Conference at Harvard

On February 9th I will give a conference at Harvard University on Jani Christou and 1968.

The Harvard Graduate Music Forum

2019 Conference on Music, Sound & Censorship.

2:00 • Session 1: Social Control
• “The Panaural People’s Republic: Sonic Politics and Social Control in Mao’s China” // Joseph Lovell (UC Santa Barbara)
• “Silencing: The Political Aurality of Social Control in Equatorial Guinea” // Pablo Infante-Amate (Oxford University)
• “Inner-Mongolian Music in Three Periods” // Kunyuan Guo (Texas Tech University)
• “The Relationship between Censorship and Puristic Trends in Iranian Classical and Folk Music” // Armaghan Fakhraeirad (University of Pennsylvania)

4:30 PM • Roundtable Discussion
• Panelists: Dr. Brigid Cohen (NYU), Dr. Braxton Shelley (Harvard), Dr. Kate Pukinskis (Harvard), Rajna Swaminathan (Harvard)
• Moderator: Elaine Fitz Gibbon (Harvard)

9:00 AM • Session II: Bodies, Gestures
• “Trembling Dervishes and Dubious Translations: Peter Brook and the Secret Gurdjieff Movements” // Brian Fairley (NYU)
• “Hearing and Seeing the Cross: Gubaidulina’s Religion in Sieben Worte for Cello, Bayan, and Strings” // Sasha Drozzina (Louisana State University)
• “A Blaring Silence: Ritual Hazing, and Abuse in Drum Corps” // Alyssa Wells (University of Michigan)

11:00 AM • Session III: Institutions
• “Modernizing the Moscow Conservatory: Behind the Scenes” // Mikhail Mazin (McGill University)
• “Escaping Censorship/Performing Historical Praxis: Jani Christou and 1968” // Varvara Gyra (Paris University 8)
• “Doch, diese zwölf Töne: Politics, Censorship, and Compositional Technique in Nazi Germany” // Henry Burnam (Yale University)

2:30 PM • Session IV: Protest
• “Mongolian Hip Hop in China: A Unique Political Balancing Act” // Thalea Stokes (University of Chicago)
• “Music in the Gulag: The Struggle against Oppression” // Emily Hynes (UNC Chapel Hill)
• “The Bad Violin’s Good Politics: Music of Protest and Disavowal in The Jack Benny Program” // Jade Conlee (Yale University)
• “David Wojnarowicz ‘Mystic Tapes’: Audio, Private Life, and Censorship in the AIDS Crisis” // Derek Baron (NYU)

5:00 PM • Keynote Address from Dr. Brigid Cohen (NYU)
“Fluxus and the Haunting of Empires: Maciunas is Sounds and Silence”

Varvara Gyra ABSTRACT

Escaping Censorship / Performing Historical Praxis: Jani Christou and 1968”

In December 1968 Jani Christou premiered his collective performance Epicycle in Athens during a Modern Music Festival. This event poses an intriguing question: how was it possible to perform a work like Epicycle in a country that was under military rule? In April 1967 a military coup had imposed preventive censorship aiming to control the circulation of works that undermined the authoritarian regime. In this context, references to social conditions in Greece, controversial foreign developments (e. g. the Vietnam War), and social or cultural unrest in the West, were seen as “destructive” and “unhealthy”.

Epicycle challenged the aesthetic and ideological cornerstones of the military regime. It includes musical and para-musical events, while implicating the musicians and the audience in a collective, and uncontrolled, performance. The one-page score is a tableau-vivant that contains themes, images and debates deriving from the social and political atmosphere of 1968: football scenes—an allusion to the Greek Colonels’ mean of manipulating the people; the war in Vietnam through the image of the execution of a Viet Cong prisoner; armed forces greeted with resistance by protestors—a reference to the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968; a number of references to mass culture like James Bond films and Coca-Cola advertisement.

This paper highlights the messages conveyed through the composition and analyzes their sociopolitical dimension in connection with the turbulent setting in Greece in 1968. It discusses the reasons that spared Christou control, juxtaposes him to censored composers, and takes under consideration his target auditory, his social position and the evolution of the Colonels’ power. The graphic dimension of the score is studied in parallel with the implementation of various performance and improvisation techniques -e.g. the audience destroying newspapers- that integrate Christou’s “praxis-metapraxis” concept and question the possibility of the people to participate in history.

Leave a comment