New Internationalist

The Weeping Meadow

Issue 371

Eleni Karaindrou introduces her theme within the first bars of The Weeping Meadow. We hear it on an accordion; it’s taken up by a string ensemble, a French horn; later a Constantinople lyra picks up the thread: if you heard this as the first few steps of a journey, you’d be right. A suite of chamber music recorded for Theo Angelopoulos’ recent feature film, The Weeping Meadow has a huge historical sweep as its subject: the migrations from Odessa and Smyrna following the end of the First World War. Karaindrou wisely avoids the bombast with which other composers might approach so dramatic (and tragic) a history. The violence of the Greek expulsions from Smyrna is, for many, still an unhealed scar; unsurprisingly, few other composers (Diamanda Galas is a notable exception) have ventured into such territory.

For all its lyricism, Karaindrou’s score is, she says, ‘made up of fragments of memory’ and you hear this in the way her simple motif dances across registers and instruments, even the chorus sung by the Hellenic Vocal Ensemble. It is as if many voices speak the same words. This is vividly realized music; it describes things – loss, terrible destruction and survival – that supersede a history that cannot be construed only as ‘Greek’. In its greatest subtleties, Karaindrou’s cadences are of a regional music that knows no national boundaries. Perhaps that’s what makes The Weeping Meadow so moving: the knowledge that in violating one’s neighbour, one is also killing something deep within oneself.

Louise Gray

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