ABOUT THE MUSIC: ANCIENT INSTRUMENTS MEET MODERN COMPOSITION IN STEVE WOOD’S SCORE
FOR GREECE: SECRETS OF THE PAST
As the filmmakers began to put the finishing touches on GREECE: SECRETS OF THE PAST, there remained one last essential element: music. With its resounding power to move and inspire, music has always been and continues to be one of the great cornerstones of Greek culture – so Greg MacGillivray knew this film would need a very unique soundtrack, one that would help to forge a uniquely Greek and uniquely time-spanning experience for the audience.
To tackle this challenge, MacGillivray brought on board his long-time collaborator, acclaimed composer Steve Wood. Wood had previously scored several large-screen adventures for MacGillivray Freeman Films, but this film held out a very special allure for the composer. One of Wood’s greatest passions has always been the music of Greece. Having recently completed production of a CD for Greek opera and pop singer Mario Frangoulis, Wood was already very familiar with contemporary Greek music. Now he couldn’t wait to return to Athens to delve into the island nation’s influential musical history. He was particularly thrilled by the prospect of creating a score that would draw upon the mysterious charms of ancient Greek music, yet be infused with a more dynamic modern style. “I was immediately excited about this project because I have such a personal affinity for the music of Greece, where East meets West and the past meets the present,” says Wood. “I loved having the opportunity to bring Greek music to the IMAX® theatre experience and expose a whole new audience to its exotic power and beauty.”
To better encapsulate the history and all the myriad influences that have come to bear on the music of Greece, Wood began by consulting with noted composer, producer and Greek A&R man Euthymios Papadopolous. “Thymios is very well versed in the anci
ent music and instrumentation of Greece and helped me to find and record amazing musicians who are keeping the music of the past alive,” says Wood. “It’s very difficult to find players who not only can play ancient instruments but also work in a modern studio environment. Thymios introduced me to young players who were able to truly bridge that gap and have a lot of fun with it.”
In the Golden Age of ancient Greece, music was nearly inseparable from poetry and dance, with lyra players often accompanying poet-singers during special celebrations or religious rites. As Greek theatre developed, choral music became an integral part of the Greek Tragedy, presaging the classic mix of music and storytelling. Like most Greek art forms, music was heavily influenced by the culture’s love of mathematical precision – and the Greeks developed their own school of music theory that would in turn become the basis for Western classical music.
After the fall of ancient Greek culture, the region’s musical legacy lay dormant for centuries. Then, in the 19th century, Greek music underwent a spectacular rebirth. Sitting at the crossroads between Asia and Europe, Greece became a kind of musical melting pot, absorbing the diverse folk traditions thriving all around its islands. Though the music changed, the modern Greek folk song kept alive many of the unique ancient Greek rhythms and instruments.
Even in 21st Century Greece, Steve Wood found the musical spirit of the past very much alive. “It’s fascinating to see how the ancient world still permeates Greek culture today with its love of the arts and its openness to the blending of all kinds of traditions from around the world,” observes Wood.
Wood hoped to use a range of centuries-old Greek instruments to develop a striking sound for the GREECE: SECRETS OF THE PAST score that would be at once accessible yet entirely unlike typical soundtrack music. “I didn’t want to create the usual, conventional documentary music,” comments the composer. “I wanted to bring something new and exciting to the mix. The question I brought with me to Athens was how to bring out the flavor of this other time and place in a way that would be broadly appealing to everyone. I was truly lucky to have so many talented musicians to help me find that balance.”
Because the instrumentation for Wood’s score was so unusual, featuring ancient lutes, lyras, pipes and percussion, he did much of his composing on-the-spot, giving general direction to the musicians and waiting to see what spontaneously developed as they played. “To a certain degree you have to let these instruments do what they do because that is their beauty,” he says. “A good example is the lyra, a small stringed instrument played in the lap that was a kind of precursor to the violin, with less range but rich harmonics. It was perfect for our needs because it is at once somewhat recognizable and yet unique and different.”
Wood also wrote five full vocal songs that serve as running themes throughout the film – and feature the voices of five of Greece’s most lauded vocalists: Mario Frangoulis, Manolis Lidakis, Nina Lotsari, Evi Siamanta and Eleni Tsaligopoulou. Collaborating with Wood on the songs was Greek poet and lyricist Kostas Fasoulas, who provided soaring words to match the film’s story of ancient human achievement and modern archeological discoveries. “The Greeks have a very strong love of lyrics and believe in lyrics as poetry,” says Wood. “There’s always a feeling in their music of striving for a higher plane.” ”
Wood found that the Greek musicians he encountered in Athens were universally excited about sharing their culture’s sound with the world. “What was so wonderful was everyone’s enthusiasm and passion for creating this music,” he says. “They each brought their own sense of Greek heritage which gave an extra spike of flavor to the sound. I had such a good time, I’d love to do it all over again.”
Back in the U.S., Wood then began working with writer/editor Stephen Judson to create the final sound track. Says Judson: “There is a close synergy between Steve and myself, whereby we literally weave the narration and voice-over into the rhythm and structure of the music. We treat the spoken word as one of the musical instruments and rewrite ideas and omit phrases to tailor the narration to the score. Likewise, Steve removed vocals or prominent instruments wherever narration occurred. The goal is to craft a sound track where the music and spoken word are all of a piece.”
*The music begins with the ancient and mystical Lyra and moves quickly into a section of the song "Kyma t'ouranou" featuring Mario Frangoulis and Nina Lotsari on vocals. We then hear an instrumental selection extracted from the eruption of Santorini featuring the orchestra with lyra and bouzouki. Next comes a taste of the song "San astrapi" sung by Manolis Lidakis which carries us immediately into a haunting Greek clarinet solo over the song "To taxi mou eisai esy" featuring vocalist Eleni Tsaligopoulou. We then experience another magical moment with the lyra which then becomes a more traditional style Greek song , "Choris epistrofi"" where you will hear vocalist Evi Siamanta. Then a lovely violin moment carries us to our final sample, Mario Frangoulis singing "Kathe lexi sou mia efchi".
* Download the English translations of lyrics featured in the Greece Secrets of the Past CD soundtrack (Translations courtesy of Athan H. Anagnostopoulos, Ph.D.)
You can buy the original DVD here:
Soundtrack is available here: