Name: Stamatis Pasopoulos

Main subject: Classical composition

Main subject teacher: Robin de Raaff

AR domain: Composition

AR coach: Hans Koolmees

Date of submission: 30.11.2015

“Contemporary music creation in the greek traditional music”


#Contemporary music #Greek traditional music


Having my knowledge and my experience on greek traditional music as my basic implement, the only way to express myself and be creative, based on this material, is through modern music creation.

The real meaning of the word “tradition”, translated from greek, is “delivery”, which is also the real meaning of this music. Every generation has to deliver all this material to the next one, having passed it through some filters, adding -or even removing- some elements.

Holding this idea and having on mind that traditional music can be creative even in the 21st century and respond to the modern social circumstances, I decided to make my own “delivery” of this music.


To create a modern geological sound, which arises from the combination of the two elements I mentioned above. A sound through which I can find myself in the present, past and future, as well. To use the common elements of those two types of music, as well as accomplish a peaceful coexistence of this dissimilarity. Additionally, I think that the more effective direction  of this collaboration is that the contemporary culture have to approach the greek traditional, because is more physical way.

Research Question

How can I as a composer use elements from greek traditional music for the development of my own musical language?

The intervention cycle

During my first intervention cycle I tried to find in the past the departure point of combination of contemporary and greek traditional music. So I used as reference recording the String Quartet, which I have written in 2009 for lyra of Istanbul, two violins and cello. In the second step I made my personal reflection for the piece and I came to the conclusion that I can find in the piece many elements of my study of contemporary music in bayan. After this I received five feedbacks from the network’s members, which I choose in depend on their relationship with the greek folk music. For these feedbacks is interesting to mention the view of composers that I can learn more deep the possibilities in different layers and in the other hand the opinion of lyra-player, that there was a successful balance in this combination. In the third step of data collection, using the literature strategy of research, I search knowledge on the works of other composers which they have used from greek traditional music and specially to Iannis Xenakis, also on ancient greek music and relation between this music and greek traditional and additional the extensions of ancient greek music. In the end of the  first cycle my  intervention is 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 and to experiment much more with the possibilities which the contemporary music can offer to me.

The plan about the second intervention cycle is to compose a piece for a line-up of 8 instruments (flute, clarinet, eng. horn, violin, contrabass, harp, piano, percussions) applying my idea about layer music, in combination with a story from ancient greek mythology. I have in my mind also to use specific greek traditional scales with microtones fitting techniques of greek instruments to common classical instruments, like kaval and flute.

Research result

Artistic Product: In my final point of my research I would like to make a piece with big line-up where there is a combination between greek traditional and contemporary culture but not only in the layer of music but also about the stage performance, dance and perception of space.

Research Report: I have to experiment with new composition ways both how I use the material (rhythmical, melodic, expressive, technically) and how I choose the right material.


-Media review-


  • Kamarotos, D. (1994), “Iannis Xenakis”: a tribute of National Metsovian Technical University to a graduate student, Syghroni Epohi, Athens
  • Apostolopoulos, L.  (2002), The four Greeks, Kaktos, Athens
  • Aristoteles, (2008), Poetics, Zitros, Thessaloniki


  • Solomos, M. (….), Les Anastenaria de Xenakis. Continuité et discontinuité historique, (accessed November 2015)





“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





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”.

There is a relation ship between greek folk music and modern music creativity, which can be observed in the following fields: i) the use of micro-tones ii) the effort of deconstruction of rhythmical and melodic phrases iii) the use of improvisational elements iv) the flexibility which provided to player as to the way of performance which he chooses and v) the immensely variety of rhythms, scales, polyphonies and combinations of instruments. All these elements exist both in greek folk music and contemporary.

I believe that is the right time to inspired the contemporary music  much more from anyone traditional culture. The composer-creator is responsible to choose the right elements that he needs for his work, including these in the present. This inspiration could be several things which including in a traditional culture, like a landscape, the colors, the nature, the way of of people, a rhythm, an instrument, a dance, a costume, a fairy tale, the food etc. In this case the piece could be belong in a new “geological sound” and finally might be a palette with a lot of contemporary “geological sounds”, and of course this is absolutely different of “ethnic” music, because the different is that the first one is based on individual creation and the other on mimicry.



1.   Literature


  • Aristoteles, “Poetics” [c. 367-347 Β.C.]

(Αριστοτέλης, Ποιητική, μτφ. Δ. Λυπουρλής, εκδ. ΖΗΤΡΟΣ, Θεσσαλονίκη, 2008)

  • Aristoxenus, “Elements of Harmonics” – “Elements of Rhythm” [c. 300 B.C.]

(Αριστόξενος, Αρμονικά στοιχεία, Ρυθμικά στοιχεία, Αποσπάσματα, μτφ. Φιλολογική Ομάδα Κάκτου, εκδ. ΚΑΚΤΟΣ, Αθήνα, 2005)

  • Plutarch, “On Music [c. 90 A.D.]

(Πλούταρχος, ΗΘΙΚΑ, τόμος 29, “Περί μουσικής”, μτφ. Φιλολογική Ομάδα Κάκτου, εκδ. ΚΑΚΤΟΣ,  Αθήνα, 2005)

  • Claudius Ptolemy, “Harmonics” [c. 2nd century A.D.]

(Ingmar Düring, Die Harmonielehre des Klaudius Ptolemaios. Göteborgs Högskolas Årsskrift, vol. 36,  nº 1. Göteborg 1930)

  • Aristides Quintilianus, “On Music” [c. 3rd century A.D.]

(Aristides Quintilianus, “De Musica I”, Winnington-Ingram, Leipzig, 1963)

  • Kritos Georgios “Elements of greek ancient metric”

(Κρήτος Γεώργιος, “Στοιχεία αρχαιοελληνικής μετρικής”, εκδ. Μαστορίδη, Θεσσαλονίκη, 1970)

  • Iannis Xenakis “Texts about music and architectur”

(Ξενάκης Ιάννης, “Κείμενα περί μουσικής και αρχιτεκτονικής”, εκδ. ΨΥΧΟΓΙΟΣ, Αθήνα, 2001)

  • Solomos Makis “IANNIS XENAKIS: The universe of strange creator”

(Σολωμός Μάκης, “IANNHΣ ΞΕΝΑΚΗΣ: Το σύμπαν ενός ιδιότυπου δημιουργού”,εκδ. ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΕΙΑ, Αθήνα, 2008)

  • Varga Balint Andras, “Conversations with Iannis Xenakis”

(Βάργκα Μπάλιντ Άντρας, “Συνομιλίες με τον Ιάννη Ξενάκη”, μτφ. Αλέκα Συμεωνίδου, εκδ. Ποταμός, Αθήνα, 2004)

  • A tribute of National Metsovian Technical University to a graduate student: Iannis Xenakis

(Ένα αφιέρωμα του Εθνικού Μετσοβίου Πολυτεχνείου προς έναν απόφοιτό του: Ιάννης Ξενάκης, εκδ. Σύγχρονη Εποχή, Αθήνα, 1994)


  • Hourmouziades Nikos, “The chorus in ancient greek drama”

(Χουρμουζιάδης Νίκος, “Ο χορός στο αρχαίο ελληνικό δράμα”, εκδ. Στιγμή, Αθήνα, 2010)

  • Hourmouziades Nikos, “On chorus”

(Χουρμουζιάδης Νίκος, “Περί χορού”, εκδ. Καστανιώτης, Αθήνα, 1998)

  • Fotopoulos Dionysis, “Masks Theater

(Φωτόπουλος Διονύσης, “Μάσκες Θέατρο”, εκδ. Καστανιώτης, Αθήνα, 1980)

  • Koun Karolos, “About theater”

(Κουν Κάρολος, “Για το θέατρο”, εκδ. Κακουλίδης, Αθήνα, 1981)

  • Koun Karolos, “We make theater for our soul”

(Κουν Κάρολος, “Κάνουμε θέατρο για την ψυχή μας”, εκδ. Καστανιώτης, Αθήνα, 2000)


2. CD’s and DVD’s





3. Documents







4. Internet









       The tradition of wrestling (Serres)_2

       The tradition of Anastenaria (fire-walking)_2



1. Network diagram and explanation

  • Papadopoulos Ilias composer and lyra of Pontos player

(He was my composition teacher in my Bachelor and he was the first one which he introduced me in deeper theoretical analysis of greek traditional  musicvia ancient greek studies and how connected these two cultures.)

  • Kyriakakis Giorgoscomposer

(He is greek composer of contemporary music and he have introduced in his works elements of byzantine and greek traditional music.)

  • Karakantza Sofia theatre director

(I have already worked with her several times and she can advise me both the ancient greek theater and stage performance.)

  • Vovolis Thanoscostume designer specializing in design and manufacture of masks    

(I found him in internet and I thought that could be advise me about the ideas with masks.) 

  • Theodorou Kostascomposer / improviser/ d. bass and percussion player

(I join in Kostas Theodorou -Dine Donneff- Quartet he combines elements from macedonian music, modern music and improvisation to narrate a story and create illustrations.) 

  • Rizopoulos Alexandrosarchitecture and percussion player

(He is a friend of mine and we worked for many years in the same band and in the past we have discussed about the music performance and the space.)

  • Robin de Raaff composer / main subject teacher
  • Rene Uijlenhoet  composer specializing in electronic sound
  • Jan Bas Bollen  composer specializing in visual media


2. Network interviews

a. Summary of interview with Robin de Raaff:

I had a discussion last week with my main subject teacher and I informed him about my topic and my first ideas. We talked about the ancient greek studies about music and the connection with the greek traditional music, we analyzed the below picture, that I created to make more clear my artistic research question. He told that my topic is very interesting and he liked a lot the parts about the intervals and masks.


Assignment 1: IDEA

         1.  Motivation

  • As a musician and a composer I always try to express and discover myself more and more through my compositions, combining  knowledge, experiences, personal moments, instinct, understanding of my character and artistic wishes and goals.

         2.  Artistic Research Question

  • How can I, as a composer, use elements of (ancient) Greek music for the development/enrichment of my own musical language?

         3. Goal

  • From my study and experience there is a relationship between ancient Greek music and original Greek folk music. As a composer I would like to use elements from these two fields in the frame of contemporary music, which assist to combine the two musical idioms,  contemporary and Greek. The final goal is to develop and enrich my own musical language.