Two previously unreleased recordings from one of Greece’s pioneers of electroacoustic music** It’s an astounding moment for archival releases and reissues - an unprecedented flow of artifacts emerging from the history of the sonic avant-garde. While the sounds of developing electronic technologies were harnessed during the first part of the 20th Century, it wasn’t until the post-war period that they truly took hold - the focus of many of that era’s most ambitious musical minds. Beginning in the late 1940’s, and stretched over the ensuing decades, electronics became an a central sonic aggregator for new structures, relationships, and ideas - a utopian vision of metaphor and the concrete. Electronic music was not only an imaging of a more ideal future, it was conceptualized as a new democratic language, placing an entire world of sound in the hands of the composer, allowing diverse backgrounds to meet and speak through the equalizing character of their tools.
Alon with Iannis Xenakis and Giannis G. Papaioannou, Stephanos Vassiliadis was a key figure in developing electro-acoustic music and sound practices in Greece.
EN PYRI (1973)
Recorded in 1976 by Andreas Rodousakis on double-bass and the composer himself on the mixing desk of Radio Sweden Studio in Stockholm, En Pyri presents a previously unreleased version of Stephanos Vassiliadis’s composition for tape and double-bass written in the memory of Jani Christou. En Pyri was composed three years after a multi-fatal car crash that caused the untimely deaths of Anastasia Vassiliadi (first wife of Stephanos Vassiliadis), Jani Christou (acclaimed composer, close friend and collaborator of Stephanos Vassiliadis) and of Christous’s wife Theresia Christou Choremi. The title En Pyri, translating as In Fire, comes from the First Epistle of the Corinthians “..for the day will disclose it, because it is revealed in fire..”, referring to that what remains after death, or in the composer’s words: “man’s song-creation is the only thing that can withstand and overcome destruction”.
The fire is clearly pictured during a particularly long climax starting midway to the end of the piece. The dramatic aspect of this spectrally dense section is even stronger during live shows, with the performer centre-stage fiercely playing double-bass, but failing to be heard over the full-range audio of the 8-track tape. This staged element of En Pyri is inevitably lost with the reproduction of this recording, but the audio alone carries a heavy load. Sounds as if written out of total need and almost physical necessity to deal with death and loss. At the end of the composition, while the performer is still onstage, a quiet tone is “revealed” and held for a few minutes signifying that what remains; that what is “revealed in fire”.
In most performances of En Pyri, Vassiliadis was on the mixing desk. According to statements of his close friends and collaborators, he would gradually increase the level of the 8-track tape to the point he could physically feel the sound on his body. Needless to say, playback of this track in maximum volume is highly recommended.
Bacchae was written for a production of Euripide’s tragedy The Bacchae directed [and choreographed] by the distinguished choreographer Zouzou Nikoloudi. This particular play was part of the University of California Intercampus Cultural Exchange Program and was never performed in Greece. From the 25th of September to the 3rd of October 1974, it was staged seven times in different campuses of the University of California (Santa Barbara, Irvine, San Diego, Riverside, Davis, Santa Cruz, Berkeley) . These seven shows were to become the only occasions this composition was presented to the public.
Bacchae seems to be Vassiliadi’s first attempt in bringing together his background in electroacoustic music with the music he grew up to. He beautifully achieves this by juxtaposing modular synthesizer tones with samples of greek traditional music from his collection of archival recordings. These two elements ebb and flow throughout the composition, at times becoming indistinguishable from each other. The manner in which Vassiliadis mixes acoustic and synth drones together resembles electronic music of following decades. Developed gradually over a duration of 23 minutes of uninterrupted and texturally thick audio, Bacchae is a kind of proto-ambient, folk-drone electroacoustic piece, luckily rediscovered in the archipelago of recorded music.
This release was made possible thanks to the invaluable support of some close persons to Stephanos Vassiliadis. We would like to thank the composer’s family (especially his grandson Stephanos Andreou, for his artwork, and his daughter, Evi Vassiliadis, for the research in her father’s archive and the editing of the texts) as well as the composer’s friends and collaborators Andreas Rodousakis, S. K., Charalampos Daradimos, Dimitris Karageorgos and Anargyros Deniosos.