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A characteristic case of the transition from the “anonymous” spontaneous music performing r/ and the traditional dance
-as a collective cultural expression of the members of a local society- to the elaborated musical score and from the rural environment (where a musical or/ and a dance feast takes place) to the concert hall is that of the Greek Oscar-awarded composer Manos Hadjidakis, which is the subject of my doctoral dissertation




A characteristic case of the transition from the “anonymous” spontaneous music performing r/ and the traditional dance -as a collective cultural expression of the members of a local society- to the elaborated musical score and from the rural environment (where a musical or/ and a dance feast takes place) to the concert hall is that of the Greek Oscar-awarded composer Manos Hadjidakis, which is the subject of my doctoral dissertation.[1] Some of the results of this study are the following:

During the 50 years of the creative career of Manos Hadjidakis, from 1944 to 1994, the influence on his inspiration from the greek musical tradition was catalytic.[2] More concrete:

In the middle ’40s, M.H. discovers the hidden “truth” in the rebetika songs (or the urban popular songs, as M.H. used to call them) and –enchanted by their musicality- starts to use some of their rhythmic and melodic elements in his works, combining his piano classical studies with the greek popular music and the rebetika. One of the most characteristic examples that proves this influence can be found in his piano work, op. 1, For a little white seashell (1946-47), in the prelude called “conversation with Prokofiev”, which is musically constructed on the rhythm of hasapikos (one of the most popular dance rhythms) with the characteristic rhythmical motif: downbeat - up beat  ( | __ | __ ). (see stave 1)

Stave 1: For a little white seashell (1947),conversation with Prokofiev”

Rhythm: Hasapikos 2/4

Composer: anos Hadjidakis                                           Transcription: Renata Dalianoudi       

An other characteristic case can be found in his score for the theatrical play of Federico Garcia Lorca, Blood Wedding (1948), of which the melodic and rhythmic motifs are taken from the main theme of the rebetiko song “archontissa” (“nobble woman”), composed by one of the most famous and popular composers of rebetika, Vassilis Tsitsanis. (Compare stave 2 & 3)
Stave 2: Theme from the rebetika “Archontissa” by Tsitsanis

Transcription: Renata Dalianoudi



 Stave  3:  Blood Wedding (1948), “Introduction

Composer: anos Hadjidakis                                                           Transcription: Renata Dalianoudi

It’s noteworthy, that in these piano works of M.H. the influence of the greek traditional music -as far as the rhythms are concerned- is obvious, too. That is to say, M.H. uses the rhythm of kalamatianos, of syrtos, of tsamikos, of sousta (all greek traditional dances), succeeding thus in combining the morphological structure and the technique of the european classical music together with the rhythms of both the traditional and the popular music. (Note that his piano work For a little white seashell is a suite, consisted of dances)

In these cases, where M.H. uses traditional and popular dance rhythms, the phenomenon of the transition from the spontaneous playing of the popular and traditional musicians to the elaborated score written by an educated composer and from the natural environment, either the countryside or a tavern (where popular and traditional music & dance feasts are being performed most of the times) to the concert hall and to the conservatories.

M.H.’s eagerness for the wide recognition of the rebetika songs, is expressed intensively through his speech about “the interpretation and the place of the modern urban songs- rebetika”, which took place in the Art Theatre in 1949 and sometime later, when he arranged The six popular paintings  (1949-50) for piano. In this work M.H. arranges/ orchestrates 6 rebetika songs especially for piano and presents them as if they were literary compositions, without taking off the popular colour f the original material. Thus, he manages to come closer to the big audience of the city and to those who have studied classical music (e.g. the composer of the Greek National School Manolis Kalomiris  and the famous music-critic of the era Sofia Spanoudi), offering them a music with an authentic popular origin through a “correct”, “tested” and familiar way to them.

His choice to use the piano for the transcription of the folkloric tunes and rhythms contributes to this “bridge” and it is also a proof of the transition from the traditional stringed instruments of the family of the bouzouki to an instrument mainly for the literary music: the piano.

On the other hand, the dance itself, as a different expression and simultaneously as an inseparable part of the greek folkloric music tradition, is in M.H.’s interests.

.H., as co-founder of the Hellinico Chorodrama [Greek Dance-Drama] (together with the choreographer Rallou Manou and the painters Spryros Vassiliou and Nikos Hatzikyriakos-Ghikas), promises “the creation of a characteristic and pioneer greek theatrical art and the promotion of Greece through this art by using chorographical, musical and dressing elements of the greek tradition, as it is written in the founding declaration of the Hellinico Chorodrama. His ballets: Marsyas (1949), Katarameno Fidi [Cursed Serpent] (1949), 6 Laikes zografies [6 popular paintings] (1949-50) and Erimia [Solitude] (1958) are actual proofs of this declaration but in an academic folkloric version, where the traditional rhythms of tsamikos and kalamatianos co-exist with the popular rhythms of hasapikos and zeibekikos, where the Shadow-Theatre “converses with” and “walks on” Rallou Manou’s full-of-meaning-choreographies (which stand for the bravery of the members of a traditional society, for which dancing is a means of communication) and where the stage scenery and the costumes (made by famous Greek painters) represent the traditional scenery of the greek countryside.

As for the rhythms as structural element of a composition, which M.H. borrows from the greek folk music tradition, it is to be noted that:

a)     Despite the fact that the rhythms from both sorts of music (popular and traditional) borrowed by M.H. are for dancing, the final musical result is rather non-danceable. M.H. aims at leading the listeners into a more “internal” comprehension of his songs, so that their “secret” force is marked off.

b)    From the various rhythmical motifs that each dance may have (especially the rhythms of the traditional music) M.H. uses the most common rhythmical one. He chooses, in other words, the gender, the general family of the dance and not only a special kind that exists in a concrete area. E.g. for the ballos dance there are the following motifs: 2/4   or   or  or . M.H. uses the most common among them: 2/4  not only because the gender of a dance is more familiar to the big audience but also because he wants the borrowed elements from the greek folk music tradition be recognizable in his music.

Generally, all the compositions by M.H. that include and/ or “reproduce” elements from the greek folk music tradition, show his own (conscious or sub-conscious) worry -together with that of the “intellectual generation of the ’30’s” (the poets: Elytis, Gatsos, the painters: Tsarouchis, Hatzikyriakos-Ghikas, Moralis, the literary man: Seferis, who refined M.H.’s aesthetic)- about the definition of the new greek musical identity, sometime after the civil war, when the political and the cultural rehabilitation were more indispensable than ever.

          The originality and the success of the works of M.H. lies in the dialectic relation between the literate and the traditional music: from the former M.H. uses the necessary theoretical knowledge for the elaboration of the melodic, rhythmical and morphological elements and from the latter M.H. borrows the -stored up in the common cultural treasury- tunes and dances. In other words, the literate European classical music offers the necessary know-how for further elaboration, while the greek folkloric music tradition offers the material to be elaborated through this know-how. As a result, the one sort of music feeds the other in M.H.’s works.

Needless to say, that this co-existence is understood both by the audience of the literate  classical music as well as by the one of the traditional music, and by the listeners in the countryside as well as by those of the city. As far as aesthetic in M.H.’s music is concerned, there is always quality in it.

Thus, M.H. contributes to the creation of a completely new type of music at the beginning of ’50’s: the so called “art” popular music, which includes the “seriousness” of the literate western music and the “lightness” of the traditional music and which consists a characteristic case of the transition from the pure traditional to the literate urban element.

Renata Dalianoudi

Dr. Phil. of Ethnomusicology, AthensUniversity

Assistant Professor, Department of  Sound Technologies and Musical Instruments, ATEI Ionian Islands

Professor-Adviser, Hellenic Open University




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[1] The doctoral dissertation of the writer Renata Dalianoudi, which has the title Manos Hadjidakis and the greek folkloric music tradition, is consisted of 1400 pages and it is going to be published.

[2] The greek folkloric music tradition includes all kinds of greek musical culture: the folkloric traditional music of the countryside, the urban popular music, the rebetika songs and the music written for the Shadow Theatre.