Tuesday, 19 May 2020

CHILDREN OF HELLAS, CHILDREN OF ROME

by Pavlos Andronikos



Emperor Nikephoros II
The roots of some of the attitudes of Western Europe towards the modern Greeks go back to medieval  times when the West, keen to deny the Eastern Roman Empire its dues as the only legitimate continuation of the Roman Empire, called the eastern Romans Greeks and/or, from the sixteenth century, Byzantines. The “Byzantines”, however, called themselves Romans (Ρωμαίοι), [1]  and were proud of that identity. As Romans and Orthodox Christians they considered  themselves superior to the barbaric and sinful West in every way.

In addition, from late in the 12th century some of these eastern Romans also began to identify themselves as Hellenes, being both Greek speakers and keepers of the knowledge of the ancients, as well as, in many instances, descendants of the ancient Hellenes. This latter identification was another way for them to assert cultural superiority over the West—a mindset by no means unheard of in contemporary Greece. ☺

In the West the Eastern Romans were admired, envied, resented, and denigrated. To illustrate, when in 968 Liutprand, the Bishop of Cremona, visited Constantinople to negotiate a prestigious imperial marriage for the son of the German “Holy Roman Emperor” Otto the Great, the Emperor Nikephoros II “railed against diplomatic letters from the Pope in Rome which employed incorrect titles: Instead of Emperor of the Romans, Nikephoros was addressed as Emperor of the Greeks.” Liutprand, in return,  insulted his hosts (according to his own report to his superiors) “by asserting that the name ‘Roman’ comprehended ‘every form of lowness, timidity, avarice, luxury, falsehood and vice’”! [2]

To be fair this was Liutprand’s second visit to the great City, and in contrast to his first visit he was not treated at all well. Nor did his delegation succeed, because: “It is an unheard of thing that a daughter born in the purple of an emperor born in the purple should be joined in marriage with strange nations.” However the Romans/Greeks were willing to overlook Otto’s lowly birth if his father would hand back Ravenna and Rome “with all the adjoining places which extend from thence to our possessions”. [3]

On the one hand the prestige of the eastern Romans made marriage into the imperial family desirable, [4]  on the other hand that same prestige engendered a desire to denigrate, particularly as the West became more powerful, and wanted to give pride of place to its own church and its own optimistically named “Holy Roman Empire”.

In conclusion, when you read that the Roman Empire ended in 476, don’t believe a word of it. The Roman Empire did not end until 1453, when Constantinople, the new Rome, fell to the Ottoman Turks. The Greeks of today are inheritors of both Hellas and Rome. [5] ☺

Notes


[1] Ρωμαίοι (Ro-me-i), through a natural linguistc process, morphed into Ρωμιοί (Rom-yi) in the modern language.
[2] Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire by Judith Herrin (London: Penguin, 2010), pp. 178-9.
[3] Otto’s son, lowly birth notwithstanding, did get his own Roman princess in the end, when Nikephoros was assassinated and succeeded by John I Tzimiskes. The new emperor sent his niece Theophano (Θεοφανώ) to Rome to marry Otto II in 972.
[4] Otto also saw the proposed marriage as a way of ensuring peace between himself and the eastern Romans, and was hoping that Nikephoros would give Apulia and Calabria as the princess’s dowry.
[5] “The Greeks of today” refers not only to the Greeks of the Greek state (wherever they happen to be) but also to Cypriot Greeks, as well as to all those Greeks from Asia Minor (Turkey) who survived persecutions and pogroms and fled to other countries. A large number of them settled in the USA.  In Turkey itself only a very few Greeks are left.

The illustrations show a 1961 Greek stamp commemorating the Emperor Nikephoros II; and an icon depicting him as a saint.

Friday, 15 May 2020

GREEK MUSIC FROM THE LAND DOWN UNDER!

by Pavlos Andronikos




An anthology of songs and music by Australians from Greek backgrounds with the title In a Strange Land was recently released on the internet. It can be freely downloaded for non-commercial personal use from:
http://canarini.net/InAStrangeLand.html.

In a Strange Land is an honest and contemporary collection showcasing the innovative ways in which Greek Australians have engaged in the creation of music in their “strange” new land. The album ranges widely in styles from traditional Greek folk to the electroacoustic soundscapes of Stephen Adam. Greek rock is represented by the songs of Stelios Tsiolas, and opera by Irine Vela’s choral piece from the opera Little City. There is a touch of jazz in Christella Demetriou’s “Night”, and George Xylouris and Mairéad Hannan delightfully combine the sound of Cretan folk instruments with cello and double bass.

The Composers

The anthology contains sixteen tracks by ten composers including:
  • Irine Vela and Achilles Yiangoulli, members of the Aria-awarded band the Habibis, which performed in the film Head On.
  • The late Costas Tsicaderis, who had a long association with the Melbourne cultural support group and music cafe The Boite, and contributed four tracks to The Fig Tree CD (winner of the 2004 National Folk Recording Award).
  • George Xylouris, a talented multi-instrumentalist from the famous Cretan musical clan whose surname he bears, and Mairéad Hannan, familiar for her major contribution to the Australian musical film One Night the Moon. Both are members of The George Xylouris Ensemble.
  • Stelios Tsiolas, who has presented and conducted numerous concerts throughout Australia, and was assistant conductor to Mikis Theodorakis for the presentation of the oratorio Axion Esti at Perth Festival with the West Australia Symphony Orchestra.
  • Christella Demetriou, who recently had a fine album released in Greece of poems by Sappho and Cavafy set to her music.
  • Stephen (Στέλιος) Adam, co-producer and main sound engineer, who is highly regarded in electronic music circles for his electroacoustic compositions and his pioneering experiments with computers in music.
  • Andrew Kyriakopoulos, a relative newcomer to Greek music, who demonstrates remarkable skill in the creation of computer and synth-based arrangements.
  • Pavlos Andronikos, initiator and co-producer of the anthology, and formerly senior lecturer and head of Greek at Monash University. He has been a keen musician for a very long time, and has had his songs performed at numerous concerts for the Greek community in Melbourne.

The Lyricists

Many of the lyrics are by the composers themselves, but seven of the tracks are a setting to music of lyrics by the writers and poets Dimitris Tsaloumas, Nikos Ninolakis, Michalis Pais, Daniel Keene, Ekaterini Mpaloukas, and Georgia Heracleous.
The lyrics vary in style from the minimalism of Andrew Kyriakopoulos’ “I’m leaving” and George Xylouris’ “There are Moments” to the richly poetic “The Pomegranate” by Dimitris Tsaloumas and “With the Lips of Heartache” by Michalis Pais. So too does subject matter vary, on the one hand Ekaterini Mpaloukas’ “On Your Balcony” evokes Greek village life, whereas Stelios Tsiolas’ “Day After Day” is about working in a car factory.
Inevitably nostalgia for what has been left behind is a theme, as in “They’ve Taken the Sun” by Nikos Ninolakis, and “The Same Sun” and “One Earth” by Georgia Heracleous, but Christella Demetriou’s “For Yianni” offers a different kind of nostalgia—a yearning for a lost love. Incisive social comment is offered in Stelios Tsiolas’ “Five Horseflies” and “Day After Day”, and in Daniel Keene & Irine Vela’s “Words Are the Poison”.
All of the lyrics, as well as translations, can be found at
http://canarini.net/StrangeLandLyrics.html.

The Singers

On most tracks the composers have elected to sing their own songs and the results are impressive. Andrew Kyriakopoulos and Achilles Yiangoulli are both fine singers as well as composers. Christella Demetriou’s bittersweet voice is perfect for her two songs; Stelios Tsiolas couldn’t have found a more suitable rock singer, and George Xylouris’ bass-tinged voice is striking indeed in “There Are Moments”. It is hard to imagine any of these songs being sung differently.

Costas Tsicaderis has used other singers in the past—a much earlier recording of “The Pomegranate” was sung by Rena Hatzilepou—but it is good to have on this album two previously unheard recordings of him singing his own songs in his unique inimitable style. They may have been his last studio recordings.

The guest singers include Archie (Αργύρης) Argyropoulos, who is well known around Melbourne for his participation in various bands, particularly Rebetiki and Apodimi Kompania. He offers an excellent and thoroughly convincing interpretation of “On Your Balcony”. On that song Helen Sinis sings background vocals, but in the last verse she shares the lead so that, with the two singing alternate lines, a happy ending is suggested despite the lyrics.

Helen Sinis also takes the lead vocal in the second half of “With the Lips of Heartache”, where her richly expressive and passionate singing represents the voice of the lost daughter, whilst Markos Markou sings the narrative of the first half in appropriately sombre and sad tones.

Irine Vela’s “Words Are the Poison”, which stands out for its use of a full choir and its fluid choral and instrumental writing, features a number of strong soloists. The opening zeibekiko section is sung in Greek by Achilles Yiangoulli over a bouzouki accompaniment played by Irine herself. He is joined by Gioconda Vatcky singing a counterpoint melody in Spanish, and then an instrumental interlude ending in a cymbal crash introduces a change of time signature, and ushers in the magnificent sound of the full Canto Coro choir and the soloists Jeannie Marsh and Glenn Hadyn singing in English. This song and the synth “choirs” of the final track which follows it, Stephen Adam’s “Bluebeard”, constitute a fitting climax to the album.

Some Responses to the Album

According to one of the featured composers who is currently living in Greece, “People have been making really good comments about it!”

Here are some of the comments I have received:
  • “What an impressive production it is.”
  • “Loved the album. I … now have it on my i-pod.”
  • “Wow! I just listened to your CD and enjoyed it very much. It was a wonderful mixture of traditional and modern flavours.”
  • “I think the audio mix is great!”
  • “What an excellent idea!...This CD has so many beautiful songs on it!!”
  • “The more I hear your CD the MORE I LIKE IT, and of course I loved IMMEDIATELY the more lyrical songs.!!!” 
My own response is similar to the last comment. The more I hear the album the more I like it, and since I have been heavily involved in the making of the album, that is remarkable. I should by rights be getting tired of hearing it, but that isn’t the case at all. It still “sends me”. It is a fine album, with many highlights, and it amply demonstrates that the contribution of Greek-Australians to the rich tapestry of Australian musical culture is one of both substance and quality. 

Notes

This article first appeared in the newspaper The Greek Herald (Ο Ελληνικός Κήρυκας) in Sydney on 12 Feb. 2011.

See also the review by Dean Kalimniou on Diatribe.

Cover illustration and design: Pavlos Andronikos

Friday, 8 May 2020

NOTES ON FOOTNOTES

by Pavlos Andronikos


There was a time when footnotes were conveniently put where they should be—at the bottom of the page. You glanced down, read them, and carried on. Now they always seem to be gathered together at the end of the book, so that the procedure for reading them goes something like this:
  • turn to the back of the book,
  • realise you don’t know the number of the chapter you were in,
  • go back to where you were, and
  • leaf through the pages looking for the beginning of the chapter to discover the chapter number.
By this time you have forgotten the footnote number so you have to locate your page again, and finally, armed with chapter number and footnote number you go to the back of the book to read the desired footnote. Now, you just have to find the page you were on again, but by this time you’ve  lost the thread of what you were reading so that when you do locate your page you have to read it all over again. 

Illustration: P. Andronikos

The irony is that in the good old days before “word processing”—Who came up with that awful term?—printers (i.e., people not machines) had to go to a lot of trouble to typeset each page, yet they still managed to put footnotes where they should be. Nowadays, when page layout is done by computer, and it is so much easier to put footnotes on the page where they belong, publishers seem wilfully intent on making the life of footnote readers difficult.

Anyone would think authors don’t really want you to read their footnotes. Could it be that they include them just for the appearance of academic credibility?

I confess that I have often wondered if that is the case, just as I have often thought that the use of abbreviated Latin words and phrases such as ibid., op. cit., etc. may be merely a way of signifying academic credibility: “Look at me, folks, I can use these Latin abbreviations, just like the real academics of yore.”

Before computers, when one had to write everything out by hand and typesetting was painstaking manual labour, it made sense to use such abbreviations, but since all one has to do nowadays is copy and paste, there is no reason why each footnote should not contain either a full citation, or, as a minimum, author, title, and page number, with the other details in a bibliography. There is little more annoying than having to work back though a long string of ibids and op cits to find the source.

Postscript: I did once advise a postgraduate student I was supervising to use the system I am promoting here rather than the traditional Latin words and phrases. I was very disappointed when one of the thesis examiners decided that this was a nit he had to pick… but then he was a classicist!

In closing, I applaud The Chicago Manual of Style for stating that Latin footnote abbreviations are “rightly falling into disuse”. Good riddance!

Tuesday, 5 May 2020

A NOTE ON THE CYPRIOT SONG “TA RIALIA”

by Pavlos Andronikos



In Pavan K. Varma’s Becoming Indian: The Unfinished Revolution of Culture and Identity (Penguin Books India, 2010) it is claimed that the Bollywood composer R. D. Burman copied Demis Roussos’ song “Say You Love Me”.
Even R. D. Burman’s hugely popular number ‘Mehbooba Mehbooba’ from Sholay is an almost complete copy of ‘Say You Love Me’ by the Greek singer Demis Roussos. [p. 160]

Varma does not seem to be aware that Demis Roussos’ song was an English version of a traditional Greek Cypriot song “Ta Rialia”.[1] This had been popularised by the singer Michalis Violaris, and was to an extent a new folk creation by Violaris based on and inspired by Theodoulos Kallinikos’ transcript of the song “Φωνή Αυκορίτισσα” (Melody, the Girl from Avgorou) in the book  Κυπριακή λαϊκή μούσα (“The Cypriot Folk Muse”, Nicosia, 1951).[2]
“Το τραγούδι αυτό πριν από πολλά χρόνια, το βρήκα πράγματι στο βιβλίο του Θ. Καλλίνικου, και μου άρεσε… Άρχισα να το δουλεύω το 1970, και σιγά σιγά διασκευάζοντάς το, του έδωσα τη μορφή που έχει στον δίσκο...” [3]

(Translation: “I actually found this song many years ago in Th. Kallinikos' book and I liked it… I started working on it in 1970, and, gradually adapting it, I gave it the form it has on the album…”)


It seems Rahul Dev Burman was within his rights in recording an Indian cover of the Greek Cypriot song “Ta Rialia” without permission, and was probably not breaking any copyright laws since the song is credited as traditional by both Michalis Violaris and Demis Roussos. However, the fact that the music of “Mehbooba Mehbooba” is credited solely to Burman as if it were an original composition is, at the very least, somewhat unethical.[4]

One last point: in my opinion Michalis Violaris was being modest in describing the song as a folk song adapted by himself. I think it is more accurate to think of it as a new creation by Violaris which builds on received folk materials, i.e., a new song created by Violaris in the folk idiom.

Monday, 4 May 2020

THE CLIMATE CONSPIRACY

by Pavlos Andronikos



It seems to me crazy that some people imagine all kinds of conspiracies when there is no clear evidence, but are unable to see the one conspiracy which is everywhere and which has been revealed beyond doubt by the evidence of leaked e-mails (Climategate) and the statements of disillusioned scientists (e.g. Christopher Landsea, Paul Reiter, Richard Lindzen, Hans von Storch, Roger Pielke, Hal Lewis). I refer, of course, to the cynical campaign emanating from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which amounts to a conspiracy to deceive the world and thereby force countries to abandon fossil-fuel power generation and/or pay a “carbon tax”.

“Golden Egg” by Pavlos Andronikos

Almost equally insane is the scornful dismissal of all suggestions of conspiracy as mere “conspiracy theory”, even when there is unequivocal evidence that a conspiracy is under way.
An impartial appraisal of what scientific debate there is leads to the conclusion that the science of climate is by no means settled, and that there are good scientific reasons for disbelieving the claim that man-made CO2 is causing global warming to an extent which will bring about imminent catastrophe. My own conclusion is that we are being had, but few of my friends seem to agree with me. I am beginning to think that a very great number of people want to believe that catastrophe is imminent. Psychologists should investigate.
Perhaps it is relevant that when I googled “end of the world syndrome” to see if they already had, I discovered that there are computer games/novels called “World End Syndrome” and “Our World is Ended”! Oh, the excitement!
I shall end with a quote from the late Clive James. Make of it what you will:
In those days … he predicted mass death by extreme cold. Lately he predicts mass death by extreme heat. But he has always predicted mass death by extreme something…

Note: The Clive James quote is from “Mass Death Dies Hard” in Climate Change: The Facts 2017 ed. by Jennifer Marohasy.

THE SWINGS OF A PENDULUM

by Pavlos Andronikos



In the 1970s climate alarmists (and those they alarmed) were worrying about global cooling!
QUOTE: Far more disturbing is the thesis that the weather we call normal is, in fact highly abnormal and unusually felicitous in terms of supporting agricultural output. While still unable to explain how or why climate changes, or to predict the extent and duration of change, a number of climatologists are in agreement that the northern hemisphere, at least, is growing cooler. [From a CIA report titled “Potential Implications of Trends in World Population, Food Production, and Climate” included in the book The Weather Conspiracy: The Coming of the New Ice Age (1977)]