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AMN Reviews: Yiorgis Sakellariou – Nympholepsy [Noise Below]

Yiorgis Sakellariou’s Nympholepsy is a portrait in sound of the historical ghosts inhabiting the ruins of Ancient Messene, a city on the Greek peninsula of The Peloponnese. Over the centuries, the site saw several waves of settlement and conquest, of building, destruction and reconstruction, beginning with foundation by the Achaeans and culminating with the city’s reestablishment in 369 BCE after the defeat of Sparta by Thebes at Leuctra. Much more recently–in 2018–the ruins of Ancient Messene were the focus of a Tuned City event in which a number of sound artists were commissioned to explore the themes of place and memory and their implications for the situated nature of listening. Sakellariou was one of the artists invited to participate; Nympholepsy is the work that resulted.

The audio interpretation of an ancient city would seem to be a natural fit for Sakellariou. Trained as an ethnomusicologist and active since the early 2000s as a composer of electronic music and a field recordist, Sakellariou has produced a body of work largely concerned with ferreting out and disclosing the networks of association that tie together an environment and the listeners situated within it. For Nympholepsy he took field recordings of Ancient Messene and combined them with manipulated recordings of the voice of Savina Yannetou, a Greek vocalist as conversant with early music as she is with contemporary improvisation. Sakellariou alters the sound of Yannetou’s voice artfully, changing its pitch and timbre, setting up rhythmic patterns and blocks of sound, and occasionally stripping it down to traces of its grain with the underlying breath exposed. Structurally, the twenty-three minute-long piece is a work of accumulation and densification as Sakellariou adds layers of sound elements and pressures them into thickening masses—an especially appropriate response to a place that itself was the product of an accretion of peoples and their material cultures over long periods of time.

Daniel Barbiero

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AMN Reviews

AMN Reviews: Yiorgis Sakellariou – Silentium [Pogus 21088-2]

cd_088Silence can be thought of as the nothingness transcending sound, or an only apparently empty vessel containing sonic multitudes. In Silentium, a new long piece from Greek composer Yiorgis Sakellariou, silence manages to be both.

The basis for Silentium is a set of recordings Sakellariou made of church bells, organs and ambient sounds during a residency in Prague in December, 2015. The finished work is a long, single composition of nearly fifty minutes.

Appropriately enough, Silentium begins in silence or near silence. By the eight-minute mark an organ drone presents itself as a thick, unsettling and unsettled chord that abruptly fades away into the quiet ebb and flow of a high-frequency tingling. The rest of the piece is a natural progression of seeming waves of thunder or rushes of wind, the distant sounds of chiming bells, falling rain, birdsong, and sounds whose sources can only be guessed at. Throughout, there are long stretches where nothing seems to happen—just as there are sudden upsurges of sound, sometimes dramatically loud, sometimes unexpectedly persistent. The intermittency of sounds and silences serves to emphasize both as in essence temporally finite phenomena, each standing at the limit of the other.

In sum, Silentium is a recording with a lot of space in it. In fact, space seems to be its subject: Space as exemplified in silence and in the ambient sounds that frequently stand in for silence, thereby not incidentally providing an aural map of a specific physical territory.

http://www.pogus.com

Daniel Barbiero