Katerina Stamatelos: A Look At A Modern Atonal Composer
September 21, 2011
Katerina Stamatelos, an avant-garde composer native to Greece, who has been experimenting in quite a modernist manner with the twentieth century classical techniques such as atonalism, serialism, and algorithmic-structuralism. She has received far too many degrees and rewards to specifically list, many of them being from The University Of Iowa and Kent State University, these being schools she has attended along with State University Of Thessaloniki (Thessaloniki being her home town), Conservatory Of Vienna, and Pireus Association. During her time with these schools she was taught by many significant teachers, attended composition master classes, received her MM in piano performance, MA and PHD in composition, piano teaching certificate, piano soloist diploma, along with other things. Having achieved these things along side her busy career primarily as a piano professor, being an extraordinary painter, and diligent composer who has had several performances as a solo pianist, had her compositions premiered several times, and to date has released three albums in which she painted the artwork for. We can rest easily on the fact that she is quite an astonishing and accomplished musician and composer.
Her work to me in my personal listening experience, never directly applied to the minimalist form of composition though taking and employing what she seen as relevant influences from it, or to the older and more ‘classical’ forms of composition similar to that of the first and second Viennese school though again taking and employing what she seen as relevant influences from them. She never seemed to have that kind of egotistical mentality that many composers seem to have where they wish to dominate the contemporary music world and re-shape it as we know it be. This is not to say that she is not an extremely original composer, she simply composes her music because it is what she loves to do, this seems to come across whilst listening to her compositions which usually appear as poetic sound pieces acting to describe to the listeners ears what she is trying to express in conjunction of the titles and the notes chosen for description. This is a quality that I cherish in any musical genre, whether it be a contemporary form of music or good old rock and roll. She is a composer that’s generally listenable simply for the listeners pleasure, a quality which isn’t always abundant in the world of contemporary music.
In the electronic tape piece entitled “Moods” that appears on her first album, “Threnos and other Chamber Stories”, one might hear a very Edgar Varese styled piece of musique concrete that seems to be interrupted by eccentric trumpet samples and silences. To me this composer has a very contemporaneous sound of what we know to be classical music, in the sense that in her compositions you will notice influences for the traditional forms of classical alongside the more experimental influence, and she does a very splendid job to say the least. Let’s, for example, take her composition “Four Love Songs”, appearing on her second album “We Who Would Be Great And Kind“. It opens with something very serene both instrumentally and vocally, and as the root notes of the vocals through-out the composition tend to maintain a serenity most of the time, the music seems to go back and forth between following the serenity of the vocals and further adding atonalized elements to the choice of notes that govern the composition. I hear hints of the influences Anton Webern along with his peer Gustav Mahler within this very structured piece. In many of her compositions, such as “Nanarisma” and “Oracle”, both of which being featured on her second album “We Who Would Be Great And Kind”, you will notice that the vocals seem to musically lead and guide these themes as compositions to the terminus of reason.
I have listened to to all three of her albums, I find it rare today to see relevant and listenable avant-garde, however this is with the exception of Katerina Stamatelos. In her music I hear the influence of Bela Bartok in the way that she incorporates folk music by using Greek scales. I hear the influence of Ludwig Von Beethoven and Johan Sebastian Bach in her careful choosing of notes om order to find what she feels are precisely according to what the composition is, also from these I hear a deal of dynamics which is sometimes rapid in change in variation. Even along with the older Viennese influences, I hear the algorithmic, minimal, and indeterminacy of John Cage, which really evens things out and gives her music a lot of it’s listenability, especially with the fusing of her traditional influences and her style in doing so. I also hear a vast influence of Iannis Xenakis and Edgar Varese, on many different facets and levels, a lot of this being with timing and melody and often the combination of the two and how they evolve in each piece.
Katerina Stamatelos is an incredible composer, painter, pianist, and, in-turn, I believe that not only makes her competent of being called an incredible artist, but I believe it truly has made her more than that not just by title, but by mind and soul, that is so to speak from the very roots in which the plants of art are born. I would take advantage of these links I am about to bequeath to you in this article in order to become more acquainted with her work, in particularly I reccomend her PhD thesis and most recent album “Cantata The Insane Mother”. Here is a link to her Reverbnation page, where all her music can be purchased. Here is a link to her biography, on this page much of her music can be heard. She can also be found on youtube, last.fm, as well as myspace. For anyone interested in any form of classical music, I highly suggest checking into this composer.