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Composer Gasparatos’ Body of Work Echoes from Greece to Brooklyn

December 26, 2016
Eleni.Sakellis

NEW YORK – The prolific, award-winning Greek composer and sound artist Stavros Gasparatos is building an impressive career with projects around the world.

His family originally is from Kefalonia, then moved to Patra where Gasparatos grew up and his parents still reside.

He now calls Athens and Berlin home, but his projects take him across the globe. Most recently, his work was performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) as part of a collaboration with choreographer Jonah Bokaer.

Gasparatos previously worked with Bokaer on Triple Echo, a piece presented at the opening of the Onassis Cultural Foundation Center in New York in 2015.

In his latest collaborative project, Gasparatos wrote the score for Recess, one of the three parts of Rules of the Game, a new work by Bokaer in collaboration with scenographer Daniel Arsham and pop star and multi-Grammy Award-winner Pharrell Williams presented at the BAM Next Wave Festival in Brooklyn on November 10-12.

The multidisciplinary work for eight dancers was the largest collaboration to date between Bokaer and Arsham and marked their first collaboration with Williams, composing music for the first time for a live dance and theater project.

Gasparatos spoke with The National Herald about the project, and his upcoming work.

He said “it was an amazing experience and an honor working in the historical space at BAM…it was a great honor to be in New York and in such a space. It was a wonderful experience, it went very well and I think everyone was very satisfied and it surpassed the public’s expectations as well as those of the people at BAM and the collaborators including Jonah Bokaer.

” I was very moved especially on that day when I found myself there. It’s a big project with an amazing team, besides the famous Pharrell Williams and Daniel Arsham, and all of Jonah’s team, lighting designer Aaron Copp, all the team is amazing, it’s an honor and a pleasure to work with them. It’s also a pleasure continuing to work with Jonah with whom I worked on Triple Echo here at the Onassis Center for the opening after the renovation of the space because it means the collaboration went well and there’s an appreciation of the work and it’s nice for one project to lead to the next one.”

Gasparatos then spoke about the inspiration for Recess which he noted was very different from the previous collaborative project.

He said “Triple Echo was a commissioned piece on the previously selected theme of the festival, the myth of Narcissus. I wrote a score which was then choreographed by Jonah. With the project at BAM, it was the exact opposite. Recess was actually an older piece by Jonah that previously had no music accompanying it, and because we worked so well together last year, Jonah asked me to write the music, so I had to write based on the inspiration of Jonah’s choreography, what I could take from it and work with so it was therefore two very different projects in collaboration with Jonah. It’s two sides of the same coin since I often work on solo projects inspired by what I see around me, the initiative comes from me, the source of the music is within me, but I also work on collaborative projects and it’s a pleasure to work with other artists towards a common goal.”

Gasparatos was asked if he preferred working on solo projects or collaborative ones. He observed, “at times I’ve thought I preferred one over the other, solo projects or collaborative projects, but I’ve come to realize I’m somewhat in the middle. One feeds and gives inspiration to the other. My solo work helps me move forward, but the collaborative projects bring me into contact with people that I would never meet on my own, in this way, the one feeds the other, and in the last few years, I feel I’m happier when I can communicate more with the world.”

Working internationally, Gasparatos said forces him out of his comfort zone and presents interesting challenges for his work.

He noted that “there are a lot of differences from place to place and country to country, I travel a lot so I can happily return to Greece to work with my collaborators at home with greater joy and I don’t feel trapped, I am free to choose the project I want to do. This year I was many months in Greece, much more than I had in recent years, working on projects and I was extremely pleased to be working in Greece and had so much work to do, but I was also pleased to leave again now on this next project.”

Speaking of the differences working in various cities, Gasparatos said “very big differences exist, in the art in each city where I’ve worked. In Berlin, the theater is the one I favor, and I believe it is the capital of theater at this moment and of experimental music and I enjoy working there very much and the people and the life of the city. In New York, it’s the level of cooperation, it’s tremendous, for how things are done and there’s a cleaner more straightforward way of speaking with your co-workers and collaborators. This straightforward way of speaking is something I value highly, it relaxes me and I think it suits me and my temperament very much. Many people don’t like New York because of the maddening pace of the city, it suits me very much, because whatever city I am in, I run in that same way…and I’m always searching for a reason to return and this channel that has opened up between New York and Europe works well for me.”

A true original, Gasparatos finds his work is often difficult for people to categorize. “That’s the danger of what I do, often for the classical set I am too experimental and for the experimental set I am too mainstream and classical, therefore it’s not easy for them to categorize you and put you on the shelf, but at that moment you say this is me. When I try to stick to one or the other, it doesn’t work, I don’t succeed, and it’s better for me to do what is natural for me, and it will find its own path.”

Up next for Gasparatos in the spring is a project with director Michael Marmarinos in Shanghai, China with the Shanghai Dramatic Arts Center performing an ancient tragedy.

Also starting in the spring, he will be in charge of a lab in the National Opera studying music and technology. Gasparatos will select a team for the project-based lab to work on discovering new ways of interacting and communicating between music and technology.

Gasparatos returns to New York this summer for a residency at the Watermill Center in the Hamptons – a laboratory of inspiration and performance, founded by theater and visual artist Robert Wilson.

More information about Stavros Gasparatos and his work is available at stavrosgasparatos.gr

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