My foundations are the mountains
and mountains are shouldered by the people
and upon them memory burns
as an unquenchable burning bush!*
Mikis Theodorakis: “I have a word of life for you”
by Anastasia Voulgari
This is what every one of Theodorakis' songs says to us. This word springs from the depths of Man's centuries-old struggle for Life and Freedom. “Man is attracted by the light of freedom and on this age-old process the history of mankind is written in light and blood. However, inside the light of freedom itself, the flame of man's moral and spiritual completion coexists.”1
Theodorakis loved Man and fought for him. “Wherever a man or woman suffers, loves, dies, wherever they rise up to fight for freedom, the music and songs of Theodorakis are there, along with every nation's and every era's highest music, to shout out this pain or this love, to praise this man, this uprising, this struggle, to invite us to share and experience this pain, this love, this fear and this uprising, this invincible hope.”2
The vision of peaceful coexistence
Theodorakis envisioned a contented humanity, where each person would be “a centre of responsibility, initiative, life, a creator, a poet.”3 This was the centre of Theodorakis' thought. A necessary condition for the creation of such a humanity is the peaceful coexistence of all nations.
Peace to Theodorakis is not just a fluid “non-war” situation such as we have today. It is, first and foremost, mankind's final release “from the fears and threats of military expenses and war obsession.”4 It is societies with Freedom and Cultural Growth. In other words, Theodorakis speaks of another type of society, “a harmonious social whole”, a society “conscious of itself”, which will function with the common good as its focus. According to Theodorakis, a person is set free, “becomes finally and completely free”5, when I becomes We.
Freedom, to Theodorakis, means responsibility. Every man should first and foremost know himself – his physical, mental and spiritual strength - and participate with others in what he himself called “the Front of Life.” The guiding light on this rough path towards awareness and then on towards the great decision to participate and take action, is Culture and Art, man's mental and spiritual sustenance, as he often says. “With the aid of Culture, aesthetic enjoyment is transformed into moral power and this in its turn into ideology.”6
Theodorakis took part in the National Resistance in 1941 (World War II) when he was only 16 years old. He was arrested and tortured. After liberation (1944), he was found in the middle of the tragic events that indelibly scarred Greece. Civil war, outlawed, arrested, exiled, tortured. A betrayed struggle for freedom, social justice and national pride. Mikis did not miss a day of the struggle. He was there. To the end. With no dilemmas.
The Cultural Revolution
Theodorakis took poetry out of the libraries and turned it into song. He took symphony music out of its great halls and incorporated it into popular song. And so, in 1958, by setting Giannis Ritsos' Epitafios to music, the term “artistic popular song” was born, followed by the cultural revolution. Theodorakis wrote in his autobiography: “there was, at the time, a co-ordinated participation [...]. A mass escape from everyday routine towards an area of dreamlike reality”7, which combined with a specific social and political action aimed at “liberating the individual within the context of society. With these two elements – personal liberation and social liberation – I believed that we would move more rapidly and more fundamentally towards achieving reconciliation between the members of society and therefore achieve social Harmony.”8
Theodorakis as a bearer of social wealth
There is, however, another dimension to Theodorakis’ social contribution. “Theodorakis' music contributed to the financial growth of Greece by creating employment positions, by helping a number of professions to grow, by attracting tourists and exporting Greek culture. The worldwide appeal of his music helped Greece to gain millions of friends all over the world and and opened up international markets to everything Greek, from Greek literature to Greek wine. The country's music industry especially benefited from the processes initiated by Theodorakis. Landmarks in Greek music, such as the recording of Axion Esti in 1964, signified the need for larger studios with more advanced technology, while the sale of millions of records led to the building of larger factories in order to produce them. Whole business sectors […] during the 1960s saw an increase in employment and higher salaries. Dozens of new singers and musicians became famous by working with Mikis, and started successful careers. Also, there are dozens of Theodorakis' musical descendants who established themselves and forged their careers as composers, accompanied by generations of lyricists, singers and musicians.”9
The Cyprus issue has always been a thorn in the heart of every Greek and Cypriot, wherever they may live. The same applies to Theodorakis. In 1963 he met Archbishop Makarios ( President of the Republic of Cyprus 1960-1977) for the first time. He took part in, often leading, all the demonstrations for the independence of Cyprus. In 1964 he was at the head of the peace march in Cyprus. During the same year he made five more trips. He visited the bombed areas. He collected shrapnel from the bombs and on his return to Greece proved, during a speech before Parliament, that Cyprus had been bombed by napalm bombs! However, his contribution to the Cypriot nation did not end there. Since 1975 when he organised a concert in Paris on behalf of the refugees (following the invasion by the Turkish forces and the island's bisection) until today he has been at the side of the Cypriot people. He became their voice. He organised dozens of concerts, appeals to the international community, interviews and meetings with the country's political leadership to help realise the people's dream for a united Cyprus.
On April 21 1967, tanks took over the centre of Athens. Democracy was abolished and an entire nation was condemned to 7 years of dictatorship darkness. Foremost amongst the Greeks, Theodorakis raised his voice to defend Democracy. As a Member of Parliamenti he appealed to global opinion to condemn the military coup. A new round of persecution, imprisonment and exile followed. Once again his life was in danger. His life was spared due to the international uproar against the imprisonment and torture suffered by himself and his family.ii
The World's Mikis Theodorakis
As soon as he arrived in Paris as a free man (April 1970), he was at the forefront of the struggle against the dictatorship. In Paris, 500.000 people took part in the anti-dictatorship concert and raised their voices against the dictators. He gave concerts all over Europe, both East and West, in Latin America, Canada and Australia. In the United States he gave over 100 concerts. He estimates that during the period 1970 – 1974 he gave over 1000 concerts. Each concert of his is a platform of expression for the representatives of national liberation movements from all over the world. During his concerts in Mexico, in a stadium packed with thousands of spectators, he raised his voice against Pinochet's coup in Chile.
Theodorakis mediated to find a solution to the Palestinian issue. Allon, the Israeli Deputy Prime Minister, entrusted him with secret meetings with Arafat. Indeed, Theodorakis met Arafat and succeeded in getting the leaders of the two opposing sides to sit and negotiate for the first time (Tunis, 1972).
Theodorakis had become a global figure, a fighter for Freedom and Peace, a steadfast supporter of every struggling nation. However, Mikis could not be happy as long as fascism ruled in his country. That is when he took the great step. He publicly proposed that Konstantinos Karamanlis (his great political adversary during the period 1960 – 1967) return to Greece and take over the government in order to restore democracy. Karamanlis accepted the proposal and after a few months (July 1974) Democracy was restored in Greece.
A Free Man
Theodorakis, above all is a free man. Throughout his approximately 70 years of action and creation he has confronted authority thousands of times. He clashed with every establishment be it social, political, party politics or artistic… His thinking has always been innovative, radical and subversive. He raised a storm of reaction and opposition from the various authority mechanisms, in the end to no avail. Mikis is like Music. He cannot be silenced.
Friendship between nations
Theodorakis believes that in order for there to be peace and financial development for all countries in the world, military coalitions should not exist. During the 1980s he proposed the dissolving of NATO and of the Warsaw Pact. A few days ago (30/3/09), he again proposed the dissolving of NATO.
In 1986, he formed the Greek-Turkish Friendship Committee with the Turkish composer Zulfu Livaneli and the writer Aziz Nesin. Personalities from all political parties of both countries participated. “The members of the committee envisioned a movement of peace and friendship between the Greek and Turkish people, which would begin with the ordinary citizens, away from the two countries' governments and any kind of political purposes.”10 A new line of communication opened between the two countries, but mainly between the two peoples.
During his teenage years, Theodorakis sought to discover the core of human existence and of God himself. He introduced the theory of “Universal Harmony”, which is based on the teachings of the Pythagoreans, to neo-Hellenic philosophical thought. It is a theory that the European scientific community has been studying since 2006iii.
In 1987 he presented the Anti-manifest.11 A philosophical, ideological and political proposal concerning modern developments. He proposed a revision of the citizen – work relationship and put forward the need for a “new model of culture.’’
For Theodorakis, the greatest issue today is the tragic fact that while man can gain wealth from the “industry of peace”, he chooses the “industry of war”. He invites man to consider the essence of his existence, of his very nature. What is the element of human existence, or of human nature that the more power man achieves, causes him to thirst for even more power and for war?
Besides his five volume autobiography, Theodorakis has published over 30 books. These include studies on music and culture, analyses of post-war Greek history and also his political and philosophical ideas. In reality, however, his manuscripts number many thousands of pages. His whole archive is 200,000 pages.iv
“Every person should, at this time, be praying and struggling for peace.”
This sentence is at the end of a statement in support of Palestine. But this prayer and struggle does not only concern Palestine. When Serbia was being bombed (1999) Theodorakis and his orchestra took part in the large demonstration in Syntagma (Constitution Square, Athens). He then went to Belgrade and gave a large concert in support of the Serbian people. He appealed to the International Court of Justice at the Hague and filed charges against the political and military leadership of NATO. The same year the Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan was arrested. Theodorakis collected signatures on his website from all over the world requesting a fair trial for Ocalan and to ensure the Kurdish peoples' human rights.
Theodorakis is completely against terrorism.
Since 1989 he has harshly condemned terrorism in Greece. The November 17 terrorist group answered him with insulting letters sent to newspapers.
September 11, 2001. Theodorakis, shocked by the death of thousands of innocent people in the Twin Towers makes the following prophetic statement before television cameras: “[...] imperialism and terrorism are two dinosaurs which in the immediate future will clash with tragic consequences for mankind.”
When the war broke out in Afghanistan (2002) and Iraq (2003), Theodorakis joined his voice with the millions of people who demanded an end to the war.
The word freedom to Theodorakis is not just an intellectual concept to be discussed at times of leisure. It is an ideology. He himself is a living ideology. An eternal lover of Democracy, for over 60 years he has been engaged in a continuous discussion with people, proposing to them, even now at the time of this writing, a specific lifestyle. “It is the path of struggle, of education, of spiritual, moral and mental growth, of respect and responsibility.”12 The strength behind this Promethean struggle is Love. As he wrote in the 1960s: “Let us teach our Youth that Democracy means love, Peace means love, Freedom means love. Our great invincible weapon must, at every moment, be Love. For the whole nation, without exception. For the poor and for the rich, for those who are politically to the right or to the left, for the prisoner and for the guard. Our hatred should be kept only for the handful of our nation's enemies which so contemptuously hate us and oppress us.”13
In a television interview a few years ago, the journalist described Theodorakis as a hero. With his usual sweet humility, he answered, “I'm not a hero. Heroes die young. I am just a citizen doing his duty”.
 Mikis Theodorakis Where can I find my soul, Volume Ideas, p.182, Livanis Publishing House, Athens 2002
 Roger Garaudy The education revolution in Europe in Mikis Theodorakis The Debt, Volume I, p.250, Pleias, Athens 1974 - out of print.
 The same.
 Mikis Theodorakis Where are we going? p.30, Gnosis, Athens 1988
 Pavlos Petridis Theodorakis the Politician, p.287 Aggelos Sideratos Publ., Proskinio, Athens 1997.
 Giorgos Logothetis Mikis Theodorakis-Greece is my religion, p.84, Angira, Athens 2004
 Mikis Theodorakis Paths of the Archangel (Autobiography), Volume I, p.142,143, Kedros, Athens 1986
 The same
 Dimitris Koutoulas Mikis Theodorakis as the creator of social wealth in Crete and in Greece, Minutes of an International Convention titled Mikis Theodorkis The man, the creator, the musician and the global figure p.96,97, Chania Prefectural Administration, Chania December 2006
 Mikis Theodorakis Where can I find my soul, Volume Ideas, p.351, Livanis Publishing House, Athens 2002
 Mikis Theodorakis Antimanifest p.11-54, Gnosis, Athens 1998
 Pavlos Petridis Theodorakis the Politician, p. 85, Aggelos Sideratos Publ., Proskinio, Athens 1997
 The same p.78
*From Axion Esti. Poetry Odysseus Elytis. Music Mikis Theodorakis
i. Theodorakis was elected to Parliament 4 times (1964, 1981, 1985, 1989)
ii. Theodorakis was imprisoned in the Athens Police Headquarters, The Averof prison and at the army camp of Oropos. He was forcibly relocated with his family to Zatouna, a mountain village in Arcadia for a year. During that period, a Global Committee was formed by intellectuals, artists and ordinary citizens to demand Theodorakis' release. Members of the committee, amongst others, were: Arthur Miller, Dmitri Shostakovich, Igor Stravinsky, Louis Aragon, Sir Laurence Olivier, Leonard Bernstein, Harold Pinter, Pierre Boulez, etc.
iii. May 2006. Inter-scientific convention in Crete titled Universal Harmony, music and science See Convention Minutes, Crete University Press, Heraklion 2007
iv. The composer donated his archives to the Lilian Voudouri Music Library of Greece at the Athens Music Megaron. See www.mmb.org.gr
v. At the time (1960s) there were approximately 6000 political prisoners in Greece. Many of them had been sentenced to death but the sentences were not executed.
vi All the underlining in the text is my own.
vii. The title is taken from the Roger Garaudy text (see sources no.2)
viii. Official website: www.mikis-theodorakis.net
Translated by Georges Seferiades
Author: Guy Wagner
Stations of his Life
I. Mikis Theodorakis was born on July 29th 1925 on the Greek island of Chios. Fascinated by music already as a child, he taught himself to write his first songs without access to musical instruments. In Pyrgos and Patras he took his first music lessons, and in Tripolis, he formed a choir and gave his first concert at 17.
After having been active in the resistance against the occupation troups and terribly tortured during World War II and later on, during the Greek Civil War, he studied at the Athens Conservatory in the class of Philoktitis Economidis and at the Conservatoire of Paris, where he studied musical analysis in the class of Olivier Messiaen and conducting under Eugene Bigot. The time in Paris was for him a period of intense artistic creation.
His first symphonic works, Concerto for Piano, First Suite, First Symphony, were internationally acclaimed. In 1957 he won the Gold Medal in the Moscow Music Festival; in 1959, Darius Milhaud proposed him for the American Copley-Music Prize as the Best European Composer of the Year after the performances of his ballet "Antigone" at Covent Garden.
His most important works up to 1960:
Trio for piano, violin, violoncello; "The Feast of Assi-Gonia" (symphonic); Symphony No.1 ("Proti Simfonia"); "Greek Carnival" (ballet); Sonatine for Piano; Suites No.1, 2 and 3 for Orchestra; Sonatines No.1 et 2 for violin and piano; "Antigone" (ballet); Life and Death (for voice and strings); "Les Amants de Téruel" (ballet); "Oedipus Tyrannos" (for strings), Concerto for Piano.
II. Theodorakis went back to Greece and to his roots, to genuine Greek music, and with his song cycle "Epitaphios", he started a cultural revolution in his country. With his marvellous works based on the greatest Greek and world poetry: "Epiphania", "Little Kyklades", "Axion Esti", "Mauthausen", "Romiossini", "Romancero Gitan"... he gave Greek music back its dignity and, while developing his concept of metasymphonic music, he was soon recognized internationally as a musician of genius, and, indeed, Mikis Theodorakis is undoubtedly Greece's greatest living composer.
He founded the Little Orchestra of Athens and the Musical Society of Piraeus and gave many concerts, while in 1963, he founded the Lambrakis Democratic Youth and was elected its president. In 1964, he became a member of the Greek Parliament.
Main works of this period:
1. Song Cycles: "Archipelagos", "Politia A & B", "Epiphania" (Yorgos Seferis, Nobel Prize 1963), "Mauthausen" (Yakovos Kabanellis), "Romiossini" (Yannis Ritsos).
2. Music for the Stage: "The Hostage" (Brendan Behan); "Ballad of the Dead Brother" (Theodorakis); "Maghiki Poli"; "I Gitonia ton Angelon" (The Angels' Quarter, Kabanellis).
3. Film scores: "Zorba the Greek" (Michalis Cacoyannis)
4. Oratorio: "Axion Esti" (Odysseas Elytis, Nobel Prize 1979).
III. In 1967, a fascist Junta putsched its way to power. Theodorakis went underground and founded the Patriotic Front. The Colonels published Army decree No.13, which banned playing, and even listening to his music. Theodorakis himself was arrested, jailed, banished to Zatouna with his wife Myrto and their two children Margarita and Yorgos. Later he was interned in the concentration camp of Oropos. An international solidarity movement, headed by such figures as Dmitri Shostakovitch, Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Miller and Harry Belafonte managed to get Theodorakis freed and his sentence converted to exile in 1970.
Main works under the dictatorship:
1. Song Cycles: "O Ilios ke o Chronos" (Sunb and Time, Theodorakis); "Ta Laïka"; Arcadies I-X; Songs for Andreas (Theodorakis); "Nichta Thanatou" (Nights of Death, M. Elefteriou).
2. Oratorios: "Ephiphania Averoff" (Seferis), "State of Siege" (Marina=Rena Hadjidakis), "March of the Spirit" (Angelos Sikelianos), "Raven" (Seferis, d'après E.A.Poe).
3. Film score: "Z" (Costa Gavras).
IV. In exile, Theodorakis fought for the overthrow of the colonels and the unity of resistance forces. World-wide, he gave some thousand concerts as part of his struggle for the restoration of democracy in Greece. He became an universal symbol of resistance against dictatorship.
Main works written in exile:
1. Song Cycles: "Lianotragouda" (18 Songs for the Bitter Fatherland, Yannis Ritsos); "Ballades" (M. Anagnostakis).
2. Oratorio: "Canto General" (Pablo Neruda).
3. Film scores: "The Trojan Women" (M. Cacoyannis); "State of Siege" (Costa-Gavras) "Serpico" (S. Lumet).
V. After the fall of the Colonels, Theodorakis triumphantly returned to Greece, continued his work and his concert tours both in Greece and abroad. At the same time he participated in public affairs. He was later elected several times to the Greek Parliament (1981-1986 and 1989-1993) and for two years, from 1990 to1992, he was Minister in the Government of Konstantin Mitsotakis. After that, he was appointed for another two years General Musical Director of the Symphony Orchestra and Chorus of the Hellenic Radio and Television.
Mikis Theodorakis has always combined an exceptional artistic talent with an intensely deep love of his country. He is also committed to heightening international awareness of human rights, of environmental issues and of the need for peace. It was for this reason that he initiated the Greek-Turkish Friendship Society together with the renowned Turkish musician and singer Zülfü Livaneli.
Main works after 1974:
1. Song Cycles: "Ta Lyrika", "Dionysos", "Phaedra", "Beatrice in Zero Street", "Mia Thalasssa" (A Sea full of Music), "Os archeos Anemos" (Like an Ancient Wind).
2. Music for the Stage: "Orestia" (dir.: Spyros Evangelatos); "Antigone" (dir.: M. Volanakis); "Midea" (dir.: Spyros Evangelatos).
3. Film scores: "Iphigenia" (M. Cacoyannis), "The Man with the Carnation" (N. Tzimas).
4. Oratorios: "Missa Greca", "Liturgia 2", "Requiem".
5. Symphonic Music and Cantatas: Symphonies No.2, 3, 4, 7, "According to the Sadducees", "Canto Olympico", Cello Concerto (1997).
6. Operas: "Kostas Karyotakis", "Medea", "Elektra", "Antigone", "Lysistrati".
© Guy Wagner. List of works based on the researches of Asteris Kutulas