Yorghos Mouloudakis : The young man and the owl»
(To Athena Athanasslou. World premiers)
- Figures of adolescence (3:03)
I wake up in the children’s room. All around me, Hamilton’s posters, wrth their thin, lair laces of adolescence. Half of me is still immersed in the marvels of tenderness. A vague concern for my mother penetrates their veins underneath the skin. As for her, she rests her hand upon my shoulder to reassure me. I move back and forth, monotonously, raising and lowering my finger – tak-tak – on the swaying railing of the freighter. In the calm depths of my revery, I’ll spread a chequered napkin. Time will resl upon it, motionless. And I shall bend over, from the very start spelling the words I once spoke. What kind of future can there be in a freshly-restored past? The wind is blowing, blowing invisibly, since the tree-leaves remain firmly in their places, as it captured in a three-dimensional photograph. All is pleasant, all is nightmarish and it is an afternoon of 1973.
- The Fête (1:38)
The fête will last all night long, under the full moon. Dancers in tall, black laced tools made by my father, are leaping. In the air, steps of an ancient Cretan dance. It must be that I have witnessed this scene again, somewhere.
- The drum (0:46)
And yet, my ears no longer hear the lyre, but the drum. Sure and insidious, like Amadeus’ flute, the drum is beating monotonously, summoning me to an unknown battle. The mourning you never deserved will change the middle line marked on the senses. I’ll stay there a little while, alone.
- Little blue buggy (1:02)
I’ m riding on a little blue buggy full of bells, through the streets of my mother city. Whatever I keep in my hands from this day forward -I said – shall be mine.
- Walls made of cotton (0:34)
You carry the prison with the cotton walls inside yourself, if it so happens. Irregular pulse. The heart-beats comply obediently with the inner tempo of collapse.
6. Obsession (1:20)
An ‘idee fixe’ – though I don’t know which idea – has been locked up in the labyrinth and is so exquisitely incorporated there that all around, material substance thins out -I can actually call it Invisible.
7. Supplication (0:19)
Her fingers, caressing my hair, leave a gentle mark – as a handwoven dowry for the entrance-way,
8. Athena (2:58)
I seek Athena in the forest full of lullaby masts. She stands at the entrance of the little church, facing the fragrant scent of the incense-burner for the ‘Doxa’1 and the’Axios’1. We peel an artichoke together. We bits the tips, laughing. We clink glasses and drink raki2 with some unknown person. The salty breeze caresses Athena’s hair and the white smock can breathe, both mast and sail. Deep in love. The Venetian fortress with the sculpted lion above the entrance rises in the background, immovable. I can hold the whole city tenderly in my arms, with only a movement of my forearm; myself could rest in that embrace.
9. Nocturnal flight (1:45)
I spread my cape upon the gravel and maκe way for her to tread. I don’t know where I hid this carpet all these years. I recovered it in a movement, the way my father used to whip his comb out of the back pocket of his trousers to straighten a tuft of hair that had gone astray. Upon this carpet we shall travel. From high up there, we can see the ancient ruins of Knossos, surrounding the white lily of the prince3. Far away, beneath the sea, the volcano of Santorini lies asleep. I can hear that old-time sound of the drum beating ceaselessly within me, mute. It’s pushing me on and on, hypnotized. I am standing over my girlfriend, commanding my cape-carpet to traverse this world.
10. Brief return (0:14)
As soon as we set foot on the earth, I was entangled in the grip of an invisible hand taking me back to the children’s room; I was left curled up there like an embryo. Minuscule bridges stand on both sides of the world.
11. The procession (1:29)
Lying motionless in this position, I saw my finger rising all by itself towards the ceiling, pushing the procession shadowed in the puppet-theatre. The empty coffin passes by before my eyes quietly. In vain I stand on tiptoe to find out who is lying happily inside. The procession has already gone past, plunged in ineffable melancholy. My cheeks blush iridescently, as if extending an inexplicable apology for this stranger. Who knows?
12. Classmates from the old days (1:19)
Some classmates from the old days woke me up, rushing to attend the party, full of joy, with their girl-friends, families and ambitions under their left arm. They entice me, but I’ll escape them. For years now, my Sunday tie has been drying all alone on the clothes-line.
13. Green moment (0:52)
Bowed down under the green desk, I’ll think about the people I have loved, and those I haven’t loved. Whatever you do, they’ll always be them in back of you.
- Teachers (0:43)
Irretrievably and unexpectedly, time is split by the legion of all the people who have taught us. Mothers, teachers, classmates from the old days, politicians and friends have gone past in a single twinkling of the eye. Insipid and boisterous, they all laid their claim to a half-penny ticket – a claim to my life. But that claim I dismissed. A sea-breeze laden with the scent of Santorini was still blowing inside my chest.
- The Square of the *Three Arcades* (2:12)
And so, the obsession will return for the last time, carried like a knapsack by soldiers heading for the front, monotonously. Upright and rigid like a piece of wood, the hand is raised above the helmet. The military march knocks on the door of pure untrodden feelings, demanding that It open. But I shall strain my ears to hear again the drum-beats of a sad exaltation, like a sign of hope. Together, we’ll go up to the Square with the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. There, in the Square of the “Three Arcades» in my home town, in the old pastry shop, near the round table of my parents, with a baklava. I’ll bid farewell to my family, amidst the jarring sounds of the motley municipal band. The little lights of the kiosk twinkle, on and off, a signal of a new beginning inside me, a new birth.
16. A tiny owl (0:40)
I’m on my way, carrying a tiny owl like a happy new-born child perched on my shoulders. A swarm of people is cheering, without being heard. The music tells of the world no more. The curtain falls behind me
Nikos Kypourgos : «Nine musical Images for guitar”
(To Y. Mouloudakis. World premiere)
- A straw-hat (2:27)
- The broken toy (2:13)
- Chase for three (1:28)
- The empty square (1:46)
- The acrobat (1:02)
- Praying mantis (0:56)
- Drizzle (2:16)
- The rider’s passing (1:34)
- The pathway home (2:59)
Giorgos Koumendakis : «Suite for the Grimm brothers»
[To Y. Mouloudakis. World premiere)
- Fair little Cathy and Piff-Paff Hickory-hook (2:58)
- The wondrous violinist (1:56)
- Sleeping Beauty (2:44)
- Jorinde and Joringel (2:23)
- Little Red Riding Hood (4:43)
Translated Into English by Evangelos Christopher Tyroglou English version edited by Amy Mims
At first hearing, one can discern a number of elements that link together the works of this album, despite their stylistic differences. Primarily, they were all composed either by or for the guitarist Yorghos Mouloudakis. In addition, the three composers belong to close generations and have all been influenced – in a lesser or greater extent – by the supreme figure of Manos Hadjidakis; moreover, they stand as representatives of a new era in Greek music which, even though lacking in leading figures at present, has nevertheless been marked by a collective tendency towards artistic re-affirmation and inner quest. Last but not least, even though the works herewith presented constitute either original compositions or transcriptions for guitar by their respective composers, they refuse to identify at all with any particular school of guitar. Still, by examining them anew, one is bound to encounter deeper links.
The key idea that brings together these three works is, I think, the concept of a «fairy tale-like narration”. Mouloudakis’ part recounts a story that looks like a childhood dream; Koumendakis delivers his music piece against the background of the most well-known European book of tales; Kypourgos, in his turn, closely follows an association of ideas transubstantiated into linked musical images, and puts them in the right order before he starts to unfold his story. Still, I think that the pieces of the present album are a long way from being labeled as programme music, since they treat narration as a poetical idea rather than a mere external account of events. It is more a kind of music that concerns itself with the aesthetics of the narration, looking upon the narration as recollection and viewing the main idea of the tale as poetical lieu; the narrative thread thus takes on a guise of a far-away destination rather than conquered territory. The fact that the concept of narration is closely linked to the stringed instrument – be it the guitar of the contemporary performers and rock ballads, or the lute of the old-time troubadours – may not be as coincidental as it seems.
I shall focus on a phrase taken from Yorghos Mouloudakis’ biographical note, according to which he was shaped as an artist, vacillating between two poles: the “guitarist» Evangelos Boudounis and the «anti-guitarist» Manos Hadjidakis. By the term “anti-guitarist”, Mouloudakis rather means the distinctive manner in which Hadjidakis used to incorporate the guitar into the scores of his most well-known songs: that is, in a conservative way, and rather as an accompanying instrument, never bringing it under the spotlight. Also, the Greek song of Hadjidakis and Theodorakis that had captivated the masses was sung by small groups to the accompaniment of a single guitar mostly playing in an «anti-guitarist» manner, that is non-technically. How and why a guitar-player can vacillate between the two poles just mentioned was fully shown by Mouloudakis In his album entitled «A Short Report to Manos Hadjidakis” the album was released in 1996 by Seinos, Hadjidakis’ own record company, and instantly received most favourable reviews from the critics.
For Mouloudakis, the need expressed by all guitarists to engage themselves in original composition sometime in their career may not necessarily be traced in the unsatisfactory number of works for guitar, but it could well be a deeper expression of the fact that «all guitar players have had their first contact with the instrument virtually in order to deliver a momentous song.» In that very sense, the fact that the guitar is called to re-kindle its relationship with the song may well be perceived as a poetical claim. And that is so, especially should we bear in mind that the first well-known guitarists – in Greece mostly – bequeathed the instrument with an incongruous paradox: whilst the guitar owned its reputation to popular music, and the soloists themselves earned their livelihood through this kind of music (performing, for instance, in concerts of popular music composers), the ideological stance that prevailed at the time «was for the guitar to break free from the narrow confines of song and gain its rightful place in the concert halls-where it deserves to be.”
The effort to link those two trends, that is to analyse this creative clash by reconciling the «anti-guitarist» song and the «guitarist» scoring, is after all the underlying element that brings together the works of the present album, with “The young man and the owl” as the most typical example that also constitutes the very first music work to have been released by Yorghos Moukxidakis as a composer. These sixteen musical miniatures that make up «The young man and the owl” were initially created as music accompaniment to a screening of Murnau’s film «Faust”, and were first performed in Southbank’s Purcell Room in London, in December 2000. According to their creator though, the time came when these musical images acquired a form of their own and started to shape a distinct story: «it was as if the music pieces themselves were calling for a brand new narration to unfold.” This strategic fallback – so to say – of the traditional “story-accompaniment” sequence is, I think, symbolic for Mouloudakis, as far as the distinctive manner in which he treats the guitar is concerned. «What is the difference between the music originally written for guitar, and a transcription?», I remember myself asking him recently. “For someone who composes music with a guitar in his hands, the instrument «retrieves» a memory which does not exist; it is, so to speak, a memory that has not yet been begotten. There is a whole difference between composing on the guitar and composing on the piano. Something written on the guitar is like retrieving a memory that has just been born and which may have its origins somewhere in the past, outside the confines of Time the way we perceive it, in a life parallel to ours.”
Following the work more closely, one can easily realise in what extent and in which particular way Mouloudakis has been influenced by the melodic, rhythmic and eventually narrative independence underlying the form of the song. The “father-figure” of Manos Hadjidakis plays here a leading role, either mentioned explicitly in some of the pieces (like, for instance, in “The Procession»), or implicitly hinted elsewhere; Hadjidakis’ influence appears as a prevailing aesthetic view underlying the whole work, a view that is even more indirect yet absolutely suggestive in the accompanying text. The style, the length and the way Mouloudakis’ paragraphs are linked to one another are instantly reminiscent of Manos Hadjidakis’ «Gioconda’s Smile” and his own accompanying texts that adorned the most acclaimed album with orchestral music ever released by a Greek composer. Both texts are but childhood memories, an attempt to explore the subconscious by using the expressionistic patterns of an occidental story-teller. Like «Gioconda’s Smite”, “The young man and the owl” is thus transformed into a series of songs devoid of words. The only difference is that in Mouloudakis, apart from his mind and body also participates the «body» of the guitar. As a result, the fairy tale recollections are inter-woven with the distant echoes of various schools of guitar; the child’s narrative that comes in contact with the symbolic structure of life intermingles with the ardour of a teenage guitar student when he passionately sets off to explore the technical possibilities of the instrument he has in his hands, and consequently the expressive potentials of his own body. It is perfectly clear that Mouloudakis speaks of his childhood story by conversing with an instrument through which he has chosen to express his grown-up self. This principle brings back to mind Proust: «…a posterior body attempting to speak of its anterior self, and in the course of time it discovers that such a thing could never be made possible, since both past and present have indelibly marked one another.”
The innocence of a childhood recollection, forever possessed by the haunting intervention of adult life, is, I think, a key element in the Tales of Grimm». Glorgos Koumendakis work was begotten as a dramatic game, on the occasion of a new Greek edition of the “Tales’. The composer combined the minimalist narratives delivered by an actress, with electronic sounds interspersed with interludes for a string quartet. The main concept was that the parts of the quartet alternate with the narratives in about the same way as the contact with the printed page (the reading of a tale) alternates with a fantasy reconstruction of the material that the child has read. This particular sensation was also reinforced by the musical text which – alongside the melodic themes – brought sharply to the fore their structural details. The «Suite for the Grimm brothers” belongs to the most recent creative period of the composer who has been treating anew the concept of tonality in a completely novel way, drawing upon his experience of the European avant-garde.
Even though the first version of Koumendakis’ «Tales of Grimm», re-enacted through the music, was at some distance from the tales themselves, since it pre-supposed (and referred to) the act of reading, the suite version for guitar that the composer elaborated following Mouloudakis’ proposal, rises by one more stave on the scale of re-enactment. Essentially, it is a fourth degree recollection: the recollection of a musical-dramatic elaboration of a reading of the tales. At this point, it would be particularly interesting to examine how this version makes the harmonic risks taken by the composer sound far less strange; this version also initiates the listener to observe more closely the sublimity of the vertical structure of Koumendakis’ music. Alternatively, if “The Tales» attempted to project the harmonic findings upon the melodic lines in the quartet version, then it is evident how – on a second level -the aesthetics of the melodic tines could be put forth as a material for the harmonic tie in the guitar version. As an experience, the ‘Suite for the Grimm brothers’ is like a music-box: it reproduces the main corpus of a music, bringing back to memory the music itself (in its first form) and ultimately the recollection that this music bears with it in this case though, the main difference is that the music-box manifests a surprising cogency – as if someone had it opened from within the tale itself.
“The young man and the owl» and “Suite for the Grimm brothers» share yet one more characteristic. In their first version and during the recording session, the team of “Studio 19″ played an important role. The acoustic landscapes of Coslas Bokos and Vassitis Koundouris (who also undertook the recording of the present album) furnished Koumendakis’ music with electronic sounds for the stage production, and span the finishing touches into the acoustic thread to Murnau’s film “Faust” (in which Mouloudakis’ music had been monumentally directed – only traces of it could be discerned, like the smoothly-scraped surface of a relief-fresco). This detail could be witnessed only by the experienced listener; yet, this original recording approach distinctively shares in a constructive conversation with the guitar tradition. The employment of an amalgam of sound angles, that is the mixture of different recording spots, comes in sharp contrast with the «pursuit of authenticity» we have grown so accustomed to in the guitar recordings; during most of those recordings, the principal aim is to give the impression that the sound has been captured in a room (thus making the sonorities behave accordingly). In the present album though, this room is in a state of constant flux, and thus the static quality of the guitar’s distinctive sound diffuses
«Nina Images for guitar”, states Nikos Kypourgos. Is based upon simple and brief music themes composed from 1990 up until 1996, in which year they were compiled to farm a unified work for guitar. “At times, these themes grew to acquire different forms and were employed in order to accompany stage or film images that – by coincidence or not – were all related to children.» The common characteristic of these themes that helps them gain distinction through the guitar, is the almost persistent recurrence of a melodic, harmonic or rhythmic idea”, («The Empty Square» being a most typical example). Kypourgos’ pieces do not conceal the fact that they were originally written in order to accompany images; yet, the manner in which they are structured and in effect “taken to pieces” – like fitting dolls or children’s puzzles – renders them musically independent. His music pieces urge the listener to complete them with images, and ultimately put them together under a single narrative. The fairy tale-like narration has played a decisive role in Kypourgos’ work. Let us not forget that the composer became widely known to the general public in Greece through his participation in the creative group of «Lilipt”4, the songs of which accompanied the most successful contemporary Greek tale. Perhaps this experience (but also his subsequent engagement in music for the stage and cinema) is not unrelated to the way he has been treating music: that is, both as internal and external narrative process. Alternatively speaking, music is the means to recount a story, but also the material and basic symbol of that story. For instance, the music arrangement for the tale «The king is naked (1995) Is typically indicative of the afore-mentioned approach: at the end of the tale, when the king is found stark naked out in the street, and all those present succumb to the collective paroxysm of “his attire is the most beautiful in the world», the orchestra stops playing. And yet musicians and conductor alike keep on making the same movements, as if they are still performing. After a short period of deathly silence, with the audience wondering whether they should applaud or just try to listen to something controversial beyond their grasp, a little child is heard shouting, by analogy with the tale: “I can hear nothing – the musicians have stopped playing!»
Try to treat this album as a similar tale, as if the guitar ceaselessly laboured to remind us of a memory by definition and not by recollection. A memory wholly fashioned in the present, with no past. As if the story itself said that the whole of its craft resides in the perplexing ambiguity of a bare memory.
Translated into English by Evangelos Christopher Tyroglou
1«Doxa” and «Axios”: the equivalent parts of ‘Gloria in excelcis Deo’ and ‘Sanctus Benedictus In the Greek Orthodox mass.
2 Raki: Traditional alcoholic beverage from Crete made of distilled raisins; reputed for its strong flavour and intense aroma. Bearing special connotations for the natives of Crete, the consumption of raki has long been associated with such qualities as manliness and valour, and throughout the centuries it has been used as an enlivening potion before battle in order to uplift the young men who fought against invaders.
3 Allusion to the relief fresco of the so-called “Prince of the Lilies», situated in the Corridor of the Procession leading to the Central Court at Knossos Palace. The fresco depicts a regal figure, probably the Priest-King, wearing a crown of lilies and peacock plumes. With his outstretched left hand he may have been leading a sphinx or a griffin.
4 Lilliput: the most controversial radio programme of the 1970s, established and Initiated by Manos Hadjidakis, then also director of Greek Radio 3. The programme was initially intended for children, hence its tide that alludes to Jonathan Swift’s widely acclaimed “Gulliver’s Travels”. Very soon though. It grew to acquire exceptional fame throughout the country, having the same (or perhaps more) appeal to grown-ups as well. Hadjidakis’ ingenious direction brought to the fore budding actors, accesses, singers, music performers and composers who were given the opportunity to present on air their original creations, often in the form of a unified account that made up a specific story. All these creative forces joined together provided a fresh insight into the methods employed to entertain children.