Zoe Efstathiou is a pianist and composer from Greece living in Sweden. She is coming to Bodø to perform the piece Athroa, together with Egil Kalman.
Efstathiou is working towards exploring the materiality of sound in an improvised performance, the timbral possibilities of the piano and the role of the pianist in different spaces and social morphologies. She is focused in composing and performing new music for piano, piano and electronics but also performs regularly as an improviser with different constellations.
Photos by Sylvia Steinhäuser
The festival theme is «truth?». Can music be “true”?
For me, truth in music means often being true to my artistic instincts. Sometimes I get an idea of what to do next and I cannot rest until I bring this idea to life. I think that what can distract someone from being true in that sense, are the musical norms, preconceptions, and biases that exist across genres and borders when it comes to what art and music is and should be. I think one should be aware of these distractions but also realize that the truth may lie somewhere between one’s artistic instincts and the impact of one’s environment. For me and the creation of my music, it is also very important that I do not work in isolation. In my music truth comes by interacting with others, with other composers and musicians, with audiences and with the broader society. My work is based on investigating the relationship between composition and improvisation. By performing concerts of improvised music one develops awareness regarding the audience’s active participation in the music creation as well as the ability of music creation through interaction with others, while in search of a common ‘truth.’
Is music, often wordless, freer than other art forms? Any thoughts on this?
I think freedom is not related to the choice of the medium. All instruments, acoustic or electronic, are interfaces which, by their construction, impose a certain way of working, and a limited range of possibilities to the composer. These limitations can be certainly compared to the limitations of language. Creativity, as well as freedom, could come from trying to challenge the limits of the instrument. Nevertheless, it can also come by really restraining yourself to a narrow range of possibilities.
Your piece at the festival, Athroa, includes a light installation. Can you tell us a bit about that project?
The piece ‘Athroa’ for prepared piano, electronics, and light installation, was initiated by my need to explore the impact of space in the perception of the sound material and sonic events. What is exciting about this work is that the light installation has been composed to respond to our sounds with light formations that are not following or describing the music. It is rather creating a counterpoint to the music. We consider the light installation to be a third musician in our ensemble and the audience is invited to use their imagination towards translating the light formations into sounds.
Where do you find the ideas that get you started? What inspires you?
My ideas, like the piece ‘Athroa’ usually come by my need to create new things by merging and combining genres, ideas, disciplines. I have an inter-genre and interdisciplinary approach and I get inspired by the musicality of sculpture, architecture, moving the image as well as poetry. My point of departure is my need to communicate an experience to the audience by inviting them into spaces where, by observing the microlevel sound articulations and the co-existence of sound, they can experience interaction and co-existence with each other.
Athroa (for piano, electronics and light installation) is a composition that explores the materiality of sound in relation to our spatiotemporal perceptive mechanisms. The materiality of sonic events is being explored through the process of sculpting sound objects, dynamically changing through interaction and improvisation. Electronic and acoustic instruments co-create imaginary sound formations, whose textures, surface fluctuations, edges, grooves and other deformations are shaped in interaction with the space and spatial properties. Subtle nuances alter the surface characteristics and boundaries of the objects, evoking a sensuous and tangible experience. In this composition, space, rather than time, is the basis of formal organisation, and the experience of the music will be embodied in the process of navigating through space and observing the objects from different vantage points.
The music is in counterpoint with a light installation which interacts with the sounds and musical textures. It is not following or describing the music and is not narrative to the music. The lights are used as a musical instrument, reacting to or bringing forth nuances and sonic details and highlighting non-obvious sonic attributes, engaging in a dialogue with the duos timbral improvisations.
The light is explored in its sonic potential as the installation becomes the third member of the improvisatory ensemble. The work has been fully funded by Konsnärsnämnden – the Swedish Arts Grant Committee.