Guide to SKOPJE

Eleni Karaindrou – The movies are an inspiration for creating great works of art

The film music or the art music, today exists as a music genre for itself. Rare are the ones as Morricone, Michael Nyman, Zbigniew Preisner whose music posseses its own identity in the movies for which it was composed in the first place. Small is the number of women composers working on film, where one of the characteristics of the preceding group also applies to them. Among the most prominent are Rachel Portman, Lisa Gerrard, Jocelyn Pook, Wendy Carlos and especially Eleni Karaindrou.

For 30 years,  Karaindrou is successfully active in making music designed for film and theater. However, she is also  known as a longtime associate of the famous Greek director Theo Angelopoulos (who died in a tragic car accident a few days ago), a collaboration that lasted  more than 20 years.

Eleni Karaindrou and Theo Angelopoulos

Angelopolus, impressed by her contribution to his films has said “the music of Eleni does not oonly follows the images, but it becames inseparable with them. Because of that, it can not be defined what is what because they are so tightly interconnected. I believe that Eleni is currently one of the most exciting musicians in the film world ”

What has inspired you to start making film music?

– The cinema and the film music were part of my  life since my childhoood. When I was 7 years of old I could watch movies through my window, because at that time we lived beside one outdoor cinema. However, while I was studying music I  never thought I would start writing music for films. My first work was an album of songs for my friend Maria Saraturi, which is based on poetry by  Midis. In 1975 some friends of mine who worked in the film industry told me that they have noticed that my songs have some film spirit in them. Since then the people around me predicted  that I will start writing music for films. So, that is how everything started. One of my friends, the director Dimitris Mavrikios, wanted us to work together on a  wonderful documentary called  „Polemonta“. It was back in 1975. Then I wrote my first music for film, „Chronicle of Sunday„ for the director Takis Kanellopoulos from Thessaloniki,. That same year I wrote music for another film of a young and talented director Christopoulos Christophine.  The film was screened at the Thessaloniki Film Festival, where music has received special praises and reviews.

Eleni Karaindrou

How did you got interested in music? Can you tell us something about your early history?

– It’s a great history as one voluminous book. I come from a village in Greece called Mount. My grandfather played mandolin and he sang songs all the time. Later when I was 7 years old I saw a piano somewhere and it was love at first sight. It happened in Athens, the school where my father worked as a teacher of mathematics. He asked me to find someone to teach me and that is how  everything started. That were the beginnings of my musical history.

In your themes one can  feel different influences of folk music. Besides classical music, you also studied ethnomusicology.

– When I lived in Paris many doors and roads were opened for me. First I was studying classical music, orchestration and conducting the orchestra. Somewhere on the way  I started writing. Also, I started off with the ethnomusicology. Why? Because I was fascinated with the folk music or the oral tradition. The ethnomusicology was very important for me because alongside I had to work on  many other things. At that time I also discovered the jazz music. I fell in love with jazz music and I regularly went to the performances in the clubs. In Paris, you can listen any type of  music at any time. Many roads were open for me.  I listened the  musica moderna, music concrete, I met Nadir Bulandir. At first I was part of the classical world in Paris, but later on my horizons expanded. This period was important for me as a composer, because then I actually realized that I wanted to be a composer. If I wanted to express myself and my emotions then it was the only way. I could not see myself as a pianist with a career.

Till recently, you had a special relationshipwith the celebrated filmmaker Theo Angelopoulos and you have made  most of the music for his films. Where did the two of you met? How did you started to collaborate?

– I met Angelopoulos at 1982.  Then I worked on the music for the second film of Hristodolus called „Rosa“  who was in the selection of the Thessaloniki Film Festival. Angelopoulos was president of the jury and he presented  me with the award for the music. Then he offered me to work on his film „Voyage to Cythera“. It was the first film on which I worked with him.

Theo Angelopoulos

In his films the  music and the scenes are practically inseparable. How did you managed to  fit the images and the music?

– From the first moment, there was a special chemistry-  intellectual, but also a similar aesthetic direction. I admired his films, and that helped me a lot. We always led various discussions on different topics. Usually he would have explaind me the stories from the movies and then tell me what are the needs of the film. So that was how we worked from our first film. After such discussion, I composed the music by the next day. That happened often when we worked together. The main themes were ready before we started of with the shooting. Sometimes he used them to while directing the scenes.

What is your relationship with the  folk music, and the Byzantian and how did they influenced your music?

This relationship with the folk music and Byzantine heritage is very important. In the village where I was born, there is a church next to the house of my father. Their singing is heard in our house. Even later when I started with my studies, during the holidays I often went to the church where I was enchanted by the beautiful melodies. I know all the melodies that are part of the Byzantine vocal music. That is why I’m sure that its influence in my musuc is very deep. In Byzantine music, there is a dron which we call isokratis. I also used Byzantine melodies in the film „Ulyesses’ Gaze“and there is a woman who sings Byzantine melody,  psalm which can be heard on the releases. Usually in our churches only the men are allowed to sing such melodies. When I found this woman who sings, Angelopoulos was happy because he didnt care about the dogmas. Angelopoulos insisted to have a Byzantine theme in the scenario, and this woman with a beautiful voice was perfectly fitted in it. I often use  traditional instruments such as lyre, santur, kemane, accordion. But I don’t want to use folk themes and then say that I’m the author.

What are your memories about the following movies and plays that you have worked on?

Voyage to Cythera

Voyage to Cythera was the first collaboration with Angelopoulos. I remember that, although it was long ago. I especially remember the day when Angelopoulos was explaining  me the script for whole 4 hours . Because I’m a  composer I only remember the parts related to the work in the studio. While I was working on this movie I met Hristopolus Vangelis, the oboist who  is my regular collaborator since then. He is present in all my publications. When I first  heard his loud oboe it was such an emotional experience that made me cry. It’s a very important moment because whenever I’m writing his oboe is mu starting point. I remember a scene from the movie „Katragis“ with the old man who was imprisoned in Russia wanted to return to Greece. The scene I’m talking about is the Dance of Pontos. It is a scene that carried me away. I remember many things, but I should write a book about it.

Ulyesses’ Gaze

Ulyesses’ Gaze, for me it is one of the most powerfull moments in my life. These are emotions that can not be compared with anything else. One of the most important films I have ever worked on. Although I like all the films from Angelopoulos and I have motherly relationship with them, I harbor special emotion for this specific one. Kim Kashkashian, who plays the viola, gavе her conribution for it. If the music in the film has good chemistry with the pictures then something strange and special happens. Her contribution to my music for this film was very important.

The Suspended Step of the Stork

The most vivid picture that emerges in my mind related to this film is a wedding in the village that was divided into two parts because the boundary line was running through it. The border line was actually the river and the groom lived on one side of the river and the bride on the other side. Another scene that is particularly dear to me is somewhere at the end of the film and that scene was coreographed according to the music. That’s the theme “Final” and  the scene was masterfully directed by Angelopoulos. Marcello Mastroianni and Jeanne Moreau are the leading actors in it.  From this perspective I have a better opinion on this movie than at the beginning. I like the theme the most, because its about borders.  As in the “Ulyesses’ Gaze this film talk about boundaries, displaced persons, people who were torn from their roots. These are themes that are present in our age. Angelopoulos is not a great man just because of his movies, but because of the ideology, history. The history of this age is very important to him.

Weaping Meadow

I remember many things from the work on this movie, but the first thing that comes to my mind are the very special people who I worked with. It was one harph player from Romania, one who played the lyre and accordion. It looked like souls who hug eachother. For me, those were special and memorable moments. I admire their mutual respect and how it gets upgraded.

Nenad Georgievski