After highly-successful and critically-acclaimed albums based upon her music for the cinema - "Music for Films", "The Suspended Step of the Stork", "Ulysses' Gaze", "Eternity and a Day" - Greek composer Eleni Karaindrou here presents work written for the theatre, for a new staging, by Antonis Antypas, of Euripides' tragedy "Trojan Women". The Karaindrou/Antypas association is long-established. Since 1986, Eleni Karaindrou has contributed music to 20 of his stage productions for the Aplo Theatro.
"Trojan Women", directed by Antonis Antypas and with music by Eleni Karaindrou, was premiered at the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus on August 31 and September 1, 2001, where fifteen thousand people cheered the performances. The project was then taken on the road in and around Greece, with fifteen further performances, concluding with a presentation in Cyprus. Both press and public reactions were extremely positive. Amongst the Greek daily newspapers Kathimireni hailed the music as "an artistic and spiritual asset", while Apogevmatini observed that "the spectators were enchanted by Eleni Karaindrou's magnificent music. A very important work."
Euripides' tragedy "Trojan Women" - first performed in 415 B.C. - was written as a warning of the catastrophic absurdity of war. It counts as one of the first and most vehement "anti-war, anti-God" literary protests of antiquity. One year before Euripides presented his "Trojan Women" to the Greeks, the Athenians had attacked the island of Melos, which maintained a neutral position in relation to Sparta, and conquered it with unprecedented brutality - burning, looting, killing, raping. Surviving women and children were sold into slavery.
Euripides projected his pacifist objection to this bloodlust by using the mythology around the destruction of Troy, with which the Athenians were familiar, with direct references to the destruction of Melos, which they had just experienced. The playwright wanted to warn his countrymen of the folly and consequences of such far-flung aggression. In this the work proved prophetic. The Athenians suffered humiliating defeat in their Sicilian campaign and ultimately lost the war with Sparta.
In her liner notes for the present CD, Eleni Karaindrou talks about a breakthrough encounter with "Trojan Women", when Antypas first provided her with fresh insights into a work she had often seen. "There is something beyond research and analysis, beyond the accumulation of knowledge and information, something beyond the understanding of a poetic text. And this element cannot be explained, it can only be illuminated."
"Trojan Women", with its themes of genocide, exile, and injustices suffered by women it is a work that remains agonisingly contemporary. Reviews of Antypas' production emphasized this point. "Painting with current day speech and evocative manner the horror of war and its terrible outcome, you felt you were experiencing the contemporary destruction in Bosnia-Herzogovina and Kosovo ...When the performance finished in the marble theatre of Epidaurus more than 7,000 spectators rose and for six minutes clapped loud and long. At last we were able to watch a persuasive performance of Euripides' tragedy ... A poet was to us reborn." (Giorgos Savvidis writing in Greek newspaper Apogevmatini.)
The large concerns of "Trojan Women" have encouraged Karaindrou to employ a broader musical canvas: resources here include a choir, directed by Antonis Kontogeorgiou, and a wide array of folk instruments, to build mythic soundscapes of powerful emotional resonance:
Antypas' version of "Trojan Women" is based upon the modern Greek poetic adaptation of K.X. Myris. Familiar with Euripides' ancient Greek original, Karaindrou found that the sound and the tone of the demotic version spurred the composing process. "The instruments appeared by themselves, they sprang out of the need of the subconscious, charging with their presence the pain of human adventure in this particular land, the land I call home. Constantinople lyra, kanonaki, ney, santouri, outi, laouto, harp, daires, daouli, sounds which come from the depth of time. Sounds which caress the shores of Asia Minor, travel to the Black Sea, nest in the domes of Constantinople and bind with the wail of Smyrna burning. Sounds recognisable not only in Greece but also in the Balkans and in all the countries wetted by the Mediterranean ... "
In the winter of 2001, ECM producer Manfred Eicher edited, sequenced, mixed and reworked Karaindrou's musical material for album release, a task he has previously undertaken also with Eleni's music for the films of Theo Angelopoulos. In the words of the composer, Eicher separated the music "from the shell of the theatrical performance, to breathe autonomy into it, and to recompose it with magical touches into an integral musical work."
Eleni Karaindrou was born in the mountain village of Teichion in central Greece, and studied piano and theory at the Hellenikon Odion of Athens. She also holds a master's degree in history and archaeology from Athens University. Karaindrou studied ethnomusicology, orchestration and conducting in Paris between 1967 and 1972. From 1972-75, she was a researcher in ethnomusicology at Paris's National Museum of Arts and Traditions. In this period, she also wrote and recorded songs, many of which were covered by Greek singers. Important amongst the early works is the album "I megali agripnia" (The Great Vigillance) featuring the voice of Maria Farantouri and texts of K. X. Myris (also the author of the demotic Greek adaptation of Trojan Women).
In 1976 in Greece, Eleni Karaindrou founded the Laboratory for Traditional Instrument Players at the cultural centre ORA in Athens, and has continued to campaign for the preservation of her homeland's indigenous music, also in her capacity as a radio editor and presenter of ethnic music broadcasts. She has always stressed, however, that folk music does not directly influence her own composing - "My interest in traditional music and my work as a composer I see as two separate streams" -, even if her writing frequently makes use of the sounds and colours of folk instruments.
A prolific composer, Karaindrou has written music for 20 feature films, including Angelopoulos' prize-winning "Eternity and a Day" and "Ulysses' Gaze", and for 40 theatrical plays. These include adaptations of Pinter, Mammet, O'Neill, Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, Chekhov, Gorki, Ibsen, Shakespeare, Aristophanes etc. She has also composed music for TV films and series, and radio plays, and has released 23 albums of her music. Since 1991, she is recording exclusively for ECM.
Awards and prizes she has received include the Greek State Music Award 1998 for her music for "Eternity and Day", the Dimitris Mitropoulos Award 1992 for her music for theatre, the Fellini Award 1992 from Europa Cinema (Italy), Music State Awards (1987 and 1983) for her original scores for "The Beekeeper" and "The Price of Love", and two Music Awards from the Thessaloniki Film Festival (1986 and 1982) for her music for "Happy Homecoming, Comrade" and "Roza."
Press reactions to Eleni Karaindrou's ECM recordings:
"Eleni Karaindrou's melodies are so infectious and profoundly sublime that they easily stand by themselves, unencumbered by visual images. And yet one has no trouble visualising the numbing loneliness of the desolate, or the tragic ordeals of sorrow that reside in the heart of this music ... In truth, the experience of listening to this unforgettable music cannot be conveyed by mere words." - The Music Advocate. "Brooding and romantic, her pieces transport you into landscapes shrouded in swirling fogs of ambiguous passion" - San Francisco Bay Guardian. "Strangely inflected melodies against mysterious drones that seem to exist outside of time." - American Record Guide. "She favours a harmonic music that has an almost folk like simplicity in its melodic development. But she casts these melodies in muted hues and shades that could have been morphed out of a Mark Rothko painting, and milks every iota of expressive power from a handful of themes." - Audio. "Music of haunting stillness. Such simplicity of sound can be as riveting as the fury of a Mahler symphony."- Washington City Paper.
CD package includes additional three-language book with liner notes by Eleni Karaindrou, song texts, and numerous photos from Antonis Antypas' stage production of Euripides' "Trojan Women"