Colin Jones finds out about Eleni Karaindrou, a Greek film music composer, using in her music mostly traditional instruments.
Best known for her work composing scores for the director Theo Angelopoulos (whose best known film is probably Ulysses Gate, but whose other works include The Beekeeper, Voyage to Cythera and The Suspended Step of the Stork), Eleni Karaindrou is now something of an institution in Greece.
Her first scores, in 1979 and 1982, were for films by Christophoros Christophis called Wandering and Rosa respectively. Rosa was an independent film and the score, commissioned and paid for privately, was initially issued in a private limited vinyl pressing of 2,000 copies, all of which were sold in a very short time from just one record shop in Athens. The score for Rosa won the prize for best score at the 1982 Thessaloniki film festival, where the President of the jury was the renowned director Theo Angelopoulos, who immediately asked Karaindrou to work with him. Since then Karaindrou has scored all of Angelopoloulos' works.
A major influence on Karaindrou was the ECM record label and in particular the works of Jan Garbarek, in whom Karaindrou recognised a kindred spirit."He is able to go into a composition without any folkloristic rhetoric and go straight to the essential", she once said of Garbarek. Garbarek first brought his intense brooding tone to the score of The Beekeeper in 1986, and in return Garbarek introduced Karaindrou's music to his ECM label boss Manfred Eicher. However, Eicher, already an Angelopoulos fan, was aware of Karaindrou and immediately offered to issue her work on ECM. The first release was a compilation of music from the films "Landscape In The Mist", "Voyage To Cythera" and "The Beekeeper", and was called "Music For Films".
This release was followed by Karaindrou's scores for Suspended Step Of The Stork (1991) and Ulysses Gate (1994). These intense, haunting scores provide at once an insight into the reflective, brooding style of Angelopoulos and an opportunity to hear a mastercraftswoman at work. Using mostly traditional instruments, there is nothing at all folksy about the music, but it has the ability to paint scenes on the mind's eye without having to see any other images. As it is music for film, most of the pieces are only two or three minutes long, but are beautifully constructed and played.
Despite the ECM connection, Karaindrou is signed to EMI in Greece, who now issue all her work. Also, several of her earliest compositions have now been re-released on CD in Greece, including the scores to the Christophis films Rosa and Wandering. All domestic Greek releases (including all the works of Eleni Karaindrou and the current darling of the world music set, Eleftheria Arvanitaki) can be obtained by mail order from the Trehantiri shop in Green Lanes, London. Don't be expecting Greek prices, though! Most CDs are around £15 + p&p, and of course the sleeve notes are usually in Greek, but the music is superb.
Contact Trehantiri at 367 Green Lanes, London N4 or give them a ring on 0044 181 802 6530.
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