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Label & Cat.Number: Unfathomless U49
Release Year: 2018
Note: after albums for POGUS Prod. and Cronica, this is the second CD in the Unfathomless-series for the prolific Greek composer, also known as MECHA/ORGA: "In Aulis" leads us to the Ancient Greek Temple of Artemis, where he used Aeolian Harps, recording the aura & psychogeography of this mysterious place... a one-track composition of 42+ minutes; lim. 200 full colour cardboard cover + extra art card
Price (incl. 19% VAT): €14.00
More InfoIn June 2015 I was invited by Implode, an artistic platform dedicated to new forms of sound and visual arts, to participate in “Sonic Topographies”, an artist residency that focused on locations of major importance in Ancient Greek history. I worked at the ruins of the temple of Artemis in Aulis, an archaeological site closely related to religious history and sacrificial rituals, and responded artistically to the location by composing In Aulis.
The composition explores the connection between myth, sacrifice and music and is inspired by the historical and religious background of Aulis and the temple of Artemis. According to the myth, the Greek fleet gathered in Aulis to set off for Troy and force the return of Helen. While there, king Agamemnon killed a stag that was sacred to goddess Artemis. The enraged deity ceased all winds, thus preventing the ships from sailing. This eventually led the Greeks to agree in sacrificing Agamemnon’s daughter Iphigeneia, in order to propitiate Artemis and ensure a favourable wind for their fleet. At the very last moment the goddess felt compassion for Iphigeneia and replaced her with a stag which was killed instead of the girl.
Iphigeneia’s dramatic story is described by Euripides in his famous tragedy Iphigeneia in Aulis which he wrote in 406 BC. The play was written during a period of conflict, political turmoil and instability and it arguably functions as an allegory in which Euripides – exiled from Athens at that time – warns his fellow Athenians about the consequences of war and the thirst for power and dominance as well as the hypocrisy of military and political leaders.
Is there a connection between the sacrificial act and musical performance? How is sound utilized in ritualistic murders? In his book “Noise: The political economy of music”, Jacques Attali writes that “listening to music is to attend a ritual murder”. He explains that in the physical world a ritualistic murder purifies violence and in the sonic world music does a similar thing. As the story of the Greeks in Aulis shows, sacrifice is performed when a problem requires a radical solution; the wind must blow and Agamemnon’s guilt must be transformed into redemption. With sacrifice a tension leads to resolution. In music, as Attali argues, it is noise and dissonance that become harmony when the chaos of sounds is organized and put into order through the act of music-making, when a sonic condition of anxiety and alert is transformed into joy and exaltation.
There is not a sound from the birds
or the sea. The winds are hushed
and silence holds the strait of Euripus.
Euripides, Iphigeneia in Aulis, line 9-11
In these lines Agamemnon describes the sonic atmosphere of Aulis, an eerie silence caused by the absence of wind. For the Greeks, this stillness created discomfort as they were unable to mobilize and sail to Troy. Around 2,500 years after these lines were written, I was at the same location, attempting to listen to the echoes of myth and history resonating in the present-day soundscape of Aulis.
Nowadays there is little left of the ancient buildings. Only their ruins continue to remind the importance and history of Aulis. Any visitor can simply push aside a half-broken wire fence and enter the archaic holy grounds, lying between a highway and a local road leading to a disused cement factory. Walking through the flora that is gradually covering the ruins, one can witness the blending of nature with human-made constructions and the folding of the distant past with the modern era.
In praise of Artemis
In the core of the sacrificial act is the setting of relationships which expand from the world of gods, or the unseen and ethereal, to the world of humans, the rest of the society. Simultaneously, music making is a socially constructed activity that brings communities together. Euripides provides an insightful example of this. When Iphigeneia finally accepts her fate, she addresses the chorus and says:
And you, young
women, sing a propitious song for my fate, a song in praise
of Zeus’ daughter Artemis. Let the Greeks keep propitious
Euripides, Iphigeneia in Aulis, lines 1467-1470
These lines reveal that sound is utilized in sacrifice to bridge the divine with the human world. Through singing and listening, music is creating social bonds, manifests a divine presence and establishes a relationship with it.
Ultimately, the Sonic Topographies residency was not a mere study and collection of information about Aulis and the temple of Artemis but an empirical interaction that transmuted it from a field with abandoned ancient ruins to a space for action and contemplation. Field recording and composing was triggering an ongoing dialogue between myself and the explored environment and deepened my relationship with it on a physical and sentimental level. The research about the temple and the fieldwork at the ruins expanded from investigating its history and recording sounds for an electroacoustic composition to a contemplation on passing time and an exploration of the depths of human soul.
(Yiorgis Sakellariou, 23 August 2017)
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