August 27, 2011

Ancient cover: ψυχή or Psycho?

Here’s a rather random thing I discovered while listening to Spotify. I’ve been re-reading The Iliad this week, and I thought I’d see if there were any ancient Greek music reconstruction albums on Spotify. In my searches, I found a set of albums by the Petros Tabouris Ensemble. So I put these on to play in the background as I read.

One track that appeared on multiple albums (under different names) caught my ear. It had a short melodic line that was teasingly familiar to me. Have a listen and see if this reminds you of anything:

Petros Tabouris Ensemble – Bacchants’ Longings (Vakhon pothi) (Spotify link.)

[If you don’t have or want to try Spotify, you can also hear a decent sample of this track on Amazon.]

After a couple of listens, I realized what I was recognizing:

Listening to these two tracks back-to-back, I have to conclude that it’s not just a coincidence. If it were just the snippet of melody, perhaps. But the entire rhythmic texture is there, too. I don’t know if it’s a clever homage or covert cover (in one of its versions it is about the Bacchae, after all) or if it’s a sneaky theft, but I haven’t seen any reviews of the Petros Tabouris Ensemble that point out this connection. I think it’s a kind of marvelous conflation of the ancient and the modern. Of course, maybe Bernard Hermann is the one who modeled his theme on a Greek folk song, but I haven’t seen that mentioned anywhere, either.

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