Myth Fragments: Phoenisses

Η μουσική (CD) - η χοροθεατρική παράσταση

*** PHOENISSES, as music, was my 4th work in CD. The first version of this music was composed in 1996 to accompany a theatre performance. Then this first music was much further worked on and came to become the basis of a whole complicated project, in 1999.
*** So PHOENISSES, apart from being the music of my 4th CD, are also the core of a DANCE – THEATRE PERFORMANCE entitled “MYTH FRAGMENTS: PHOENISSES” (presented at the “DIMITRIA” festival of Thessaloniki (Greece) in 1999 (November, 27,28,29) – this link goes to a gallery with photos from the performance.
*** In this page there is info on both the CD AND the performance.
*** You may listen to 10 of the 11 tracks of the music in this CD – just click on the titles. 

ABOUT THE WHOLE CONCEPT OF PHOENISSES
*** The dance – theatre performance based on the music of this CD was the result of my exploring for many years the possibility to integrate sound-music, movement-dance and theatre for a certain goal. 
*** This goal was to “re-read” Euripides’s famous tragedy in my own way and build a work in which these meanings would be presented on stage WITHOUT WORDS, just through movement and sound.  
*** So, I used the structure that I had in mind when I was composing this music, to create on its form the “scenario” of the dance – theatre performance. I worked thoroughly, in every detail, each one of the 11 sections (“images”) which were the tracks of the CD and the parts of the performance.
*** Then, I co-operated with dancer – choreographer Amalia Strinopoulou to actualise in praxis the choreographies of this so important for me long study in creative expression (in what follows I say more about these ideas). 

The music of the CD and the performance – you may listen to 10 of the 11 tracks (“images”) of the work
Phoinisses cover

The "story" in the Theban cycle myths and the sufferings of the Lavdakide's family

*** The town of Thebes was founded by Cadmus when he killed a dragon and sowed his teeth in the soil. His warriors, «Spartoi» (the sown ones), were born from the earth.Later, Laios ruled as the king of Thebes. He married Iocasta and Oedipus was born*** According to the omen their son would be a threat for the kingdom and the king’s life, so Laios deserted the newborn.

*** Oedipus, however, was saved and later killed Laios without knowing he was his father. He rid Thebes of the sphinx, a mythical monster and married Iocasta without knowing she was his mother.

Eteocles, Polyneikes, Ismene and Antigone were born from this involuntarily incestuous marriage.*** When Oedipus found out that his wife was his own mother, he blinded himself and kept himself in the palace in order for his sin to be forgotten.

***In Thebes it was agreed that the two brothers would reign on alternate years. An important person in all this was Creon, Iocasta’s brother.

Eteocles did not hand over the throne to Polyneikes when his turn came. The latter brought troops from Argos and held Thebes under siege (this is where «Phoenisses» start).*** Iocasta tried in vain to reconcile her two sons.

***Teiresias, the seer, said that in order for Thebes to be saved from the war between the two brothers, the son of Creon, Menoikeas, had to be sacrificed.
Despite Creon’s objections Menoikeas is voluntarily sacrificed.
The two brothers decided for the war to finish by duel. The winner would take Thebes.

*** They were both killed. When Iocasta hears of their death, she too kills herself.
Creon became ruler of Thebes. He sent Oedipus into exile as responsible for the curse against the city and the clan.
He gave orders for the body of Polyneikes not to be buried because he had held his home city under siege.
Antigone announced that she was going to defy Creon’s orders and accompany her father into exile.

Personae and events in the 11 images of the performance [each IMAGE corresponds to a track of this CD]

PERSONAE
Iocasta, Antigone-Menoikeas, Eteocles, Polyneikes, Warrior-Creon, Teiresias-messenger, Oedipus

IMAGE – TRACK 1 / EARTH
The Spartoi (the sown ones) are warriors born from a dragon’s teeth sown in the earth and Thebans will be their descendants. The last one of the Spartoi is the Warrior, who incarnates the idea of war, of authority. The women dancers appear as a group of prisoners (Phoenician Women) who will reconstruct the persons and events of the tragedy.

IMAGE – TRACK 2 / BIRTH
Iocasta gives birth to Oedipus who mates with her. Antigone, Eteocles and Polyneikes are born. Teiresias-messenger watches.

IMAGE – TRACK 3 / DOMINATION
The two brothers enjoy their blood bond. The Warrior gives them the scepter and pushes them into conflict despite Antigone’s objection. Oedipus blinds himself. The Warrior turns into Creon.

IMAGE – TRACK 4 / EMBRACE
Iocasta urges the brothers to reconcile with the help of Antigone. The men try in vain to remember their bond.

IMAGE – TRACK 5 / SACRIFICE
Creon with his son Menoikeas. Teiresias orders that Menoikeas should be sacrificed despite his father’s objections. Menoikeas is voluntarily sacrificed. Creon mourns.

IMAGE – TRACK 6 / BATTLE
The women dancers, as Phoenician Women, present battle scenes. The idea of conflict, of war. 

IMAGE – TRACK 7 / MEMORY
Teiresias-messenger considers the death-toll and recollects the battle. He tries to get away in panic. The Warrior mocks him and stops him.

IMAGE – TRACK 8 / HOPE
Iocasta, Antigone and Oedipus envisage a world of harmony and reconciliation. Teiresias-messenger surprises them and announces the duel between the two brothers.

IMAGE – TRACK 9 / DUEL
Polyneikes and Eteocles retracing in vain their childhood. Their duel, encouraged by the Warrior. Oedipus seems to be receiving the blows himself. The two brothers kill each other. Iocasta arrives and upon seeing her sons dead she kills herself.

IMAGE – TRACK 10 / FATE
The Warrior-Creon becomes king. Dead Iocasta tries in vain to give birth to her two sons again. Creon wants to remove Polyneikes body and Antigone stops him.

IMAGE – TRACK 11 / BEGINNING
Oedipus finds his sight again. Creon remembers his son Menoikeas. Oedipus goes away with Antigone and dead Iocasta.

The overall conception of the dance/theatre performance

This performance is not a “staging»”of the “Phoenisses”, the well known tragedy by Euripides nor is it an exact presentation of the tragedy through the dance language.
Ever since the conception of the initial idea and all through the development of this work, I used the tragedy only as a thematic base. Only as a general framework and a starting point in order to express on this foundation motifs of the tragedy and broader motifs of the human nature, like:

The life-giving force of humans and the earth. The need for the Other. The violence and vanity of authority. The grandeur and pettiness of the human soul. The need of each human being to compromise everything in a harmonious microcosmos, surrounded by a hostile world, full of sharp points and edges.

Thus, gradually, through working on these motifs and freely using the tragedy events, this work was created.
It is a profound and thorough study on Euripides’ material.
It is also a proposal for a dance/theatre and sound approach that is, above all, a contemporary approach to a timeless and classical material.

The basic way of thinking to build the PHOENISSES "scenario"

*** Words are absent (except for those of the connecting texts). Instead, we used only sound and movement for our stage “text” language.

We did not built our performance just out of the main events of the specific tragedy.
We also included secondary events which inspired us.
Most of the times they refer to the past of the main personae and are not part of the central plot (e.g. the wedding of Oedipus and Iocasta, the Cadmus’ warriors -Spartoi – birth from the soil, etc).

*** Time and space are warped.
For example, while in “Eart”» there is Cadmus and the warriors who are born from the soil, in the next image there is Iocasta giving birth to Oedipus, getting married to him and giving birth to their children.

*** The characters are intertwined in a different manner and new “role”» as well new personae are created.
For example, the last one of the Spartoi, becomes the Warrior, a demon-ike being, an incarnation of war and authority. This is an extra role that does not exist in the original tragedy but supported perfectly the goals of the performance.

*** Some personae are excluded or integrated to each other.
Ismene and the Tutor do not exist. Teiresias and the messenger merge in one person – a being that «knows» and observes. The Warrior becomes Creon. Antigone becomes Menoikeas, etc. All these roles and personae are interchanged as the dancers change their clothing and movement.

*** Events unfold differently from the original plot. Oedipus finds his sight again having completed his punishment for his involuntary crime. Iocasta and the two dead brothers reappear as ghosts after their death, etc.

*** Furthermore, it was not within our goals to “guid”» the audience to recognise in our performance the original tragedy personae. Instead, we just wanted to create on stage some conceptual “patterns” by linking characters, concepts, symbols, relationships.
For example:
“Iocasta-parent-compromise of contrasts”. “Creon-Warrior-authority”. “Antigone-Menoikeas-self-sacrifice”. “Creon-parent-loss mourning”. “Earth-birth-Iocasta-Creon”. “Teiresias-messenger-observation-knowledge”. “Eteocles-Polyneikis-bonding-vanity”, etc.

As each spectator watches the performance, he/she may sense these abstract “patterns” and may invest them with his/her personal meaning and importance.

The CD: credits

music compositions

Petros Theodorou

graphics design

Altervision

photos

Nikos Pandis, Michalis Stathenas, and Panagiotis Moulinos followed with their photos the development of this idea both as a performance and as an independent music composition

manufactured

NEA media

recorded and remixed

IHOKITARO studio

produced

EDO (1999)

*** “Phoenician Women” would be the widely used original translation of the title of this Euripides’s tragedy. For various reasons, in the English text we preferred to construct a phonema (“Phoenisses”) based on the sound of every letter of the original title in modern Greek
*** In 

”Birth”:
       …the sound material includes samples of the voice of the actress Maria Vlachou


       …the chorus screams were created with the voices of Christina Mitsani, Yorgos Gasnakis and Petros Theodorou
*** In “Hymn” actress Christina Mitsani’ s voice is heard
*** In «Battle” the cello samples were created with the help of cellist Ioulia Belidou”


*** In «Birth» and «Duel» part of «Esther the spirit» from Petros Theodorou’s «MUSICA PRACTICA» (CD, 1995, Musica Viva) is used. In this piece physical sounds are produced by musicians: Theodora Gourani (vocals), Vangelis Kondopoulos (bass)

*** Actor Dimitris Karellis, actress Eleni Fotinaki and Malama Synapidou recorded the texts of the CD

The DANCE-THEATRE PERFORMANCE: credits

INITIAL DANCE/THEATRE CONCEPT – “SCRIPT” – STRUCTURE & MUSIC

Petros Theodorou

MOVEMENT / CHOREOGRAPHY

Amalia Strinopoulou

SET AND COSTUMES

Olympia Sideridou

DRAMATIC PROCESSING / CONNECTING TEXTS

Apostolos Apostolidis

CONNECTING TEXTS INTERPRETATION

Dimitris Karellis, Eleni Fotinaki, Malama Synapidou

LIGHTING

Stratos Koutrakis

LIGHTING OPERATION

Filia Delagrammatica

DANCERS

Amalia Strinopoulou (Iocasta),

Efi Tsolakidou (Antigone – Menoikeas),

Panayota Tsekoura (Eteocles),

Afrodite Georgiadou (Polyneikes),

Eleni Liapa (Warrior – Creon),

Kostas Petrides (Oedipus), (all dancers: Teiresias – messenger)

The creative - aesthetic goals of the PHOENISSES music

O the one hand, I have always believed that what we could call “fundamental patterns” underlying the events of a classical Greek tragedy, i.e. feelings, needs, attitudes, conflicts, etc, originate from the most profound layers of the human existence.
I believe that today, we are still touched strongly by these tragedies because such fundamental patterns were expressed in unique ways: boldly, clearly, without any “camouflage”. 
Composing this music and structuring this dance/theatre performance, offered me an opportunity I had always hoped for:
to work through  my music the raw material from a tragedy, seeking its deeper existential roots, seeking the echoes of the primary scream of the naked, uncovered souls of the characters. 

On the other hand, since my first steps in composing music, I was thoroughly exploring several means of creative expression. Special uses of music technology, use of sound material generated accidentally, the infinite possibilities of synthesised sound when combined with audio samples (digitally processed physical sounds and instruments), overlapping sound layers, etc. 

“MYTH FRAGMENTS: PHOENISSES”, became the canvas on which I attempted to combine my two perspectives just mentioned above.

In “PHOENISSES”, the stylistic references, the use of synthesised sound, samples (digitally processed sounds) and overlapping sound layers are pushed to limits. 
However, I never saw them as an end by itself.
All these structural elements always serve the original attempt: to give out the ideas and the meanings of this tragedy just through sound and movement in 11 images (corresponding to the 11 tracks of this CD).

In any case, I consider this work a definitive turning point in my overall exploration of the potential of music technology (a pathway that opened with my work “ONAR” and went on with “MUSICA PRACTICA”). 
Furthermore, this work, is a totally idiosyncratic personal perspective on aesthetic and stylistic references to the Greek traditional sound (something that interested me much since 1996).

For all this, I would say that “PHOENISSES” is my most complete and mature work, combining elements of several artistic fields.

Epilogue: A brief history of PHOENISSES in the real life cultural background of Greece...

The project of PHOENISSES (audio CD and performance) had the following adventurous course:

*** In 1995, I composed the music for the theatre staging of the Euripides’s tragedy “Phoenisses”, produced by the “Techni” theatre group (Kilkis, Greece) and directed by Dimitris Karellis.
A little later, I had the idea of using a further developed version of this music as a basis to create a dance/theatre performance which would refer to Euripides’s tragedy and be structured with just sound and movement, without words.
*** During the next 4 years I wrote the fully detailed sound – movement performance “script”. For this purpose I partly co-operated with dancer Efi Tsolakidou.
Moreover, I completed the musical part extending and developing much further that first version of 1995.
*** In the beginning of 1997, when we established the ENTROPIA dance/theatre group with dancer Efi Tsolakidou, the idea of a dance/theatre approach of this famous Euripides’s tragedy progressed and a clear general framework was created concerning the structure and style of the work.
*** In the beginning of 1998,Music Kitchen” took on the production of the CD with the audio part of this big project. Yorgos Roilidis was the producer and Charalambos Ioakimidis the technician; they undoubtedly added a new dimension to the material.
*** In the middle of 1999, “Music Kitchen”, for reasons beyond its control, cannot complete the production of the CD.
At the same time, dancer and choreographer Amalia Strinopoulou built the final choreography and movement aspect of the material and influenced deeply its core with her deeply sensitive approach.
*** In the summer of 1999, in order to meet the needs of the performance, Apostolos Apostolidis wrote the connecting texts. The whole thing gained a new brilliance. The texts bind the work together, a special poetic atmosphere and a deeply human religious feeling now permeate it. 
*** At the same time, Olympia Sideridou added her inspiration with the set and costumes she prepared with characteristic simplicity and sensitivity. Stratos Koutrakis had already started thinking about the lighting and the special aspects of this work.
*** The choreography was completed and the dancers brought it to life in their own special manner. New stimuli, new prospects. New reasons for further additions, changes and processing of the sound material. Everything was completed at a truly fast pace through exhausting work.

Our working conditions were literally ideal as far as we were concerned as a team.
The only dark but decisive point was the virtually non-existent production funds.
The “DIMITRIA” festival administration, without any excuse except its general “new and unexpected economic policy”, diminished the agreed support the one third of what we had initially arranged.
The festival refused any other kind of support, not even to prolong the 3 days of the performance.

Still, we could not give up the project after 6 months of such intense work. Yet, we continued in an often bad atmosphere of financial anxiety; in a mood of self-sarcasm, as we all worked “heroically” and unpaid by the official Greek Institutions –  for the nth time in our artistic lives…

However, “PHOENISSES” managed to be born, both as an autonomous audio CD as well as a dance/theatre performance full of daring ideas and creative proposals.
I am very happy that I have shared my most ambitious project and vision in art with excellent collaborators in such an enthusiastic manner, even in 

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