Muses are not partial to messes

Composer Eleni Karaindrou find herself in one of the most productive phases of her career, with the music she has penned for the television show «Deka» (based on the novel by Michalis Karagatsis) and the smash-hit play «A Long Day’s Journey into Night,» which is currently on at the Aplo Theatr, as well as preparing the score for Theo Angelopoulos’s latest film, «The Dust of Time,» which is expected to be screened at Cannes. She seems to have time for everything, including preparations for the release of a compilation of previously unpublished works and a concert in July in Poland. Your decision to write music for a television show came as a bit of a surprise. I though about it for three months, but I really love Karagatsis’s work and it also made a difference that a lot of friends were involved in the show and that it was directed by Pigi Dimitrakopoulou. I had spotted her back when she did «Aithousa tou Thronou.» She is extremely talented. She let me take my time, she let me relax, think. You see, normally when we hear the word television we run far, far away. But I had a lot of guarantees, including the participation of producer Costas Lambropoulos, whom I know through Angelopoulos. You also included music for bouzouki in the score. I have used bouzouki in my own way in the past before, such as for Loula Anagnostaki’s «Niki» in 1986. The music for «Deka» is, in the most part, film music. I used the colors and sounds associated with my music. I also found a fantastic musician from Piraeus, Spyros Goumas, who has that special touch. What are the motifs you use in the score for Angelopoulos’s film? There are two motifs, because there are two films within a film in «The Dust of Time.» The life of the director in Germany and that of his parents, which he is making into a movie. There are constant flashbacks. One theme belongs to the hero’s parents and the other to the protagonist and his everyday life. There is one scene I really like. It is supposed to be set in one of the studios of Cinecitta, where Willem Dafoe, the protagonist, is making a movie about his parents’ life. The orchestra in the scene is the Greek Radio and Television (ERT) National Symphony, conducted by Alexandre Myrat, and Reni Pittaki plays the composer. That’s me. This seven-minute scene with action features one of my themes. You have worked with Angelopoulos for 24 years. What is the key to your collaboration? Since 1993, when he asked me to write the score for «Voyage to Cythera,» we have worked together on eight films. It is a relationship with lasting power, like the one I have with Antonis [Antypas, her collaborator and husband], with whom I work in the theater. I feel secure with them and will follow them blindly. Theo trusts me; we are friends. I do not have many friends, but those I do have, I’ve had for years… Most of my friends come from my work environment. What about inspiration? It doesn’t just come. You have to provoke it sometimes. I play the piano every day and spend a lot of time at home. But even if I’m out, I’ll jot down my ideas on a scrap of paper. You can’t push an idea too hard. It only lasts for as long as you play it. When inspiration does come, it comes easily, improvised. The work comes afterward. Getting it down on paper calmly, getting the rhythm right and then working on the orchestration. That is where personal taste comes in, not just in the melody and harmony. Also, the same piece can be written as a symphony, but with bouzouki as well; it depends on what you want to highlight. Although you have written beautiful songs, you tend to prefer straight music. Why? What I write is like a song without words. From the moment that they are easily understood by people, that they touch their hearts, they’re the same thing. In «Deka» I did not write a song because I didn’t want to make that concession. I knew that the title theme would become instantly recognizable. I don’t miss songs, anyway. I prefer instrumental music. Does it require more discipline? Well, I am a very disciplined person. I am methodical, I organize my time. You can’t do anything in life without discipline. Has your obsession with discipline got worse with age? I can’t write a single note unless my house is clean and tidy. I can’t stand mess. Everything I’ve written has been done after the house has been tidied up. You may think I’m crazy, but mess affects the way my mind works. Anyway, isn’t music all about harmony after all? Antonis used to tease me, but he likes order as well. What is music to you? Not albums, not recognition. It is the relationship between my body and my piano. No one can take that away from me. Like my piano. It is the same one I bought in Paris with my first pay check. I don’t want a grand piano. I only use those for concerts. How does your husband support your work? His opinion is very important to me. There is no competition between us even though he is an artist too. He values and supports me. We have had a marriage of 20 years full of experiences, joys and emotional moments. We live well together and don’t need thousands of friends to amuse us. Can anything shake this idyllic scene? We all live in the same society. We are all affected by this gray, sick environment, by the ugliness that surrounds us. And it has crossed the line. I am very sorry for the state of the country. We are surrounded by war and death, and in our midst we have corruption, the erosion of the social fabric, and an ascending god: money. It upsets me to see people not resisting. And I am not talking about politics. That has been completely discredited. There are exceptions, but this is the overall climate.