Anastasis Sarakatsanos, composer and music professor, who will teach at this year’s Epidaurus Lyceum, shares his thoughts about the role of music as an art form, its connection to ancient drama as well as the workshop he will conjointly teach with Vangelis Theodoropoulos at the Epidaurus Lyceum
Your educational and professional background suggest your experience with diverse music genres and fields. How did this choice inform your development as an artist and teacher? Is this a prerequisite for people who wish to become music and theatre artists?
Composing music for film and theatre is an inherently ‘transformative’ process. Musicians are often asked to match the style of a film or play, or to use aspects of a music genre they are not very familiar with. In all such cases, what is important is how composers go about approaching this ‘different’ and ‘unfamiliar’ genre.
My musical experiences as a child were instrumental in this respect. When listening to or performing music, it just didn’t feel necessary to me to distinguish between music genres. Later on, through my ethnomusicology studies, I acquired the necessary theoretical tools, the framework so to speak, that helped me in my perception of music and in how I can approach the ‘foreign’ element. At the same time, I came in touch with various musical traditions from around the world. As a postgraduate student, focusing on composition for theatre, cinema and digital media, I had the opportunity to investigate how music can converse with other forms of art and genres and was thus able to experiment with mixed composition techniques.
Throughout this journey, I was able to appreciate how valuable it is to specialise in one area, examine in depth and understand what it has to offer. However, I was more interested in exploring the multifaceted nature of music. Driven by this curiosity, I was able to get a fuller picture of what I do, to carve a more universal style of expression, to perceive myself and my work outside the limits set by a university degree or a job post. Being engaged with different fields, I am now able to articulate theory and to impart my experience to students, as well as establishing a common ‘language’ with my collaborators.
That being said, I do not consider my personal and professional development as a recipe for success or even as a recommendation to others. There are as many methods to achieve one’s goals as there are people following these methods, since each method comes with its own set of advantages.
What is your relationship with ancient drama? How can music contribute to the reinvention of this genre in our times?
Working as a music artist in theatre over the last decade I collaborated with exceptional composers, choreographers, directors and translators, got to read great texts and closely followed the adaptation of these texts for the stage. Given that the genre recently went through a revival and that there is no evidence as to how drama was staged in the antiquity, this reinvention is a constant pursuit for every generation of creators who are not only asked to make ancient texts topical and pertinent but also come up with ways in which these texts can highlight and assign new meanings to contemporary reality.
Often, reinvention in art, a new wave, emerges through the use of new technology. Painting was influenced by the advent of photography, which evolved through the invention of cinema. In cinema, in turn, in the last few decades one can detect discernible influences from music videos and videogames.
Music is no exception. Our ways of creating and consuming have been continuously changing over the centuries. From ritual we’ve moved on to representation; from production we’ve shifted to reproduction. Even in recent history, reinvention and redevelopment in various music genres were the result of new available technology, such as the gramophone, vinyl records, electric amplifiers, portable media players, digital recording and processing techniques. These new uses of technology gave rise to new functions. The repetition of a performance was impossible before the invention of recording. Hip hop, as a genre, owes its modern form to the invention of the record player. Nowadays, we can spend endless hours listening to the exact same rendition of a piece at home, in the car, in the subway – a feat that was unimaginable over 130 years ago. Back then, each rendition, each performance was unique. One can observe how these new functions affect modern onstage performances by studying the various networks within which music operates and examining its different uses.
As regards the stage reinvention of ancient drama, the constant renegotiation of the terms and conditions of this genre, its openness to other creative fields, the informed use of the various aspects comprising it, as well as the trials and experimentation by fusing and combining elements, including reborrowing, can all be used to this end.
The practical workshop you will teach at the Epidaurus Lyceum will investigate the relationship between music and language in Aristophanes’ choral parts. How is this workshop structured? What are your goals?
I teach this workshop jointly with Vangelis Theodoropoulos, who will focus on textual analysis and performance. In the musical part of the workshop we will study the choral segments from Aristophanes’ Thesmophoriazusae, as interpreted musically by the composer Nikos Kypourgos in 2018.
In the workshop we will focus on a) learning, analysing and studying the musical material, b) empowering and exploring voice as a performing tool, c) experimentation and co-creation among participants. The compositions will be utilised as exercises, as we will focus on their technical characteristics and examine the various ways in which music can contribute to the onstage performance. We will focus on breathing, vocal placement and safe use of the voice. Participants will collaborate with each other, seeking new ways of approaching the relationship between music and language.
On completion of the workshop, participants will have a fuller picture of music in performances and a deeper understanding of its various uses and multiple roles. They will be in a position to use the music skills they possess, as well as collaborating with musicians more effectively.
More information about Anastasis Sarakatsanos
Anastasis Sarakatsanos was born in Athens, in 1983. Sarakatsanos graduated from the Department of Traditional Music in Epirus and continued his studies at the University of Sussex & Royal Holloway, focusing on mixed composition techniques (theatre, film music, music for media). Since 2006 he has been active as musical director in a number of theatre productions in Greece, United Kingdom and the Netherlands.
Since 2015, Anastasis lives in Amsterdam, where he works as musician, composer and storyteller. He has also worked as academic advisor on music and television productions, as well as lecturer on composition and music technology.
Epidaurus Lyceum – International summer school of ancient drama, will take place between July 2nd and July 16th in Epidaurus.
The Epidaurus Lyceum is realized under the auspices and the support of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports and it is a member of the Ministry’s International Network of Ancient Drama.
It is realised in collaboration with the Department of Theatre Studies, School of Fine Arts, University of the Peloponnese.
With the support of:
The Epidaurus Municipality
The Ephorate of Antiquities of Argolis (Nafplio)
Istituto Italiano di Cultura di Atene and the Italian Ministry of Culture