Nov 17, 2014

Classical reinvented: Anastasia Pahos’ “Eliksiir”

The new generation of ‘classical’ Australian composers are a very ‘hip-and-now’ bunch. Innovative and experimental, they’re inspired by almost anything from nature to the connectivity of social networks! This is something you both expect yet are surprised by when you attend a recital by the youthful Melbourne Metropolitan Sinfonietta. In their first concert, they performed several pieces from up-and-coming Australian composers, one of which was Orthodox talent, Anastasia Pahos’ Eliksiir.

You may recall my interview with Anastasia on THE MOVING ICON. However, this was the first time this particular work was performed. It was composed whilst contemplating the words of Hieromonk Damascene of Mt Athos on the nature of thoughts:

Most people identify themselves with their thoughts. When thoughts appear, they assume that these thoughts are them, that the sum total of their thoughts, memories and corresponding feelings make up the sum total of their personalities. But thoughts, as Lao Tzu realised, are only fragments which flit through the mind. Of themselves they have no reality.

Getting wrapped up in their thoughts, people become the victims of compulsive thinking: habitual thought-patterns which attach themselves to certain feelings. Finding their very identity in these patterns, they forget who they really are, that they are immortal spirits. Having lost sight of the one, immortal human nature which is common to all, they become trapped in their individuality and in the desires of their false identity.

This was in stark contrast to the other works which conjured up images of thought-bubbles and crashing waves. So what would a monk’s sentiments achieve in a secular concert hall? Within its first lines, Eliksiir lit up the room. Inventive and dynamic, a hypnotic rhythm reminiscent of Hellenic and Slavic folk tradition. There were also moments of tribal percussion breaking up the harmony of strings. Unknown to the audience, they were enveloped in an atmosphere of ancient mysticism as sober tones of Byzantine chant were woven into the background. Elements of Avro Pärt and John Tavener are paid tribute but only as inspiration.

To say we are ‘immortal spirits’ refers to our eternal destiny with the Creator. To think that our mere thoughts actually mean something is misleading to ourselves – thoughts by their very nature are not real or tangible. However, through this energetic piece we discover that we cannot deny what is the existence of our immortal nature which, if we serve it well, will save us from the bleak clutches of death – a true reality of emptiness and nothingness.

Pahos’ piece shows through vivid images of lush springtime, timeless chants and an uplifting mood – a state enjoyed by saints and strived by monastics. One experiences a state beyond our earthly understanding, with contemplation of God. Eliksiir is a celebration of the true human being.

Reviewed by Chris Vlahonasios
Edited by Kyriaki Fuss

Listen to Anastasia’s interview on THE MOVING ICON

Read Anastasia’s piece on OFA blog Divine Rhythm


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