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On Nikos Kypourgos’ “Kipotheatro” (Garden Theatre)
Music with Pictures – Music for Pictures
An unusual conjunction of circumstances brought Nikos Kypourgos in contact, very early on, with such distinguished personalities-cum-mentors as Mattheos Mountes, Manos Hadjidakis and Yannis Papaioannou. He made his first recordings while still a schoolboy, whereas he benefitted from such unique opportunities as his appearance on Greek Radio and Television (ERT) in the 1970s, when Hadjidakis was head of the Third Programme; his participation in “Lilipoupolis”, a satiricial radio programme written for children but equally appealing to grown-ups; and the Musical Contests, also organized by Hadjidakis.
In pursuit, he attended the Paris Conservatory to study electro acoustic music. At the same time, he sought to discover the essence of music on various levels: from folk music to musical pedagogy, physics and mathematics as an access to contemporary classical music (Pierre Boulez and Ianis Xenakis), analysis and synthesis (at the Ecole Normale under Max Deutch), music worldwide, seminars on musical issues, music for the stage, the existence of a variegated musical orgasm in European centres, experiences from voyages in Europe, Africa, Asia and the American continent, and the atmosphere of doubt as lived by the post-1968 generations.
Nikos Kypourgos, in the course of his twenty-five-year-old career, has written music for about fifty theatrical performances, forty-two films and TV serials, fourteen vocal and instrumental works, and has recorded over twenty records (personal compositions, orchestrations, and as an instrumentalist). Nevertheless, whereas his oeuvre is held in high regard, on the whole it has not had its due. Only a few people have a sound knowledge of his overall musical creativity. He is not ranked among commercial composers, being an unclassified musician, and as such he belongs nowhere! He is a charismatic musical acrobat who moves on the outside edge, in the slot of various musical genres, and even in the work itself.
Thus, there unfurls before us, the oeuvre of a versatile composer, open to all trends and sounds, multifaceted, with a spontaneous, free-flowing melodiousness, and a wonderful sense of musical blending. In effect, his work is devoid of stylish limitations, self-censuring, complex or abstruse usage of musical language. His music breathes, is bright and free, its strain is variable, functional, sometimes subtly melancholic, and tallies with and is interpreted by the creator’s persona.
Rhythms, scales and our “oriental” modal structure combine with the corpus of Western music and harmony. Folk instruments associate with the timbre and coloration of those of a classical orchestra, refractive sounds of nature (e.g., birds’ warbling), musical themes and styles of non-European cultures are introduced, enriching his musical language which is called upon to serve each work in a pleasingly surprising manner, and also lightening from another aspect circumstances as evoked by speech and image.
However, despite the ostensibly disparate ingredients, the canvas of a uniform aestheticism is distinct, making the creator recognizable. This is not the outcome of mannerism but quite the opposite: avoidance of habitudes and questioning of standard forms; endless pursuits of new chromatic tones, new ideas, and engrafting something new into creativity.
His orchestrations are characterized by sensitivity, imagination and minimalist use of instruments, while adhering to the tenets of the West’s musical idiom. Oftentimes they coincide with ethnic and aesthetic trends, without at any time the exotic vein excelling. In his avant-gardism one can discern the sporadic use of certain chromatic tones and melodious unisons. There is an absence of magniloquence, pompous demeanour, and heavy tonality. Thus, his tone is characterized more by an airy and supple sound game, reflecting the Mediterranean light, than the austere, grandiose central European sound qualities. He opts for developing his chromatic tones by using conventional instruments, thus avoiding the temptation of modern technological means with their countless facilities and possibilities.
The CD is divided into two basic unities: music for the stage and music for the cinema. A selection from a wide range of stage performances and motion pictures, covering Nikos Kypourgos’ creative presence in the last two decades. At first sight the juxtaposition of disparate elements into a musical flow and unity may seem somewhat risky. Nevertheless, beneath the songs’ surficial otherness lies the unifying power of Kypourgos’ musical concept and chromatic handling, creating thus sound panels of musical pointillism.
From the score of theatrical productions are picked a series of songs intended for children, and especially sensitive, childlike grown-ups. Here the musical approach is set off, whereby the “game” can be played seriously and innovatively: respect for children by composing songs that honour their sensibility and intelligence; musical and poetic ingenuity, and the way our lost childishness conceives and comments on the world. At length, it appears that amid the baseness that surrounds us, there is a crack through which emanates something really fresh, new – that which has justification for existence.
The inspired music for the cinema, notwithstanding the fact that it follows frame by frame the scenes that appear on the big screen, should also be seen in a parallel role, the cinematic dimension. A role which doesn’t simply intensify the goings-on, but which illuminates the invisible side of things. And the composer succeeds in this respect through the medium of memory, symbolism, sound associations, reference to sound models, etc. Kypourgos is very adroit in the art of writing music for a movie production. Simultaneously, by rallying his richly melodious powers, he has become one of the most authentic composers of music for films, of international repute, a fact verified by the many awards he has received at home and abroad. Music that had the power to detach itself from the screen and create pictures of its own.
Nikos Dionysopoulos (Translation: Yannis Goumas)