Artist Statement

If a composer wants to create pieces which encourage collaboration, collective decision-making, the growth of group creativity and a group state of mind, then it would make sense for decisions concerning the structure of form to be taken collectively. Collaboration between members of a group can lead to group creativity and to a kind of collective consciousness. 

In my case the decision to let the performers use the material provided to construct collectively their performance relies on social and political reasons. I am trying to make a statement of collaboration and collective responsibility between the performers of my scores. If a group decides to perform one of my open form pieces, it is not only responsible for collectively structuring its performance but it should also be responsible for all practical issues like planning of the rehearsals, finding the necessary time and places. The best-case scenario is when all these tasks are completed without any third person’s intervention. 

The idea for collective responsibility and decision-making emerged from my participation in 6daEXIt Improvisation Ensemble since 2007,[1] an ensemble I co-founded together with a small group of students during my teaching years in the Music Department of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki/Greece (2005-2009). The group, which is now an independent improvisation group, plays free improvisation as well as verbal or graphic scores. It has a non-hierarchical way of organisation; decisions are made practically only in a unanimous way. No single member of the group can take any decisions on the group’s activities. My involvement with such improvisatory, self-organised and non-hierarchical practices was the trigger that re-shaped drastically my approach to compositional practice. This way of making music was also in harmony with my socio-political beliefs of autonomous self-organisation of one’s life and activities.

I do not write ‘political music’ but I would like that the preparation and performance of my pieces become a small example of how people can act in the real world. I am trying to demonstrate that people can act creatively and with the desire to structure their own life and world in collaboration with other human beings without waiting help from any leadership. Although utopian as a view, without this kind of social and political thinking I could not go on writing music. This way of thinking is very close to Christian Wolff’s view on the potential social engagement of music. This engagement has to do 

'with the relationships of people within groups, where power may or may not be a factor. The latter may involve things like reciprocity, cooperation and non-hierarchical arrangements, ideals that might be found in political systems like socialism and anarchism, in their “pure” forms, which are almost never actually realized, though occasional, informal instances might turn up. These are ideals I believe in, and they have affected how my music works and how it is best prepared and performed. In that way my music could be said to be usable for a social (and perhaps political) end, though only by analogy or metaphor, for example, by showing non-hierarchical relations within the musical material and its performers.' (Wolff in Collins and Malina eds. 2015)

In other words, Wolff asserts that the way music is made, realised and presented, may have a social impact. A musical setting, which is structured in a non-hierarchical way, may constitute an example for such behaviours in real life. Utopian or not, one cannot rule out the case that the collective work of a group of people in structuring their performance could have an exemplary force on how these people will act on their everyday life. Wolff actually asserts that this kind of thinking is ‘fairly cautious and not impractical‘ (Wolff 2015). Frederic Rzewski demonstrates a way of thinking on the social power of music which is similar to that of Wolff: ‘Music probably cannot change the world. But it is a good idea to act as though it could’ (Gronemeyer and Oehlschläger 2007: 30). 

Indeterminacy in form is independent of the use of indeterminacy in other basic parameters (pitch, tempo, rhythm, expression or means of performance), and consequently independent of the fixing of the piece’s final sonic result as well as of the notation used. One can find open form pieces with conventional staff notation, or pieces with pre-determined overall form with conventional, verbal or graphic notation where indeterminacy occurs only on some of the basic sound parameters.

Verbal and graphic notations are not directly connected with open form but they are nevertheless in harmony with my thoughts on how music should be offered by a composer to a wide range of people who might realize it. I would like that my scores are technically accessible to anyone, no matter their background, skills and abilities.[2] My scores are also practically accessible online for everyone to download from my blog and various other websites. Finally, I try, through the use of relatively simple verbal instructions and graphics, to make it possible for all people (musicians, amateur musicians and non-musicians) to participate in this collaborative way of making music. This decision is, as Pauline Oliveros also asserts,

'deeply political in that it challenges certain premises in the musical establishment, that it opens the way for people to participate who aren't musicians.' (Smith and Smith, 1994: 209)

Verbal and graphic notation can become a tool to help people become aware of their ability to play music together with other people, even if they cannot read notes, even if they think they cannot play an instrument or sing. They can play a kind of music that would be different to popular or traditional music with which many people are familiar. They can explore sounds, and construct their own performances together with other people. They can also make music without the leadership of a conductor or any kind of leader. All these thoughts have deeply political roots and aims because as Christopher Small states 

'once people become aware that music is in themselves and not only in those who have been selected to become musicians, [...], who knows what else they might insist on reclaiming, and enjoying, of what has been taken from them?' (Small cited in Stevens et al. 1985)

Using this kind of notation the composer could, as Rzewski asserts, put his art 

'at the service of the people and of popular movements, instead of dallying, as we [with ‘we’ Rzewski means the composers] have done for so long, in the servants’ quarters of the ruling class.' (Gronemeyer and Oehlschläger 2007: 238)

Like Rzewski, Oliveros and Wolff I am interested in socializing music. Each tries to achieve this in his/her own way. ‘Composers’, states Wolff (2015) ‘are mostly interested in making a career and never mind any political questions’. Working as a composer under the social and political principles described above changes the whole perspective of one’s work. The principle aim should not be ‘making a career’, trying to be performed by the ‘best ensembles’ or soloists, but mainly become useful for (at least your local) music society.

[1] For more information about 6daEXIt Improvisation Ensemble see:

[2] I have to point out here that verbal and graphic notation is not necessarily accessible to all people. A composer could create a verbal or graphic score, which could be too complicated for amateur musicians or non-musicians to play.