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‘It Sounds Greek to Me’: Greek Art Music since the Nineteenth Century

King's Building, Strand Campus, London

9 May
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The pun in the workshop’s title functions on two levels. Taken literally, it indicates a moment of recognition and affirmation. It poses the question of whether and how ‘Greekness’ (a perceived Greek character or quality) may be articulated through music, Greek art music in this case.

Are there specific technical means involved or is it merely a matter of intention, perception and reception? And if music may indeed express ‘Greekness’, then what is this Greek character like, what does it mean and to whom? On a second level, the pun implies the existence of confusions and misunderstandings or the lack of understanding, and eventually rejection. It points to foreignness. We could say that Greek art music has provoked all of those responses as a peripheral exponent of the tradition of Western art music with limited appeal beyond (if not also within) the national borders.

In this context Greek art music has sounded like an unaccomplished paraphrase of the canon, of Central European repertories that have set the norm, and this perception has hindered its academic study and reception. At the same time it has been perceived as the odd one out among the other Greek musics – sacred, traditional, popular and art-popular – as an imported cultural product. And yet, the last few years have seen an upsurge of interest in Greek art music, from an academic point of view as well as its performance, and a boost in the profile, activity and popularity of the institutions that support it.

They have also seen the rediscovery of a wide range of archival sources, which are informing present-day understandings of this repertory. Crucially, the revived interest in Greek art music and support for it have coincided with the socio-economic crisis of recent years. One could even say they have been activated by the crisis, in the context of a questioning and redefinition of identities, including national identity, and the ensuing broader cultural renaissance. This workshop addresses those recent developments as well as the more general questions of how Greek art music has helped shape, mediate and negotiate Hellenic identities, and how it relates to other spheres of Modern Greek culture more generally.

This workshop is organised by Dr Katerina Levidou, in the context of her research project ‘Greek Identity in Art Music since the Early Nineteenth Century: Towards an Interdisciplinary Methodology – GRIDAMUS’. 

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No 745631.

See a full agenda of the programme, abstracts and speaker bios

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