Friday, May 08, 2015

What happened to the political dimension of the artist?

By one of those auspicious coincidences that haunt my life, within a few days of a Conservative government being elected in the UK I travel to the enlightened but troubled political milieu of Greece. That header image shows the 1971 CBS LP of Maria Farantouri and John Williams performing songs by Mikis Theodorakis, and by another auspicious but sad coincidence this classic of the gramophone was produced by Paul Myers who died recently. As recounted in a post many years ago, the recital includes Theodorakis' setting of Brendan Behan's verse used in Constatin Costa Gravas' legendary film Z, which protested against the despotic regime of the Greek military junta. In the note for a recording of his Requiem Mikis Theodorakis wrote:
"You can't create art with slaves, no matter whether they were forced into slavery or made to adopt a slavish attitude. At this point the political dimension of the artist comes into force. He must contribute to the rescue of mankind out of pure self-interest".
Mikis Theodorakis was imprisoned by the Greek military dictatorship for his humanitarian stand. Maria Farantouri (which is the usual transliteration of the Greek, rather than Farandouri as on the record sleeve) went into exile when Theodorakis' music was banned after the 1967 military coup. She became known as 'the Greek Joan Baez' and made a major contribution to international resistance to the fascist regime by performing Theodorakis' songs around the world. In the past great musicians such as Mikis Theodorakis, Maria Farantouri, Arturo Toscanini and Pau Casals put their money where their mouth was and refused to fraternise with despotic regimes. Today celebrity musicians still have their principles: but if those principles put the all-important dollar at risk, they are changed.

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