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Eleni Karaindrou
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Eleni Karaindrou
Music for "Trojan Women" by Euripides
ECM New Series (

With five ECM soundtrack albums, Greek composer Eleni Karaindrou has firmly established a true collaborative fellowship with producer Mandred Eicher. Karaindrou is the architect of an elegiacally-colored Greek musical experience and here she vaults back to the 4th century BC to recover "one of the first and most vehement anti-war literary protests of antiquity." Set to a production by Antonis Antypas, (salty black & white photos of its performance at the Hellenic Festival in the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus litter one of two booklets that accompany the release), her 30 short choral and instrumental works collectively strike one ancient monolithic chord of mourning. I must assume by the acclaiming Greek newspaper reactions that were included in the press kit, that the drama of this story must have perfectly complimented the lean atmospheric quality of Karaindrou's score. The narrow range of feeling and tonal foundation almost seems to reflect the scant shards of music the world of ancient Greece has handed down to us. However this is an entirely original score.

Karaindrou summons the visage of way back using indigenous folk instruments like the Constantinople lyre, the outi, the laouto, the ney, the kanonaki, the santouri, the bendir and the most ancient of all, the harp. In essence, a family of delicate plucked string instruments augmented with occasional flutes and hand percussion present simple, related, minor-key melodies. Woven within this haunting, sparse, tactile ambience is a 16-member women's choir who sing in simple polyphony twelve songs with titles like "An ode of tears" and "The city that gave birth to you was consumed by fire." The Euripides story relates the atrocities committed upon innocent island towns standing between warring parties and the scattering of its surviving women and children by sale into slavery after all they'd ever known was killed or destroyed. While the work's relevance upon the continuing stupidity of contemporary warfare and particularly brutal wartime injustice to women is obvious, a subtler utility of the piece is its attendance to unprocessed ancestor grief. Karaindrou has found the right kind of reaction to this tragedy - sadness without anger, however, overall it feels a little numb isolated from the context of the theatre production. The soundtrack whole is not dramatic but creates a useful minimalistic space like much of the ECM New Series 'works of suffering' subcatalog. This is a recording that feels like a country and a culture undergoing intensive therapy, which speaks volumes about Karaindrou's accomplishment and visionary compassion. - Steve Taylor

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