CRUCIFIX for Byzantine cantor and tape. 1988. 17 minutes. Texts in Hellenistic Greek [the Byzantine Crucifixus "Simeron kremate epi xylou…."] Score/part and CD with the audio playback component available through the composer.
Crucifix is the fourth piece of Earthrise, a pentalogy of electroacoustic works (Also see: Nadir, Orbiting Garden, The Temptation of St. Anthony and The Mega4 Meta4).The origins of Crucifix date back to the summer of 1987. After the Patras International Festival where I was a guest I visited the monasteries of Mt. Athos in Northern Greece for a few days. The experience of visiting Athos was indescribable. It was like stepping back to the Middle Ages. The area is still one tightly knit monastic community which dates back to the early part of the second millennium. The entire peninsula is a picture of what the rest of the Mediterranean world must have looked like at the time of the last Byzantine emperors. The natural terrain, architecture, music, art, and lifestyle have all remained essentially the same since that time. I was there for the Feast of the Redeemer in mid-August. I attended the entire cycle of services that sometimes lasted through the night from Esperinos (Vespers) to Orthros (Matines).
In this rarefied world of chanting, fasting, incense, and candle-lit frescos, a person searching for musical inspiration does not have to look far. Crucifix was born there, although the desire to compose a piece for the haunting voice of Chari Polatos existed for some time. Set to the text from the Byzantine antiphon "Simeron kremate epi xylou…" which is intoned and sung in the eastern orthodox church on the evening of Holy Thursday, the music of Crucifix undergoes a number of stylistic transformations, always returning to the octaechus, the Byzantine eight-mode tonal system. Chari recorded the piece in September 1990. He was killed in a car accident on May 7, 1992, having never heard the edited recording in its entirety. With the help of composer John Oswald, Crucifix was assembled and first played in public a few days later in a concert commemorating Charis' passing. A self-taught singer and instrumentalist, Chari Polatos was a unique individual. His idiosyncratic temperament and controversial ideas on life and art have been a standard against which I had to measure myself as an artist and as a person for the better part of a decade.
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