Kostas Chardas

Struggling for the ‘New’: Tonal/Atonal/Twelve-Note Interactions and the Ambivalence between Formal Coherence and Fragmentation in Y. A. Papaioannou’s ‘Paradigmatic’ post-1950 Greek Modernism

Yannis A. Papaioannou’s (1910–1989) educational journey in central Europe in 1949–50 (during which he attended classes with Arthur Honegger, among others) proved significant for the course of art music in post-1950 Greece. Papaioannou’s experimentation with modernist organizational principles gradually acquired a ‘paradigmatic’ status for young Greek composers via not only the frequent performances of his music, but also through his commitment to teach these principles privately to numerous students and his involvement with the institutionalization of modernist idioms in Greece. Thus, Papaioannou contributed to the post-1950 emergence of musical modernism as cultural imperative. The idea of mélange, that is, of the mixing of musical elements carrying disparate historic connotations, appears frequently as an aesthetic proposal in various exercises of Papaioannou’s educational corpus. This mixing is also one of the main characteristics of his modernist compositional adventure (starting with the coexistence of tonal, atonal and twelve-note elements in major works of the early 1950s, such as the Symphony No. 3 and the Concerto for Orchestra).
Through the analytical exploration of representative works, this paper investigates the interaction of disparate musical elements and their function within the unfolding of the form. Taking also into account Papaioannou’s belief in the organicist nature of the musical work, the analytical discussion focuses on the oscillation between desired formal teleology and the actual formal fragmentation in Papaioannou’s modernist music. Finally, the analytical outcomes are aesthetically contextualized within Papaioannou’s perception of Greek and Western historic time, which echo wider aesthetic beliefs such as those of early Western modernism and those of modernist attitudes among other arts in Greece.