(BEING CONTINUED FROM 13/03/16)
George Couroupos25 takes our thought a little step further:
“[…] Music is the ultimate limit of poetry in its flight from the sphere of the conscious
to that of the unconscious, through a rebaptism of the signifieds, achieved by the original
combination of the words and their rhythms and sounds. For poetry, music is the ideal of
absolute freedom. […] Music owes much to poetry. And I am not speaking only of the folk
song, of course, but of all vocal music that is based on poetry, directly or indirectly. Greek
music, particularly from Matzaros to Kalomiris, and from Mitropoulos to Theodorakis, seems to have an ardent desire to be renewed through poetry, through the shared archaic womb that brought forth both forms, like Siamese twins. We should, however, avoid oversimplifications.
The intention of the song-maker who sets a poem to music within the framework of a popular or vernacular tradition is not the same as that of a composer-intellectual who pits his wits against a work of poetry.”
Hence, if for Couroupos a work of art music seeks to yoke itself to poetry’s discourse in
order to create a new musical entity that, in effect, both ‘transubstantiates’ the poem and
advances musical thinking, it is a quite challenging idea to gropingly touch their diplomatic
ramifications through some widely known examples that follow.
2.1. Three representative examples reflecting the Modern Greek contribution towards the world
2.1.1. The Great Erotic
The Great Erotic is a cycle of eleven songs for two voices, mixed chorus and twelve
instruments (string and plucked ones), composed in 1972 between New York and Athens,
which, literally speaking, does not entirely belong to the Modern Greek poetry set to music.
However, it is chosen among others, due to its peculiar nature, since it includes a Greek
traditional song and poems by Sappho, the biblical King Solomon, George Chortatsis,
Dionyssios Solomos, Constantine Cavafy, George Sarantaris, Myrtiotissa, Pantelis Prevelakis,Odysseas Elytis and Nikos Gkatsos. Although the title may mislead us to believe that it constitutes a purely erotic oeuvre and an anthem to love, Manos Hadjidakis himself has made it clear: “Only a foul could imagine that you write such a work when you are in love. Such works, as the Great Erotic is, are written when you don’t bother whether you are in love or not. You have sorted your thoughts out and you feel free of reflecting”. He also describes the deeper meaning of this work and gives an answer to the attack he faced for his ‘superficial’ behavior to release the Great Erotic in such an ‘inopportune time’ for Greece (i.e. during the Junta of Colonels):
“At that time, many people wondered why I turned back and made my Great Erotic during the dictatorship. I made it out of expediency when I realized what was missing from our place. It was not the slogan. It was the lack of the great human values,previously negated. And I was vindicated in retrospect, because the slogans elapsed, but the concepts and the value of the Great Erotic, whose songs were not just mere love songs but songs on love, remained. Nonetheless, I suffered the attack of several people then, who wondered what did he come to give us in ’72 in the dictatorship? I gave you exactly what I saw was then missing. And the Great Erotic was just the bearer of the deeper human emotions that were about to be humiliated”
(George Hadjidakis 2002).
The musical bridges cannot be demolished, as far as there are people, who feel and have
the need to sing for love, for life, for our fellow-man, each time the cruel image of History
turns its page26. With a fervent, throbbing and lasting passion, Hadjidakis transformed the
contemporary Greek song and gave birth to something that could be called original Greek
song. As an original Greek work both of poetic and musical elaboration, the Great Erotic
comprises and reconciles the Greek tradition, the byzantine hymns and the Greek poetry
within the framework of popular songs, but above all, Hadjidakis’s orchestration smoothly
punctuates the elegance of words, while accentuating their meaning. His ingenuity managed to transform the poems into a concrete work of high artistic value and serve those universal values of humanity as they were depicted through this recursion to the relevant Greek poetic script27.
As Yannaras points out28, the language is created, formulated and developed by people with certain needs: its expressive dynamism is not an outcome of randomness, an aleatoric result, neither a product of ideological standards (or racial superiority), but a tool to express the inner workings of their soul. For the Greek cultural diplomacy, the Greek linguistic legacy constitutes a comparative advantage of the Hellenism, which however seems rather enfeebled in its contemporary treatment. Still, the Great Erotic offers very generously a timeless journey to the Greek language, embellished with different musical styles. Perhaps,Manos’s Hadjidakis words may leave an indelible stamp on this perspective of consideration for his work: “If I rest free, my Hellenic nationality would be a reality that I could not be able to deny, as far as it is interwoven with my language and my personal history. The only thing I can do is hoping to become a true for you, as well…“29.
(TO BE CONTINUED)
M.A. in Art, Law and Economy, International Hellenic University. Ph.D. candidate,
International Center for Music Studies, University of Newcastle upon Tyne.
25 (George Couroupos 2002, 3)
26 (George Stefanakis 2004, 9)
27 (Nikos Grosdanis 2002, 18)
28 (Christos Yannaras 2001, 76-77, 84, 88)
29 (Lambros Liavas 2004, 175)