Anastasia Siopsi, Jani Christou’s music for ancient dramas (1963-1969): a public form of ritual acts aiming to create emotional renewal

From 1963 to 1969, Jani Christou wrote music for four ancient tragedies and one ancient comedy (in chronological order, “Prometheus Bound” (1963), “The Persians” (1965), Agamemnon” (1965), “The Frogs” (1966), “Oedipus Rex” (1969)). There is a parallel development of musical language and philosophical thought; catharsis seems to be the ultimate aim of the audience’s experience of his work as a ritual. Christou’s music for ancient dramas has elements which are treated more systematically than in his other previous works. A very important one is the use of the chorus. Chorus plays the most functional role in articulating drama as a ritual, something which receives its most mature form in “The Persians”. The elaboration of such a ritualistic character is developed systematically in Christou’s music for ancient plays and, therefore, is a characteristic attached in a unique way to his theatrical works. It is the aim of the proposed paper to analyze the chorus’s role in Christou’s music for ancient dramas; also, to look at the ‘ritualization of the musical act’ as a work of synthesis that unites music, gesture, movement and group choreography within a wider cultural context in order to trace elements that reflect, at a certain degree, his era and even go back to Richard Wagner’s notion of Gesamtkunstwerk.

Anastasia Siopsi is Professor in “Aesthetics of Music”, Music Department, Ionian University; she is also tutor of a course entitled “History of the Arts in Europe” (degree in “European Culture”), Greek Open University. She has also a degree in Architecture (Aristoteleion University of Thessaloniki, Department of Architecture, Thessaloniki). Her main research activities include papers and lectures in international musicological conferences and several publications and contributions in collective volumes, international musicological journals and publications in Greece and abroad, mainly on German romantic music, especially Richard Wagner’s music dramas (her PhD dissertation was entitled Richard Wagner’s «Der Ring des Nibelungen»: The Reforging of the Sword or, Towards a Reconstruction of the People’s Consciousness, U.E.A., U.K., 1996); also on modern Greek art music, especially Manolis Kalomiris’s work and aesthetic and ideological aspects at the era of the National School of Music; on music in revivals of ancient drama in modern Greece; on Greek women composers; and on issues of music education in Greek Universities. Her books include (1) Three Essays on MANOLIS KALOMIRIS [Greek] (Athens: Greek Musicological Publications 4, Music Publishing House Papagrigoriou-Nakas, 2003), (2) Music in Nineteenth-Century Europe [Greek] (Athens: George Dardanos Publications (Gutenberg), 2005) (3) Aspects of modern Greek identity through the looking glass of music in revivals of ancient drama in modern Greece [Greek], (Athens: George Dardanos Publications (Gutenberg), 2012 and (4) On the 200th year of Richard Wagner’s anniversary (1813-1883): Essays on the aesthetics of his theory and work [Greek], (Athens: Greek Musicological Publications, Music Publishing House Papagrigoriou-Nakas), 2013. She is co-editor, together with Prof. Graham Welch (Institute of Education, U.K.), of an international on-line journal entitled ‘Hellenic Journal of Music, Education and Culture (HeJMEC)’.

Ianos Eliades, Down to the underground: Mysterion score re-design and unknown paper. 

Mysterion, an oratorio for actor, three choruses, orchestra and tapes, based on ancient Egyptian funerary texts, was written in 1965-1966 for Danish Broadcasting Corporation under the direction of Miltiadis Karidis. After the in Copenhagen  rehearsals, composer made some changes and additions, and created a work file for future release of the Score to include those changes. This publication was never completed.  This material was collected and used to create a critical edition of the work, which is part of my doctoral thesis. This paper will present the re-design of the graphic score, the original score and the additional material. In addition, this paper will explore composer’s thinking, the use of his musical language to present the contents of the unconscious and the mystical participation of music and unconscious events.

Varvara Gyra/Kostis Karpozilos, “War, Conflict, Confrontation”: The politics of confrontation in Jani Christou

The work of Jani Christou has attracted over the years considerable interest generating thus a series of studies that focus on his philosophical and psychoanalytical conceptualizations, the multi-disciplinary prism and the distinctive musical notation of his compositions. This paper aims to discuss these issues in close connection with the turbulent political and social setting of the 1960s. More particularly, it highlights the formative ideas mainly in three major works of Jani Christou in the late 1960s –The Strychnine Lady (1967), Epicycle I (1968) and Enantiodromia (1969)- and illustrates the appearance and representation(s) of themes, images and debates deriving from the contemporary social and political atmosphere in his musical notation, and notes (ideas, dreams, thoughts). Paying particular attention to the notion of confrontation we seek to highlight the dialectic between the politics of confrontation, ranging from the Vietnam War to the fear of the Atomic Bomb, and the formulation of the philosphical reflections of Jani Christou. This alternative reading of Jani Cristou contributes to a broader understanding of key-issues in his work, such as the concept of praxis-metapraxis, the notion of anaparastasis and the conceptualization of the happening.

Varvara Gyra was born in Ioannina, Greece, and has been living in Paris, France, since 1998. She studied the guitar in Paris with Roland Dyens and Francis Kleynjans, graduated from the Ecole Normale de Paris and has been awarded scholarships by the Academy of Athens and the Onassis Foundation. She holds a Ph. D. in Musicology (University of Paris VIII) and her thesis is on the work of the Greek 20th century composer Jani Christou. She has recorded three CDs, won four international prizes and performed in various countries all over the world.

Kostis Karpozilos is a historian. Currently a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University, he has taught at the University of the Peloponnese and at the Sciences Po Euro-American Campus in Reims. He is the scriptwriter and historical consultant for the documentary “Greek-American Radicals- the untold story”, while he is currently working on a book manuscript titled “The Ex-Communists: Cold War ‘Turncoats’ and ‘Redeemers'”, which addresses the transfer of allegiances, the interrelation of the political and the personal and the multiple ways radicals and revolutionaries become “exes”.

M. A. Sophocleous, When Jani Christou met T. S. Eliot: The six songs on T.S. Eliot’s poetry as a pre-critical work

The human kind cannot bear much reality (T. S. Eliot – Burnt Norton I)

This paper explores the result of a creative moment in the early stages of the work of Jani Christou, namely, the setting into music of six poems of T.S. Eliot. The importance of music in thematic and formal terms is essential in understanding his poetry and, in reverse, is equally important to understand the music of Christou which is based on poetry. The paper suggests that both artists (in their own way) were productively engaged in popular culture in some form at every stage of their career, despite the fact that many of their critics considered them as elitists. Both artists tried to close the gap between high art and popular culture through a new type of public art: contemporary popular verse drama for Eliot (see T. S. Eliot and the Cultural Divide,by David E. Chinitz (Univ. of Chicago Press 2003) and ‘thinking music’ for Christou. The six poems he set to music in 1955 constitute aunique part of his entire music. Although there is enough discussion on the work of T.S Eliot which was set to music, especially after his death in 1965, only a few references were dedicated to these six songs that Jani Christou set to music at a very early stage of his music career. Christou, by setting Eliot’s poetry into music it was as if he was entering a mine-camp due to the very fact that Eliot, after 1949 (as a laureate for Nobel Prize for Literature) was considered as a model-poet as to the way he interpreted the notion of music in poetry. Eliot was, after all, the poet who had written about the notion of music in poetry at a theoretical level; During the period he had worked on Eliot’s poetry, Christou was looking for new alternatives in enriching his compositions. Considering that his music is not about expressing feelings and messages, but about extending them at a multi level way, his music is poetry of meditation based on experience and not on metaphysics. The starting point is the ‘movement of the speech’ which he supported initially by the piano which later (1957) he developed further by the rich orchestral arrangement. I am inclined to think that the way through which Christou interpreted word by word Eliot’s poetry is hardly to be used in connection with Eliot’s verse at all; the effect of sound is neither that of music nor that of poetry which can be set to music. There is no reason why verse intended to be sung should not present a sharp visual image or convey an important intellectual meaning, for it supplements the music by another means of affecting the feelings. What we get in Jani Christou is an expression by sound, which could not possibly associate itself with music. For what he gives is not images and ideas and music, it is one thing with a curious mixture of suggestions of all three. The paper explores these suggestions.

Prof. M.A. Sophocleous is at present the Academic Director of the Municipal Museum and Historical Archives of Limassol. He studied Philosophy at Athens University and holds his postgraduate degrees from La Trobe University and the University of Queensland, in Australia. He taught at the University of Melbourne (1983-1985) and RMIT University from 1986-2002. From 2004 to 2008 was the Vice-president of the Cyprus University of technology and coordinator of the Department of Multimedia and Graphic Arts.

Paul Attinello, Time, Dream and/or Archetype in the Musical Work

Jungian archetypal theory has a number of focal points – pictorial, symbolic, mythological – that derive from Jung’s own broad spectrum of interests. However, his limited interest in music, and his focus on still images as the immanent reflections of archetypes, create difficulties for any attempt to extend archetypal theory into time-based art works. Even more problematically, most (if not all) analysands do not recall dreams in experiential time, but instead in various forms of timelessness – tableaux, multiple simultaneous perceptions, or successively quasi-frozen, non-continuous situations – suggesting that most (if not all) subconscious experiences operate outside the awareness of a temporal flow. As a result of these problems, the archetypal analysis of music itself is often regarded as difficult or impossible – figures in stage works can be interpreted as temporally present, moving images of archetypes that ‘really’ exist in the timeless eternity of the subconscious, but most Jungians proceed as though temporally mobile musical processes cannot be directly linked to the archetypal world. Despite these concerns, two notable twentieth-century composers, Michael Tippett and Jani Christou, have attempted to compose music in archetypal terms. Tippett’s operas and vocal works often include archetypal/transcendental figures (from The Midsummer Marriage to The Vision of St. Augustine) that are intended to connect with the worlds of dream and vision, and many of his most important instrumental works overlap time scales to create a symbolically fused subconscious/transcendental timescape. Christou takes a more modernist approach, but tries to create a less referential, more immanent music – at times referring to Jungian processes (Enantiodromia), at others suggesting dream and archetypal experiences. It may not be possible to entirely connect the conscious musical world with the (perceivable) world of the archetypal, but the question seems well worth asking.

Paul Attinello is a senior lecturer at Newcastle University; he has taught at the University of Hong Kong and UCLA, and is now studying at the Jung-Institut in Zürich to become a Jungian analyst. He has published in Contemporary Music Review, Radical Musicology, the Journal of Musicological Research, Musik-Konzepte, Musica/Realtá, the revised New Grove, and in essay collections and reference works. He is co-editor of collections on reinterpreting the Darmstadt avant-garde and on music in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Current projects include a monograph on music about AIDS and a collection on contemporary composer Gerhard Stäbler.

Elfriede Reissig, In the Cycle of Epidauros’ – Jani Christou and Giacinto Scelsi

During the late sixties and early seventies Janis and Sia Christou and the Italian composer and Aristocrat Giacinto Scelsi met in Greece for the first time and since then on their friendship were affected by mutual esteem not only personal but also towards their extraordinary oeuvres: “At Greece I had the opportunity to get to know a young couple, full of enthusiasm, who becomes veritable friends of mine: he, a very talented musician, she charming and of great class. ”Conspicuous analogies and parallels can be made not only biographically, but can be seen also in the aesthetic dimension within their compositorial work. Both were concerned with existential questions of the inner world of the individual as well as the creative process and philosophical approaches to music and art as an attempt to overcome European tradition especially of the academic Avant-Garde after World-War II. The musical transformation of cyclic processes, embodiment and the experiment with time-levels, one in contextually to the “Eternal”, the other with great consciousness of the continuum, showed two distinguished and differentiated ways in dealing with musical form and complexity of sound. Two works will be presented during this lecture: Janis Christou – Phoenix Music for orchestra (1948-49); Giacinto Scelsi’s – Trilogy for Violoncello (1957-65). The essential aspect of ‘indeterminacy’ by giving space for improvisation especially within the compositorial work of Janis Christou can be seen as an act of „liberation of the individuum“ and this gives his Oeuvre high relevance and significance in a global world of the 21st Century.

Anne LeBaronSituating Jani Christou in Concert Theater

Jani Christou has come to occupy a central role in Concert Theater, a graduate-level course that I teach at the California Institute of the Arts. While primarily designed for composers and performers, this year-long course also attracts actors, directors, designers, dancers, writers, and filmmakers. Initially, we investigate the ongoing resonance of the Fluxus movement, performance art, and improvisatory practices on works orbiting in and around concert theater—a genre where environments are created to foster a synthesis of various art forms in which music is but one element. Subsequently, the notational, conceptual, and theatrical experiments of composers Mauricio Kagel (instrumental theater), György Ligeti (absurdist humor), and Heiner Goebbels (para-ritual forms), along with works by Stockhausen, Berio, and Crumb, are closely examined. Emerging as a potent figure who is now included in this group of composers, Jani Christou expands the concert theater genre by his intense idealistic wish, supported by concepts he developed through deep research into spiritual and philosophical realms, to liberate his audience from the “common space-time continuum.” During the past decade, Christou’s music, notation, and philosophical writings have had a profound impact on several of the students in my class, who are now embarking upon their own careers. In particular, his concepts of praxis and metapraxis, enlivened by the notion of an irrational interruption—the “eclipse” in Christou’s terminology—serve as compelling inspirational modalities for adventurous young composers searching for a framework to assist in expressing their creative ideas. I will illustrate, via video, audio, and score excerpts, how Christou’s research, philosophies, and notational developments, by exerting significant influence on a new generation of composers, continue to be relevant in our world. The student works I will discuss include Romance for Piano, depicting an explicitly abusive relationship between the pianist and his/her instrument; Chain, for mobile chamber ensemble with a blindfolded cellist; and John Cage Open, a parody of a golfing competition with a detailed graphic score. By vaporizing boundaries of conventional concert performance, each of these works resonates with Christou’s expressed intention to elevate the experience of a concert to one where music, liberated from mere decoration, becomes a powerful force of evolution.