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Christou, Jani

Christou, Jani

Christou, Jani, remarkable Greek composer; b. He-liopolis, Egypt (of Greek parents), Jan. 8, 1926; d. in an automobile accident near Athens, Jan. 8, 1970. He studied at Victoria Coll. in Alexandria, then took courses in philosophy under Wittgenstein at King’s Coll., Cambridge (M.A., 1948). He concurrently studied composition with Hans Redlich in Letchworth (194548), then enrolled in the summer courses of the Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Siena (1949–50); during the same period, he attended Karl Jung’s lectures on psychology in Zuumlrich. Christou returned to Alexandria in 1951, and then lived on his family estate on the island of Chios. He evolved a system of composition embracing the totality of human and metaphysical expression, forming a “philosophical structure” for which he designed a surrealistic graphic notation involving a “psychoid factor,” symbolized by the Greek letter psi; aleatory practices are indicated by the drawing of a pair of dice; a sudden stop, by a dagger, etc. His score Enantiodromia (Opposed Pathways) for Orch. (1965; rev. 1968; Oakland, Calif., Feb. 18, 1969), in such a graphic notation, is reproduced in the avant–garde publication Source, 6 (1969). His notation also includes poetry, choreographic acting, special lighting, film, and projection meant to envelop the listener on all sides. At his death, he left sketches for a set of 130 multimedia compositions of a category he called Anaparastasis (“proto-performances, meant to revive primeval rituals as adapted to modern culture”).


Phoenix Music for Orch. (1948–49); 3 syms.: No. 1 (1950; London, April 29, 1951), No. 2 for Chorus and Orch. (1954–58), and No. 3 (1959–62); Latin Mass for Chorus, Brass, and Percussion (1953; Athens, Sept. 26, 1971); David’s Psalms for Baritone, Chorus, and Orch. (1953); 6 Songs for Voice and Piano, after T.S. Eliot (1955; orchestrated 1957); Gilgamesh, oratorio (1958); Patterns and Permutations for Orch. (1960; Athens, March 11, 1963); Toccata for Piano and Orch. (1962); The 12 Keys for Mezzo-soprano and Chamber Ensemble (1962); The Breakdown,opera (1964); Tongues of Fire, Pentecost oratorio (Oxford, June 27, 1964); Enantiodromia (Opposed Pathways) for Orch. (1965; rev. 1968; Oakland, Calif., Feb. 18, 1969); Mysterion, oratorio for Soli, 3 Choruses, Actors, Orch., and Tape, to ancient Egyptian myths (1965–66); Praxis for 12 for 11 Strings and Pianist-Percussionist-Conductor (Athens, April 18, 1966; also as Praxis for 44 Strings and Pianist-Percussionist- Conductor); Oresteia,“super-opera,” after Aeschylus (1967-70; unfinished). Perform-able works from the cycle Anaparastasis are: The Strychnine Lady for Female Violist, 2 groups of Massed Strings, Brass, Percussion, Tapes, Metal Sheet, Sound-producing Objects and Toys, Red Cloth, and 5 Actors (Athens, April 3, 1967); Anaparastasis I (Astron) for Baritone and Instrumental Ensemble (Munich, Nov. 12, 1968); Anaparastasis III (The Pianist) for Actor, Variable Instrumental Ensemble, and 3 Stereo Tapes (Munich, Nov. 13, 1969); Epicycle for Variable Instrumental Ensemble that may take a chiliad or a hebdomad, a nanosecond or a quindecillion of non-zero moments to perform (concise version, Athens, Dec. 15, 1968; extended version, Athens, Dec. 20, 1968); stage music for The Persians (1965), The Frogs (1966), and Oedipus Rex (1969).


J. Papaioannou, J. C. and the Metaphysics of Music (London, 1970).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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