhythmic way: 3-page-001• Creation of modals inspired from existing Greek modals:6-page-001 • Use of Greek dances for inspiration for instance dactylus and choriambus in the examples below:

13-page-001• Use the interval of fifth major (as an important element in the Greek harmonization) with the harmonic connection: 9-page-001

• Use a part of micro-tonality in flute combined with techniques of kaval:4-page-001

III. ELEMENTS ABOUT STAGE PERFORMANCE

• There are different directions each performer of each layer. More specifically:

A: looks in the opposite direction of the audience, hiding in a way it’s face, as it
happens in the inability of the humans to see the real face of God.
B: is placed in a way that both performers’ faces can be seen by the audience, but  the  look between them declares the direct contact between humans, which almost  extinct nowadays.
C: as a human act,  is placed facing directly to the audience in order of priority of the             importance of the characters in the myth.   5-page-001• The position of the performers on stage creates an inverted (90 degrees) Ξ (=Χ), which is the  last letter of the Greek word SYRINX (=ΣΥΡΙΓΞ)

 
• Specific details about the stage performance:10-page-001• Movement related with the meaning of the music part:

11-page-001
ΙV. ELEMENTS FROM GREEK LANGUAGE

• Letters from the Greek alphabet:12-page-001• Use of Greek words for the titles of the movements like Éroos, Pheùksis, Spoo etc.

V.  XENAKIS AND THE GREEK TRADITIONAL MUSIC

The basic experiences of  Xenakis on Greece had taken place only for fifteen years (1932-1947), but they were enough to create a strong connection between him and the Greek traditional music and generally with the Greek culture. As he had mentioned, he had used in his works a lot of the sounds that came from this period, for instance in “Metastaseis” there are: «…the sounds and the noises of nature, the wind in the pines, the noise of the wind, the cicadas, the noise of the waves, the roaring in the quiet sea […] the sound of the people in the demonstrations with rhythmic slogans converted in a chaos of screams and voices full of anger and death». So, it seems that to get someone in contact with a kind of music, the way through the music isn’t the only one.
Xenakis was influenced from Greek and Rumanian traditional music and from Byzantine music, worshiper of music from Epirus, studier of ancient greek scientists and philosophers and specially of Platon, he understood a lot about the history of music through the studies of Aristoxenos.
Below there are some parts of Xenakis’ texts where he is mentioned about the traditional music and greek culture:

IANNIS XENAKIS:
TEXTS ABOUT MUSIC AND ARCHITECTURE

THE CURRENT TENDENCIES IN FRANCE MUSIC (1955)

“…The music problem in France is radically different that the Greek in this: in France the folk tradition of the village, as we mean it in Greece with the term “folk art”, is finally dead in a long time. I Greece the folk music tradition is alive and possession of the majority of the people. Its perfection and wealth couldn’t be defeated and such from the formal, coming from abroad teaching of the conservatories, despite the efforts of good local composers that borrowed melodic or rhythmic elements of the local language. Besides, hardly any folkloric studies have been made from those who could recast them as to integrate with a new, alive Greek music. In other words, there is still not a “Greek music school…”

PROBLEMS OF THE GREEK MUSIC COMPOSITION (1955)

“…As greeks, besides the problems of European music, have the special national issue of folk music. What is the meaning of folk music? As far we know of a legacy interweaved with devastation, destruction, renaissance and the unbounded efforts of a nation constantly fighting to come back to the light. From the musical view, does it stand next to melodic achievements, such as Mozart’s, Bach’s, Wagner’s? In this point a new question is added in the research. Which is the different between the collective anonymous and the conscious  personal creation?…”

“…In every place that didn’t follow the western music evolution, this problem appears. There is a music tradition coming from the inside of the people. But this is kind of obsolete, because the new life conditions let it dull.
…In other time Greeks forgot to sing to Apollon ahoudoned the lyra to catch the psalm of Ioudaia that came with Christianity. Christians fought with the song  to uproot the old religion and spread the new one. However they didn’t forget the ancient singing at all, because this still lived next to the plain psalm. Then they connected and through centuries gave two art forms: the church Byzantine music and folk music that is still sung from Greeks and Balkans. Today in small nations there is the danger of something worst: to acculturate fully when they don’t have their own wealthy culture or neglect basic areas of their civilization in periods of crisis.
….For us, byzantine and folk tradition in music, as in the other areas of culture, is the only real national legacy and with the chapter we can somebody enter, without losing our particular substance, the big cooperation of the current civilization…”

(EUROPEAN AND FOLK MUSIC COMPOSITION)

“…All those methods matter not for the educated composers to make the same music with the same musical instruments even if this would be really interesting at least in an experimental period, but to reassign the issues of music in Greece and not to fall in same composers’ mistakes (Kalomoiris’ or Petridis’) who took Greek melodies and used such a harmonic polyphonic and instrumental German frame of the 18th century that every Greek character was destroyed.
The new composer must forget the counterpoint he learned and he immersed in the problematic of the technic investigating the folk masterpieces. The critical conscience will make him search for expressive and structural implements in folk and church music on the one side and the innovative discoveries of European music on the other side. The one ear will listen to Greece’s voice and the other one to Europe’s voice.
So it will be able to make the two parallel fields his own. He will create his own idiosyncratic music language, which will start form the Greek area and will meet the European scientific musical thought. Only this way will he release the knot of multiple musical affects, actively, consciously…”

THE WAY OF RESEARCH AND THE QUESTION (1965)

“…We have to suggest the architecture a new space for us to touch the sound as we want. An architecture that is arched, rambling, convertible and in the space, for the free move and the spacial adjustment of sound and emotion, radically opposite to any classical, tastless or symmetric solution…”
“…From now on, the musician should be the costructor of overall philosophical and architectural issues, compounds of structures and sound material…”

ANCIENT TIMES AND CONTEMPORARY MUSIC (1966)

“…The ancient theater or any other complex performance made from a variety of arts touches the human in many levels that don’t connect with each other and have roots in parallel traditions. Traditions of worship, arts, folkway etc. Only in the levels of fundamental structures it becomes real.
As a result, music should adjust in this variety of the places of mind. It can’t be “just itself” anymore as in clean music exercise. It has to integrate with the different elements that, in majority, are only compounded pro time and within time…”
“…Did antiquity left any alive traditions? Do we need to draw from those sources? Which are its typical characteristics? Some of the ancient traditions seem to still live in some Greek folk musics and in others of Balkan, Asia Minor and Cyprus, as in the Byzantine song as well. So here are some music climates closer to the ancients. But do we want to the archeological renovation? I believe it would be pointless, at least nowadays. And even if ancient drama survives, it will owe it to the engaging attributes of its myths and its poetic language…”