A theatrical composer’s adventures in plain song

Regular work with esteemed Greek theatrical groups, such as the National Theater, the National Theater of Northern Greece, Theatro Technis, Amore and Poria, has established Nikos Platanos as an experienced composer for theater. Last winter, he plunged into ancient drama’s deep waters for the first time by providing music for the Nea Skini theatrical group’s «Electra.» Drama soundtracks aside, Platanos also likes to write numbers that stand on their own. He recently wrote songs based on three poems by Eleni Arveler which were sung by popular performer George Dalaras for a CD to accompany the magazine Archeologia. «I love theater and believe that it’s one of the last fields that can fall victim to commercialization, but I’m also interested in songwriting,» said Platanos. «It’s true that material that the music industry is afraid to accept – either due to vested interests or because market forces tend to function without character and exclude things that are unique – is taken on by theater with great pleasure,» he added. Even so, Platanos admitted that some commercialization had begun to infiltrate into the world of theater, but he did note, however, that resistance against the trend still prevailed. «Theater remains a handmade thing, it can’t be reproduced mechanically,» said Platanos, who described theater as a «refuge for those who want to write songs in a different way.» Platanos, who attended law school before eventually focusing on music, studied his subject of choice in Paris, where he relocated in 1987 with Effie Theodorou, now a director and the composer’s wife. Platanos studied advanced theory and composition for film, and provided music for short and medium-length films. Since his student days, Platanos has written prolifically, but has released relatively little of his output. Recent material of his that has seen the light of day includes «Pagides,» an independent release with lyrics by Stamatis Parchas, three songs written for an album by popular singer Melina Kana, as well as another three for Dalaras. Further collaboration with the top-selling performer appears likely at this point. Comparing the process of writing music for either theater or songs, Platanos stressed the importance of continuity when working with drama. «In theater, the music should not interrupt the action. In songwriting, music is a way to relay lyrics,» said Platanos. Apart from music, Platanos also has a penchant for poetry. «I feel a great need to write. Poetry for me is a means to communicate with higher forms of art,» he said. «It makes it possible to express profound ideas with a simpler vehicle like song. My favorite habit is to go to the library, find my favorite poems, and write music to them. It’s not a form of exercise. In essence, it keeps me going.» Platanos, who said he feels like he is perceived as an artist «from outer space,» noted that presentation plays a key role in determining public acceptance. «The way you present something is very important. If it’s too academic or pompous, it turns off the crowds. If it’s done in a modern way, I think you can draw them,» he said, while adding that he felt there was a market for alternative types of music. «Listeners, record companies and people involved with all this [marketing], are talking about a crisis, but the record labels are only accepting specific standards of music. Even so, I believe that an audience for a different type of song does exist. Not everybody has the same needs.»