In an earlier post I argued that traditionally Greek poets have had very little to say about music, and even less about musicians, because they valued the Being of painting (image) more than the Becoming of music (sound). However this century a new generation of poets has changed all this by cultivating a remarkable affinity for music of every kind. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the production of their work can hardly be discussed without serious consideration of its personal and collective engagement with the idioms of music.
Books like the recent Sublime Noise: Musical Culture and the Modernist Writer (2014) by Josh Epstein and the earlier Literary Modernism and Musical Aesthetics: Pater, Pound, Joyce and Stein (2010) by Brad Bucknell cannot be written about Greek High or Late Modernism since at that time the two arts did not interact. At best, composers set poets to music on their own, often letting them know after the fact, if at all. In sharp contrast, a lot can be written already on the uses of tonality by the Greek Left Postmodernists in all stages of the poetic enterprise.
In my previous post I borrowed the word “composition” to refer to their work on a poets’ common in order to stress their passionate engagement with “composed music.” Whether they compose, sing, whistle, share, store, quote, or analyze it, they are actively involved in music (re)making. Some excel as certified song writers and accomplished performers while others as commentators, collectors, and specialists. From classical to jazz and from rock to ethnic, no genre is uninteresting to them: Their taste is inclusive, their reach global, their command encyclopedic. Not that they have lost their other artistic interests, which now extend to new technologies and media, but their central domain is above all a multivocal, multilingual soundscape.
This is especially evident in their public appearances: Whether they converse and recite in bookstores or radio programs, the soundtrack of their presence often incorporates new and old music which does not illustrate but argues. More and more writers of the Generation of the 2000s are likely to appear before an audience not with an actor, whose theatrical recitation will authenticate the sincerity and beauty of the poems, but with musicians who proceeded to collaborate with them in an intermedial performance. I have developed a systematic interest in today’s performative dimension of poetic practice since I started collaborating in public with pianist Pantelis Polychronidis, my “other self.”
One way to see this synergy in a crystallized form is to consider the famous 3rd movement, In ruhig fliessender Bewegung, of Luciano Berio’s Sinfonia (1968) which re-composes another 3rd movement, the scherzo from Mahler’s 2nd. Berio’s descending lines make Alban Berg’s Violin Concerto not only quote Mahler’s symphony and Brahms’ Violin Concerto but even recite, as it were, Samuel Beckett’s The Unnamable. Here the composer is not setting the writer to music but re-activating his words in a collaborative dialectic. For the first time in modern Greek poetry the Generation of the 2000s is pursuing a comparable contrapuntal synergy between music making and poetry playing which does not address an audience but assembles it.
January 22, 2016