Musical modernism in Greece in the first half of the twentieth century: A case of exile, emigration and isolation


  • Alexandros Charkiolakis The Friends of Music Society Athens


musical modernism, Greek music


Greek musical life in the first five decades of the 20th century was dominated by the influence of the national school and its main representative, the composer Manolis Kalomiris. The social and political circumstances during those years affected cultural development. The country underwent major changes in all aspects and society was constantly in transition. As a result, innovation and new ideas found it difficult or impossible to flourish. The prevailing sentimental and national approach seems to ignore or deprecate the few composers and musicians who want to experiment with modernist and avant-garde approaches that they have mostly encountered abroad. Therefore, their choices seem limited, with most of them choosing either to isolate themselves in an inner self-exile or to emigrate elsewhere.

In this paper we will focus on those Greek musicians who represented modernist trends during that crucial first half of the century, their work, and its reception in the musical world. Furthermore, we will try and place this avant-garde movement in the history and space of the Greek world and comment on the causes and aftermath of their isolation. Exile will be treated in a sense of the inner “silence” of those composers who proclaimed and supported modernist musical idioms, leading them either to emigration or to isolation from current musical life, at least as the composers they would have liked to be, transforming them mainly into composers who “wrote for their own drawer.”