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Thread: Anyone into cretan music?

  1. #1
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    I've been getting into the music of Crete recently.

    Many of the main players seem to play both the lyre ( a kind of upright fiddle) and the Cretan lute, which is tuned like an octave mandolin but mostly in octaves, as far as I can make out. #There is also a tradition of mandolin playing.

    Great stuff, if you're looking for something a bit different. #Check out the Myspace for Stelios Petrakis or Ross Daly and investigate some of their Myspace friends.

    There's a terrific Youtube of a fellow called Psarantonis playing in a village square with his group entitled 'O Dias (live) which is full of atmosphere.

    I think I'm hooked. #Crete beckons!
    David A. Gordon

  2. #2

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    Another fine, Cretan laouto player is Michalis Tzouganakis. He plays both the traditional repertoire and his own, very personal "fusion" of same with all sorts of more recent, popular idoms.

    As a Greek-speaker, I can read the commentary attached to his YouTube performances, and can relate that he gets praise AND catches some flak for his "modernist transgressions". But all that is for you to judge... different strokes for different folks. My maternal lineage is partly from Crete, and I LOVE the music, but I have never heard Tzouganakis in live performance.
    It is not man that lives but his work. (Ioannis Kapodistrias)

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    Yeah, thanks for that.

    Is Michalis fairly popular in Crete and Greece generally as a rocky/popular performer? #He seemed to get everybody going in the studio - I should think his big gigs are great. #It's good to see someone using a traditional instrument in a more modern idiom.

    Perhaps you could tell me what Psarantonis is singing about in O Dias? #He looks quite a character!

    Dagger



    David A. Gordon

  4. #4

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    Yes, I believe he is! And he does apparently have some adoring fans, especially among the ladies. The grumpy commentators seem to be older men, with Cretan last names, who would (presumably) prefer that he'd stick with the traditional repertoire ALONE. To each his/her own...

    I will have to watch one of Psarantonis' clips and report. A "character", indeed! FYI, Cretans are considered by other Greeks as *ahem* ever-so-slightly prone to hyperbole. To Cretans themselves, of course, everybody else simply falls short.

    Cheers,

    Victor
    It is not man that lives but his work. (Ioannis Kapodistrias)

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by
    "Perhaps you could tell me what Psarantonis is singing about in O Dias?"
    Glad to oblige, Dagger.

    This is not Psarantonis' "original" song, but a VERY old folk-song, going back to the Middle Ages. Its symbolism is, well... whatever you make of it. The lyrics speak of Psiloritis, the highest mountain of Crete; the very name of it means "HighMountain". The ancient Cretans shared (more or less) the same mythology with all other Greeks; the "proper" name of this, their highest mountain, is simply Mt. Olympus (i.e. just like the one on the Greek mainland). It was similarly believed to be the dwelling of the gods, chief among whom was Dias, or Zeus— a VERY irregular noun!

    The song says:

    The snow on the Psiloritis never melts.
    Before the old snow melts away,
    The new snow covers it.

    Draw your own, symbolic conclusion(s)... The "eternity of Zeus", perhaps? Consult, perhaps, some New Pagan Society...

    Cheers,

    Victor
    It is not man that lives but his work. (Ioannis Kapodistrias)

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    Great, thanks.

    There's an article in a UK world music magazine called Froots about Psarandonis this month, and which talks about his family - notably his late brother and his son who are also well known, and his long pedigree. His grandfathers and great grandfthers were musicians.
    It also talks about his singing which is pretty rough, but I really think it's great, particularly in 'O Dias'. Like an old bluesman.
    According to the article, he has also made 'imaginative use of the mandolin'. Are you familiar with that at all?

    It seems clear that Ross Daly has had a big influence on many Cretan musicians, and on 'world music' generally. Check out his Labyrinth Musical Workshop programme. Myspace is the handiest way to look and hear both. Michalis Stravrakakis is doing a Cretan mandolin course in July. Lots of intersting things going on, however.
    David A. Gordon

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    aka aldimandola Michael Wolf's Avatar
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    I saw Psarandonis live in 2004, but can't remember the 'imaginative use of the mandolin'. But it was a wonderful and very atmospheric concert.
    Two years before I saw Ross Daly on the same festival. The Lyra or 'Knee Fiddle' was the instrument of the year and they formed a 'Magic Knee Fiddle Band' with players of different incarnation of the instrument from all around the world. That was very fascinating.

    Victor,
    thanks for the hint to Michalis Tzouganakis. I like him. Isn't the Laouto tuned CGDA normally?
    YouTube Channel -- Soundcloud
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    Great stuff, indeed!

    Michael, I can't see/hear much mandolin either but, in one of the audio clips I found online, Psarantonis does in fact accompany himself, minimalistically, drone-like, on a mandola— a more common plucked instrument in Crete, going back a few centuries. The history of such plucked instruments in Crete goes back to the VERY long time that the island was Venice's largest land holding (along, of course, with most Greek islands).

    Yes, the Cretan laouto is tuned CGDA, with "re-entrant" tuning, i.e. with octave-stringing in the lower courses, unison-stringing on the A; this is akin to the French Renaissance practice of the chanterelle, where the top string was either one, single string, or two, in unison.

    On the contrary, the "mainland" Greek laouto and/or the one played in Rhodes and the Dodecannese —itself a significantly smaller instrument— is tuned GDAE, again with re-entrant, octave-stringing in the lower courses. Think octave-bowlback-mandola, octave-courses.

    If you like, I would be happy to find you some specimens for your perusal and pleasure.
    It is not man that lives but his work. (Ioannis Kapodistrias)

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    According to Froots article, one of the significant things about Psarantonis is that he revived older instruments such as the bandoura flute as well as 'imaginative use of the mandolin'. It is not clear whether he himself played these instruments or he got someone else to do it.
    David A. Gordon

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    aka aldimandola Michael Wolf's Avatar
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    If you like, I would be happy to find you some specimens for your perusal and pleasure.
    [QUOTE]

    Yes of course, I'd like to see some specimens please.
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    Fascinating stuff! The Laouto look s very similar to the Algerian Mandole other than the round sound hole instead of a diamond shape one. Are they really the same instrument?

    Thanks
    Avi
    Avi

  12. #12

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    Look, for example, at the shop of one of my absolute, hands-down favorite Greek luthiers, Christos Spourdalakis. By way of disclaimer, I have not met him in person, nor seen his instruments up close, as my second home is near the center of Athens, while his shop is waaaaaaaaaaay down by the docks of Pireus. All I can attest to is that they appear very well crafted and that, by anecdotal hearsay, I know of some Greek musicians who claim that laying hands on one of his bouzoukis or lutes is a "religious experience". Obviously, I have no business-interest in Christos' shop.

    Once at Spourdalakis' site, go under "Lute". What he calls "Kritiko" is the larger, Cretan type, while "Stergiano" means "mainlander"-- the adjective is a folk variant of the the word stereo, meaning "solid", "firm", "three-dimensional", and thus descriptive of the mainland, i.e. not an island. The absolutely GLORIOUS instrument depicted is the Cretan type; there's even a brief audio clip.

    Enjoy!

    (I had found another one, on a Belgian site, I think; let me try to hunt that down...)

    Cheers,

    Victor
    It is not man that lives but his work. (Ioannis Kapodistrias)

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    To answer my own question, I just realized the these Lutes are round-back and the Mandole has a flat back. Thanks for the link to Christos Spourdalakis. Beautiful instruments

    Avi
    Avi

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    I am glad, Avi, as I was unable to answer your question directly. There must be a myriad types of plucked instruments, strewn across the Mediterranean. All our cultures are, of course, intertwined for millennia now...

    Another link is this, which gives some additional information, as well.

    More things to come up...

    Cheers,

    Victor
    It is not man that lives but his work. (Ioannis Kapodistrias)

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    For a luthier whom I do know personally, here is Dino Bersis, d.b.a. Dio Dinos. We were neighbors for a while, before he moved to the Midwest; extremely nice man, lovely instruments, from all I saw in his old, New York shop.

    The laouto is a curious instrument... it is VERY lightly strung (unlike, say, the mandocello), yet at the same time it has a SUPER-long scale which, for my "mandolingrained" habits, is hard to manage. Then again, each instrument is best left to its own players.
    It is not man that lives but his work. (Ioannis Kapodistrias)

  16. #16

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    Finally (or, at least, semifinally ) here is the laouto-line of Matsikas, Greece's only "mass-producer" of plucked/picked instruments. Again, no business connection between myself and these shops, caveat emptor, and all that.

    Cheers,

    Victor
    It is not man that lives but his work. (Ioannis Kapodistrias)

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    aka aldimandola Michael Wolf's Avatar
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    Thanks Victor, great information. There are some builders I didn't know to date. The instruments of Theodore Kanellos look very beautiful and as if they are of high quality. Not covered with decoration over and over. And he provides very good information about the tunings of each instrument.
    YouTube Channel -- Soundcloud
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  18. #18

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    Indeed, I prefer sparsely decorated instruments myself...

    Enjoy them, one and all!

    Cheers,

    Victor
    It is not man that lives but his work. (Ioannis Kapodistrias)

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    Registered User zoukboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by (vkioulaphides @ June 26 2008, 07:48)
    Yes, the Cretan laouto is tuned CGDA, with "re-entrant" tuning, i.e. with octave-stringing in the lower courses, unison-stringing on the A; this is akin to the French Renaissance practice of the chanterelle, where the top string was either one, single string, or two, in unison.

    On the contrary, the "mainland" Greek laouto and/or the one played in Rhodes and the Dodecannese —itself a significantly smaller instrument— is tuned GDAE, again with re-entrant, octave-stringing in the lower courses. Think octave-bowlback-mandola, octave-courses.
    Hey Victor,

    I think you've got that backwards - The mainland laouto in the higher tuning CGDA. (C3C4 G2G3 D3D4 A4A4)

    It's the Cretan laouto that is significantly larger and in the lower GDAE tuning. To make sense of the re-entrant nature of the tuning, imagine an octave mandolin with the G course doubled an octave higher and the D and A courses doubled an octave lower, with the E course in unison. It lays out like this:

    E4
    E4
    A3
    G3 A2
    G2
    D3
    D2

    Yes, the G and A courses are only a whole step apart and the D course is the lowest pitched - that's what makes the tuning "re-entrant" - not simple that the bass courses are in octave pairs.



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  20. #20

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    You may be right, Roger... please bear in mind that all I play is the mandolin, NOT the laouto, and have only very cursory familiarity with these instruments. The written desciptions I've read have been rather confusing, I must admit.

    My thinking --and this is where I may have gone astray-- is that the lowest-sounding string on a "mainland" laouto is G, as written on the lowest line of the bass-clef staff, and thus like the G-string of an octave-mandolin; the lowest-sounding string on the larger, Cretan laouto, is C, as written two ledger-lines below the bass-clef staff, and thus like the low-C of a (Greek) bouzouki.

    But what you say, regarding the very definition of re-entrant tuning is obviously correct, which in turn makes me suspect I've been wrong. Well... the only solution to this great intellectual curiosity is that... I should go out IMMEDIATELY and get myself a laouto! #

    Or TWO, in fact, one of each kind, so that I make DOUBLY sure how it all works. #

    Cheers,

    Victor



    It is not man that lives but his work. (Ioannis Kapodistrias)

  21. #21
    Registered User zoukboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by (vkioulaphides @ June 27 2008, 09:16)
    My thinking --and this is where I may have gone astray-- is that the lowest-sounding string on a "mainland" laouto is G, as written on the lowest line of the bass-clef staff, and thus like the G-string of an octave-mandolin; the lowest-sounding string on the larger, Cretan laouto, is C, as written two ledger-lines below the bass-clef staff, and thus like the low-C of a (Greek) bouzouki.
    You're right, the lowest sounding string on the mainland laouto is the G or 3rd course (the 4th course C is a 4th higher).

    But the lowest sounding string on the larger (and lower tuned) Cretan laouto is the D below that, the same pitch as the low string on a dropped-D guitar, the D below the bass clef, or "D2".

    For both tunings, if we view the lowest tuned course as "I" then the 4th course is "IV", the 2nd course "V" and the 1st course is "IX" (or a 2nd an octave higher):

    Mainland: C G D A
    IV I V IX

    Cretan: G D A E
    IV I V IX

    The low C string on a Greek bouzouki is actually the second space on the bass staff or an octave below middle C (3rd fret of the 5th string on guitar or 1 whole step below the guitar's 4th string D).



    Roger Landes
    http://rogerlandes.com
    The Hal Leonard Irish Bouzouki Method:
    http://www.halleonard.com/product/vi...?itemid=696348
    "House to House" with Randal Bays
    http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/bayslandes
    "The Janissary Stomp" with Chipper Thompson
    http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/rogerchipper

  22. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by
    "The low C string on a Greek bouzouki is actually the second space on the bass staff..."
    AHA! So that was the crucial bit of information I was missing. Thanks, Roger! I had thought (erroneously) that the low-C of the Greek bouzouki was at the same pitch-level as the low-C of the mandocello.

    My bad. As I said, I'm just a mandolin-player.

    Cheers,

    Victor
    It is not man that lives but his work. (Ioannis Kapodistrias)

  23. #23
    Registered User zoukboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by (vkioulaphides @ June 27 2008, 19:49)
    AHA! So that was the crucial bit of information I was missing. Thanks, Roger! I had thought (erroneously) that the low-C of the Greek bouzouki was at the same pitch-level as the low-C of the mandocello.
    Weird thing, isn't it? The 4 course Greek bouzouki (tetraxordo) is tuned one whole step below the four highest pitched strings of the guitar, so DGBE becomes CFAD (with the C and F courses doubled at the octave). The original Greek bouzouki tuning is DAD with the lowest course doubled at the octave (D3D4/A3A3/D4D4).

    For the Cretan Laouto tuning, it might be best explained (for folks on this list who are used to octave mandolin tuning: G2D3A3E4) as that tuning single strung, then the G is doubled at the upper octave while the D and A courses are doubled at the lower octave, so the 2nd and 4th courses are only a whole step apart. The 3rd course (also octave doubled D2D3) is the lowest sounding of all four, and the 1st course E4E4 is unison:

    E4 1st course doubled
    D4
    C4
    B3
    A3 2nd course upper
    G3 4th course upper
    F3
    E3
    D3 3rd course upper
    C3
    B2
    A2 2nd course lower
    G2 4th course lower
    F2
    E2
    D2 3rd course lower
    C2





    Roger Landes
    http://rogerlandes.com
    The Hal Leonard Irish Bouzouki Method:
    http://www.halleonard.com/product/vi...?itemid=696348
    "House to House" with Randal Bays
    http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/bayslandes
    "The Janissary Stomp" with Chipper Thompson
    http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/rogerchipper

  24. #24
    Registered User zoukboy's Avatar
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    Maybe this is clearer...
    Attached Files Attached Files
    Roger Landes
    http://rogerlandes.com
    The Hal Leonard Irish Bouzouki Method:
    http://www.halleonard.com/product/vi...?itemid=696348
    "House to House" with Randal Bays
    http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/bayslandes
    "The Janissary Stomp" with Chipper Thompson
    http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/rogerchipper

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    I've just got Stelios Petrakis' new CD Orion. Haven't heard it all yet, but I really like what he's doing.

    You can listen to his stuff on his website and also his Myspace. #

    He's also an instrument maker and there are lovely pics of his instruments on his site. #Worth a look and a listen.

    Meanwhile I await the new Psarantonis CD.

    As a footnote, there are some interesting players (Greek and non-Greek)on Orion. #It is noteworthy how often Bijan Chemerani or other members of the French-based Iranian percussion family turn up on good albums. #The line-up also includes Psarantonis' son Giorgis and Efren Lopez of the fantastic (but now sadly defunct Spanish band L'Ham de Foc. #I can't read it, but I think there's a track written by French mandolinist Patrick Vaillant, who I also really like. #
    There seems to be a network of musicians from various parts of the Mediterranean who I'm finding I'm becoming very interested in.
    David A. Gordon

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