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Transcendence

Transcendence

Tania Giannouli Ensemble

 
 
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Rated one of the best albums of 2015 by more than six international music sites
 
 

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Tania Giannouli (piano)
Alexandros Botinis (cello)
Guido de Flaviis (saxophones)
Solis Barki (percussion, idiophones)
and guest musician Giannis Notaras (drums)

Greek pianist and composer Tania Giannouli follows her Rattle debut, Forest Stories (2012), with a very different recording from the newly formed Tania Giannouli Ensemble. With influences as diverse as Greek folk music, contemporary classical, modern jazz, world music and European avant-garde, Transcendence is an intoxicating, musically literate tour-de-force. These richly textured, beautifully balanced compositions are performed with great rigour, lyricism and passion, but above all they are strikingly honest and direct.

 
"Neither 'landscape' nor 'new age' music (and if we suppose this album to be 'light jazz' we are very wrong), Transcendence is in fact a metaphor. Composer Tania Giannouli has responded to the plight or her noble country through music. As reflected in the undulating waves in the video for 'The Sea', Giannouli’s music offers a powerful allegory that not only speaks to the lesson of civic stature Greece gifted to the world, but also of the excesses of power shown by Europe, which, in its shameless arrogance, would prepare yet another note of debt to be sent to Athens –– even as the sound of this music rings in their ears! One can hear a breeze blowing in Transcendence that has all but eradicated 'civility' from European dictionaries."
 

Written by Ricardo Salo from Portugal for his blog, Em Busca Do Acorde Perdido

 

 

Tania Giannouli Ensemble (9th best album of 2015, Textura website)

"2015 was such a full year. Some of the things that made life worth living during the last months were: the joy to see the realization of my second album Transcendence together with a wonderful ensemble of friends and fellow musicians, Tarkovsky's Nostalgia in an open-air cinema, watching Youth by Paolo Sorrentino and Theeb by Naji Abu Nowar, re-discovering Echoes by Pink Floyd, listening to Giya Kancheli's Chiaroscuro, and Avishai Cohen's concert in Bozar. Playing the piano in an empty and totally silent ancient Greek temple on an August's night. A walk on a sunny autumn's afternoon on a beach of the North Sea. The Sea. The Olive Grove."

 
Tania Giannouli, December 2015 

 

 

credits

 

RAT-D059 (May, 2015)

This release was made possible with the support of Victoria University of Wellington

Produced by Tania Giannouli
Recorded by Philip Marinelis at Smart Audio Services
Edited and mixed by Costas Bokos at Studio 19st
Mastered by Steve Garden
Photographs by Ilias Bourgiotis
Design by UnkleFranc


  Transcendence

    01  The Weeping Willow (4:15)
    02  The Sea (7:27) 
    03  Sun Dance (5:29) 
    04  The Time Will Come (3:10) 
    05  Faster That Wear (3:40)
    06  From Foreign Lands (6:32) 
    07  Obsession (5:34)
    08  Mad World (8:05)
    09  Untold (4:57)

 

All compositions © Tania Giannouli, 2014

 

reviews

 

 
Songs for the people of Greece
By Stef
 
I am not sure what is going to happen in Greece. As an outsider, it's possible to understand the positions of the various parties involved and equally impossible to understand the positions of the various parties involved, but the thing is that the people of Greece are caught in a major situation they never expected or wanted. Hence an overview of some fine Greek musicians, to give them and their listeners a boost of confidence, because creativity will always win, and we'll have a closer look at this now.
 
Earlier this year, Paul already reviewed the Pandelis Karayorgis Quintet's excellent "Afterimage", but here is some more, and it must be said, the overall tone of the music is often not very joyful, and interestingly enough many of the musicians live outside of their Greek homeland. Nevertheless, these are all songs for the people of Greece.
 
Greek pianist and composer Tania Giannouli is accompanied on this album by Guido De Flaviis on saxophone, Alexandros Botinis on cello, Solis Barki on percussion and idiophones and Giannis Notaras as a guest on percussion. The music could be a soundtrack, full of romantic sentiments, but without overdoing it, with an aesthetic that could be compared to many ECM albums: accessible, beyond genre, wonderfully performed and produced.
 
Giannouli mines deeply in the sounds of the Mediterranean and of various musical styles, using dramatic nature evocations as in "The Sea", folk elements as in "Sun Dance", modern composition as in "Mad World", or very unique sounds as in "Faster Than Wear". This is an album with lots of rich ideas, a great variety of approaches yet miraculously coherent in its end result.
 
The Free Jazz Collective, Stef Gijssels
 

Transcendence by the Tania Giannouli Ensemble is a gorgeous, nuanced instrumental album that recently caught my ear. The Greek pianist and composer leads a superb ensemble that explores varied pieces ranging from the minimalist to the mercurial. It's an album beyond genres, meshing the universes of new music, jazz, and rock, as well as several world music influences. It's a superb listen for anyone with open ears. Favourite piece on the album: Faster Than Wear.
 
Anil Prasad, Innerviews
 

Giannouli’s dedication to sharp imagery gives the impression that she’s always got a film in mind when creating a new composition. Modern classical, modern jazz, folk and Greek musics all inform her newest. Soft ambient passages alternate places in the spotlight with those much freer and of a sharper edge.
 
Dave Sumner, Bird is the Worm
 

Where the two previous bands [in the May 27th concert at the Onassis Cultural Centre] were, for different reasons and to different degrees, trying to exceed their limits, the Tania Giannouli Ensemble chose not to – not because they couldn’t, but because this ensemble is entirely focused on serving the music. When it did occur, Tania Giannouli was content to leave it to her capable musicians, notably saxophonist Guido De Flaviis (the most jazz-orientated member of the ensemble) and the equally excellent cellist, Alexandros Botinis.
 
Tania Giannouli’s compositions, particularly those on her new album Transcendence (her second release for contemporary music label, Rattle), are deliberately mapped out, each with a clear beginning, middle and end. The piano invariably leads the way, often starting and ending the pieces and providing the structural framework for the ensemble to embellish. Indeed, even percussionist Solis Barki and drummer John Notaras could be described as timbrel and textural colourists, approaching their roles in a ‘modal’ rather than purely rhythmical manner.
 
It’s clear that Giannouli has found her artistic voice. She is perfectly comfortable with it, and doesn’t have the slightest intention of breaking it. Her music, an unashamed celebration of tonality and texture, is based on a tradition she has in-depth knowledge of and evident love for: classical music. The influence of the great romantic composers is apparent in Giannouli’s music, particularly Chopin, Schubert, and – her favourite – Schumann, as well as Impressionists such as Debussy and, to a degree, Satie.
 
Giannouli’s music is already rich in imagery, but on the night of the concert this was enhanced by the beautiful videos of Marcantonio Lunardi, whose images added a perfectly complimentary atmospheric touch. Discerning listeners who know what to expect from quality contemporary music will not only find it in the music of Tania Giannouli, they will also find a particularly wonderful variation on it!
 
Thanos Mantzanas, Music Paper
 

Tania Giannouli’s second album for New Zealand label Rattle finds the Greek pianist/composer in fine form. Recorded with the recently formed Tania Giannouli Ensemble, Transcendence combines classical, jazz, romanticism, Mediterranean folk, and even a touch of minimalism, but it’s the deft manner by which these styles are used that is most impressive, balancing strong melodies and improvisation that at times reaches the limits of abstraction. It’s this subtle combination that makes Transcendence one of the most interesting releases of this year.
 
Antonis Fragos, Music Paper
 

Seldom does an author of a musical work reflect the mood of an entire state as effectively as Greek pianist/composer Tania Giannouli has on her new album, Transcendence. Known for her previous collaboration with Paulo Chagas on Forest Stories, Giannouli’s new work intersects jazz and classical forms with traditional Greek folk music. As interpreted by the Tania Giannouli Ensemble (Guido De Flaviis on the saxophones, Alexandros Botinis on cello, Solis Barki on percussion and idiophones, and Giannis Notaras on drums), this beautiful music transmits a feeling of hope driven by determination – if not anger – and the nostalgia for “an unknown and happy future”.
 
As Giannouli writes in the booklet notes, "This record is about my motherland". The context is what we know: the lords of Europe and the global economy sacrifice the people to policies focused on money rather than people. After years of misery, Greece is the only one to answer them with a defiant "not acceptable”. We don't know what will happen next, but for the moment it’s surprising and comforting that it’s possible to make art, and moreover, art as fine as this.
 
Rui Eduardo Paes, www.jazz.pt
 

Tania Giannouli is a jazz pianist whose previous album Forest Stories (with Portuguese multi-instrumentalist, Paulo Chagas) would have fallen into our Jazz category. So why have we placed her new collection in Modern Composition? The answer is simple. With the expansion to an ensemble, Giannouli has also modified her sound. As much influenced by classical as by jazz, Transcendence is a true genre-jumper. While most tracks lean one way or the other, the overall impression is that of a tiny orchestra.
 
The pieces of Transcendence are also classifiable by mood. Some are obvious, and visual aids help. The languid, melancholic “The Sea” seems designed for a relaxing evening, lapping waves and a bottle of wine. The video is fairly simple, hiding the fact that the piano lines are quite complex. One of Giannouli’s strengths is the impression of improvisation even in the midst of composed work. Guido de Flaviis’ saxophone is the smooth, jazzy influence, while Alexandros Botinis’ cello provides a dark classical undertone. A better video is the noir-ish “Obsession”; the black-and-white cinematography brings out the longing in the music. In this piece, Snares play a major role in establishing the dramatic forward march of an obsessed heart. The most effective (and slightly chilling) moment of the video arrives at 4:30, when one of the actresses stops looking at the moon/skylight and gazes directly into the camera; but the compositional moment that sets up the scene arrives a minute earlier, when the snares relent, creating a vacuum. The prelude to “Obsession” can be found as far back as the opening track, “The Weeping Willow”. This sparse piece bears an ominous sheen, as if sadness is about to turn into something dark and undefinable.
 
The album’s catchiest tracks lie in between. “Sun Dance” and “Faster Than Wear” come across like a Mediterranean family gathering, filled with food and festivity. One imagines shirt sleeves rolled up and dresses twirling as men and women dance on terra-cotta terraces. The first piece is Botinis’ showcase, while the second is a playground for Giannouli. It’s wonderful to encounter a performer who can draw from so many moods in order to create a unified set. One wonders if transcendence may refer to a state beyond emotion, one of inner calm, in which all emotion has been spent, and replaced by peace. By contrasting formal, stately classicism the opening bars of “From Foreign Lands” and the echo at 4:51) with untamed revelry (“Mad World”), Giannouli suggests a pas de deux between mind and emotion, leading to the discovery of a third presence, the spirit. Closing piece “Untold” wraps this up nicely: once again sedate, still looking up: no longer obsessed, but inspired.
 
Richard Allen, A Closer Listen
 

The New Zealand music label Rattle was formed in 1991 by Τim Gummer, Steve Garden and Keith Hill. Admirers of contemporary, jazz and world music, they sought to release refined and often non-commercial works that reflected their tastes and preferences while remaining open to different stimuli.

The label is largely reserved for New Zealand artists, some of whom deserve serious attention, but it also has an international feel as it includes musicians such as (among others) Marilyn Crispell and Joshua Redman from the USA, Portuguese percussionist Pedro Carneiro, and Greek pianist Tania Giannouli.

Tania Giannouli studied piano and composition in Athenaeum, Athens, and is active in several groups, notably Schema Ensemble (addicted to improvisation).

Giannouli's work is characterised by her interest in multimedia. She has composed for film and theatre, and collaborated with video-artist Marcantonio Lunardi on his 370 New World, a video that was produced in collaboration with the Toscana Film Commission.

But it is her personal discography, especially her last album that is of particular interest. Transcendence (Rattle 2015) is her second release for the New Zealand label. Compared to her previous Forest Stories (Rattle 2012), a collaboration with Portuguese wind-player Paulo Chagas, the new album features a newly formed ensemble of three excellent musicians: Alexandros Botinis (cello), Guido De Flaviis (sax) and Solis Barki (percussion/ idiophones). All boast prestigious collaborations. Guest musician, drummer Giannis Notaras, was a member of Schema Ensemble.

Transcendence consists of nine Giannouli compositions, music that reflects "nostalgia for an as yet unknown happy future", as she says in the liner notes. The music defies categorisation, but reflects a variety of influences: avant-garde, jazz, world, and chamber music. Several titles allude to nature: "The Weeping Willow", "Sun Dance", "The Sea". This last piece, intense and melancholic, highlights the cohesion between the three soloists, while "Obsession" and "From Foreign Lands" are characterised by driving rhythms.

Lyrically rich but never rhetorical, Transcendence presents an artist who will be worth following closely: we are sure to hear more from Tania Giannouli in the future. Gifted with a restless creativity, she is currently collaborating with Greek poet Evgenios Aranitsis.

 
Alessandro Michelucci, Cultura Commestibile
 

Transcendence provides a most flattering portrait of Tania Giannouli as a pianist, composer, and arranger. The fifty-minute collection by the Athens, Greece-based band-leader features nine richly textured settings that cover ample stylistic ground and do so in oft-intoxicating manner. Leading a stellar modern chamber ensemble featuring cellist Alexandros Botinis, saxophonist Guido de Flaviis, percussionist Solis Barki, and guest drummer Giannis Notaras, the pianist weaves elements of classical, jazz, and Greek folk music into pieces that impress on both performance and composition levels.
 
Her works for theatre, film, and video have been performed at festivals, galleries, and museums throughout the world, and all of the ensemble members are distinguished musicians who bring extensive formal training and experience to the project. The passion with which they execute their performances is a major reason why the album impresses as much as it does, and, in engaging with Giannouli's material so fervently, the musicians come across as considerably more than hired hands.
 
“The Weeping Willow” inaugurates the album auspiciously with a brooding, piano-centric rumination atmospherically enhanced by bowed effects and other ambient treatments. Though understated in tone, it's nevertheless a powerful opener for the control and rigour with which the musicians bring the material to life. Perhaps more characteristic of the album is the entrancing second piece, “The Sea,” which, distinguished as it is by a serpentine theme voiced in turn by cello and soprano saxophone, proves to be a model of small-group ensemble playing. It's an especially haunting composition that accentuates the lyrical dimension in Giannouli's writing as well as showcases her deft accommodation of improvised playing within a tightly scripted setting.
 
There are times when the influence of her Greek homeland seeps into the material. During “Sun Dance,” for example, rhythms swing with an aggressive insistence, and the woodwinds and strings wail with the kind of unbounded fervour one hears in klezmer at its most free-spirited. And though it begins with a nostalgic piano intro, “From Foreign Lands” lunges into its swinging folk rhythms and sinuous themes with aplomb once that formal opening is done.
 
While Transcendence has its share of stately, chamber-styled moments (“The Time Will Come”), there are others that see the group playing with unbridled ferocity (“Faster That Wear”) and realising Giannouli's sound-world with improv-styled conviction (“Mad World”). Admittedly, there are times during Transcendence when one might be reminded of Piazzolla (the closing “Untold” plays like a veritable homage to the tango master) and Eleni Karaindrou, but this remarkable album ultimately makes the strongest case for Giannouli as a composer and artist in her own right.
Rated 9th in the Textura top 20 albums of 2015
 
Textura
 

Transcendence is the new album from Greek pianist, improviser, and composer Tania Giannouli, recorded with her group, the Tania Giannouli Ensemble.
 
Giannouli works within a variety of creative genres, including electronic music, theatre, film, jazz, classical, and folk traditions. Her music for theatre and film has been performed at various festivals, galleries, biennials, and museums in many countries around the world.
 
Her work is largely piano-based, and frequently features improvisation. In 2012, she recorded ‘Forest Stories’ with Portuguese wind multi-instrumentalist and improviser, Paulo Chagas. The album (her first for Rattle Records) received significant international recognition, including recognition as the best Greek improvised music album of 2013.
 
Transcendence features Alexandros Botinis on cello, Guido de Flaviis on saxophones, Solis Barki on percussion and idiophones, and guest musician Giannis Notaras on drums.
 
The album is comprised of contemporary compositions that reflect Giannouli’s interest in folk music (Greek particularly) and contemporary techniques in composition. Each piece reveals her unique gift for combining diverse musical elements into a single unified composition. The overall mood is romantic, with the ensemble providing subtle improvisations that evoke the sounds of nature.
 
Some tracks, such as ‘Faster Than Wear’, stand out as examples of Giannouli’s unique approach to orchestration, her ability to combine sounds to produce a unique and compelling aural texture.
 
Transcendence is full of unexpected sonic and emotional shifts, which perfectly compliment Giannouli’s synthesis of musical styles. The result is an album distinguished by excellence in both performance and production.
 
Released by Rattle Records, May 2015
 
Klasika ir džiazas
 

Embedding The Unseen Scenes
 
Now this is a record I’ve been waiting to hear for some time now – the new, second album by Greek pianist Tania Giannouli. I first stumbled upon her music in a video art exhibition in Tel Aviv, where it was used in one of the works presented. Her style had immediately caught my ear. It was mysterious, cinematic, alive. It was brilliant.
 
The new album Transcendence (out on Rattle Records from NZ) is exciting, inspiring and one of the most beautiful records I’ve heard this year. Hey, it’s an album that inspired me enough to write about it after a long period of time that I hadn’t written here, right? Obsession. That was the tune that first caught my ear. Tania is writing music for films, features and documentaries, dance and as I mentioned – art project. The reason I like her music so much is because I can see the scene, the actual visual scene behind the music, that in this case wasn’t written for picture. When I heard Obsession, it sound as the main theme of a lost Almadovar film. Something between The Skin I Live In to Talk To Her. Strange, a bit disturbing, made me shrink a bit, but very beautiful.
 
When I heard the full album, I realised there’s more to it then just the cinematic scenes embedded in the music. It was that refreshing new take on modern jazz , classical, and a correct dose of experimental minimalistic mood expression by the ensemble players. The album is rich with sounds and colours and hides surprising moments throughout, and the arrangements are beautiful.
 
Every time I hear this album it reminds me, in a most positive way, of Eberhard Weber‘s masterpiece Later That Evening. Music that gently sits on a cloud, hovering above. Not touching the earth and thus, keeping itself clean. It also brought to my mind some of the late Bernardo Sassetti works, especially his brilliant Unreal:Sidewalk Cartoon. To me, it sounds like a lost ECM album, but by browsing around Rattle Records’ catalog, it seemed that she’s in good hands.
 
Yair Yona
 

Based in Athens, Tania Giannouli is a classically trained pianist and composer who has already performed or composed extensively for several multimedia projects including film, dance, theatre, video art and animated shorts, and a founding member of two improvisational ensembles.
 
After recording Forest Stories in 2012, a collection of eight improvisations for piano and wind instruments alternating between avant-garde and free jazz with Portuguese reed player and improviser Paulo Chagas, Tania Giannouli and her newly formed ensemble have just released Transcendence in May 2015 on Rattle Records.
 
Joined by Guido De Flaviis on saxophones, Alexandros Botinis on cello, Solis Barki on percussion and idiophones – and guest Giannis Notaras on drums – Transcendence is a perfectly balanced record allowing each instrument plenty of space and amplitude. If jazz and improvisation still underpin Giannouli’s approach, the nine new compositions arranged for her ensemble also borrow from classical, avant-garde (“Mad World”), and Greek folk music (Sun Dance”), imparting an overall and consistent modern classical feel to the entire record.
 
Many tracks (such as “From Foreign Lands” for instance) could well accompany a short film or different movie scenes as the compositions seem to follow a classic storytelling arc – a short exposition followed by a radical rhythmic change rising to a climax and ending with a resolution. Dramatic glissandi on the cello, fluttering notes on the soprano saxophone and percussive shifts on the piano and percussions provide the underlying tension throughout.
 
"For me, this music reflects on a wild and crazy world that surely cannot be all there is, and nostalgia for an as yet unknown happy future. Above all, this album is about my motherland." (Tania Giannouli liner notes)
 
An ode to the Mediterranean maritime landscape and culture, the music on the album also echoes the ongoing government-debt crisis Greece has been experiencing over the last few years. Tania Giannouli’s passionate compositions and ensemble playing provide a superb creative response, thus “transcending” the narrow confines of economic and political issues dominating the current news feeds.
 
Guillaume, Spellbinding Music
 

The previous album by Greek pianist/composer Tania Giannouli was a duet recording with saxophonist/flautist and clarinet player Paulo Chagas and -- for no other reason than they were improvised pieces -- we posted it in our Jazz in Elsewhere pages (read the review of Forest Stories here). It was such a fascinating album we invited Giannouli and Chagas to answer separately our Famous Elsewhere Jazz Questionnaire (see here and here) even though some might not have thought of them as "jazz" musicians.
 
This time out with a suite of compositions meditating on time and change with her small international ensemble (from Russia, Spain and Greece on cello, saxophone and percussion) we place her in our Cultural Elsewhere pages -- for no other reason than these pieces are largely scored and refer more to the classical tradition. (And world music, especially on the North African/Mediterranean piece Sun Dance it must be said.) So it would be an unwise person who would put Giannouli in any particular box.
 
While Sun Dance ends with a furious rush of energy and saxophone passages from Guido De Flaviis which take off from stately ECM then move rapidly into something akin free jazz fury, the following piece The Time Will Come opens with a delicate piano figure and the reflective music descends into a shadowland of emotion through Alexandros Botinis' cello and long lines on soprano saxophone. And the strident Faster Than Wear -- which might be the most improvised here -- is the most challenging for its tightly-wound energy, relentlessness and sense of rage. In the liner notes she says this album is about her motherland, and you suspect when she recorded this one in particular she was mindful of the crisis which was to come. But in other places there is a Romantic classicism, as on the opening passages on From Foreign Lands, before we are swept off to Maghreb by Solis Barki's percussion and an Arabic influence in cello and saxophone.
 
This is Tania Giannouli's second album for New Zealand's Rattle label and it has been a profitable association. The label is clearly giving her the scope she requires (she also writes for film and video) because her widescreen vision is best left unconstrained. File her under classical, jazz, world music or where you will. If you dare file her at all.
 
Elsewhere review by Graham Reid, posted Jul 22, 2015
 

Tania Giannouli’s second album, Transcendence, was recently released by the New Zealand art-music label, Rattle. This new album confirms what was already evident in her previous release, Forest Stories (Rattle, 2012), that Giannouli is a pianist/composer with a singular vision and artistic focus. Her music reflects a number of traditions, including contemporary classical, jazz, improvisation, European romanticism, and traditional folk music, all embedded within an aesthetic environment of exaltation and emotion (or ‘transcendence’ as she would say). Accompanying her are four world-class musicians, and together they have created an imaginative recording brimming emotional vibrations, notably Alexandros Botinis (cello), Guido De Flaviis (saxophones), Solis Barki (percussion/idiophones), and Giannis Notaras (a guest musician on drums).

 

The track The Weeping Willow is an ideal opener to the album. It’s a slow and evocative track, where the notes of the piano appear dilated against the uniquely atmospheric layering of cello and saxophone. The 7-minute The Sea is a surprising second track, a composition with a naturalistic wide-space that recalls beautiful soundtracks such as Descent of Nine by Michalis Christodoulidis. In Sun Dance, Botini's cello is the central protagonist, but the percussion of Barkis and Notaras gives the composition a strong, almost pagan character. The tension relaxes with The Time Will Come, with Giannouli teasing out necromantic allusions on piano while the band create a calm counterpoint. The up-tempo Faster Than Wear generates an atmosphere of tension, with all of the instruments building greater energy and volume.

 

With the physical and emotional expansion and reduction of rhythmic intensity, the melodic purity of From Foreign Lands is emphasised by its song-like form (intro, verse, chorus, etc.), in which ideas are expressed in music that would be very difficult to express in words, and which could only offer a limited approximation of the experience. Obsession, the seventh composition on the album, is an exciting, evocative track, that incorporates different narrative elements (starting with tradition and moving towards the personal), something that is picked up and developed further in the 8-minute Mad World, where jazz and improvisation coexist with the colours and textures of the avant and chamber music. The album closes with the elegiac Untold, a piece that moves through a landscape of beauty and peace, but not without moments of tension. With Transcendence, Tania Giannouli offers an excellent album, very different from her previous release, but equally rewarding. Her music ¬– in all of its facets, even its quietest moments – is characterised by substantial weight and presence that is not only very tangible but also very revealing. In a word, the album is all about ‘passion’, and that says it all.

 
Phontas Trousas, LIFO magazine
 

 

We asked Tania Giannouli about the reasons that motivated her new album, "Transcendence". Here is what she told us….
 
- Although they are very different from each other, "Forest Stories" and "Transcendence" are both albums of ‘images’ and ‘pictures’.
 
It is true that my music evokes images. However, the starting point for me is almost never a picture, unless of course the music is written to accompany a film or video. It is more a psychological state that is, afterwards, "visualised" in music.
 
- Do you compose with a scenario or concept in mind, or do you mostly trust creative instinct and inspiration?
 
Both, occasionally. It depends on the purpose for which the music is indented. Sometimes the context is very specific. Other times, the music can start from a momentary inspiration and finish there. At other times (and this is what happened with "Forest Stories", I think) it may start with an inspiration, without a program or a plan, and slowly the material itself shapes directions and ideas that were not conscious from the beginning.
 
- Do you find common ground between contemporary chamber music and jazz, and if so, how do you exploit it?
 
There is a lot of common ground, and I often use extended contemporary techniques and improvisation in my work, which are of course common to both jazz and contemporary music.
 
- How do you experience the Greek musical tradition, and with what state of mind do you use it in your work?
 
Traditional Greek music is something that, of course, I carry in my musical DNA, so it’s there in my musical references. But I haven't studied it in depth, so when I write something that refers to it, it isn’t done consciously. When it happens, I’m often surprised!
 
- A post-romantic element is distinctive in several tracks. But in contrast to the relative "sound of ECM" or Nordic Jazz, your compositions, even in their most "quiet" moments leave a tension. What is the source of this tension?
 
The post-romantic element comes from my classical studies and of course from my love for the great romantic composers. I agree with you regarding the tension to which you refer, but I really can’t explain clearly where it comes from. Basically, I compose intuitively.
 
- Could you name some of your favourite composers, music scenes, albums or specific works? Say, what do you listen these days?
 
Favourite composers are Bach, Kancheli, Mompou, Crumb, and many more of course. "Vox Balanea" by Georg Crumb is one of my favourite works from the contemporary repertoire. I listen to a lot of ECM music. At the moment Rava-Bollani is on my mp3, and also a fantastic album from Rattle called Tühonohono, an album that evokes travels through Antipodean landscapes and atmospheres.
 
- What is the role of the other musicians-collaborators in the forming of the final sound of "Transcendence"?
 
I am very lucky to be working with these amazing musicians (and friends). The music on this album would not sound the same without them.
 
-This CD as well is released by Rattle, a New Zealander label. How did they discover you? Or did you discover them?
 
When the material from my first album "Forest Stories" was ready, I set demos to various labels that I thought would appreciate style and the aesthetic. One of those labels was Rattle, and I am very happy that they "saw" this affinity. I think my music has found a very good "home" at this label and of course I feel proud to be among so many important artists within their catalogue.
 
- Your music, certainly, could be reproduced in a live concerts as you have showed recently. How do you see the presentation in the near future?
 
On May 27 at the Onassis Cultural Center in Athens we presented the whole of the new album, "Transcendence", in the form of a suite, together with the videos of my Italian collaborator, video-artist Marcantonio Lunardi. We plan to perform this material as mush as possible, always paying attention to the sound conditions. This music requires good conditions, in order to be heard properly. Anything new will be announced on my website.
 
Phontas Trousas, LIFO magazine
 

 

To ‘transcend’ is to look within yourself and recognise that the universe is present there. (Mohsin Hamid)
 
The conceptual core of the sense of transcendence refers to the intention of going beyond the limits. The term involves a spatial metaphor describing the action to move from one area to another exceeding the limit that separates them.
 
In the field of philosophy, the notion of transcendence includes overcoming the idea and desire to excel. From that perspective, one can deduce that transcendence is immanent to humans because it involves individual will – transformada in action to deal with that which is beyond the known; ergo, due to a personal decision that is not inherent in all individuals. However, there is transcended from nothing but starting from the known and by desperate search to overcome the limits imposed on us by life, limits also to prevent us broaden the horizons of knowledge denies us the possibility of being architects of our own destiny.
 
The significance also means access to a vital plane of existence where one feels compelled to share with others the acquired knowledge and ideas without giving up the essence itself or the group of belonging.
 
The truth is that, by matching the concepts outlined on the word "transcendence" with the musical proposal emanating from the debut album of Tania Giannouli Ensemble, to the unambiguous conclusion was reached Transcendence is -and many reasons, a little less than ideal title to describe his aesthetic content.
 
The artistic path of young Greek pianist and composer Tania Giannouli includes her debut release for Rattle in 2012, Forest Stories, a collaboration with the remarkable Portuguese multi-instrumentalist and improviser Paulo Chagas. She has also written music for theatre, film and video, and her compositions have been performed by Camerata / Armonia Athena String Orchestra, Ensemble Dissonart, the Athens Youth Orchestra, and the Galaxy String Quartet. She is currently in the developmental stages of an interdisciplinary venture with the prestigious Greek writer, Evgenios Aranitsis.
 
The musical ideas expressed on Transcendence by Tania Giannouli Ensemble (featuring Alexandros Botinis on cello, Guido de Flaviis on saxophones, Solis Barki on idiophones and percussion, and guest musician Giannis Notaras on drums) are built with an undeniably lyrical creative rigour, a unique and personal sound map that amalgamates the temperament of contemporary classical music with the rich influence of Mediterranean folk traditions (especially the Greek Natal), and emerging attributes of modern jazz.
 
Transcendence was conceived as a suite of compositions wherein each of its parts takes on a narrative that aims to illustrate memories and feelings, a personal vision of the world and the search for the author to try to transcend the difficult times being experienced by our society.
 
The ambitious intentions of the ensemble translate into a fascinating aesthetic universe that, despite the diversity of musical sources from which it draws and punctilious elaboration, are as original as they are surprisingly effective.
 
The album begins with the eerie asceticism of The Weeping Willow. Hand drawn strokes of subtle piano enters into a narrative of undeniable desolation that (in perfect symmetry with the art object that motivates this work) offers a contemplative gaze and invokes rhetorical reflection without fanfare.
 
The Sea immerses us (pun intended) in sleepy waves of sound from which emerges a wide range of expressive nuances, especially accentuated by the juxtaposition of dramatic contrasts between light piano, candied phrases of sax, and the deep tone chamber music expressed in the cello.
 
Sun Dance opens with a minimalist prelude before evolving through a dance with Mediterranean folk airs, crowned by a remarkable crescendo of saxophone licks.
 
The steamy weather evoked in The Time Will Come creates a reflective space from which to confront what seems elusive and uncertain with optimism and hope.
 
Within the dynamic strength that characterises Faster the Wear, a melody hovers above a cyclic structure of variations and ornaments that are never superfluous or unnecessary, with Giannouli's driving and eloquent piano sitting against a determined percussive pulse.
 
The nostalgic motif of the introductory solo piano sets up an effective juxtaposition to the agitated climate, multiple colour shades and thoughtful counterpoint resolutions arising from the intense From Foreign Lands.
 
The initial delicate subtlety of Obsession gradually transforms into hypnotic tension before gradually fading into the final ethereal and introspective epicentre of Giannouli's piano, a clear demonstration that it is possible to shine and move without exaggerated artifice or grand gestures.
 
The abstract drama of Mad World seems to draw an imaginary bisector between contemporary classical music and European free improvisation to symbolise the chaos that assumes the title of the piece. In a context of superlative group performance, Tania Giannouli's piano, Solis Barki's percussion, and especially the cello of Alexandros Botinis are outstanding.
 
The album ends with the melancholic lyricism exuding from the relaxed and suggestive Untold.
 
Transcendence is a fascinating, honest and spiritually substantial album where Tania Giannouli shows a rare ability to dream of other realities without losing clarity.
 
Who looks outside, dreams. The inwardly facing awake. (Carl Jung)
 
Sergio Piccirilli, El intruso
 

Athens-based composer-pianist Tania Giannouli's main area of interest is mixed-media—combining music with poetic texts, visuals, theatre plays or art installations. Similarly, Giannouli's compositions for her sophomore album Transcendence (following Forest Stories, a duet with Portuguese reed player Paulo Chagas, and released on Rattle Records, 2011) blends elements from her classically-trained background, contemporary music, and European chamber jazz—inspired by the lyrical, often melancholic colors of the ECM school (reflected in the style of the cover art) and Mediterranean folk traditions. These disparate influences inspired Giannouli to create a highly personal effort that defies any attempt to pigeonhole her rich aesthetics.
 
Giannouli wrote in her liner notes that this album is about her "Motherland"—Greece: "these suite of compositions reflect on themes of Time, Life and Creation based on impressions and experiences during hard times: the essential and the trivial; lies and illusions; change and responsibility; action and reaction; light and darkness; beauty, emptiness, faith and fear." Her ensemble features the dark sounding cello of Alexandros Botinis, accompanied by the highly lyrical saxophones of Guido De Flaviis and the light percussive touches of Solis Barki and drummer Giannis Notaras. This European ensemble sketch Giannouli's dramatic, nuanced stories patiently, stressing silence as an essential element. Her wise arrangements turn beautiful themes such as in "The Sea" into a complex narrative where each instrument slowly introduces its unique voice in this tensed emotional drama. "Sua Dance" is informed by ceremonial folk dances but leaves enough space for improvisation that transform the traditional elements into impressionistic, timeless ones. The improvised setting becomes even freer and furious on the following "Faster Than Wear."
 
The moving "From Foreign Lands" highlights Giannouli's eclectic musical language, from its meditative solo piano introduction, to the passionate, choral-like dance arrangement. She can evoke vivid, dramatic-cinematic scenes that reflect vague traditions while sounding timeless, as on "Obsession" and the dark and chaotic "Mad World." Her impressive orchestrations in such pieces brings to mind the theater and film works of fellow Greek composer Eleni Karaindrou. Giannouli's fascinating journey ends on a lyrical, optimistic note with the touching, elegant theme of "Untold."
 
Giannouli is a unique voice, as a composer, pianist and improviser. She has many more musical stories that are waiting to be told.
 
Track Listing: The Weeping Willow; The Sea; Sun Dance; The Time Will Come; Faster Than Wear; From Foreign Lands; Obsession; Mad World; Untold.
 
Personnel: Tania Giannouli: piano; Guido De Flaviis: saxophones; Alexandros Botinis: cello; Solis Barki: percussion, idiophones; Giannis Notaras: drums.
 
Record Label: Rattle Records (New Zealand)
 
Style: Beyond Jazz
 
Eyal Hareuveni, All About Jazz
 

Greek pianist Tania Giannouli, is a musician in her prime. Her music, released by a record label from Wellington, New Zealand, is deeply drenched in Byzantine heritage. Just a few notes can bring about mood shifts between joy and sorrow, grace and rage, bewilderment and acquiescence, and the ambiguous points in between. Giannouli creates a spaciousnesss which fosters the unfolding and transcending of specific atmospheric moods imbued by sophisticated rhythmical patterns. Her music, far from providing pleasant or pleasing escape, generates an intense perception of reality. Its cinematic qualities go hand in hand with a deep commitment to expressive communication. Giannouli is an experienced composer of music for theatre and film/video. In that capacity she collaborates with the Public Space group of video artists and renowned Greek writer Evgenios Aranitsis.
 
Giannouli leads her listeners through a wider span of vivid musical imagery. From the solitude of The Weeping Willow and the quieting effect of irregularly moving waves in the chant-like The Sea to the glistering streaks and percussive urgency of Sun Dance, from the dynamic albatross-like soaring of The Time Will Come and the rebellious Faster Than Wear to the Shenandoah-like stomping and waltzing From Foreign Lands and from the cacophonous and derailing Mad World to the finally centring adagio of Untold at the end of the cycle. The music is inherently beautiful and dignified, and is void of prettification, glossing and empty experimentalism. It can be sensed instead that it is reflecting sudden shifts and disruption, loss of certainty, conflicting feelings, and outbursts.
 
Giannouli gives all this excellent shape, together with a competent and passionate ensemble of musicians comprising reedist Guido de Flavis, cellist Alexandros Botini and the percussionists Solis Bark and Giannis Notaras.
 
Henning Bolte, London News
 

새로운 곳에 대한 상상을 자극하는 새로운 연주자를 만나는 일은 언제나 즐겁다. 그리스의 피아노 연주자 타니아 지안노울리가 그렇다. 이 피아노 연주자는 즉흥 연주를 즐기면서도 작곡에도 상상한 능력을 지닌 것 같다. 작곡이라고 해서 고운 멜로디를 쉽게 만들어 낸다는 의미는 아니다. 그보다는 자신의 마음 혹은 머리 속에 있는 음악을 차근차근 악보로 옮길 줄 안다는 것이다. 이것은 솔로 연주를 넘어선 앙상블을 통한 구현으로 이어진다.
 
한편 그녀의 피아노 외에 구이도 드 플라비스의 색소폰, 알렉산드로스 보티니스의 첼로, 솔리스 바르키의 타악기와 이디오폰(두드림을 통한 떨림으로 소리를 내는 악기), 그리고 지아니스 노타라스의 드럼으로 이루어진 5인조 앙상블로 표현한 음악을 들어보면 그녀가 이번 앨범에서 표현하고 싶었던 것은 무엇보다 그리스적인 것이 아니었나 싶다. 물론 여기에는 그리스인이 아닌 나의 선입견이 작용했을 수도 있다. 하지만 앨범 곳곳에서 신화와 철학의 나라를 느끼게 하는 요소들이 느껴진다.
 
앨범의 라이너 노트에서 그녀는 이번 앨범에 담긴 곡들이 어려운 시기의 경험에 바탕을 둔 시간, 인생, 창조를 주제로 한다고 했다. 그 경험은 기본적인 것과 하찮은 것, 거짓과 환상, 변화와 책임, 작용과 반작용, 밝음과 어둠, 아름다움, 공허, 신뢰와 두려움 등에 관한 것이라 했다. 글쎄, 너무나 많은 것들을 이야기해 괜한 수사로 비추어질 수 있지만 앨범 타이틀이 임을 생각하면 그녀가 이 모든 양극적 경험을 했고 그것을 자신의 것으로 소화하여 앨범을 만들었다는 생각이 든다.
 
그래서일까? 클래식적인 분위기와 재즈의 즉흥적인 요소가 훌륭하게 조화를 이룬 앨범은 매우 서사적이다. 시간을 따라 흘러가기에 절로 발생하는 이야기, 멜로디의 전재로 인해 발생하는 이야기보다는 더 큰 이야기를 생각하게 한다. 그리고 그 이야기는 앞서 말한 것처럼 그리스적인 색채로 표현되었다. 예를 들어 “The Sea”에서는 정갈한 색소폰 연주를 중심으로 한 연주의 흐름에서 그리스의 지중해를, “Sun Dance”에서는 토속적이고 열정적인 춤사위를 그리게 된다. 한편 “Obsession”의 전개는 중세적인 상상을 자극하며 “Untold”에서는 어두움과 빛이 교차하여 만들어지는 신비로운 시간-어쩌면 탈시간적인 공간일 수도 있다-을 그리게 한다.
 

그래서 나는 이 앨범을 가지고 영화의 사운드트랙으로 사용하면 어떨까 싶다. 아니 이 앨범에서 영감을 얻어 그리스적인 영화를 만드는 것도 가능하리라 생각한다. 물론 나는 그럴 능력은 없다. 보아하니 타이나 지안노울리가 재즈, 즉흥연주만큼 시각 예술에도 관심이 있는 듯한데 그녀가 직접 해보면 어떨까 싶다.

Jazz Space

 

Greek pianist/composer Tania Giannouli is well respected in Europe. Her compositions for theatre, film and video have been performed at festivals and galleries throughout Europe. I must confess I am new to the talents of this Greek composer and performer but thanks to Rattle Records I am a firm believer in her virtuoso talent.
 
Her compositions are lyrical, well structured and cleverly arranged. Lead-off track The Weeping Willow begins via beautiful, searching piano notes. As the cello bow whispers against the string, this warm approach beckons to be absorbed. The Sea incorporates more saxophone and as the volume increases a melodic theme takes shape and one can sense the rise and fall of the waves.
 
Adding verve and sparkle to the mix, Sun Dance contains a deep, percussive undercurrent and with improvisation from cellist Alexandros Botinis, the feel and build becomes intoxicating. Keeping with the faster rhythm style, Faster Than Wear becomes intense with saxophone and cello racing up and down the scale letting the sax break loose for a punchy solo. Later, the track Obsession contains a military-style percussive beat while the cello wails above and is greeted by the firm melodic piano lines.
 
In her liner notes Ms Giannouli reveals these compositions are reflections of themes of time and life based on her experiences during hard times. She can evoke vivid and dramatic-cinematic scenes that richly reward with every play. A unique artist.
 

 

bio

 
 

Tania Giannouli

 

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