Ceremony contributor protests over coverage

The euphoria generated by the general public’s enthusiastic response to last Friday’s opening ceremony has yet to subside, but there has been some reaction from within artistic director Dimitris Papaioannou’s team over state-TV ERT’s handling of audio aspects during its coverage. Respected local artist Constantinos Beta, who was commissioned by Papaioannou, an associate and friend, to compose music for parts of the ceremony, could not believe his ears while viewing August 13’s live broadcast, he told Kathimerini in an interview. «They nullified the music,» Beta protested, pointing the finger at ERT. «Viewers all over the world could hear the music, except for the Greeks,» added Beta, who emerged as frontman of the groundbreaking local electronica act Stereo Nova in the early ’90s before eventually pursuing a solo career. When asked to explain what he believed the reasons were, Beta noted that the broadcast’s transmission in monophonic sound resulted in pushing presenter Alexis Kostalas’s voice to the fore and, consequently, all else heard at the Olympic Stadium – music, crowd noise – seemed an audio backdrop for television viewers. «It’s like seeing a musical without hearing the music,» said Beta. (Late last week, by popular demand, ERT rebroadcast the ceremony, this time without commentary. It was preceded by an introduction from the artistic director.) Beta’s involvement in the project, which was enthusiastically received both in Greece and abroad, dates back to 2002. Initially, his contribution was limited to one song, «Peristeri,» a melody based on the late Manos Hadjidakis’s «Come Take My Sorrow» (Ela Pare Mou Ti Lypi), which was played at the opening ceremony’s end, during the fireworks display. But as the project evolved, Beta was asked to commit himself further with additional material. He ended up writing music for two important parts of the production, the parade of props depicting Greek history from antiquity to the 1940s, and the opening ceremony’s tribute to previous Olympic host cities. Beta said his task of adorning Greek history with music progressed quickly. «The initial idea came quickly. The central idea was there, once we had the initial arrangements down,» said Beta. «It was quickly agreed with Giorgos Koumentakis [the production’s musical director] that we’d use five instruments: Samos tsambouna [wind-pipe instrument], kanonaki, Pontian lyra, Cretan lyra, and clarinet,» he added. When asked to describe his part of the opening ceremony’s soundtrack, Beta said it was «both violent and ethereal.» The musician said the overall enthusiasm generated by Papaiannou’s production came as no surprise to him. «I was sure about it from the very first moment. I was moved when I saw the first plans and video while still in almost rough form. This [production] is what Greek art was always about. The ceremony had measure, moderation, minimalism and thorough historical knowledge,» said Beta. «Using minimal symbolism and acts, [Papaioannou] rendered a deep feeling of Greek life. And he was the only person capable of doing that,» he added. The collaboration between Beta and Papaioannou dates back to long before the opening ceremony. Both, like most of the participants behind this enormous production, are part of the same generation of similar-minded artists; in their 40s and set a bit apart from the country’s mainstream artistic activity. This generation has been producing inspired and, in most cases, well-received, work for years, but, it seems that now could be the time for bigger things. «Yes, these are all people who have worked in an alternative scene. The previous generations has shown us their work. Now we can discover another face,» Beta remarked. The musician said he would not attend the closing ceremony, which «will be a party,» while adding that he has been enjoying experiencing a reinvigorated Athens with friends. «I like it a lot.»

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