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Friday, April 3, 2020

Yiorgis Sakellariou – Nympholepsy (Noise Below, 2019) ****

By Fotis Nikolakopoulos

History can very often be a burden. Your past comes back to haunt you, to remember the great John Fahey. Living in Greece there are two realities you have to endure. First is the narrative of the Greek state. The Greek authorities are eager and willing to sell the classical times any way they can. Everything else becomes a blur, just a note in history’s long trajectory. The mainstream needs the “democracy of ancient Athens” and all that comes along with it. Secondly, it is a matter of scale. Everything is measured up by the size. Numbers, buildings, antiquities. Having worked, very lately, in the field of tourism, all the people coming to Greece get the idea that only kings, queens and people of the upper classes existed here. There’s no reference of everyday life and its people, the images, the sounds, the boring normality and the burdens of it maybe. Many times some very beautiful and important sites seem totally empty in any meaning, if you ignore the real people that lived there, touched the marbles, changed and determined the landscape.

This site specific recording came into my attention during my own personal procedure of reassessing my past to continue into the future. It is inspired by the history and the immediate environment of ancient Messene. In the liner notes you will find the key to Nympholepsy, which is the link between the sound of now and the materials which date many centuries ago. Like music is a non verbal language, Nympholepsy provides a bridge, a communiqué maybe, between the present and past. But who is to say that time is linear? And why do we measure everything, so obsessed, by time? Nympholepsy stays in the middle, not wanting to give definite answers.

Nympholepsy uses the voice of Savina Yannatou as a core material manipulated and combined with site- specific field recordings. Yannatou is a well known greek singer, one of the very few with strong ties with the greek folk tradition and European improvisation as well. This fact in a country that music tradition is a do not touch affair is really difficult. The cd only last for 23 minutes. I caught myself wanting to hear more. Sakellariou, apart from the personal nature of this recording, seems to understand really well the balance needed. Nympholepsy could very easily be an audio guide to the ancient Messene site. It walks with you, reveals the audio qualities, hidden voices, current noises of the site. Guides you even. It has the relaxed vibe of someone (not a tourist in a hurry to see as much as possible) who is willing to integrate and, at the same time, the intensity the weight the past (glory days, days of happiness and disasters) carries for any place.

This site-specific recording was presented at an event produced by Onassis Cultural Center in 2018 and even though I hate the way they patronize modern culture in Greece, OCC is one of the very few that tries to present a different non-mainstream side of modern Greece. Not everything is just black or just white it seems.