The first track in today's post is from an amazing choral/theater piece by Greek composer Eleni Karaindrou. Notable not only for her dexterity in composing very slow odes on ancient instruments like the constaninople lyra, kanonaki, ney, santouri, outi, laouto, daires, and daouli, but also for the fact that this composer is, well, female. I honestly can't name another Greek female composer who's had a major release.
What Karaindrou brings to her work, a choral arrangement of Euripedes Trojan Women, is a genuine female understanding of hard work, domestic care and the grief and loss that goes into the family life of ancient times. Especially for women, who are so massively under-represented in the male dominated world of ancient Greek theater.
The plot of Trojan Women deals with the capturing and suffering of the women of Troy after thier men have all been captured and/or killed. As the women are divied up between the soldier/conquerers of Greece, the women's suffering grows. They recollect on their past and future lives as intregral Greek drama unfolds. Cassandra is taken off to fulfill her role in the plot of The Oresteia, women are raped, killed and sacrificied, Helen begs for her life to Menelaus who takes her back to Greece. At the end there is a very mournful burial of the young girl Astyanax, made even more depressing as her mother can not bury her, for she has been taken back to Greece, for slavery, by Odysseus.
At the end the women who are left gather to watch Troy, and their lives and memories, burn.
The lyrics of this piece, An Ode Of Tears, are:
Sing, oh Muse, a new melody
a tune for the dead, an ode of tears
on Troy's tomb,
for Troy I shall now wail a melancholy melody.
Karraindrou eloquently speaks of the night of the works premier at the ancient theater in Epidaurus, during a festival of Greek drama:
When the performance unfolded under the starry sky of Epidaurus, the music took its place, the womens voices joined in An Ode Of Tears and all became one: sounds, voices, colours, words, movement, light. In the holy area of Epidaaurus, the poet's voice of transcendence, was raised once more, just as back in 415 BC when he was striving through Trojan Women to turn his fellow citizens away from the insanity of war, teaching the whole world now, just like then, that there are no winners or losers in wars, only horror and madness.
That was on August 31, 2001. Twelve days before the horrors of Sept. 11 and all that that day has wrought.
Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou aka Vangelis
I knew I wanted to pair this piece with something from Vangelis, but what to chose? The man has so many albums, so many different sounds. At first I thought of using a piece from the album Odes which he produced and wrote for Greek actress Irene Papas. An album full of ancient greek poetry put to Vangelis singular style of new age music, and sung in throaty tones by Papas.
But I thought it would be too easy a pairing and kind of a cheat. After all, the piece was a lament, and I want to leave the listener on a more hopeful not. So I've decided to pair it with a piece from his 1988 album Direct. This album is really as "pop" as Vangelis gets. Even more so, I think, then his soundtrack music. The bonus track for the release of the CD was a song called Intergalactic Radio Station.
The thing I love about this track, and it's musical relation to the above track is how precisely it matches the beats of Karaindrou's work at the beginning. It also starts out in a minor key, seeming a bit ominous, then through a slight change the key is moved into a major and the tone of the song changes completely. At the end there is the voice of Casey Young, an L.A. studio musician who calls out:
Here comes the sun! Oh, and by the way... It's been a beautiful morning. What a morning, A great morning. It's a great morning now....
A breath of hope for the future.
Eleni Karaindrou - An Ode To Tears from Trojan Women
Vangelis - Intergalactic Radio Station