Vamvakaris: The flood

By: | Post date: January 24, 2011 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Music

In the previous post, I wrote about the 1933 recording A raid on the hashish den, a comedy sketch with music, featuring one of the earliest recordings of Markos Vamvakaris. In the process, I got the bug for GoAnimate, and so I created an animated music video for the song. (Now with subtitles.)

My second such attempt involves Vamvakaris’ Η Πλημμύρα (The Flood), recorded in 1935:

(You’ll need to watch on YouTube to get the subtitles through Captions.)

I had not heard the song before buying the box set of Vamvakaris 1933–1937; in fact, I hadn’t heard many of the songs, because early Vamvakaris is not radio-friendly. The Flood stood out for me—even before recent events in Australia made it topical.

The song presents direct, chilling vignettes of hardship after an urban flood; there is some filler in the lyric (“Mother’s, it’s no lie”), but in all it’s brutally effective. And while Markos’ more usual vignettes of lowlife posturing are also brutally effective in their own way, this is a surprising change of topic for him. The musical form of the song is also distinct: it’s more relentlessly strophic than is usual for Markos—all A A A A instead of his typical AB BA A′B′ B′A′. He’s presenting direct vignettes, and he uses a relentlessly straightforward style to do it.

He does so with a sparing number of notes, and with a hypnotic jangling (I think it’s hand cymbals) in the break between verses. The sessions Markos recorded in, early on, each had their own mix of instruments and collaborators, and there are a few more songs from the ’35 session with the hand cymbals in uses. Here though, they really come to the fore as a grim punctuation.

I was wondering whether the formulaic online animation packages for the masses that have recently come forth, like GoAnimate and XtraNormal, really can be suited to artistic expression more serious than tirades against mobile phones.

I don’t think my animation of The Flood proves that it can; not least because I’ve got a lot to learn about cinematography—and about making the most of a very restricted repertoire. (XtraNormal As Kabuki: I can see the inflexibility of the packages turning into a codified convention for gestures.) But this has captured my interest.

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