“Odes to the prince”, a number of musical interpretations of poems by N.A. Aslanglou’s same poetry collection, began as a short performance during the 1st sound acts festival, which was organised by the FYTINI family, and took place in TV control center (KET) in Kypseli, Athens, in April 2015. Up until then, my only work on Aslanoglou was “gi’aytous” (for them), which is one of the tracks of my second album, “still life with improvisation”. I still remember that after the performance, in a short conversation Ι had with Dimitris Alexakis, one of the people running KET, he was the first one to propose that I should evolve the performance into a full show. I loved the suggestion, and after asking two of my friends, Stamatis and Tina, who also thought it would be a good idea, during the next day we began planning it with my beloved Danae Syrrou, who agreed to create original video works for each poem. Through countless hours of rehearsals (I have recorded more than 200!) and various shows, the idea constantly evolved, sometimes became longer, sometimes shorter, until it came to its final form in 2017, when I finally felt that I had achieved the balance I wanted among its three axes: the music, the performance, and the video.
And at this point, sadly, I had to stop, because my continuous, mostly failed, efforts to communicate with spaces and festivals outside Heraklion, had really tired me and I felt that, after almost two years, I needed to begin working on something new. We performed the show for a final couple of times in Heraklion, and I decided that it would end there.
Like in every aerostat concert, at the center of the “odes” was, apart from the spoken word approach, the creative, and sometimes completely weird, use of musical instruments and various objects on stage. Therefore, for the final few shows I carried with me: one guitar, one bass guitar, one looper, three effect pedals, one noise generator, two microphones, two shoebrushes, two radiator pipes of different sizes, two different sets of chinese meditation balls in different tuning, a bow, a portable megaphone, a harmonica, a pair of chopsticks, a few pieces of wood from a broken shutter, a single-stringed instrument made from a can, and a decorative wooden flower, that I sadly have misplaced somewhere now.
Using the exact same materials, I built the album that will be published in the next few days, both as a reminiscence of these performances, and because I believe that the compositions deserve to be listened to by the people who didn’t have the chance to do so until now. I mixed the whole album myself for the first time, trying to restrain myself from meddling with the music too much, so as not to lose the feeling it had during the live performances. But I did take advantage of the stereo sound, which, due to technical reasons, was not possible during the performances, some better quality effects, and I shortened the durations, so that the compositions do not sound too long without the videos and the performative aspect. In all other ways the music, the style, the structure, and the development are exactly the same.
I’ve already written too much. The album, as I already said, will be published sometime this week, in digital download form, and for the first time I will try to cover my expenses with voluntarily donations, minimum 3 euros (for the complete album download, plus one of Danae’s video works). I hope that you if you like it, you will support it. Streaming will, as always, be free of charge.
(P.S. The album has been published and you can find it here!)
cover of the song “motokouzi” by stereo nova, from the album “asyrmatos kosmos”, 1994
(live recording at frantic aerostat’s home studio)
It always feel special to present your work in a place that you have anyway frequented for many years. And even more special when this place is in the city you were born in and chose (??) to live in, and around you, everywhere, you see loved, friendly faces. It doesn’t matter that you have a high fever. It doesn’t matter that you chose the only faulty cable from the batch. When the lights go down, all that matters is the communion of the different worlds: yours, Danae’s, the poet’s. And when the show is over, you know, or hope, that the people will talk to you with love about the result, warmth for the virtues of your work, but also sincerity for its flaws and misfires. These conversations, much more valuable than the usual, generic, PR style flattering words that seem to be so popular in Heraklion nowadays, I always treasure. Perhaps one day they will help me become better.
Thank you all who shared this night with me, and special thanks to:
- Vaggelis and the rest of the blow up team for the amazing hospitality
- Marietta Grammatikakis for the sound, the conversations and the company
- Antonis Arkoulakis who worked hard so that we could have the intro recording on time
- Michael Loukakis who saved my guitar from certain death a few days before the show
Till the next time, farewell!
A musical performance by musician Odysseas Grammatikakis as a part of his ongoing project “frantic aerostat”. In collaboration with artist Danae Syrrou, this is a work on poems by Nikos Alexis Aslanoglou (1931 – 1996), from his poetry collection “Odes to the prince”.
The poems, characterised by subtle irony, loneliness, longing and desperation in mostly urban landscapes, are the motive as well as the main structural element of the work, in which the musician blends the poet’s words with the sounds of musical instruments, noise generators and everyday objects, creating repetitive patterns that sometimes remain uncertain and sometimes evolve to create full melodic structures. Danae Syrrou’s abstract video works are not simply images that accompany the sound, but essential elements so that the audience can transform the poet’s words into sentimental and spiritual journeys.
music: frantic aerostat
video: Danae Syrrou
introductory text: George Vailakis
recitation of introductory text: Antonis Arkoulakis
All poems by Nikos Alexis Aslanoglou, from “Odes to the prince”, written from 1971 to 1975
Duration: 50′ – 65′ (depending on the evolvement of improvisational parts)
I first came to know the poetry of Nikos Alexis Aslanoglou during my student years, when together with my good friend Nikos, bored of overanalyzing the “classic” modern greek poets – Kavafis, Elytis, Seferis, we spent a lot of our evenings looking for undergorund, hidden poetic gems.
The years passed, and Aslanoglou’s poetry had remained in my memory as an abstract, melancholic image. Until, sometime during the past summer, while organising my thoughts for still life with improvisation, I took his book “odes to the prince” from the library and began re-reading it obsessively. The first fruit of this renewed relationship with the poet was “for them“, a piece that was created and recorded almost instantly, as if it had been in my mind for years.
The second fruit was the presentation of five poems from the book in the soundacts festival in Athens. A unique experience, in which my on-stage loneliness, despite how nervous it made me feel, also brought me closer to the poet’s own loneliness. So, I decided that my relationship with “odes to the prince” was not meant to end there.
In June 21, in Chania, in the underground turkish well in Splantzia square, I will present the third fruit, the next stage of this work in progress. With more poems, more soundcrafting experimentations, and amazing video works by Danae Syrrou.