The other night I sat and watched Kyriakos Aggelakou?s riveting documentary on Giorgos Koumentakis on ET1?s ?Backstage? program, during which the composer was also interviewed.
I was in thrall of Koumentakis?s manner of speech — so packed with ideas, balanced, weighty, simple, without a trace of pseudo-grandiloquence, without affected pauses.
I was in thrall of his music — pulsating with lyricism and playfulness, familiar and at the same time modern, as familiar and as modern as the landscapes of Tinos, where Koumentakis now lives, the two depicted as co-protagonists in the documentary/portrait of the composer: driving through the crystal-clear Cycladic landscape, fields of stone awash with winter?s light, whitewashed alleys, stone walls and quaint chapels depicted as ethereal and beautiful, yet still very much human.
This sense of moderation is what the now middle-aged Koumentakis — a wunderkind of the Greek music scene, a successor to Gyorgy Ligeti and Iannis Xenakis, and the creator of the score for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2004 Athens Olympic Games — succeeds in putting across so succinctly. He puts across this moderation in a blend of wisdom, meekness, confidence and altruism. With his style, he constructs solid, simple bridges between the center and the periphery, the local and the global, tradition and modernity, and the highbrow and the lowbrow.
?We pray for Athens on the island,? he said in the interview, meaning the scarred Athens of unemployment and despair, the Athens of today. Then, in an abandoned church, he explained with such serenity how he draws inspiration from religious hymns and from the plaintive melodies of Smyrna as rendered by Marika Papagika, to pen contemporary works for international audiences.
The 2004 Olympics ceremonies were just fireworks, he said: ?We prettified the lie; Greece was rotten deep down inside.?
Koumentakis judges the country, and himself harshly, but he sees redemption, as, firmly in the here and now, constantly tuned in to the pain of his compatriots, he can see through the crisis and beyond.
?No one is an observer; no one remains untouched. Some people persevere and contribute to the creation of a new world… A new ethic is created.?
As the music faded out in the documentary, I thought that this 50-year-old man was inviting his fellow middle-aged Greeks to have another look at themselves, as a nation.