Tania Giannouli studied piano (Soloist Diploma with honours and 2nd Prize), Advanced Theory and Composition (Diploma with distinction and 1st Prize), at the Athenaeum and Orfeion conservatories. Her main area of interest is mixed-media, and she is frequently engaged (both as a performer and composer) in projects that combine music with visuals, text and speech. Her music for theatre, film and video has been performed at festivals, galleries, Biennales and museums throughout the world (notably in Greece, France, Germany, Iran, Romania, Bosnia, Italy, Ukraine, Switzerland, Bulgaria, UK, USA, Egypt, Turkey, Indonesia, Spain, Lithuania, Kenya, Morocco, China, Poland, India, Cuba, Mexico, Israel, Ecuador, Colombia, Argentina and Brazil). She has collaborated with several award-winning video artists and filmmakers, including Istvan Horkay, Roland Quelven, Isabel Perez del Pulgar, Guillaume Baychelier, and Marcantonio Lunardi.
Improvisation plays a major part in her musical life. She is a founder member of the groups 4+1 and Schema Ensemble, performing with the latter at the Synch international electronic music festival in 2010. A collaboration with Portuguese wind player and improviser Paulo Chagas resulted in her debut release on Rattle in 2012. Forest Stories received wide international acclaim and was included in many "best of 2013" lists in the Greek music media. In 2014 she formed the Tania Giannouli Ensemble, which premiered at the Syros Jazz festival that year, and with whom she recorded her second album Transcendence. The album was launched in May 2015 at Onassis Cultural Center, Athens.
Tania's compositions have been described as lyrical, inspired, complex, eclectic, and highly original – "intoxicating orchestrations characterised by a European sensibility that evokes the colour of the Mediterranean". Her willingness to expand her musical expression led to a collaboration with one of the most important Greek writers, Evgenios Aranitsis. Her concert music has also been performed by Camerata/Armonia Atenea String Orchestra, Dissonart Ensemble, the Athens Youth Orchestra, and the Galaxy String Quartet.
Tori no Kaigi (4+1/ Trente Oiseaux, 2009)
Live at Sfendoni (4+1/ Triple Bath, 2010)
16 days (Archangel music, 2010) in collaboration with the Sofia Symphonic Orchestra
Feeling of movement (Creative Space, 2012) in collaboration with Spyweirdos
Soundtracks no. 4 (Ilse, 2012)
An interview with Tania Giannouli
Originally published by Jazz.pt.
The following interview with Greek pianist Tania Giannouli offers a portrait of a young European talent who is sure to become more widely known in future. With Portuguese multi-instrumentalist Paulo Chagas, Giannouli recently released Forest Stories, a fine album of improvised music. At a time when the world is suffering from moral acuity (masquerading as economic depression), Giannouli and Chagas have created a set of pieces that express great hope and beauty. Alongside Nikos Veliotis, Floros Floridis and Sakis Papadimitriou, an impressive and original voice can now be added to the list of great Hellenic improvisers.
Do you have a parallel profession, or is music your only way of life?
Along with my music studies (piano, theory and advanced composition), I studied Agricultural Technology and Food at the Agricultural University of Athens. But I never pursued it – music is my great love. Everything I do is related to music, whether as a composer, pianist or teacher.
What’s your educational background, and how did music become a major part of your life?
According to my parents, I always had a strong tendency for music. Before learning to talk I would sing along with the music my parents would play, completely in tune and synchronized. When I was five years old my mother took me to a piano teacher, and I just grabbed it!
What are your primary interests as a musician?
Despite my classical training (and soloist diploma), my primary interest is improvisation. As a composer I always try to work on multimedia projects: music for theatre, film & video, projects that fall outside of the relatively strict boundaries of classical music.
Tell us about your discography, and how you feel about each particular work.
My discography is not very big, but I love every one of them. Live at Sfendoni (2010) was the debut of Chamada 4+1, a free-improv ensemble I was involved with at the time. It was recorded at a concert in the Sfendoni Theatre in Athens, and released on Triple Bath, a small label specializing in Greek experimental and alternative music. That same year I featured as a soloist on Chris Soumka’s 16 Days, compositions for piano and orchestra with the Sofia Philharmonic Orchestra.
In 2011, I contributed to a compilation album called Soundtracks Vol.4 for American label, Isle Records. In 2012, the post-electonic artist Spyweirdos took ten recordings by Greek improvisers (including some of mine) and transformed them into an album called Feeling of Movement (on Creative Space). It's a very special recording. Forest Stories is my most personal work to date, a collection of eight improvisations with elements from the avant-garde, free jazz, contemporary chamber music, minimalism, and post-impressionism. I'm extremely proud of this album.
How would you describe the relationship between composing and performing?
These facets inform each other, and they’re always together in the process of improvisation, which of course is composing in real time. I prefer to perform my own compositions, and to write for the various projects I'm involved with.
What observations would you make about the music scene in Greece?
The jazz scene in Greece is quite strong. There are many talented young jazz musicians who could develop significant international careers. The contemporary-imporv scene also has a lot of quality, but the audience for it is very restricted. Of course, this is common throughout the world, not only in Greece.
How have the upheavals in Greece affected your work as an artist?
The socio-economic situation in Greece has affected everyone. It has always been difficult for artists to make a living from their art, but now things are worse. A large number of young artists have left in search of a better life abroad. Things are extremely difficult.
Apart from the practical difficulties, it’s hard to find a balance between the need to be focused on my artistic creativity, be awake to the social reality, and at the same time try to find ways to respond to all of this madness. It’s not easy. The feeling of hopeless that most Greeks live with can be catastrophic. But at least I have my music, and that makes me happy.
Do you feel that there is a crisis of creativity, as some musicians have said?
Well, there has been a lot of discussion about this. In a way, yes. Technology today has made it possible for anyone to make music. With a computer, some loops or samples (often illegally acquired) – voila, you're a composer (laughs)! Of course, this leads to a mass of low-level music, and given all of the propagation possibilities offered by the Internet, we can lose ourselves in a plethora of "new music". On the other hand, great work sets a high standard, and anyone with musical perception and taste will be able to evaluate the artistic worth of these productions. Of course, that doesn’t mean that there is a lack of interesting music coming out – unique and original music – but it can be difficult to find the real diamonds, to find music that is truly good.
I know that you have a particular fondness for nature. How does that influence your creative process?
Yes, I am indeed very happy when I’m close to nature. I experience a deeper connection with the world and with others. It helps me to realize that we are all part of a greater reality, something bigger and wiser than we, and that our own microcosms are not all there is. We're passengers on this earth. It helps me to trust in the life we have within, and I really need that.
What do you like to listen to from day-to-day?
It depends – my personal taste leans towards creative jazz, such as the ECM sound, but also classical and contemporary music. I also have a fondness for film soundtracks. As a result of releasing Forest Stories through Rattle, I got to know their catalogue quite well, and it’s an extremely interesting body of work. I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in music that’s "out of the box."
What projects are you working on, and what can we expect from you in future?
I'm currently working on a new Emotone album, which is a collaboration with my partner, electronic musician Tomas Weiss. The music combines electronic sounds and soundscapes with acoustic instruments – the two worlds that each of us inhabits. We want our music to be very emotional, hence "Emotone" (emotion + tone). Preparations for the album release and a show are now underway. I also plan to do a solo album, and I hope that we can perform Forest Stories soon.